It’s Christmas. Would you rather read a letter or play a game? Me too. After all, it’s Christmas; let’s celebrate and play a game.

Sounds innocent enough, but that decision cost Johann Rall his life.

Johann Rall led a group of German mercenaries, the Hessians, fighting for the British during the American Revolution. His troops were camped at Trenton, New Jersey. Because it was Christmas, his men eased up a bit, let their guard down, and celebrated. Even Colonel Rall joined in.

As the story goes, Rall was playing either chess or cards at the home of Abraham Hunt when someone came in and handed the colonel a note. Rall was so engrossed in the game that he put the letter in his pocket to be read after the game. Rall forgot the letter and never read it.

Twenty-four hours later, on December 26, the colonel was dead and the letter was still in his coat pocket.

Had Colonel Rall read the note when it was first handed to him, he would’ve immediately alerted his Hessians. The note said General Washington was getting ready to cross the Delaware River and attack. But because Colonel Rall put off reading the note, the Hessian troops were caught off guard, and the Continental Army won a decisive victory.

Johann Rall’s procrastination cost a lot of lives, including his own.

OK, so procrastination may not kill you as it did Colonel Rall, but it does have consequences. Those among us (myself included) who have ever put off writing a research paper in high school or waited until the night before to cram for a college final can attest to some of those consequences. Other consequences may not be so immediate or obvious, but we receive absolutely no benefit from putting things off.

  • I need to get on the exercise bike, but …
  • I should put down the TV remote, but …
  • I should go ahead and get out of bed, but …

Scarlet O’Hara is the poster child for procrastinators. “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

So here we are on the threshold of 2020, and as is typical with the beginning of a new year, many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions. If that’s you, kudos to you! But let’s be honest: If it was easy to put something off with the rationale, “I’ll start doing that in the new year,” it will be just as easy to put it off once the new year arrives.

I don’t want to discourage your resolutions or efforts, but go into it with a wary eye on the thief of procrastination. Not procrastinating can be hard work, and it’s easy to put things off, but be wary of any procrastinating excuse that masks itself as a good idea. Procrastination is nothing more than a lack of discipline—and laziness

  • “How long will you stay in bed, you slacker? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Prov. 6:9).
  • “The slacker craves, yet has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied” (13:4).
  • “There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty” (14:23).
  • The slacker does not plow during planting season; at harvest time he looks, and there is nothing” (20:4).


Procrastination in big things begins with procrastination in little things. Conversely, taking action in the little things gets us moving to take action in the big things. Admiral William McRaven, a Navy Seal, said it best in his commencement speech at the University of Texas. It’s worth your time to listen to the whole speech …

… but defintely catch the first thing he says:

It’s the little things that can make a difference.

2020 is not a year for procrastination. I hope 2020 is a great year for you. I hope God uses you and blesses your life in so many ways. Go ahead: set some goals. Seek to be a better person. Make it your intent to live for and honor God in every aspect of your life.

And in all that, please don’t procrastinate.

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