I only heard it once, but it has fastened itself in my brain for 50 years. Susan and I were at a Navigator training program in our first year of marriage and Jack Mayhall, one of our regional leaders, said it. Before he described these two kinds of people, I whispered a prayer telling the Lord I didn’t ever want to be who he was about to describe.

Now, 50 years later, I would put this on a short list of the most memorable statements I have heard and which has had a significant impact on decisions I’ve made and fruit I have experienced.

“There are two kinds of people God can’t use,” Jack said.

1) Those Who Won’t Do What They’re Told!

This has to do with obedience. John 2:5 comes to mind, “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.‘”The longer I live as a Christian, the more I understand what a significant role simple and immediate spirit-led and spirit-filled obedience plays in Christian growth and fruitfulness.

We live in a culture that values independence and rebellion…doing your own thing. When Susan and I lived in Sweden as missionaries in the 70’s, I saw “Ain’t nobody going to tell me what to do” scribbled on the wall of a subway in English. Things haven’t changed much in 50-plus years. Oh, the power of followers of Jesus saying yes to whatever the Lord is showing them and telling them he wants them to do. 

Years ago I memorized Psalm 119:33-38 in the Living Bible:

“Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey. Make me walk along the right paths for I know how delightful they really are. Help me to prefer obedience to making money! Turn me away form wanting any other plan than yours. Revive my heart toward you. Reassure me that your promises are for me, for I trust and revere you.

There is authority and spiritual power in the memorized Word of God. Through the years I have come to the conclusion that delayed obedience is, in actuality, disobedience. That’s why one of my core values is “To immediately respond to God’s revealed truth,” regardless of who it comes through or what it may be.

2) Those Who Only Do What They’re Told!

This has to do with initiative! Don’t you just love it when people are always thinking of what could be done next…what needs to be done next, rather than sitting around waiting for someone in authority to tell them what to do.

I so appreciate growing disciples and potential leaders who are looking around and looking ahead to discern what needs to happen and then doing something to move the ball down the field. In the military they give out medals for “going above and beyond the call of duty.”

Jesus referred to this as “going the second mile” in Matthew 5:38-41: You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” 

The last statement in this passages means doing more than is expected of you–above and beyond the call of duty!

Going a second mile came out of old Persia and refers to the authority given by the king to those sent to do his bidding. If a courier or soldier needed assistance in fulfilling the king’s mission, he could commandeer any man or horse or wagon with no questions asked. Later the armies of the Greeks and the Romans adopted the practice.

Roman law required a Jew to carry a soldier’s pack one mile. A Jew could be forced away from his own concerns to help a legionnaire who may or may not have really needed him. In the same way, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:32).

Jews marked a mile in all directions from their home and would not go a step further. Jesus said they should go another mile.

The Jews of Jesus’ day, of course, deeply resented this humiliating law and saw it as a symbol of foreign domination. You can imagine, then, their surprise when Jesus said, “go with him two miles.”

This saying is hard on us because we, like the Jews of the first century, live in a “one-mile world.” It’s a world of our rights and benefits. It’s a world of “What’s in it for me.”

There are at least three kinds of people in the world:

  1. Those Who Don’t Know What’s Happening – They have tunnel vision and are always and only thinking of themselves–wrapped up in their own world.
  2. Those Who Watch Things Happen – They are not fully engaged and are willing to let other people take initiative while they passively observe, not being willing to do more than they absolutely have to do.
  3. Those Who Make Things Happen – They do this by always thinking, always being aware, always being sensitive and alert to the Holy Spirit. They’re proactive rather than reactive–willing to go beyond what they’ve been asked or what is expected. These are the “Second Milers” in the Kingdom of God.

By his grace, and for his honor, let’s all focus on becoming the kind of people God can use. Becoming people who do what we’re told and becoming people who do more than we’re told!