I Did What I Could and God Did All Things Well :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

I Did What I Could and God Did All Things Well

Brad McKenzie

When I stood in a barnyard witnessing to a veterinarian, I felt like an ice dispenser on a refrigerator. My words, like ice cubes, were falling to my feet between us, and the vet was smirking. Dutifully I handed him a New Testament and a booklet of Bible studies, then beat a hasty retreat to the car with my dog and my grade school daughter Dalene.

On our way home I said, “Dalene, if the Lord doesn’t bless our words, we might as well pack up and go home.” (By “home,” I meant the United States.) We prayed and asked the Lord to bless our witness. I wasn’t thinking about the witness I had just given. That was a lost cause. No, I meant that I needed the Lord’s help for the next time. By implication, I needed to do a better job so that God could do a good job.

The Lord graciously answered the prayer, though not as I expected. The vet stashed the books on a shelf from which his college-age son retrieved them. That agriculture student was going through a crisis in his young life and began again to read the Word. He had tried before and had given up. At lesson thirteen he was confronted with the decision to follow the Lord, a decision he then followed through on. Soon he contacted us, and he has been in our church ever since.

Understanding my role

How often do we incorrectly assume that we must do something well so that the Lord might bless it? Recently the Lord made a collective impression on my thinking with two verses from the Gospel of Mark. In one we read that they said of the Lord Jesus, “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37). In the other the Lord Jesus said of the woman who anointed His feet, “She hath done what she could” (Mark 14:8).

Meditating on these I began to draw a succinct conclusion: “I don’t have to do it well; I just have to do it.” That went through various revisions: “I don’t have to do it well; I just have to do my best.” “I don’t have to do it well; I just have to do what I can.” And most recently, “I don’t have to do it well, He will. I just have to do what I can.”

The grumpy butcher

Whichever formulation I settled upon, the truth was timely and encouraged me to have the right perspective when witnessing to a particularly stubborn man. Two years ago a “grumpy butcher” attended our services in the nursing home.

During nearly every sermon he would loudly contradict my message. Once he raised his bony finger and said, “If He really is up there, why am I confined to this wheelchair?” Another time, “The One up there has never done a thing for me. I had to work hard for everything I ever had.”

The personnel apologized and offered not to bring him to the services anymore. We insisted, “Please don’t do that. It is better for us to hear someone speak his mind than for everyone to keep their opinions to themselves.”

And so, meeting after meeting we attempted to show the love of Christ and meet his objections with the Word of God. Sometimes, despite his hard exterior, he seemed to be softening. He confided that his mother had taught him that he could always learn something from everyone if he would but listen. Once he admitted, “It isn’t all bad what you say.” Still, we knew we were in a race against time. We always are.

The race against time

Sure enough, one day the “grumpy butcher” missed a service. We found him lying on his bed, eating nothing and drinking little. It was clear. It was just a matter of time. I would visit him every few days, read him the Word, and witness to him.

One day I asked, “Friend, if you knew you would die tomorrow, would you place your faith in Jesus today?” His answer? “I wasn’t reared that way. I never have and I never will.” I said, if he would allow me to say so, “that made about as much sense as a person whose plane was going down refusing a parachute on the same grounds.”

Another time I was using the law lawfully, pressing home to him his sinfulness. As I walked him through the Ten Commandments, he readily admitted his sins, and his roommate started chiming in. Guilty or not guilty? Guilty. Heaven or hell? The butcher: “I would rather have hell. At least I wouldn’t be cold.” I made a mental note to get him a blanket but also informed him that he had added irreverence to the list and proceeded to read Luke 16 to him.

Encouragement in the Lord, not myself

On February 22, I was relieved that there were still two names on the door. I had forgotten my glasses, and the room was dim, but I preached to the men what God had shown me that morning in my personal devotions from Exodus and Acts. Pharaoh hardened his heart despite the miracles before his very eyes, and the Jews hardened their hearts despite the teaching of an apostle falling on their ears. I urged them against hardening their hearts toward the good news of Jesus Christ. Although my words seemed weak, because of what God had been teaching me, I did not lose hope but encouraged myself in the Lord and pressed ahead with the witness. Long story short, they both trusted Christ.

I don’t apply the Scriptures allegorically, but in this case I could be tempted to make an exception. “He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37). They were the deaf, and I was dumb. I did what little I could. God did all things well.