Updated May 31, 2018 to include an audio version of the post.
Elisabeth Howard Elliot Gren (1926-2015) was a Christian missionary, author, and speaker known to many of you. She grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA and her first husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred in 1956, doing missionary work in Ecuador. Elisabeth’s radio program “Gateway to Joy” opened like this: You are loved with God’s everlasting love–that’s what the Bible says – And underneath are Christ’s everlasting arms.1
Elisabeth popularized a poem which I have adapted below. She used it when she didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. Elisabeth re-committed herself to trusting Christ, then she got busy doing the next right thing she knew that the Lord commanded in Scripture. Elisabeth didn’t let go and let God, she trusted Jesus and did good like Psalm 37:3 teaches. Her faith in Christ was active, not passive. Christ gives us forensic righteousness and power for ethical righteousness.
The righteous (justified ones) shall live by faith in God.2
Elisabeth used this poem’s advice to encourage and strengthen herself in the Lord her God. She also used it to help other Christians navigate times of spiritual anxiety, depression, and stress. To help others who were grieving, weary, or uncertain. Maybe it will help you and those you serve to take the next step in your walk by faith in Jesus Christ. Here’s the poem:
1. From an old English parsonage, down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
It has, seems to me, God’s teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”
2. Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt has its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.
3. Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing Christ’s hand
Who placed it before you with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.
4. Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, let this be your demeanor.
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
Let the light of Christ’s countenance be your psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing!
Then, as He commands you, DO THE NEXT THING.
This poem suggests many Scriptures to me. Here are three:
- Galatians 5:6—The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
- Colossians 3:23,24— Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
- James 1:22—Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Faith is like radar that sees through the fog. By God’s grace, we see by faith the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see. Corrie Ten Boom
Prayer: Lord, help us to trust and obey you step by step, especially when the future is unclear to us. Help us to believe you enough to stake our daily lives and our eternal destiny on you and your Scriptures. Faith is all about what we cannot see. Give us faith to believe in you for salvation and faith for living through hardships day by day, when we can’t see a way out. Help us to trust you to always be with us and to guide us. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations used): 1 Quoting Jer 31:3 and Deut 33:27. 2 Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38.