Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you have just asked me to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You want me to give up my dreams, but, Lord, you gave them to me! These grand ideas of the way you would
use me have battled to control me. As I pray, I realize that these dreams have become idols almost. They have been motivating me and binding me. Oh, Lord, I want only you to control me! I understand that you need to rip this away from my heart and mind. Go ahead and do it. Lord, I want your will, your way, your love, your peace, your message, your salvation and your life. It’s all about you, Jesus. It’s not my idea of what your will looks like for me. Oh, Jesus, I want your will even if I too must sweat in agony as you did in the garden.
I give my dreams up, Lord! Wow, I feel astoundingly free. I feel calm. I have the simple knowledge that whatever you desire for me is enough. I accept whatever you send. Your will does not have to conform to any of my preconceived conditions. I am free in the spirit. Glory!
It was another required chapel service at Mississippi College in 1959, and I felt certain the gray haired man sitting on the stage would be a boring speaker with nothing meaningful to say to the other students and me.
I sat at the back of the auditorium so I could study one of my textbooks. I paid little attention as the speaker was introduced and as he struggled to his feet and walked slowly to the podium, which he gripped with all his might to support his tottering frame. But this man grabbed my attention as he began talking about his struggles as a missionary in China during the great persecution of believers about a decade earlier. He had been imprisoned and saw many pastors and friends killed for following Jesus.
As he spoke of these trials and sufferings, I noticed what seemed to be a heavenly glow on his face. And even though he spoke of horrible tragedies, he had a loving smile on his face as he spoke of Jesus being with him in all the events of his life. But it was his closing challenge to the students that had the greatest impact on me and still sticks with me nearly half a century later.
“Jesus is worthy of your best, or nothing!” he said. “Jesus is worth going with all the way, or he is not worth following at all.”
After hearing this gentle servant of God, I made a solemn vow to the Lord that, no matter what Jesus called me to do; I would go with him all the way, wherever he led me and give him my best for the rest of my life.
Since then my commitment to give God my best has influenced every area of my life – from small things to big things. I would like to share what this has meant to me. I’m not doing so to draw attention to myself or to make myself look like a spiritual superstar. Rather, I want to challenge you to give your best to God in whatever you do. Or, as Paul told the Christians in Colosse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
Giving My Best to the Many and the Few
I am frequently asked to speak in churches or at other events. I accept as many of these invitations as I can, regardless of how many people will be there. I give my best no matter where I am or how big the crowd – whether I’m speaking to thousands of people at a prestigious church or to a humble peasant selling vegetables at a roadside market in the most remote area on earth.
Just before I speak, I always look up and remember the face of Jesus. No matter who is present, I know Jesus is there – so I must give him my best.
Giving My Best to the Rich and the Poor
I was in Basel, Switzerland in 1987, when Jesus clearly spoke these words to my heart: Lie down on the sidewalk and give up your dreams.
I was afraid the police might arrest me for obeying this command, but I decided I would rather be arrested than disobey. There on the sidewalk, I wrestled with Jesus. But you gave me these dreams. These dreams are so important to me.
Then Jesus said, I gave you these dreams; I can also take them away.
I couldn’t remember ever feeling so spiritually empty and void.
No dreams? I asked both Jesus and myself. What will I do?
Jesus replied, Let your dream be no bigger than the next person you meet. Give them everything!
I understood Jesus to say that I was not to let my dreams stand in the way of giving my best to him by giving my best to every person I would meet. I am not to judge who is worthy of my time or attention. I am to lavish on everyone.
I love the passage about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. Jesus is telling his disciples about caring for the poor, the prisoner, the downcast and the downtrodden. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
I saw this passage come to life while walking with my son Joshua through South Africa. As we walked along a road a poor man took off his hat and bowed to us. Before I knew how to respond, Joshua took off his hat and bowed to the man. Tears come to my eyes even now as I think about Joshua’s beautiful response to the man’s beautiful gesture.
How we treat the poorest and the neediest among us is a good gauge of how we treat Jesus. I am constantly confronted with Jesus as I meet the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and others in need throughout the world.
How we treat the poor is also a barometer of our love for God. Many people express their love to God through worship during a church service. But we also show our love for God by treating others the same way we would treat Jesus if we could see him in our midst. It’s no good if we praise God in church and then gripe at the waitress who serves us in a restaurant after church. It’s no good if we are righteous on Sunday but on Monday turn away from the homeless man or woman we see sitting on a bench.
The greatest needs any of us have are the needs for hope and love and to know that God cares for us. I can share these gifts with each person who crosses my path, as I try to give God my best.
Giving God My Best Through My Work
My job is an unusual one: carrying a cross around the world. But as I carry out this calling, I try to give God my best by doing my best.
When I take the cross with me to speak at a church, it is tempting to merely tighten the bolts with my fingers instead of using tools to tighten them all the way. But that wouldn’t be giving my best. Instead, I grab two wrenches and tighten each bolt as firmly as I would if I were preparing to carry the cross a thousand miles. These aren’t just pieces of wood held together by metal. Jesus died on a cross for the salvation of humanity; putting together this cross is an act of devotion that is worthy of my best.
As I walk the roads of the world, I seek to carry the cross with honor. I hold my shoulders back and my head up. This is good for my health and posture, of course, but more importantly, this is important as I strive to give my best to Jesus and to all the people who look at me as I pass by.
I look people in the eye as I walk. I smile at them. I speak to them with love and kindness. I show respect for each person I meet, because every one of them has been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). I used the word sir when I’m speaking to a terrorist and the word ma’am when I’m talking to a prostitute, because these individuals are precious in Jesus’ sight. My prayer is that what they see through my attitude may leave a lasting and positive impression of the love, mercy and compassion of Jesus.
Giving God My Best by Keeping Going
Mount Fuji, towering 12,388 feet above the sea in a massive cone, is a majestic and beautiful symbol of Japan. During our visit to Japan in 1991, it took three days of climbing thirty-two miles up a winding road just to reach the fifth state at a height of about 7,500 feet.
Denise joined me on foot for the major climb to the top. She carried our backpack as I carried the cross higher and higher up this dormant volcano, which is covered with volcanic boulders and fine ash. The air got thinner as we climbed, but we keep going because Jesus has called us to carry the cross up Mount Fuji and we wanted to give God our best.
As we made our way up the mountainside, we were joined by two platoons of U.S. Marines from Japanese bases who were making the climb at the same time. These kind young men often helped me get up and over tough places with the cross. We continued to climb, past boulders and snow as the air grew colder and dense clouds swept past us.
On the final ascent, in the toughest area, a group of six marines was resting where we stopped. They volunteered to help me get the cross to the top. “We’ll raise it up at the top like the marines did with the flag on Iwo Jima!” they said.
They carried the cross with three or four at a time holding it. It exhausted us all, but we finally made it. The cross of Jesus was uplifted atop Mount Fuji!
Perhaps you have heard the marine slogan: “The few, the proud, the Marines.” Marines pride themselves on their dedication and commitment. It was thrilling to walk along side them and as we did, we even thought more about our own commitment to give God our best as we walked with the cross.
Giving God My Best by Seeking to Be the Least
When I attended the presidential prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. in 1988, I met Piet G.J. Koornhof, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. I had just carried the cross in South Africa, so he invited me into his elegant office.
Ambassador Koornhof showed me many beautiful items and gifts he had received during his years of public service, but my eye was drawn to a humble looking item. “Sir, what is that?” I asked.
He made no immediate response, but I could see tears filling his eyes. Then he spoke.
“I want to tell you a story,” he said. “One day I was officiating at the opening of a South African market for native crafts. There were many beautiful items made of gold and ivory on display. After my speech, the craftspeople told me I could have as a gift anything I wanted. I chose the item you see. It is a straw donkey. I have had it in my office ever since.
“It may seem out of place with the fine things in the office, but it is a reminder to me that we serve a Lord and Savior who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a beautiful white horse or an expensive chariot. I resolved to give my life being a donkey for Jesus so that whatever I do people will focus on Jesus and not me.”
A lot of people today talk about being “upwardly mobile.” But that day as I spoke to the ambassador, we both could see that God wants his servants to be “downwardly mobile.”
Giving God my best doesn’t mean I always get the best. But no matter what I get, which is out of my control, I will always give my best – which is something I can control.
We are Capable
Maybe you are saying, “I would never be able to carry a cross.” But maybe you could.
To my knowledge, at the time I carried a cross from coast to coast in 1969, no one had ever done such a thing. In the years since, however, many people have carried a cross extensively or done crosswalks near their church or around their city. My son Joshua is an evangelist and does crosswalks in connection with evangelism training in churches around the world. My daughter Gina also uses a cross in outreach evangelism in Denver and other places.
A question more important to consider than the question of carrying a physical cross is this: Whatever God has called you do, are you doing it with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind? Are you giving God your best?
Some people say they aren’t capable of doing anything great or worthwhile; but that is the gravest error anyone could make.
Recently I brought the closing message on a TBN television broadcast that featured a group of people whom many would call “handicapped.” But host Paul Crouch Jr. called them “handi-capable.” These people had severe disabilities, such as being born without legs or arms. Others were blind or paralyzed. All of them, however, were in full-time ministry – serving Jesus with all their hearts. These people were radiant and joyful in the face of huge challenges. They were giving Jesus their best.
Whatever our challenge may be, it doesn’t change our commission. We are to give God our best.
Jesus is Worth Our Best
I love to give my best because Jesus is worthy of my best, as we see in this beautiful passage from the Book of Revelation:
In a loud voice they sang:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and
wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and
on the sea and all that is in them, singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)
Friends, when we get to heaven, we will join to sing praises to Jesus because He is truly worthy. Isn’t He worth our best while we walk on the earth He created and serve the people created in his image?
If you agree that He is worthy, then join me in giving him your best. No matter what you do, do it for him with everything you have.