Just Do The Next Thing: God is near. By Greg Laurie Published March 25, 2022
"I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power." (Philippians 4:13 TLB)
She sang a little song as she worked.
It was a made-up song, composed for that very moment in time.
All in all, it had been quite a morning for 3-year-old Liberty. She had already accomplished two things that she had never done in her whole life, brief as it was. She had made her bed and brushed her teeth. By herself. On the same day. With flying colors.
And her song went like this: "I can do hard things, I can do hard things. …"
Doing one brand-new life accomplishment would have been something to sing about on its own. But Liberty had done two. No, she hadn't run a marathon, wrestled with an alligator, swum the English Channel, or completed a problem in advanced calculus. But those weren't the challenges before her. She had faced the life obstacles immediately in her path – bed making and teeth brushing – and she had overcome them. She had learned that, with God's help and her mother's timely encouragement, she really could do "hard things."
There will be more to come, of course. As with the rest of us, she will face some very hard things in the days and years to come. There will be disappointments, hurts and tears along with the joys, privileges and happy accomplishments. Jesus himself didn't soft-pedal that reality. He said, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NLT).
Many trials. Many sorrows. Hard things. You don't have to subscribe to these intrusions; they come with your membership card in the human race.
The Apostle Paul wanted his friends in Corinth to understand a little bit of what he'd been through on a recent passage through Asia. And he told it like it was: "We think you ought to know ... about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8–9 NLT).
Hard things? It was so hard that Paul couldn't even imagine surviving the experience. This wasn't simply beyond their ability to handle; it was a thousand miles beyond their reach. When the walls closed in and the sky rolled up and death had him in a headlock, he had looked into the eyes of Luke or Timothy, given a little nod, and possibly the ghost of a smile. So this is it. The see-you-on-the-other-side moment. The end of the line.
Except it wasn't.
Somehow, against all odds and beyond all reckoning, they had come through alive and whole. Paul wanted his friends in Corinth to understand that. Why? So they might take courage as they faced their own encounters with heartbreak and pain.
The problem with our troubles is that we want to compare our hardships and difficulties with someone else's. It's really not a wise thing to do. We're like Peter who looked over his shoulder at John and said, "Lord, what about him?"
"Never mind about him," Jesus said in effect. "You just follow Me."
Miss Liberty learned that on a given day, she could deal with the life situation directly before her. There was a bed to be made, and though she had never attempted it before, her little hands could get it done. Jesus and her mother said so. There were teeth to be brushed, and even though the brush was messy and hard to hold, the thing could be accomplished. It might not seem like a notable accomplishment to you, but then again, you aren't 3 and trying it for the first time.
If God has given you something to face, something to overcome, you can do it in radical partnership with Him. It may seem implausible, maybe even impossible. But it isn't. You can do what He asks you to do. He said so.
This is a dynamic that goes all the way back to the beginning of human history. In the early chapters of Genesis, Cain became violently angry at his brother. For good reasons of His own, God had accepted Abel's offering but had rejected Cain's. In that moment, Cain had a wide-open opportunity to learn a better way, perhaps tapping into a vast reservoir of favor with God. But it was hard; his pride had been bruised, bitter anger brimmed in his soul, and he told himself he just couldn't do it. He couldn't learn a new way. He couldn't reconcile with his brother.
God himself reasoned with the young man. "Why are you angry? ... Why is your face so dark with rage? It can be bright with joy if you will do what you should! But if you refuse to obey, watch out. Sin is waiting to attack you, longing to destroy you. But you can conquer it!" (Genesis 4:6–7 TLB).
And how might our world's long, sad story have been different if the firstborn of all humankind had squared his shoulders, put his failure behind him, and chosen to do the hard thing with God's help?
What, then, is the difficulty you face today? Did it come out of nowhere?
I'm reminded of a story about a man who was sleeping in the woods under the stars when an animal jumped out of the darkness and landed on his chest. He could feel the weight of the creature on top of him. He could hear it breathing. But the night was pitch black, and he couldn't see a thing. What was it? He never found out. Instead, with a mighty heave, he hurled the intruder as far as he could and heard it scuttling away into the bushes.
What is the intruder in your campsite? It probably didn't make an appointment. It simply arrived. That's the way it is with so many difficulties in life.
The truth is, God doesn't call on us to go out looking for "hard things." Liberty had no idea that two never-before-attempted tasks waited for her when she got up on that morning. The jobs were simply there, looming in her path. By the same token, I don't have to search behind doors and look under rocks for problems, heartaches, or dilemmas. Life has plenty of those, and to spare.
God isn't calling me to do hard things, he is calling me to do the next thing. The tough choice, the uncomfortable conversation, the obvious opportunity, the scary first step into the unknown.
It might very hard, demanding so much more than I could ever give on my own. Then again, it might not be hard at all. But if God has allowed it to camp on my doorstep, he expects me to deal with it – learning hard on his strength and wisdom.
David, the young shepherd, didn't get up one morning on his father Jesse's sheep ranch and say to himself, "What a fine morning! I think I will fight a 9-foot giant today with a sling and a stone. Maybe cut off his head with a super-sized sword." No, he simply obeyed his dad by delivering cheese sandwiches to his older brothers on the front line of battle. While he was there, the blasphemous Philistine giant came lumbering up to the Israeli front lines, belching mockery and curses. And David in his heart knew that he had a part to play that day for the honor of his God.
It is the sovereign God who allows shadows to cross our paths and barriers to obstruct our way. But when they appear, the Lord Jesus himself will be there to meet us in our desperate need and to bring us through.
Little Liberty has made use of that heavenly help, picking her way across the exhilarating, ever-changing, sometimes-frightening terrain of childhood.
And sometimes, she even does it with a song.