Do the Next Right Thing.
James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
I picked up this phrase, Do the next right thing, in recovery as I learned that my first instinct is usually the wrong one. The first impulse of my flesh usually does not provide me with the right answer of what I should do next, so in every situation, I need to pause and ask myself what the next right thing is. As James’ words imply, mine is not a knowledge problem. I have an ingrained behavioral problem of doing the wrong thing. I need to restrain my initial impulse to do wrong and choose to do the next right thing.
I need to do this in every aspect of life. I need to do it a hundred times a day. I tend to think that I only need to follow God on the big decisions, but as most of us have learned, if I do not choose to do right on the little every day decisions, I am going to fail the bigger tests.
I meet men in jail every week who tell me of how they got there. They never started off dealing drugs. They all started out with some small wrong decision. It was just a girlfriend or some guys that I knew were not good for me… Then, I just had a drink… Then we smoked some pot… Then I needed more money so I started dealing drugs… Soon, the Task Force was knocking down the door and now they are in jail.
I may not be smoking pot or headed to jail, but the point is, when I choose to do wrong in the little things, I drop a psychological bomb in my mind, the effect of which is devastating to every other decision I make. One wrong decision leads to another and another.
I ask those same guys in jail what they are going to do now to make sure they do not repeat this cycle. They all say the same thing, swearing by heaven and earth that they will not return to their destructive behaviors. So what are you doing right now about it? I can’t do anything. I’m in jail. Are you reading your bible, praying, meeting with other believers, and thinking right thoughts? I’ll do that stuff when I get out…
If I repeatedly engage in behaviors that distract me from God, no matter how small or insignificant those behaviors are, those behaviors will still exert some destructive influence on my next decision. I cannot ask God to help me with that one big problem and completely ignore him in every other area of my life.
If I continue to indulge in my addiction to pornography, food, anger, affirmation from others, physical appearance, or pride, it will have a devastating effect on every other decision I make. My repeated small failures infect every other area of life. I will not make the right decision in the big crisis if I have practiced making the wrong little decisions leading up to that crisis.
If however, I choose to do the next right thing, something fantastic happens. God retrains my brain. My impulses begin to change and I learn to do right in every other area of life. If I sow the seeds of the spirit in the little things, life grows in me, inevitably affecting everything else. If I want to pass the big tests in life, I have to work on following God right now.