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Monday, July 12, 2010

He Wants Your Best

Call it a crisis of teen-age proportions, but I was feeling pretty rattled that night.  I had just mailed off an essay for a scholarship contest, and I was certain that I had no chance of winning.  I was really doubting myself, and having a good cry about it.  If I couldn't write a decent essay on Shakespeare, what made me think it was a good idea to go to college to major in English?

"I don't stand a chance....that essay was garbage...why would God ever want me to be a writer?"  I said to my bedroom ceiling.

"Did you do your best?" a voice out of nowhere suddenly asked me.  It wasn't an audible voice, but rather a still, small voice in my head that I knew didn't come from me.

"What?" I asked out loud.  I was suddenly thinking of Samuel's calling in the Bible.  Was this God speaking?

"I said, did you do your best?"  the voice asked again.

I sat up a little straighter in my chair.  Though it seemed odd to do so, I answered the question.  "Yes....God, if that's you.  I gave it my all, but it was still terrible."

"Your best is all I wanted from you," the voice stated flatly.  "That's enough for me."

Give God Your Best

The Apostle Paul wrote, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10: 31 NIV).  Ever since that little heart-to-heart with God, this verse has had new meaning for me.  If I'm supposed to glorify God in the mundane tasks of eating and drinking, doesn't this apply to everything, even essay contests?

Jesus even backed this idea.  When asked what He thought should be the greatest commandment, He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," (Matthew 22: 37 NIV; an echoing of Deuteronomy 6: 5).  God wants the best part of our love, that is, our undivided love.  He wants the best part of our attention, which is our undivided attention.  Furthermore, God wants the best part of our thoughts and decisions, which means He wants us to consider Him and what would please Him in every decision we make.  In the end, God wants more than our obedience; He wants us to love Him, and express that love for Him by making Him the most important person in our lives.

In ancient times, when God gave Moses His laws concerning sacrifices, God specifically said that the animals to be sacrificed must be "without defect or blemish" (Leviticus 22: 21; Numbers 19: 2), or they would not be pleasing or acceptable sacrifices.  God never asked for our three-legged, one-eyed gifts; He wanted the best we could offer, because that meant that we actually valued His blessing more than any other consideration.  This, too, was to be an expression of love, to show God how important He was to us.  God demonstrated this for us, so we could understand it more clearly, by sending His only son, not His least-loved or least-wanted son, to be the ultimate atoning sacrifice for us (John 3: 16; Hebrews 9: 14).

Now, when I say that God asks for our best, I have to point out that He isn't asking for something unreasonable or beyond what we could give Him.  First, God isn't demanding that we perform beyond the best of our abilities; that would be cruel (see Matthew 23: 13).  One precedent for this is found in the requirements for sacrifices from the poor among the nation of Israel.  If they couldn't afford to offer larger and more valuable animals for sacrifice,  a less-valuable sacrifice would be acceptable (see Leviticus 5: 7-11).  Even Joseph and Mary had to take this option when they presented Jesus at the temple (Luke 2: 22-24).  Secondly, God isn't demanding that we accomplish our best on our own.  He will help us to obey Him, and will equip us with the knowledge and abilities that we need (see Hebrews 13: 20-21). God makes it easy for us to give Him our best!

Are You Giving God Your Best Today?

I am not suggesting to any of my readers that we have to be perfect, or that God expects perfectionism; however, God does want us to give Him our best.  If your best means studying hard enough for that test that you make an "A," then do so; however, if your best effort doesn't earn an "A," don't worry about it.  It's between you and God, not between you and any other person, and you have truly done all you could.  Your efforts are equally commendable in either outcome.  The same goes for a work situation or something in your personal life; if you've done your best, trying to please God in the situation, He will not frown upon your efforts.  He is looking for your obedience and your honesty.

On the other side of the coin, God knows when you have given Him second-best, even when by all appearances your performance was flawless.  As I've said before, it is between you and God, not between you and another person.  You know when you didn't give priority to something, even if you managed to conceal it from everyone around you.  The Bible says, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16: 7 NIV).  God sees what others don't.  I say this because God has dealt with me personally on this issue on a few occasions.

Wrapping up my message today, I want to leave my readers with a reminder to give God your best, not your second best, in all that you do.  Remember that His requirements are not extreme, and that He will even help you meet them.  Finally, when you've given God your best, don't be ashamed of it, no matter how small it may seem to the world.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6: 9 NIV).


Kamal Singarapu said...

Rachel Thanks for the wonderful article. It is really encouraging.

I would like to share few thoughts on the same topic.

The word "Covenant" brings a great meaning to "giving" really. In the Old Testament it is derived from word "Berith" which literally means to cut. It is a sign of covenant. When two people in the old testament made a covenant they cut an animal in to two halves and walked in between the halves after making their promises which what I have learned signifies that the covenant is so serious that if one of the two breaks the covenant then they will be punished by God like the animal that was cut in two halves. Covenant was very serious.

God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:7. Here God said, according to the covenant I will be your God and you will be my people. What I understand by this is that I am yours says the Lord and you are mine. A covenant is always followed by "giving it all." Nothing remains that is not given or kept back from both the sides really. Marriage is one such good example where there is a covenant relationship. The man and the woman coming into the covenant are giving it all. They give it all because of the covenant and I believe not the other way around.

What am I saying, we give it all to our dear Lord because He made a covenant with us (Matthew 26:28 where Our Lord spoke about the blood covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins) and gave everything He has (Himself) to us and now its our turn.

The initial giving starts with giving away all our sinful nature to Him where He will take it away from us and forgives us, then each day we give our self to Him. We give because we are in a covenant and we give it all. Nothing left. And more importantly what you have mentioned in the article, we give Him all we could because He deserves it.

If we see in Matthew 22:15-22; We see Jesus answering a question with a question about paying taxes. People answered that they see Caesar's portrait on the coin and Jesus said, give what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's. If the people had asked Jesus another question immediately something like "what is God's?" then, He would have probably asked them another question, "What portrait do you see on yourself?" and the answer would be "God's." Then Jesus would have said, "Give yourself to God because you are made in the image of God." There is His image on each one of us.

It humbles us to know that we are giving to God nothing that is His but even in our giving He gives us an expression of reality within our own hearts when we give him out of our pure hearts when He receives it and blesses us. In Matthew 5:8 we read, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." We give out of our pure heart and everything we could give then God throws himself out to us and then a miracle takes place, we shall certainly see God.

Thoroughly enjoyed your article.

Rachel said...

I'm encouraged to see enthusiasm for this topic! :)

You make some very insightful points. I think you're right on target, and I doubt I could add much to what you have said. Scripture has proven, over and over, that God has come more than half-way to meet us, so why is it that it is so difficult sometimes to give God what belongs to Him? Though it may not be much to give, our everything is all that God seeks--He sees our hearts as a pearl of great price.

I was excited to see you citing that passage from Matthew. I happen to have written a devotional on that point for an online magazine a few weeks ago. I found some verses Jesus must have been citing (Deuteronomy 6: 6-8; Genesis 9: 6) when He made that speech. Since the Jewish religious leaders went through a rigorous training program in which they memorized most of Scripture verbatim, I'm sure they didn't miss His point. What can I say? The more I read about Jesus, the more I like Him! :)

Thanks, as always, for your comments!