Do the Next Thing: Elisabeth Elliot

Bob RoaneCounseling, Jesus Christ, Loving and Trusting God

Updated May 31, 2018 to include an audio version of the post.


You may also like Elisabeth Elliot (Learning from Her); Naomi: Hero of Faith; What God is to Me; One Day at a Time.

Righteous people (Jesus’ followers, saved by grace)
shall live by faith in God and faithfulness to the Lord.
(Habakkuk 2:4 paraphrase)

Elisabeth Elliot

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 next. Elisabeth kept re-committing 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 (justification) and Holy Spirit power for ethical righteousness (sanctification) lived out in everyday life.

The Poem (Author Unknown)

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, stress, and the tyranny of the urgent. She used it to help others who were grieving, weary, and uncertain. Maybe it will help you and those you serve to take the next step in walking by faith in Jesus Christ:

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 His 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.

Related Scriptures

This poem suggests many Bible passages to me. Here are a few:

Galatians 5:6—The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Comment: Faith is not merely knowing the right facts about God, but is a living trust in God’s grace that expresses itself in acts of love, mercy, and service. “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”2

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.

Comment: We are to work hard for Jesus out of true dependence on Him, our attitudes and actions governed by His Scriptures, and motivated by love for God and our neighbors. When we consciously choose to do our jobs, care for others, serve in various ways for Jesus who first loved us and gave Himself for us, that brings delight to our most mundane tasks.

You may also like Serving Christ in Our Work (Part 1)

James 1:22—Do not merely listen to the Scripture and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Comment: Trusting and obeying the Lord is not easy. Following Jesus often requires sacrifice and suffering. Living by every word that comes from God’s mouth means submitting to Him, obeying Him, and trusting Him to handle the consequences. Christ knows all and He knows best.

Comment: Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. Its easy to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence. That is easier sometimes than to wait patiently on the Lord.
One of Elisabeth’s favorite verses was one that her mother gave to her in childhood. The verse is Naomi’s advice to Ruth, “Sit still, my daughter, until you see and know how the matter will turn out.” (Ruth 3:18) There is a time to act, and a time to wait. When we have done what is our duty, we must wait to see what God will do.
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 trusting you when we cannot see what lies ahead. 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, guarding and guiding 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 Bible translations used): 1 Quoting Jeremiah 31:3 and Deuteronomy 33:27.     2 Hebrews 6:10.

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