The US Military is acknowledged around the world for being the best. We have the best equipment, best training, and best people. But what does it mean to be the best?
Does it mean we will never fail or make mistakes? It would seem so because the slogan “failure isn’t an option” is the expectation when it comes to PT, inspections, and tests. This mindset is not limited to the Military. In sports, it’s common for superstar athletes to make deals that will help them get on the best team with the best opportunity to win a championship. Within our families, we push our kids to get the highest marks (even above a 4.0). In our marriages, we demand that our spouses read our minds and do everything just the way we would do it (even loading the dishwasher!). The bottom line is we expect perfection.
The problem is true; perfection is not possible.
Military units do fail inspections. Kids do receive bad grades, and our spouses sometimes disappoint us. Since failure is not something we want to live with, we compensate by changing the standards, fudging the data, or finding new “achievable” goals.
We also realize deep down that trying to be the best puts all the pressure on us. Success can be an awful burden to maintain day after day, and failure leaves no room to blame anyone else but ourselves.
Let’s change our focus from being the best to being like Christ. The Bible makes it clear that God’s goal for us is our transformation, or in other words becoming conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29).
This does not mean we become His clones, rather it means we study and meditate on His speech, thoughts, actions, and feelings and then make personal and daily application to our individual situations.
Humility & Grace
It also means we assume a position of humility (not a natural posture for the military!). Paul told the church in Corinth that “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” He knew he worked harder than anyone else—you could say he was the best apostle since he wrote the most books of the New Testament. But Paul knew that his ability to perform came from a source outside himself.
It’s like a supercomputer processing all sorts of data and accomplishing millions of tasks only because it is plugged in to a power source. This humble mindset of Paul reminds us that for each task God sets before us, we are dependent on His presence and power.
We Need God
Former Navy Officer and Christian leader Jerry Bridges gives us a final way to think about this mindset in his book The Discipline of Grace. He says that “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
If we are perfect, we don’t need God at all.
We demote Jesus to a one-hour slot on Sunday while the rest of the time we act as if we are the master of our own fate. Instead, we have a calling to journey with God by His grace (unmerited favor), even when we are doing bad, and especially when we are doing good. Are you ready to give up being the best and live by the grace and power of God?