Wanted: Ordinary People for Ordinary Tasks
My mother was sixty-nine years old when she had a heart attack while working at our church headquarters office. Twenty-two hours later she had another, and she went to be with the Lord. During those intervening hours she said, “I don’t think it’s my time to go, but if it is, I’ve done what I could.”
We understood that her phrase referred to the account in Mark 14 of when Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, anointed Jesus’ feet. That occasion is also recorded in Matthew 26 and John 12. Just days before Jesus was crucified, He had a meal at the home of Simon, a man who had been a leper. In those days, guests reclined on couches as they ate. While Jesus was there, Mary brought an “alabaster box”—possibly a flask with a long neck—that was filled with costly ointment. In Bible times, it was not unusual for wealthy people to anoint their guests with a couple drops of expensive ointment. However, Mary broke the neck of the flask and poured out all of the contents on Jesus’ head and feet.
The cost of the ointment was equivalent to a man’s annual salary, and its purchase may have taken all Mary’s savings. The disciples, particularly Judas, were indignant, mentioning that the money could have been given to the poor. But in Mark 14:6-8 Jesus said, “Let her alone . . . She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.”
During Jesus’ ministry, Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and listen to what He was saying. Might she have realized that He was going to die to offer redemption to all people? Maybe. Whatever she understood, she poured out the ointment in love and devotion.
Mary did not do this to be great or make a name for herself. She seized a one-time opportunity and acted upon it. Yet Jesus said, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
My mother was a quiet person who was happy to stay in the background. She would not have considered herself great. Yet she worked in the church office, was a pastor’s wife, was secretary to our church leader, cared for my father for thirteen years after he was disabled by a stroke, and handled many other responsibilities. She did what she could.
What does it mean to do what we can? For each of us it is a little different. But let us consider some aspects that could be included.
Routine tasks. Are the responsibilities we have in the church tasks, or are they privileges? Perhaps they are both! And sometimes they may seem menial to us. It is possible to perform church assignments out of habit—teaching Sunday school, being an usher, helping clean the church, singing in the choir, mowing the church lawn, driving the Sunday school van, and so forth. Yet faithfulness in any area of the Lord’s work is vital.
Our employment and home responsibilities also may be part of doing what we can. Regular and prompt attendance at our work, making a house a home, consistent and caring discipline of children, being a kind neighbor, and many other life activities can be done as “unto the Lord,” and thus bring glory to Him.
What we have talents to do. God is pleased when we make ourselves available for His service in our areas of talent. If our profession is carpentry, it might be possible that we could help on a church building project. Someone with good cooking skills can take meals to families going through a difficult transition. People who are outgoing and can easily talk with new acquaintances could be helpful as church greeters or with evangelistic efforts. Musical ability can be improved by practicing and then used for God’s glory.
What we do not feel qualified to do. This area might be a little more challenging! Have you ever been asked to do something in the Lord’s work that you felt you were completely unqualified for? Or has the Holy Spirit prompted you to speak when you wanted to remain silent? These are the times when we must lean hard on the help of the Lord. Perhaps He is more able to bless our efforts then than when we seem to be “qualified” for something.
Someone once asked a veteran minister if he still became nervous when he was going to preach. He said, “Yes, but after a while you realize that the Lord has always helped you, and you know He will help you again.” If doing what we can is something we feel unqualified for, God will help us.
What we do not want to do. Consecration is tested in this area. Perhaps we have been cautioned not to say, “I’ll never do _____ [some specific action].” Doing what we can may include tasks that we dislike, at least in the beginning. One lady who has now gone to Heaven was once talking about a specific city and said, “I’ll never live there!” Later, her husband was asked to be the pastor in that city, so she went to live there. She even came to like it!
Giving up what we want to do. Maybe sometimes doing what we can will mean giving up what we want to do in order to fulfill God’s will for us. Our church music director tells that when he was seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, God asked him to consecrate not to play music anymore. It was difficult to yield to God—music was his livelihood and he loved it. Yet when he did surrender and tell God he was willing to give it up, God gave him more music privileges, including opportunities to shine his light to hundreds of young people at the schools where he has taught music.
Thinking again about my mother, she did many tasks that I’m sure she did not want to do or felt unqualified for. When we lived in Tacoma, Washington, there was a church remodeling project. Our Portland leaders were planning to sell an old pickup from the church vehicle fleet, and Dad thought it would be helpful if it was used first in Tacoma. At times, Mom was the chosen person to drive that old pickup and obtain materials from suppliers. Tacoma has steep hills, and the truck had a stick shift. One day she had a load of lumber, and when she started forward after waiting for a traffic signal, the load began to slide out. Mom had to back the truck down the hill and take another way to the church. I suspect that doing what she could was a challenge that day!
It could be good for us to look around and notice some tasks that we could do for the Lord. If we do what we can, our actions may not be told throughout the whole world as in Mary’s case. However, God is keeping a record, and He misses no detail. He will be certain that we are properly rewarded. Are we doing what we can?