I was re-reading Lord of the Rings, and I came across this passage. It gave me a lot of food for thought because it struck me as an excellent summary of the Christian life God intends for us.

“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

Gandalf the White, The Return of the King “The Last Debate”

There is a lot of evil in the world; murder, rape, poverty, starvation, disease, war, depression. We will never master them all this side of eternity. In fact, the search for world peace has become proverbial for the impossible quest. You might as well seek to cure cancer.

Yet the irony is that God has called us to resist these invincible evils. Take the famous passage in Micah 6, for instance:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you?
But to do justly
To love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 NKJV

So we are faced with a conundrum. It is good to resist evil, but we will never vanquish it.

Faced with this conundrum, I heard a Christian teacher once mock the idea that our calling is to resist evil in the here-and-now (he was more focused on sending people to Heaven). He said something like “as if  our efforts are going to make the world better and better and we just have to have Jesus come back and put the icing on the cake of our efforts, as it were.”

And if it really was about making the world better and better, until evil was all gone, he’d be right to scorn it. It would be pride and foolishness to think that we could do this.

But that’s not what God’s about. It is not our part to master all the tides of the world. And that’s why I love Gandalf’s quote here.

Read it again.

“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

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Gandalf, By Ted Nasmith

Our task is to do what we can for the “succour” (aid) of our own time and place. For if God wants us to serve Him then He will give us opportunities to do so.  And we can seize those opportunities without worrying whether we will revolutionise the world or end world poverty, because that’s not our problem.

Like Solomon says,

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV

Or as Paul writes,

“And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23 KJV

Whatever is in your hand to do, do it heartily, with all your heart, because you are serving God, not men or some hopelessly idealistic dream. How it fits into God’s massive 7-billion-person-and-counting plan is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is do what we can with what God has given us.

And He will give us the strength to do it.

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