It’s hard to read through the Sermon on the Mount without being struck by Jesus’ emphasis on living life in the same manner as it is given by God—one day at a time. To this point He spoke about praying for daily bread (“Give us this day our daily bread” – Matthew 6:12). It’s easy to fly past this familiar text and miss the profound point of how it limits us to praying for bread for “this day” and no other. Tomorrow is another day, a different entity and we are expected to address it when it arrives, not now. Of course, this goes directly against the grain of our efficiency outlook but that’s maybe that’s just the point: we really aren’t living efficiently unless we are living one day at a time.
Christ goes on in the well-known passage addressing worry and anxiety (6:25ff) to conclude by saying, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34). Besides the obvious rebuke to our fixation with the future is that He says this immediately after instructing us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (v. 33)—suggesting that what so often gets in the way of true kingdom living is a failure to focus our energies on the day at hand.
In light of this, I’m not sure we can over-value the importance of purposely adopting a perspective of living one day at a time. Life was designed by God to be dispensed to us in twenty-four hour cycles. Each of these is a little lifetime with a beginning, middle and an end. It just makes sense that we should pursue it that way.
When we commit to living this way, it’s revolutionary. Because we’re not trying to live four or five days during the day we’re in, we are freed to focus on one overarching goal: winning the day. What does it mean to win the day? It means we are focused only on taking care of what needs to be done that day. To paraphrase Jesus, we accept that the day will have plenty of challenges without looking ahead for more. Therefore, we consciously narrow our focus to the day we’re in. That’s the first part.
The other part is that we give the day to God and allow Him to lead us through it. If you haven’t approached life from this perspective before, it will take some getting used to. One thing that will help is praying for our daily bread. This keeps us rooted in God’s grace and grounded in humility. Learning to look at a night’s rest, strength for a day’s work, and food for our bodies as given by our Father makes us aware of His daily presence in our lives and more important–our presence in His life.
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.”
Learn to live life as it is given–and win the day!