Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Friday, September 3, 2010

Doing Our Best

Dr. Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work (Col. 3:22, The Message). 
I need not remind you that the workplace is competitive, even “cutthroat,” by its very nature. As Christians, we are called to compete, but against what and whom?

One key to uncovering the truth is grasping the nature of excellence, but how does God define it? It is not accidental that the Bible does not contain a single reference to the modern HR mantra of “high performance.” Godly excellence entails four factors, obedience to God’s will and word, the presence of holy motives (the desire of the heart), giving our best efforts regardless of the circumstances, and fourth, to learn from our mistakes. It is a personal standard of accountability based upon how well we use the abilities, gifts, talents and opportunities God grants each of us. God does not grade on a curve nor compare us to others! This is both comforting and disconcerting given the implications. Let us take the issue of giving our best efforts and leave the other issues to future devotionals.

What does it mean to do our best? The term "best" entails a combination of effort and outcome. Our "best" entails several factors including ability and gift level, level of effort and the amount of time devoted to a task. To complicate matters, our top efforts are influenced by external conditions and extenuating factors (illness, fatigue, etc.), that introduce a great degree of variability in defining our best. Our maximum performance under conditions of great stress is frequently lower than when performed under ideal conditions. A frequently overlooked element in defining our best is the most important, the perfect will of God. Our best must always be defined in terms of God’s priorities and plans. The first element is whether we should be engaging in the task or job in the first place. One of the great impediments to Christian growth is our substitution of human standards and criteria in separating out the best from the good. We can exert maximum effort only in a limited set of duties and time frame. What is best performance over a short period of time? Maximum effort, burning the candle at both ends, is a recipe for burnout if "best" efforts do not include adequate time for rest, relaxation and time in God’s presence.

The desire to do our best absent a clear God directed mission statement increases our vulnerability to a legalistic works mentality that enslaves us with unreasonable performance standards and skewed effort levels producing a spirit of perfectionism. At work, what our "best" entails should never include sacrificing God, family or health unless there is an explicit, confirmed word from the Lord. Time and energy are precious resources, and the Lord will never ask you to violate Golden Rule principles to promote His will. The discerning of what is "best" requires an ongoing relationship and dialogue with the Lord given the inherent complexity of relationships, the great number of variables, and the high stakes spiritual warfare. In most cases, we are devoting our maximum effort in the wrong areas and driven by selfish motives. Let us commit to defining our best in God’s terms, not ours.


  1. I greatly appreciate the freedom of Paul's instruction here when combined with the sabbatical rest of the Lord Jesus. The richness of Jesus as our Sabbath and the rest of God from our struggle against sin, Jesus as our motivation and focus for setting aside time to rest our minds and bodies on a Sabbath day, and Jesus as our teacher and model for how to rest all require the opposite to make them complete - working for the Lord. This passage in Colossians clearly reminds me of that heart and mind connection found in my will, and when I tire in my work, they remind me of my purpose and God's promise - that I will grow in the likeness of Christ.

    Thanks for the great post. The past few weeks have been tiring to say the least, and this reminder helps keeps me on track :)


  2. Thank you Dr. Roberts for a very timely word. I have been so bothered by "performance metrics" in my professional life as of late. You helped confirm my priorities of working unto the Lord and treating people with respect.

    Yours In Christ,

    Cindy McAuliffe
    RSG, distance student