Have you ever worked really hard to be the best at something? Did you achieve it? If so, how did you feel once you got there?
My Story and the Bible Story
One semester in college, I asked my professor what I got on my final exam. He said something like a 94, and I asked what questions I missed. I’ll never forget his response: “Why does it matter? You got an A.” I was still trying to find out how I could do better, even though I got an A. It sounds silly, but I always wanted to be the best at everything I did. And I almost never was. There was always someone who did just a little better than I did. It reminded me that no matter how hard I try, there would always be someone better. All I can do is my best, and that is good enough. In Philippians, Paul reminds us that we don’t have to try to be the best with God. In fact, we can never be good enough for God. But God doesn’t want us to be. That’s not the way God works.
Read Philippians 3:4b-14.
Paul did all the right things. He was the best of the best in Jewish life. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, he was circumcised, and he was a Pharisee. He strictly obeyed the Law. He even made trouble for the church. He did everything the Law demanded, and it still wasn’t enough. He thought he was the best . . . until he met Jesus on that road to Damascus and everything changed. Suddenly, none of his work mattered. All of it was garbage. Paul discovered that everything he thought was important wasn’t because none of it could save him. It didn’t matter how good he tried to be; he could never be perfect. He could never be good enough for God. But he discovered that God doesn’t want perfection or for Paul to earn his way. Instead, Christ died for him so that he could always be friends with God.
We, like Paul, sometimes fall into the “good enough” trap. We try to do all the right things, to be the best of the best, in hopes of earning our way to God. We try to make God proud of us and to be good enough for heaven. But nothing we do is good enough. It doesn’t have to be—because of Christ. God offers us a prize because of Christ, not because we earned it. Our prize is that we are called to heaven to spend forever with God. We will never be the best of the best. There will always be someone better than us. And that’s okay, because God doesn’t expect us to be the best. Instead, God wants us to know and follow Christ. When we do that, we have a far better prize than anything we could ever earn. We have the prize of spending forever with God!
So try your best, but remember that you don’t have to earn your way to God. God opens that way for you freely. That is great news!
Discussion and Prayer
- Ask your children if they have ever tried to be the best at something. What happened?
- Talk about how, even when we feel like failures, we still have God. We can’t earn God’s love because God gives it to us freely.
- Imagine how our lives might look different if, instead of being focused on being the best, we focused on Christ and God’s love for us. What might change?
- Pray, thanking God for Christ and that we don’t have to earn our way into heaven. Ask for help letting go of our desire to be the best of the best.
Rev. Jessica Asbell is the Minister to Children and Families at First Baptist Roswell, where she has been serving since 2012. She has written the children’s curriculum for Smyth & Helwys’s Annual Bible Study for the books of Daniel; Ezekiel; Luke; Jonah; 1 Corinthians; 1, 2, 3 John and Jude; Colossians; The Story of Israel’s Ancestors: Living toward a Promise; and Where Faith & Family Meet: A Book of Weekly Devotions. She has also written for CBF’s Spark and Form and for Affect in CBF’s fellowship! magazine. Married to Jonathan Oravec, Jessica reads every chance she gets.