Meet Valeria Yezhova, a ten-year-old girl in Ukraine now making global headlines. Her mother told reporters, “Valeria asked me how she could help the Ukrainian army. I asked her what she does best, [and] she replied that she is good at checkers.” More than “good,” in fact—Valeria is both the European and world champion for her age group.
So she set up a folding table outside a Kyiv shopping center with a sign, “We are helping the Ukrainian army,” and began playing anyone willing to challenge her. When they lose, they drop whatever money they choose into a shoebox. In one week, she raised $700, which will buy humanitarian aid and equipment for the Ukrainian military.
If only all the weekend news were so uplifting:
- A wildfire near Yosemite National Park exploded in size, forcing thousands of evacuations.
- The WHO declared monkeypox a public health emergency.
- There were shootings in Los Angeles, the Seattle area, Iowa, and Washington state.
- Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian port one day after Russia agreed to a grain export deal with Ukraine.
- A bus fell off a bridge in Kenya, killing at least twenty-one people.
- At least seventeen Haitians died after a boat capsized in The Bahamas.
- Pope Francis began a visit to Canada yesterday to apologize to indigenous people for abuses by Catholic missionaries at residential schools.
- In-person worship was canceled Sunday at a downtown Dallas church after a bomb threat.
In the face of grave challenges, Valeria Yezhova’s example reminds me of Edward Everett Hale’s famous dictum, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
This word of inspiration has special application to the people of God, as we will see today.
“I asked her what she does best”
The book of Joshua apportions the Promised Land to the twelve tribes of Israel, a crucial development in their national story. In the midst of the narrative we read that the tribe of Ephraim “did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor” (Joshua 16:10).
This despite the clear command of God to drive all the Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 20:16–17) for this reason: “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (v. 18).
However, the people of Manasseh followed the example of Ephraim: “When the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out” (Joshua 17:13). Both tribes clearly thought they could manage the Canaanites in their midst and even use them to their ends.
But God’s warning came true: the idolatry and immorality of the Canaanites left in the land grew to affect and infect the Jewish people, leading ultimately to the destruction of the ten northern tribes and the captivity of the two southern tribes.
By contrast, when the apostles refused to compromise their faith, the religious authorities “saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . [and] they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Valeria Yezhova’s mother asked the right question: “I asked her what she does best.” For Christians, the answer is simple: we follow Jesus. When we pay any price to serve our Master, others are marked by our courage. When we refuse to compromise with sin, our integrity becomes attractive to sinners.
When we are “filled” and controlled by the Holy Spirit, we become conduits of God’s word and transformational power to a world in desperate need of both. (For more on experiencing God’s power in the midst of suffering and sin, please see my latest website article, “A snake in the drain and rats in the cellar.”)
“The victory that has overcome the world”
You and I are called to love Jesus with “love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24). Such integrity is for his glory and to our good and that of everyone we influence.
This is why we must not compromise with the “Canaanites” in our “land.” Satan wants us to think that sin is serving us when we are actually serving him. Then, one day, we will inevitably say with David, “My strength fails because of my iniquity” (Psalm 31:10). Our witness will be ruined and others will be forced to apologize for our moral failures.
However, if we see sin for the deadly malignancy it is, each time we are tempted by moral compromise we will turn instantly to our Lord. We will ask him to help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:10–11).
Since our Father “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (v. 13), we can trust him for the power to live for the kingdom of our Savior rather than the kingdom of Satan. We can know that he will enable us to defeat every temptation we entrust to him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
And we can claim “the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
“That I may love what Thou dost love”
The English theologian Edwin Hatch offered a simple prayer that captures the opportunity before us today:
Breathe on me, breath of God
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Will you join me in offering this petition to your Father right now?