As long as I can remember I have been encouraged to try my best. Regardless of the outcome, whether in sports or academics or even in relationships, the same mantra has been reiterated over and over again - just try your best. I get it, whether it's trying hard even when we don't quite grasp the complexities of an equation, or whether it's playing hard when we aren't the most naturally gifted athlete, what can often be encouraging after a tough test or a rough game can be the phrase we have heard so often, "At least you tried your best."
While that might help us in some areas of life, it can be destructive when it comes to our faith. So much of the "if I just try my best" attitude can distract and alter our understanding of what it means to rely on God. In following Jesus, it becomes more a matter of faith, of trust, and of relying on what God has done, and on what God is continuing to do. Not trying to earn, please, or even appease God somehow by our actions. But rather, letting our actions flow from the love we have for God and for others.
Trying to please God by all the things we 'do' or all the things we 'don't do' becomes an easy trap for many of us to fall in to. Trying becomes then the anti-relying danger that many of us fall prey to when navigating the challenges of living out our faith.
What is interesting is that much of the New Testament is rooted in this very discussion. Many of the earliest followers of Jesus struggled to find the right balance between relying on what God has done and what God continues to do and what effect that has on what we do. I take some comfort in knowing the Apostle Paul struggled with this reality. In Galatians 2:19-21 he writes,
"For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die."
There is a bold invitation in the message of Jesus to reorient how we understand this idea of "trying our best," maybe we should think more in terms of "relying our best." I know that doesn't sound quite right, but you get the idea. Our faith is rooted in trust and a belief that I can't earn God's approval or love, that it is a gift, and that our proper response should be one of total reliance.
I look forward to seeing you all this Sunday as we continue with our new series "Thrive."