DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHERE YOU ARE, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
T. PIERCE BROWN
About half a century ago, I was sitting in a Sperry ball turret supervising a group of gunners in the Air Force as they were learning how to fire machine guns at a moving target. I was reading again a little New Testament that I carried with me, which I had already read six times just waiting in line. This time, as I read, the thought came to me, “If this is worth reading, it is worth teaching, for it is all that really makes any difference, or nothing makes any difference.” Since I was just a little country boy who had heard men like H. Leo Boles, Foy Wallace and Gus Nichols, the idea that I might be in a group like that was too frightening to contemplate. So I said to myself or the Lord, “I am not good enough. I can’t speak well enough. I do not know enough. I had rather be a good engineer than a poor preacher.” The thought came back to me, “You are not Foy Wallace and do not need to be. You can do what you can, where you are, with what you have, and that is all God ever requires of anyone.”
So I went back to the barracks and enrolled in first year Greek by correspondence while I was waiting to get out of the Air Force. The great truth that God never asks any one to measure himself by someone else, nor is he ever judged by what some other person can do or has done so stuck with me that after I began to preach full time (for I had already preached occasionally and baptized some before I decided to spend my life doing it) I put at the bottom of my church bulletins, “DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHERE YOU ARE, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.”
After about 35 or more years of preaching, as I was preparing a lesson on some activities of Christ, the thought struck me that as good as that motto is, there is a more significant truth found in God’s word. The wonderful thing about that motto is that everyone can do it, whether young or old, brilliant or stupid, black or white, male or female, rich or poor. An equally wonderful thing is that God never requires one to do anything different. But the next truth I discovered is even more wonderful, in my judgment. That is, when you have done what you can, where you are, with what you have, God will enable you to do what you can’t, where you are not, with what you do not have.
We may find that illustrated by two or more stories in the New Testament. The first one is in John 6. There were 5000 hungry men, with one lad with five loaves and two fishes. The disciples asked, logically, “What is that among so many?” Surely no sensible person would consider asking that many male beings (aner), along with what women and children may have been present, to eat when only five loaves and two fish were available. If Jesus had told the lad, “Feed these thousands with your loaves and fishes” he would have been thought a jester, or crazy. Yet when the lad did what he could, where he was, with what he had, letting Christ have control of his resources, God allowed him the honor and privilege of doing what he could not with what he did not have.
I am persuaded that the principle is always true. I have seen it happen in my preacher training classes. Here was a little bunch of boys, some of whom could scarcely read a passage so it could be understood. But one of them is now the head of the Bible department of aChristianUniversity, and others have had startling achievements. They did not have it, and could not do it, but because they did what they could with what they had, God made it possible for them to do what they could not do, and gave them what they did not have.
Another of several outstanding Bible examples of that principle is found in Matthew 14. During the storm, Jesus came walking upon the sea. Of course none of the disciples could do that. When Peter heard Jesus say, “Come” and he responded in faithful obedience, doing what he could, where he was, with what he had, Jesus enabled him to do what he could not, where he was not, with what he did not have.
The fact that he took his eyes from Christ and centered his attention on something else is of great significance, for then he failed. But it does not lessen the reality of the principle that you can discover for yourself. In the seventy years I have been living, I do not know that I have ever seen that principle fail. In every case of which I am aware, when a person in faith, does what Christ wants done, he discovers that what was impossible from man’s viewpoint was done.
One of the most remarkable of such incidents was in the first phase of the ONE NATION UNDER GOD program. As we first began to plan the program, even before it was named, we knew no one had ever mailed over 100,000,000 pieces of mail before. Could a small group of Christians raise $17,000,000 for a project like this, without any pressure or solicitation from the general public? In one of our first meetings, I told brother Burke, “Don’t worry about it. If we will just do what we can, where we are, with what we have, God will attend to the rest if He wants it done.” By His grace, it was done, at about half the cost we had first calculated.
The second and succeeding phases can be done with the same dispatch provided those who claim to care will DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHERE YOU ARE, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE. In my judgment our problem is that many of us have done what Peter did. His attention was distracted from Christ and obedience to His command and centered on other things of relative insignificance. He saw the wind and the waves. When we hear the command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” and determine to keep our hearts centered on Christ and do what we can, where we are with what we have, instead of letting our interest stray to other smaller goals or apparent problems, then we may begin to sink. No matter what others may do, practice that principle in your life and God will use and multiply you.