Posted on the wall of a fitness center were the words of the great basketball coaching legend, John Wooden, who said, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” The implications are obvious when applied to physical fitness. Should I let the fact that I cannot walk on the treadmill for thirty minutes keep me from walking on it for twenty minutes? And, if I cannot do a certain exercise with 100 pounds of resistance, should I give up and refuse to try it at eighty? Of course not! Instead, I should do what I can do.

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, much good is left undone because we focus on what we cannot do rather than on what we can do. The pitiful tragedy of the one-talent man, described in Matthew 25, is the fact that he didn’t do a thing with the money he had been given. He excused his inactivity by telling his master that the risks of faithful stewardship were too great (Mt. 25:24-25). At the very least, he should have deposited his master’s money in the bank and drawn interest. Although we should not press the details of a parable too much, I wonder if the one- talent man ever compared himself to the five-talent man. If so, then he may have justified his own neglect, saying, “If only I had his five talents, then I could do great things for the master!” Such is the heartache of wasted opportunities.

In contrast, happiness is found when we focus on what we can do for others rather than on what we cannot do. Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). A remarkable example of this philosophy is found in the woman who anointed Jesus’ head at Bethany in the home of Simon the leper. Some rebuked her extravagance saying that she should have used her money to feed the poor rather than anoint the living. But Jesus commended her deed, saying, “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for burial” (Mk. 14:8).

A life that pours itself out for others and is willing to take risks in order to please the Master must find its focus on what can be done. And, what can be done in Christ are great things to the glory of God! Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Ph. 4:13). With God as our helper, let’s work together for the betterment of His kingdom and the praise of His glory!

–Glen Elliott–