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Use What You Have…But Use It

This site proclaims itself as “the online perch of an elitist snob.”  Part of that snob’s background was in yachting, and this story comes from that experience.

We had two dinghies; the smaller of the two was an 8′ fibreglass cathedral hull boat referred to as a “dilly boat,” depicted with a larger than normal crew below.

It was normally powered by a 3 hp Johnson outboard with an internal gas tank. For recreational purposes it was “mine;” it was my first powered conveyance of any kind. (The second was a 1971 Ford Pinto, which didn’t have much more power than the dilly boat.) When I was awarded this command, I made two requisitions:

  • I asked for a dipstick so I could check the gaugeless gas tank and fill up before running out in the middle of Biscayne Bay or whatever body of water I found myself in. I was awarded a teak dipstick (we did live in Palm Beach, after all.)
  • I asked for a tiller extension so I could steer the boat from midships. Sitting in the stern, the squat of the boat was so bad I couldn’t see where I was going. This request was complied with also.

But that was it. Let me assure you that navigating open salt waters with an 8′ boat and 3 hp motor took a little nerve and a lot of patience, especially when faced with wakes from craft several times my size (which was just about everyone else.)

In the meanwhile, my brother and mother went their way in an 13′ Aluma-Craft with a 7.5 hp motor. More power and speed, but the motor had the unnerving habit of conking out when furthest out. When this happened, I ended up being their tug boat, bringing them back to our yacht.

One year we were at Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands. They had been gone for a long time, and I had too but had come back. I was taking my ease when my father asked where my mother and brother were. Needless to say, I didn’t know. He ordered me to go back out and find them–he was all too aware of what could happen at sea, having served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific during World War II. So I drug myself out and went out to the “point.”

Sure enough, there they were, rowing around the point. They were out fishing in the open ocean when the engine quit running; they had spent the last 30-60 minutes frantically rowing to keep from crashing into the rip rap on the jetty. Had this happened, it would have been a disaster. They were glad to see me, underpowered and all, because 3 hp was better than 2 human oar power.

Today we–and I’m primarily addressing this to the Christian church–have a job to do. Many of us would like to have all kinds of things available to carry out that work, most of which cost more money. We spend a lot of time worrying about not looking “first class.” But if we look at places where the Gospel is really spreading rapidly–in Asia, Africa, and Latin America–we see that the work is being done with very primitive means and limited material resources.

In Exodus 4:1-4, we read the following:

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.

Moses was making excuses as to why he could not do the work. God answered, “What is that in your hand?” That simple staff is where God started the work of His power in the release of his people.

Moreover there are many people who themselves are about to go “on the rocks” of life. If we’re a little speedier “to the task” we might be able to keep them from foundering, even with the marginal resources we feel we have.

There are always times when more resources applied to the task are better. But our challenge is to do the work we have been commissioned to do with the resources we have and trust God to furnish the rest. As was the case with Moses, He will.


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