My family has a folk hero. He was known as Judge Thomas. He was a man that taught that doing the right thing brings peace.
Now he was not a real judge. He was a farmer who lived north of Topeka, Kansas in this house:
But he was lovingly known as The Judge because he was wise.
He would say things like, “No matter what you do be the best at it. If you’re the one who sweeps the floor, be the best, most reliable sweeper.”
Or, “It’s no sin to be poor, but it’s a sin to be dirty.” He meant inside and out on that one! Even if you have one set of clothes, keep them clean, and have a clean heart.
His lessons were all about character because good character is one of our most valuable possessions. Consistently doing the next right thing is so important. And doing the right thing, as a way of life, brings peace . We will not be tossed around, wondering what path to take. We will know the path we must choose – even if the way is hard – and we’ll have a more settled mind about our choices.
What is the Next Right Thing to Do?
If we’re going to choose the next right thing to do, then we need a definition for what that is.
An author, Emily P. Freeman, who has a book, blog, and a podcast about the “Next Right Thing,” doesn’t so much give a definition as she describes what it looks like:
“When we do our work, offer a prayer, lend a hand, or continue to move through the ordinary tasks of our regular days, we never know how people years from now may be impacted because of our faithfulness.”
She is pointing to making time for spirituality, showing compassion, being responsible about our work and tasks. I would add to this being honest, paying our bills, being industrious, never taking something that is not ours and so on.
Famous Christian author, C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
And Michael Josephson, a former law professor, who’s given much of his life to developing character lessons for young people takes it a step further:
“Character is not only doing the right thing when no one is looking. It’s doing the right thing when everyone is looking. It’s being willing to do the right thing even when it costs more than you have to pay.”
From the Bible, we have a very concise definition. What is the next right thing in God’s eyes? “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” Colossians 3:17
Making a Habit of Doing the Right Thing
Emily Freeman, who I mentioned above did some research and found a poem written in the late 1800s by a woman named Minnie Paull. Her poem was called The Next Thing, though I’ve modernized her English.
Some lines near the end of the poem contain good advice on how to make doing the right thing a habit. Minnie Paull wrote about doing the next right thing (and I am updating the English for understanding):
“Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who has placed it before you with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.”
Minnie’s advice to us was whatever you sense would keep you in step with God’s heart, whatever you sense He is saying, do it right away with prayer. Don’t worry about the results. Just do it, saying, “I know this matches my Father’s heart.” If it’s kind, reverent, honest, forgiving, generous etc., these are the next right things.
And the thing we need to remember and take delight in is that those who believe in Jesus will receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is by the inward work of the Spirit that the fruit of character bursts forth from us: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 NIV) We are not alone in making this happen.
The Reward of Living in A Righteous Way
If we so trust God that we make up our minds to do the next right thing no matter what the consequences, we will find peace. No more floundering around, tossed to and fro. A mind set on doing the right thing is a settled mind and a peaceful one.
The Prophet Isaiah spoke of this peace this way:
“You [God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)
We will do the next right thing, want to do it when we truly trust and rest in God. “He will take care of me even if it seems ‘I lose’ in some way in the eyes of others or even in my own eyes. I trust God so I will do right.
Jesus made some very powerful promises to people who walk in integrity and obedience to God. He said,
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21 NIV)
Two verses later, He is recorded as saying,
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23 NIV)
To have that intimate love with God makes doing the next right thing very appetizing!
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