Friday, September 16, 2022

"Do the Next Thing"

Brown butterfly with prominent eye spots on wings feeds on orange lantana blooms
Buckeye butterfly, dorsal view

Elisabeth Elliot often quoted the poem “Do the Next Thing” and its four-word refrain in her talks. The reminder has been valuable and timely lately as my family follows the Lord’s leadership on a rather circuitous path of caregiving choices for my precious mom.

Elisabeth and her husband Lars used to publish this anonymous poem as a small pamphlet, which I would sometimes enclose in a note to a friend. Here is the poem in full, along with links to 2 new printable versions you may download as my gift to you. Thank you for reading, and many thanks to you who pray for me and mine.

Beige butterfly with large eye spot on wing perches on orange lantana flowers
Buckeye butterfly, ventral view


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: "DO THE NEXT THING."

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

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, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing

~author unknown

In addition to that poem, English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon used the same phrase almost a century before Elisabeth Elliot started speaking. I only discovered this a week or so ago and offer it to you as a second witness to the same truth.

…many desire to serve Christ by standing on the top rung of the ladder. No one can get there in one step. The better way is to serve Christ by following Him, by ‘doing the next thing,’ the thing we can do—that simple little act that lies within our capacity, which will bring us no special honor but is what our Lord desires of us. In effect we can hear him say to us, ‘If anyone serves me, let him follow me, not by aiming at great things but by doing just that piece of work I put before him at the time.

In my family’s present season, we have sought guidance, believed we found the path forward, done the next thing, discovered it was only a detour or access road to a different path, and done the next next thing. We are in a holding pattern now (again), waiting and trusting for the next step to open before us.

The Lord does not always lead us by straight lines or the shortest distance between points in life. Then again, His purpose has always been His glory and our transformation into the image of Christ, not efficiency or maximum productivity as ends in themselves. Knowing and loving Him come along the journey, whether short or long. May you know, love, and trust Him more and more till you see Him face to face.

Grace and peace to you in Jesus. Courage, dear hearts.

Do the Next Thing Printable, Version 1

Do the Next Thing Printable, Version 2

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