a Day late and a dollar short

by Pastor Doug Engel

You’ve probably heard the idiom “a day late and a dollar short.” It’s a saying that expresses the idea that your time and resources are inadequate when an opportunity presents itself.


I’ve been a pastor for over 30 years. For Twenty of those years I was bi-vocational. Working two jobs doesn’t leave a lot of time for extras. At the same time, it is important to get away once in a while to just relax and recharge. This was the case a couple of decades ago when I registered for a church conference being held at James River Bible Camp (near Calgary). My wife and I were looking forward to seeing colleagues and ministry leaders from all across Western Canada.

On the appointed day we headed south for the six hour drive. No reason to hurry. We had lots of time, although I did get a speeding ticket as I recall! When we finally got there we were immediately greeted with “Are you guys ok?” We were confused at this concern and attention until someone let us know that the conference started the day before.

What a disappointment! Because of a scheduling error on my part we arrived a whole day late. Everyone knew! Many were praying for us. Cell phones were not yet widely used so no one could contact us to see what had happened. Yes, I felt that I was “a day late (literally) and a dollar short.” There was no refund either.

Near the end of Jesus’ three years of ministry he received word that his good friend Lazarus was sick. It was serious enough that his sisters sent word for Jesus to come immediately. Surprisingly, Jesus waited for two days before travelling to Bethany to where Lazarus and his sisters lived. When he got there he found that Lazarus had already been dead for four days. If you do the math Lazarus had already died before Jesus even heard he was sick.

Both sisters approached Jesus with the same words, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The implication is that Jesus was late. At the same time some of the mourners questioned, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). What they said, in fact, was true! Jesus could have. Earlier he had healed the centurion’s servant by just speaking the word from a distance (Matt. 8:8-13).

So why did Jesus delay? The answer is found back when Jesus first received word that Lazarus was sick. He explained to his disciples that this was “... for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

There’s no question that Jesus was glorified through this. At Jesus’ command Lazarus was raised from the dead. The Bible says, “Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him” (John 11:45). As it turns out, Jesus was not a day late and a dollar short after all. Putting it another way, Jesus’ timing was perfect and his resources were more than sufficient for the opportunity that presented itself.

Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed today by unexpected circumstances. It’s really no fault of your own, and even if it is you know Jesus can help. So you’ve sent word to him (in prayer). You need him. Why does he delay? May I encourage you to hang in there. Be patient. Keep trusting him. His timing is perfect and his resources are more than sufficient. And may he receive all the glory!