In my previous post I noted the importance of paying attention to the little opportunities for compromise that our culture routinely sets before us. As Solomon noted, even the little foxes can plunder the vines (SS 2.15).
I’d like to extend that thought to the positive side.
With the New Year, most of us—for completely illogical reasons, since calendrically speaking there’s nothing particularly historically significant about the annual day we call “January 1”—give some thought to turning over a page of self-improvement, sometimes including resolutions for change in the new year.
We ought to do that continuously, but whatever. 🙂
I recently came across an essay by the old Keswick pastor and devotional writer F. B. Meyer (incidentally, the man who introduced D. L. Moody to Great Britain), called “The Common Task,” that we might consider as we seek self-improvement.
Meyer notes that lots of people are convinced—and some of them rightly—that their station in life is beneath their abilities—as he put it, that one’s “life afford[s] no outlet for the adequate exercise of his powers.” He offers some mollifying and sharpening thoughts to those in that situation.
I should note that Meyer is clearly not suggesting apathy or lack of aspiration; his biography demonstrates the kind of productivity that evidences devotion, effort, and energy. By all means, take a survey of your gifts and abilities, and seek ways to steward them for the greatest good in the world.
Be all that you can be.
But most of us know that we can aspire to things that we will never reach. Only 45 people in history have ever been POTUS; millions of others haven’t, but not for lack of thinking about it. You’re probably not going to be a star athlete, and I’m most certainly never going to be a fighter pilot, thanks to a bum ear—and the grace of God.
What do you do with the Now, even as you aspire to the Then?
Meyer offers several observations, from which I’ve selected and reworded for the current century.
- God has a plan for you, and it will happen. God is attentive to your situation, committed to your fulfillment, and able to bring it to pass. You are where and what you are by his benevolent plan, which includes an eternal future.
- No matter what your circumstances are right now, you can fulfill your most important goal—Christlikeness—in the midst of them. In Meyer’s words, “We ought … to be very careful how we fulfill the common tasks of daily life. We are making the character in which we have to spend eternity.”
- Doing anything well—even trivial things—makes a difference.
- The excellence you develop prepares you for doing greater things later. “You cannot be brave in a crisis if you are habitually a coward. You cannot be generous with a fortune if you are a miser with a limited income.”
- The way you handle small responsibilities is evidence of who you truly are. And God notices.
“There are great tasks to be fulfilled in eternity: angels to be judged; cities to be ruled; perhaps worlds to be evangelized. For these, suitable agents will be required: those who can rule, because they have served; those who can command, because they have obeyed; those who can save others, because they never saved themselves. Perhaps even now, our Heavenly Father is engaged in seeking those among us who can fill these posts. And he is seeking them, not amongst such as are filling high positions in the eyes of men, but in the ranks of such as are treading the trivial round and fulfilling the common task.”
In this New Year,
- steward your abilities;
- and serve, with diligence and energy, wherever the Master places you.
Happy new year.