Speaking of Giving Your Best to the Master, two men decided to go fishing on a Sunday and when they didn’t catch a thing thought maybe God was trying to tell them something.
One said to the other, “I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about not going to church.
The other replied lazily, “I couldn’t have gone to church anyway.”
“My wife is sick in bed.”
A missionary society wrote to Dr. David Livingstone, who was in Africa and asked, “Is there a good road to your location? If so, we have some men who would like to come and join you in your mission.”
Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
Dr. Livingstone’s sentiments sound similar to today’s challenge from Jesus: “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow Me, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
This challenge to all would be disciples is representative of the latter half of Luke. In the first half, it was all fun and games for the disciples. But in this last half, the children are challenged to grow up . . . fast.
One word that encapsulates the latter half of Luke’s masterpiece is ‘priorities.’ Jesus continually asks His disciples to give Him first place in their lives. In his fine commentary on Luke, Darrel Bock writes:
Service for the Kingdom begins at the moment we receive Jesus and continues until the Father calls us home. What does this look like? In detail, it is different for each person. Some are called to serve where they grew up; others are called to journey thousands of miles away. Some live in hardship and lose their life for their faith, like Peter who died for the faith; while others live a long life, like John who died of old age. What is the same for all is that the call of discipleship should have priority over everything else. 1
In other words . . . Give of Your Best to the Master.
But I also said last week that following Christ is what makes life worth living. It is not only a challenge to be a disciple of Christ but it is also a privilege. And counting the cost, as Jesus advises us to do, should, in my mind involve considering the wonderful privilege of serving Christ.
It is a privilege to be a Christ follower because Christ calls us to give our best for when we give our best we as human beings are at our best.
While former President Jimmy Carter was serving in the United States Navy, he applied to participate in the Nuclear Sub Program. He was being interviewed by Admiral Rickover who was the head of the program.
It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover; we sat in his office for over 2 hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time, current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, and electronics. He began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. He soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen. He always looked right into my eyes, and I was saturated with cold sweat. Finally, he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, “How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?”
I swelled my chest with pride and answered “Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!”
I sat back to wait for the congratulations which never came. Instead the question came, “Did you do your best?”
I started to say, ‘Yes, sir’, but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more. I finally gulped and said, “No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.”
He looked at me for a long time before turning his chair to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget or answer. He said, “Why not?”
Cathy Rigby was a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and she had only one goal in mind; to win a gold medal. She had trained hard over a long period. On the day she was scheduled to perform, she prayed for the strength and the control to get through her routine without making mistakes. She performed well but was crushed when she didn’t win a medal. Afterward, she joined her parents in the stands all set for a good cry. As she sat down, she could barely manage to say, “I’m sorry; I did my best.”
“You know that, and I know that,” her mother said, “and I’m sure God knows that too.” Then, Cathy recalls, her mother said 10 words that she has never forgotten: “Doing your best is more important than being the best.”
Offering our best improves the quality of our lives.
My daughter-in-law recommended that I read The Leader Who Had No Title.
Keep in mind that a simple definition of a leader is anyone who influences people. The book puts forth its leadership principles by telling the story of Blake who meets 4 people who teach him a different aspect of leading without a title. Anna, who works as a hotel housekeeper, is Blake’s first teacher.
‘Look at me,’ Anna said, pointing a finger at her heart. I could come up with a million reasons to be discouraged, dissatisfied and disengaged with my job. I could complain that ‘I’m just a housekeeper’ and that all I do each day is clean the hotel rooms of people with lots of money. But one of the greatest freedoms each of us has as people is the freedom to choose how we view our roles in the world and the power we all have to make positive decisions in whatever condition we happen to find ourselves.
Blake replied, ‘I don’t mean any offense at all, but everyone I know would think you have a hard job. And a pretty ordinary one. I mean, you have to clean up after people. I’m sure you work long hours and housekeepers generally aren’t respected that much in our society.
Anna said, ‘I’ve discovered that my work is deeply important and essential to this intricate and well-regarded organization. I see myself as a goodwill ambassador for this hotel and someone who manages its brand by the way I behave.
Every one of us alive at this moment has the power to go to work each day and express the absolute best within us. And you need no title to do that.
Every one of us alive today has the power within us to inspire, influence and elevate each person we meet by the gift of a great example. And you need no title to do that.
Every one of us alive with life passionately drive positive change in the face of negative conditions. And you need not title to do that. 2
Anna’s leadership principle reminds of the Apostle Paul in Colossians:
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (3:23)
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (3:17)
Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.
A man who lives in El Salvador claims God told him to start digging a hole 18 years ago, and he literally hasn’t stopped since. Santiago Sanchez, 69, says he regards it as the Lord’s work and he devotes every waking hour to the project. He heads to his hole every morning at around 3 AM and every afternoon emerges with around 90 pounds of rock, stones, and debris. His wife, Isabel, said that “there are people who say that he is crazy”
but he answers that “no one knows what God is going to ask from you, but whatever it is, we need to give it our best shot.”
Is Santiago Sanchez doing God’s will by digging a hole in the middle of the jungle? He certainly thinks he is, and that really may be all that matters. Because the real question isn’t whether Mr. Sanchez is doing God’s will, but are we? If we flip hamburgers, we can choose to flip hamburgers for the pay, or we can choose to flip hamburgers for the Lord, The latter makes all the difference.
It is a privilege to be a Christ follower because when we serve Him by offering our best the world changes for the better.
By the way, did you know that if by your shining example of personal leadership you inspire ten persons each day to play at their absolute best, by the end of four weeks you have inspired and elevated the lives of three hundred people?
And if you keep doing that, at the end of your first year, you will have impacted the lives of over three thousand people? But wait, it gets even better. At the end of ten years of leading without a title, and engaging ten people a day to be excellent through your good example, you will have touched more than thirty thousand people. And if each of them in turn influenced just ten more, you will have left your mark on over a quarter million people in a single decade. So yes, society sees me as a simple housekeeper who cleans dirty rooms. But I see myself as someone who has the responsibility to inspire over a quarter million other human beings to realize their natural leadership power, and, in so doing, step into the fullness of their humanity. That’s well beyond just a job for me, Blake. It’s become my calling. And nothing in my life makes me happier. 3
Thursday night at Disciple class, we were talking about how Jesus calls all of us to give Him our all. And Vanna Robbins said, “I think that’s what America needs more than anything right now.”
You better believe it! Yes, America, indeed the entire planet is in desperate need of what God in Christ has to offer through His church: Forgiveness, a chance to start afresh, grace, love, mercy, and service. These are the things that people without Christ need now more than ever.
The building of the pyramids serves as a wonderful illustration of people sacrificing together in order to build a kingdom. What many don’t know about the building of the pyramids is that it had great social meaning when they were built. Much more than just royal tombs, they represented the dignity and power of kings. So building a pyramid was a national project involving the entire country. Every household in Egypt sent their best workers, grain, and food to contribute to this community project. The final step in the building program was to place a capstone encased in gold on top of the pyramid. The capstone signified that the monumental project was finally finished, and it was a time for dancing and singing as the entire nation celebrated the completion of the national project. In this sense, it was the pyramids that built Egypt rather than the other way around.
We have the awesome privilege of giving our best to the Master in order to build His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As we do so, the light of His glory shines forth for all to see!
1 Bock, Darrell, L. Luke: The NIV Application Commentary. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996] pages 288-289.
2 Sharma, Robin. The Leader Who Had No Title. [New York: Free Press, 2010]
3 Ibid, pages 57-58.