On the Misty Flats

To every man there openeth a way, and ways, and a way; And the high soul climbs the high way, and the low souls gropes the low.  And in between, on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro.  But to every man there openeth a high way, and a low; And every man decideth the way his soul shall go.” (John Oxenham)

The author of those lines was, of course, addressing the subject of mediocrity.  Webster defines mediocrity as “a commonplace ability or condition.”  Mediocrity is of “middle quality, ordinary, common.”

It is, of course, not a fault to be common or ordinary if one is doing the best he can; but to do a job of ordinary quality when you could, with extra effort, do it so that it would be “better than average,” is a fault.  A case could be made that the curse of Christendom, currently, is mediocrity.  Too often in our everyday lives we settle for less than our best. My grandmother said “Good, better, best; never let it rest, ‘til your good is better and your better’s best.”  

Sadly, even in the Lord’s work, in spite of Paul’s admonition that “whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do, do all to the glory of God,” (I Cor.10:31) we settle too often for less than our best.  Even though we sing “Hear ye the Master’s call, give me thy best, for be it great or small that is His test, do thou the best you can, not for reward, not for the praise of men but for the Lord,” our actions betray the fact that we sing those words without having our heart in them.

We are engaged in the highest calling and have been given the heaviest commission having been enlisted into a heavenly cause,  the serving of our Lord Christ, the building of His body, His Church, and the duty that is ours demands an effort of uncommon caliber.  The Old Testament sage put it this way, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Eccl. 9:10)

Many reasons could be cited for this common ailment.  Perhaps we suffer from the curse of complacency, or convenience, or the spirit of casualness so prevalent in our age.  It may be a character issue.  Did you ever make a wad of paper out of a gum wrapper, then toss it as a ball to a waste basket only to find that your aim was off; and the paper “ball” ended up behind, yet out of sight, the intended goal forcing you to make a split-second decision to pick up and put the errant “ball” into the waste basket where it belongs or to ignore it since it was out of sight and leave it for the janitor to sweep up since that was, after all, what he gets paid for?  It is not convenient to stop to pick up the mis-guided missile; we are casual in our house so what’s a miniscule piece of paper matter in the big picture, and, after all, who really cares?  It seems like a such a non-issue that it doesn’t warrant a second thought; that is, until we hear the words of James echoing somewhere in the chambers of our mind: “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

There are safeguards and solutions to the problem of mediocrity:

  •  Whatever you are called upon to do, pray God will bless your efforts.  We can accomplish much for God after we have prayed; we can accomplish nothing for God until and unless we have prayed.  The late evangelist, Glen Schunk, under whose ministry I surrendered to preach in 1960 said, “I built my evangelistic ministry on my knees.”
  • Yield your members as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:13).  Nothing, absolutely nothing done in the energy of the flesh (old man) will please God, while nothing, absolutely nothing, done in the power of the Spirit will displease Him.
  • Prepare yourself before you attempt to do whatever you have been called upon to do, spiritually through prayer, Bible reading, meditation (90% of inspiration is perspiration), and physically with proper rest and diet.  Frances Ridley Havergal said she was given good advice:  “Fanny, pray God will prepare you for all that He has prepared you for.”
  • Practice: work out the rough spots; even the world knows that practice is vital, i.e., ball teams, marching bands, orchestras and symphonies.  Michael Angelo:  “Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.”
  • Plan.  Plan your work and work your plan, giving attention to details, knowing what, when and where and how you will be serving, keeping always a measure of flexibility in your mental and spiritual reservoir.
  • Produce with all your body, soul, mind and strength, give it 100%
  • Please the Lord, for it is Him that we are striving to honor, and it is Him that will be our Judge and whose nod of approval we solely desire.

Let us, therefore, confess our mediocrity and by His grace and with His enablement forsake it.  Ask your Heavenly Father to make you a Christian of an uncommon caliber and your church a church that is not known for its mediocrity.

“Every work for Jesus will be blest; but He asks of everyone his best.
Our talents may be few—these may be small,
But unto Him is due our best, our all.”

And whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col.3:17)

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