I learned very early on in life to do the best I could. My parents modelled that, and expected it. As I grew older, I figured out that God wanted my best too. Sometimes when you are working for people—teachers or bosses—you can wonder why you try so hard. Sometimes you feel like no one notices, or cares, or appreciates what you're doing, so you wonder why you bother. Colossians 3:23-24 has the answer to that. It says to work as though God is your boss. People may not always notice or appreciate your efforts, but God does, and it is honouring to Him when you give things your best. That's reason enough for me.
It's true that I don't always think that my best is good enough. I tend to be a bit of an idealist, and frankly I usually want things to be better than I can make them. But, over the years, I've become aware of my strengths and my weaknesses, and also learned how to accept that things will never be perfect on this side of heaven, even if I wish they could be. It helps to know I've done my best; I've made things as good as it is in my power to do.
There are many things that are not within my power, but working on my own character is. And like I said, I always want to be better. So when I come across advice on how to improve myself or anything else, I usually read (or listen to) it. Of course you can't count on all the advice you read to be helpful, but with experience comes discernment. This article by Carey Nieuwhof, written to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s from someone who is just turning 50, lists 25 pieces of advice to help you get to your best self sooner. When I read it, I thought it was excellent advice and worth sharing with you. So, follow this link and check it out.
Over the next several months, I will share a series of verses about building character.
Have you heard of Jack Andraka? Jack is currently doing research that will make testing for certain kinds of cancer, particularly pancreatic cancer, simpler, faster, less expensive, and perhaps most importantly, more accurate. He has sent proposals to hundreds of professors giving them details of his research and asking for permission to use their labs to conduct his experiments. Only one response to him was positive. Realistically, one can’t expect to receive completely positive responses, even if your research, like Jack’s, is ground-breaking. But Jack has received more than his fair share of rejections. Why? Because he is 15 years old. When he arrives at conferences, others assume that he is a speaker’s son who is just tagging along. Then he gets up to speak. Afterwards, the conversations change, because people then judge him for what he knows, not for how long he has lived.
Timothy was in a similar situation when Paul gave him this advice: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. (I Timothy 4:12) Now, Timothy was certainly not a teenager. All of the experts estimate that he was somewhere in his thirties, but in that society anyone under the age of 40 was considered young. And Timothy was certainly young compared to Paul and to the other Christians that he would be leading. The advice Paul gave, however, would apply to anyone of any age. Essentially Paul told Timothy not to let others judge him based on his age, but based on his words and actions. Paul instructed Timothy to set an example for other believers by living a life in which his speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity could not be criticized.
This is advice that we should all take. Live your life such that no one can find anything bad to say about you, and so that the message of God will not be discredited. (Titus 2:4-8) Spend time studying God’s word so that you know what that message truly is. Let everyone around you see the progress you are making. (I Timothy 4:15) Let your good character shine through. Let the life you live through your words and actions be a good representation of God’s love and grace.