Just Do Your Best

Written by Cara Shonamon
Musings of a Ministering Mother

A Renewed Mindset_articleWhat are the people of God to do when life gets hard? When challenges arise? How can the people of God be people of hope in the midst of challenging circumstances?

These questions have been rattling around in my brain recently, and I have found some helpful answers in the most unlikely of places: Paw Patrol.

My kids love watching the animated series on TV these days. So much so, that I have some episodes completely memorized. There is one where Marshall, the Fire Pup, is racing to be the best Fire Pup ever. He stops to put out a real fire, but doesn’t break the racing record, so he is sad, but Ryder, his owner, comforts with the words: “Do your best and forget the rest.”

That is pure gold from the Paw Patrol:

  • “Do your best and forget the rest.”

I have found myself using this phrase over and over with my kids, especially when they play on their cute little soccer teams.

I grew up playing soccer and love seeing my children involved as well. It is challenging to be patient with teams of 4- and 6-year olds. I find myself having to remember that I started out chasing the ball around in a big pack of kids too. At the beginning of each game, I tell all the players to do their best, that as long as they do this, I am proud to be their coach.

At the end of the game (we don’t keep track of the score, but, of course, the kids do, and they know when we lose badly), I ask, “Did you do your best?” In unison, they usually nod that they did, so I respond: “Forget the rest!”

How do we as adults give our best in light of challenges like those we’ve experienced in the past couple of years?

I have also found myself saying this phrase to my students before they take a test. I remind them they should just do their best and forget the rest. When they turn in their tests I ask, “Did you do your best?” If they say “Yes,” I reply, “Forget the rest!”

This is what Jesus calls us to. He doesn’t expect absolute perfection without flaw. We won’t achieve that this side of the new creation. He simply asks us to do our absolute best for Him.

It’s easy for little kids to say they gave their best, but how do we as adults give our best in light of challenges like those we’ve experienced in the past couple of years?

This is quite the season in history in both the workforce and in the life of the church. Some called the fall season of 2021 “The Great Resignation.” Millions have been quitting their jobs and even quitting the church. I recently spoke with a friend who pastors a non-denominational church who said families with kids are leaving, and pastors are quitting at his church. I told him we are experiencing some of that too. It was small comfort to hear other groups are having similar struggles. More so, it was discouraging. Have we as pastors not given ourselves to helping others to see the deep heart and love of God?

Is “The Great Resignation” a symptom of:

  • —The pandemic?
  • —An increase in mental health struggles? (Are you aware that overdoses are at an all-time high?)
  • —Lackadaisical leadership in the church?

I think it may be a bit of all these. For a pastor, the last one hits hard. It can be hugely depressing to address and own that our discipleship has not been as deep or intentional as it should be.

Instead of dwelling on circumstances and possible failures, I find myself determined to move toward change. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the church to reflect on:

  • —Who reigns in our life?
  • —Where do we spend our time, money, and skills?
  • —Do we live out the hope of Christ in our world as we are called to do?

This is a great opportunity for the people of God and the church to double-down on discipleship. When the going gets tough (and it is very tough these days), let us return to the basics of our faith:

  • —More time in prayer;
  • —More time in the Scriptures;
  • —Joining together in worship; and
  • —Serving those in need.

Such fundamentals aren’t flashy by any means, but these basics have defined the faithful church for centuries through many difficult times.

Maybe it has taken a tough season for the church to remember what it means to be the hope of Christ in this world. Long ago, the Apostle Paul shared these words of encouragement with the church at Colossae:

  • “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (Col. 3:23-25 The Message).

Don’t be discouraged, sister and brother in Christ. Don’t compare your efforts with those of others — just do your best… and forget the rest.

Rev. Cara Shonamon is co-lead pastor of Shawnee, Kansas, Church of the Nazarene.