Some judge their effort and success by being just good enough to get by. At the beginning of fall varsity football practice we had to run a mile for time. Six minutes was the mark set by our coaches for backs and receivers, and so as long as we ran a six-minute mile everything was fine. However, those who failed had to do some “extra conditioning” after practices until they met the goal. Not something I wanted to do.
So the idea of good enough suggests a minimum standard given by someone who has the right to decide what it is. Can you imagine the chaos if we each decided our own yardstick? No one would ever fail because we could change the benchmark to fit whatever we did. This would also do away with any real reward for achievement because everyone would be winners.
Normally, when someone has an attitude of just wanting to get by they often don’t get by. This approach leaves no room for error and often sets us up for failure. I ran all summer long to prepare myself for the “six-minute” mile mentioned earlier. However, my goal was not six minutes, but a time well below what was just good enough. When it came time for our run, I knew six minutes would present no problem because I had prepared to do better. If we only want to barely get by then chances are we will not give the extra effort to do our best.
Some Christians want to do just good enough to barely get by spiritually. This attitude is foreign to bible teaching. In fact, God will not accept anything but our best effort and service. Jesus said we must love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Paul told the Roman Saints “to present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). He wrote to Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved” (2 Tim. 2:15) Lazy and indifferent service has no place in a Christian’s life.
Minimum standards of acceptable behavior may vary depending on one’s ability. However, universal and fixed duties apply equally to all. We can all do what we have the ability to do, but none of us excels at everything. Every back and receiver who ran a six-minute mile or below fell in the range of good enough, but all of us had to finish a mile. We also had to be at practice at the same date and on time.
What’s more, the coaches knew that many of our linemen would not be able to run as fast as the back and receivers. So they received more time to run their mile. By allowing the linemen more time, the coaches showed that they understood the idea of duty based on ability. They did not always expect the same from everyone if it was an issue of talent. But everyone could succeed in what was expected of them if they worked hard and applied themselves.
Just as my coaches set minimum standards for our mile run, God does the same when it comes to spiritual matters. For example, everyone who would become a Christian must hear, believe, repent, confess, and then accept Christ in baptism (Conversions in Acts). However, not everybody can do these, like babies and those mentally disabled. They do not need to become Christians because they have no sin.
All Christians must bear fruit according to their ability, but God understands we cannot all bear the same fruit (Mark 4:20). Every Child of God must give as prospered, however the amount varies depending on how much we make (1 Cor. 16:1-2). God expects us to teach the lost and to encourage one another, but the babe in Christ cannot do what a mature Christian can (Heb. 5:12-14). The more we have and can do the more God expects from us.
Elders and deacons must meet specific qualifications, but even among them abilities vary (1 Tim. 3:1-13 & Titus 1:5-11). That is not to say they may lack some of the traits, for each man must fully qualify himself. However, one may know more, another teach better, and so on. So while elders must meet all the qualifications, it does not mean they will do so equally. God holds these men to a higher standard because of their ability and position (Heb. 13:17). And even though all Christians should have many of these same qualities, we are not shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28).
Whatever our ability and however mature we are, God demands progress and growth (Eph. 4:14-16). He wants us to be better tomorrow than we are today. How can we grow if we only just want to get by? The Bible teaches us how to become stronger and more faithful, but some do not take advantage of God’s advice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Perhaps we believe Christ expects too much from us, or that His counsel is beyond our ability. Such is not true. To grow we should pray (1 Thess. 5:17), study (1 Tim. 4:13-16) and live faithfully (Titus 2:11-14). Everyone can do these, so if we don’t it is just a matter of want to, effort and commitment.
I firmly believe no one can serve God and save his soul by just wanting to get by. Do not shoot for the bare minimum, but seek to excel in your service. Remember, if you continue to add to your faith the various Christian qualities of 2 Peter 1:5-7 you will never fall. But the key is, you must be diligent in your effort.