Growing up, one of the most practically helpful one-liners I learned was the counsel of “Just do the next right thing”. I don’t even recall the setting in which I learned it, but it is absolute gold for daily godliness.
Whether something good, or something bad, had just happened, and you are still trying to discern what gut-responses are conceived in personal desire (Jam 1:14-15) and what are good and right and true (Eph 5:9), “just do the next right thing“. When something good happened, praise the Lord (Eccl 7:14a); when disaster strikes, grow in steadfastness (James 1:2-4). When a friend is happy, be happy with him; when sad, weep (Rom 12:15). When anxious, observe nature with God’s perspective (Mat 6:25-26). When you’ve sinned, confess (Ps 32:3-5). When tempted, quote God (Mat 4:10). The list is really endless.
It might appear a little simplistic, but “just do the next right thing” is always the right thing. We tend to manipulate ourselves into in-action or over-reaction by using the excuse of “it is all just so complicated”. Indeed, our situations are often very complicated, but godliness is always simpler than we make it out to be.
When Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit, she could have said “God said …” and walked away (Gen 3). When Adam ate, he could have sought God instead of hiding (Gen 3). When Cain was angry he could have done right and be accepted (Gen 4). When king Saul was sent by God to destroy the Amalekites, he didn’t have to be greedy and keep the best (1 Sam 15). When king David lusted, he could have turned away (2 Sam 11). When Peter denied Jesus, he could have confessed Jesus (Lu 22). When Demas saw the world’s goods, he could have remained faithful (2 Tim 4). The point is simple: We tend to do the wrong thing most of the time, and continue in a downward spiral doing more and more wrong.
Instead, we ought to “just do the next right thing“. To use the cue from Ezekiel (Eze 14:14, 20), think of the examples of righteousness given us by Noah, Daniel, and Job. Noah, in a world of wrong (Gen 6:7-8), just did the next right thing, obeying the Lord’s instructions (Heb 11:7). Daniel, pressured to submit to pagan lifestyles, just did the next right thing, and didn’t eat the “required” unclean food (Dan 1:8), and when threatened with death, went to pray instead (Dan 2:18; Dan 6:10). Job knew that, no matter the level of calamity, the next right to do is always to worship (Job 1:20; Job 2:10).
Learn to live one moment ahead of yourself. Do not just do what you will do; do what the next right thing to do is. Do not just see what will happen; determine just to do the next right thing.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.Galatians 6:9-10 (ESV)