"Try your best" - how many of us have been told this over the ages? It is something I often told my kids growing up and I find myself still telling it to my grand kids. Why? It is good instruction - as long as we aren't counting on "our best" to be all which gets us anywhere in life! At "best", my "best" (and yours) is a little flawed - but when we put forth our best effort to live as we should, embracing truth along the way, and we are doing exactly "as much" as we can to live as close to Jesus as we can - we are doing things well. All God ever asks of us is for us to do as much as we can to live obediently. He does the rest. We fall short on this obedience thing - not consistently hitting the mark - but when we take the steps in the right direction with consistency, he does the rest for us!
Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle. Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. God offered it to you when you clearly told about your faith, while so many people listened. Now I ask you to make a promise. Make it in the presence of God, who gives life to all, and in the presence of Jesus Christ, who openly told Pontius Pilate about his faith. Promise to obey completely and fully all that you have been told until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. (I Timothy 6:11-14 CEV)
The steps in the "right direction" include what Paul listed here for Timothy:
- Be faithful. To be faithful implies we will be true to our promises - in other words, our words will count for something. We won't say one thing and do another. We will live by the standard we proclaim. There is a constancy God is after in our lives - this is something we are to strive toward. Vacillation is our worst enemy - up one day, down the next. What God is after is us continually maintaining our ground - not giving up ground to our own desires or the enemy of our souls, but plugging ahead with consistency. We may not make grandiose steps each and every day, but each step forward is putting distance between what we were and what we are becoming!
- Be loving. I think there is something really drawing in being a person who loves - maybe this is why God asks for this to be such an important part of our "daily walk". To be a loving person implies we are passionate individuals - passion draws people and sets the stage for great things to happen. God is a tremendously loving individual - therefore, he looks to us to exemplify this passionate concern and care for others - as he has done for us. Passion ignites a fire within us - and others - so when we are called to be loving individuals it is likely it is for the purpose of igniting the fire within others!
- Be dependable. Dependable seems a lot like faithful, but there is a key difference - it is living in such a way that we are worthy of the trust of others. Dependable living is not only consistent, but it is based on a strong foundation - one of trusting first in the only true foundation - that of the love and sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The one who trusts becomes one who is also trustworthy. Dependability is synonymous with being trusted by others.
- Be gentle. I think this characteristic of us "doing our best" is key to having positive and solid relationships with each other. There is nothing more honorable than to exhibit kindness toward others - especially when the natural response toward that individual would be anything but kindness. Gentle people are not only kind in their actions, but they are merciful individuals. Kindness and mercy go hand in hand - they are "bookend" character traits.
- Fight a good fight for the faith. There is more to this daily walk with Jesus than getting our "life insurance" (that thing which keeps us from going to hell). This walk involves a fight for our lives - there is to be an engagement of all our senses in the battle which lies before us - for every step forward will draw the attention of Satan. His utmost desire is for hell to be full of others who have resisted the love and mercy of God - he doesn't want to "burn" alone!
- Claim eternal life. The starting place of "doing our best" is in embracing eternal life. Maybe we think Paul should have started with this one, but I think it is put here as a reminder so we don't forget "doing our best" is based on what Christ's "best" on our behalf. It is not something we do on our own - it is based squarely on the work of Christ - embraced by us!
- Obey completely and fully all that you have been told. As with all admonitions in scripture, we are called to obedience - not partial "compliance" with the standards God requires, but total. Full and complete obedience - a tough order to fill - but made possible because we serve a big God who provides abundantly above and beyond all we need to take each step forward in progress toward the goal.
We don't "do our best" alone - God is with us all along the way. We take the first step toward the goal and God makes it possible for us to take the second. Remember this - it isn't how fast we step, but that our steps are in the right direction! Just sayin!