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“DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE”

“DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE”

eggsandbaconWhatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24

After my wife Melodee died in 1986 I was heartbroken and confused and at a loss to know what to do. I was the single father of two young sons, pastor of a church, and trying to find my way. I pondered books about knowing God’s will and their various formulas, but it was my late father’s words that helped me most: “You do what comes next, and do it the best you can”. Simple words from a wonderful man that served me well then and serve me to this day. I’ve tried to plot my life’s course by those words.

As a pastor, chaplain, and spiritual director, I have most often talked with people at a loss about what to do with their lives. I am often grieved and perplexed by what some people face, and feel my words pretty inept. Then my father’s words come back to me: “You do what comes next, and do it the best you can”. 

I just finished a George MacDonald’s novel, The Seaside Parish, in which he presents a sixteen-year old girl at a loss to know what to do with her life. Listen to her father’s counsel:

What God may hereafter require of you, you must not give yourself the least trouble about. Everything He gives you to do, you must do as well as ever you can. That is the best possible preparation for what He may want you to do next. If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what comes next.

I like that! “Do what you have to do, and you will find yourself ready for what comes next.” I think that is what the Apostle Paul is urging with his words in today’s text: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord…. the Lord will reward you”. God takes good care of the rest!

The nineteenth century American writer Eleanor Amerman Sutphen wrote a poem based on an old Saxon legend, “Doe the Next Thynge”. Here are a few lines from Sutphen’s poem giving wise counsel about what to do next in our lives:

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, doe the nexte thynge.
(Emphasis added.)

So after my wife died, I sought to do the next thing of fixing breakfast in the morning, getting the boys off to school, and heading down to the church, and doing the next thing, and doing it the best I could. I left the rest to God.

Grace and peace,
Tim

photo by Mark H. Anbinder

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