Choose to Do What You Can

Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Don't let what you can't do...Most of us will never give up all our worldly possessions to serve the poor, leave a lucrative medical practice to be a missionary in Africa, or travel the world to preach the gospel while bringing hundreds of people to Christ.  That’s because most of us were not called to be like Mother Teresa, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, or Billy Graham.  But that doesn’t make our lives any less meaningful or important in God’s eyes.  Maybe we were called to live ordinary lives – doing what we can to serve God and others regardless of circumstances.

An old adage states:  We can’t all cross the ocean, but we can still stand on the shore and help launch the ships.  In other words, those who stay behind doing God’s work are just as important as those that go to the forefront.

David understood this principle.  When he and his men fought the Amalekites, some went into battle and some had to stay behind to guard the carriages and baggage left behind so the pursuit could move faster.  When the soldiers returned victorious with the spoils, many did not want to share the bounty with those who had not gone into battle.  They felt their jobs were more important than those who remained behind.  David did not agree.  He said that all would share in what God had given them equally.  “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:21-25)

Consider this… We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  Some may have a desire to serve in greater capacities but might be limited by health problems, finances, family obligations, and so on.  God did not intend for everyone to live in a limelight.  But just because someone goes unnoticed doesn’t mean they aren’t significant.  We all must do what we can.  And we all share in the same reward with God.

Abraham Lincoln

During the Civil War, Helen Gates wrote a poem called Your Mission which was set to music and sung for President Lincoln at a United States Commission meeting in January 1865, just a few months before the war ended.  The song brought tears to the president’s eyes, and he asked for it to be sung again at the close of the gathering.  This is one of my favorite poems, and I think there’s a message in it for all of us to do what we can do.  



Your Mission

By Ellen Gates

If you cannot on the ocean
Sail among the swiftest fleet
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet,
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay,
You can lend a hand to help them
As they launch their boats away.

If you are too weak to journey
Up the mountain, steep and high.
You can stand within the valley
While the multitudes go by;
You can chant in happy measure
As they slowly pass along—
Though they may forget the singer,
They will not forget the song.

If you have not gold and silver
Ever ready at command;
If you cannot toward the needy
Reach an ever-helping hand.
You can succor the afflicted,
O’er the erring you can weep;
You can be a true disciple,
Sitting at the Savior’s feet.

If you cannot in the harvest
Garner up the richest sheaves,
Many a grain, both ripe and golden,
Oft the careless reaper leaves;
Go and glean among the briers
Growing rank against the wall,
For it may be that their shadow
Hides the heaviest wheat of all.

If you cannot in the conflict
Prove yourself a soldier true,
If where fire and smoke are thickest
There’s no work for you to do,
When the battlefield is silent,
You can go with careful tread—
You can bear away the wounded,
You can cover up the dead.

Do not, then, stand idly waiting
For some greater work to do;
Fortune is a lazy goddess—
She will never come to you.
Go and toil in any vineyard;
Do not fear to do or dare—
If you want a field of labor
You can find it anywhere.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • We’ve used this suggestion from Seventh Century monk, St. Isaac the Syrian, before, but it is worth repeating.  “If you cannot labor with your body, at least make efforts with your mind… If you can’t fast for two days, fast at least till evening… If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be addicted to strife… If you cannot close the mouth of a man who is judging his brother, at least refrain from joining him…” Do what you can do!
  • Jesus said that sometimes just giving a cup of water to someone is important. (Matthew 10:42)
  • Here are a few things you can always do:  praise God and be thankful.
  • Here are a few more things you can always do:  smile at all you meet, send notes of encouragement to others, be a good friend, rejoice with those who are happy, and mourn with those who are grieving.
  • Here’s something else you can always do: be a prayer warrior.  We should pray always and never give up.  (Luke 18:1)
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