In the ministry, I have learned a central lesson.
When you are too busy, that’s the week you have a funeral.
For many, tomorrow is their supposed salvation. I will always have enough time tomorrow.
Diets always begin “tomorrow.”
Students will study for the exam “tomorrow.”
I will set up a retirement account “tomorrow.”
And, tomorrow never arrives.
Ignoring the crucial breeds serious consequences, as King Richard the Third learned.
He was preparing for the battle of his life. An army was on the march, and the winner would determine whether Richard would rule England or his enemy, Henry, Earl of Richmond.
Richard sent a groom to the stable on the morning of the battle to prepare his favorite horse.
“Shoe him quickly,” said the groom to the blacksmith. “The king will ride at the head of the troops.”
The blacksmith was unimpressed. “He will have to wait. Every horse has been shod, and I must get more iron.”
“I can’t wait,” exclaimed the groom. “The enemies are marching, and we must meet them. Make do with what you have.”
So the blacksmith started the shoeing. From one bar, he made four shoes and began to nail them to the hooves. But he did not have enough nails.
He told the groom, “It will take time for me to hammer the three nails I need.”
The groom was impatient. “It cannot wait.”
The smith replied, “Without the nails, it will not be as secure as the others.”
“Will it hold?” asked the groom.
“It should,” said the smith, “but I can’t be certain.”
The smith nailed the final shoe, minus three nails.
The armies engaged in a pitched battle. Richard rode the line to keep the charge going. He yelled, “press forward, press forward.”
He saw some men falling back, so he spurred his horse and galloped toward the sagging line. Halfway across the field, the loose shoe came off. The horse fell and threw Richard to the ground.
Before the king could gather the horse, the animal darted away, leaving Richard lying on the battlefield. Henry’s troops closed in on him.
He got to his feet, raised his sword in the air, and shouted, “A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse!”
But there was no horse. The battle ended with Richard’s defeat.
From that day, the events became encased in a proverb:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.
The Bible warns about how fragile tomorrow is. James warns:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13–14, ESV)
The mist comes, then evaporates. Such are the tomorrows of life. One day, they run out, and there is no tomorrow.
Do you have today? Don’t waste it. You have today to prepare for tomorrow when you no longer have a tomorrow.
Care for an aging parent. Make amends with someone and forgive. Say your “I love you’s” because you may not have another chance.
Life postponed is life lost.
Don’t let it be said of you, “for want of a nail…”