Yesterday I hosted 15 teenagers at my house for 9 hours. I deserve a medal.
They’re all part of the Bible quizzing program I run at our church. We have five different teams who compete four times a year at regional meets. It sounds extremely geeky (this year they’re working on the book of John), but it’s actually quite fun.
After studying and playing games and having fun, we ended the evening by watching the movie Facing the Giants. A great movie, if you haven’t seen it, from the makers of Fireproof. I actually like Giants better; and I always find myself in tears several times throughout the movie, especially watching the old man walk along the lockers, praying for revival among the students. I always get pictures of different kids running through my head.
But the message of this football movie is quite simple: Do your absolutely best and leave the results to God. Give Him your best. Give Him your excellence. And then He will bring about His plans.
But it starts with us offering God our best. At the opening of the movie, the team wasn’t giving God their best. They had a horrible attitude, they weren’t really trying, they were skating by. By the end they were giving God everything, and not just in the football field.
I ended the night last night by encouraging the kids to give God their best; to really study, to learn their verses, to have a good attitude going into the meet in January, and then God would be responsible for the rest.
I want to encourage you to do the same thing. Give God your best. Don’t wait for Him to bring results when you haven’t really been trying. But at the same time, don’t expect huge doors to open until you have reached that level of excellence.
Too often we wait for God and get mad at God when doors don’t open; yet when we get our attitude right–that it’s about offering what we have, and giving God our best–often those doors do start to crack open. We’re waiting for God to put something in our laps instead of stepping out in faith and doing what we should.
Now, please, a little clarification: I am not saying that you should step out in faith and spend a ton of money self-publishing a book, or self-financing a speaking tour, or hiring a publicist. That is not the faith I’m talking about. The faith I’m talking about is the faith that puts energy and spiritual discipline into one’s speaking and one’s ministry as much as one reasonably can. You work at getting your talks good, whether they’re for 5 people or 500. You work at your daily devotions to keep in contact with God. You take courses and get better at what you’re doing.
And as you do this, your best will keep getting better. And then the doors that God opens will get bigger.
Often we expect God to open doors before we are ready to walk through them. God usually opens doors when we show that we can be trusted. In fact, that’s a biblical principle:
He who can be trusted with a little can also be trusted with much.
You have to show that you can be trusted with the little God has given you: the little time, the little funds, the little giftings, the little skills, the little knowledge. And as you take those things and work to your best, you will find that you are able to handle more, and God will give you more.
But if we start off and say, “I will know I’ve arrived when I’m asked to do weekend retreats on the other side of the country, and someone pays my airfare”, and then we wait for such an engagement, and get bitter when it doesn’t come, we’re not giving God our best.
It’s understandable, because we live in an age of instantaneous success. People seem to be getting rich off of the internet, and we wonder, why can’t I? Isn’t that a sign of God’s favour–if we try something and then–presto!–it works? Tons of people are getting famous overnight. They write their first book and it’s a major bestseller, and we think we should be able to do that, too. After all, isn’t that what God’s blessing looks like?
I don’t think so. First, just because success “looks” instantaneous doesn’t mean that it was. It could have been that they had worked for years behind the scenes, but you only see it now. But more importantly, just because some people make it big does not mean that you have to in order for God to bless you. Success isn’t the key; it’s your willingness to give God what you have.
God wants your best where you are now–and when He sees that you are humble enough to learn where you are now, and humble enough to be used where you are now, He will enlarge your territory. But He will not do that until you are ready. So don’t try to jumpstart the process by forcing things, like paying for a speaking tour, or a book, or approaching a huge conference, before you’re really ready. Let God determine your level, and then work your hardest at that level. Then He will choose to advance you.
So are you giving God your best? Or are you spending so much time imagining what it will be like when you have a huge speaking ministry, and several books out, that you aren’t putting in the work now?
I challenged my teens last night to put in the work: to sit down and study, even if they have other things to do. Sure, it’s not glamorous. But as they study, they’ll advance. They’ll get to higher levels of competition. And they’ll know so much more about God’s word.
It’s the same thing with you. Put in the work now; don’t expect doors to just magically open. Give God your best, and the results are up to Him. But He does not honour the one who is not responsible with what God has given her.
Christmas is often a quiet time for families. Sure, there’s baking and shopping and visiting to do, but there’s also a break from school, and from work, and you can usually take a few days and catch your breath. In those few days, will you think about where God wants you to put in your best effort? Does He want you to be more faithful where you’re planted? Ask Him, and take that time to study more, learn more, and practice more!