Good, Better, Best
By Peter Amsterdam
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“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28–301
“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”—Psalm 37:23–242
When you are faced with a decision that represents an investment of your time and resources, you have to think realistically about whether you can follow through on the decisions you make and how. Sometimes you have to decide that you can’t do something, even something that’s very good and seems like it would be beneficial, because you just can’t take it on right then.
It’s very important to pray and hear from the Lord so He can order your steps and your priorities, but also to factor in reality. Not just, “I really want to do this, or this sounds good; therefore it’s what we’re going to do.” You have to think about what you actually can do. As Paul reminds us in Romans: “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”3
We have to do that with decisions about our work all the time. We have 100 things that would be great to do—except no one can do them because there’s no time, or because there are other things that are more important to do.
You have to factor that in when you’re discussing and making decisions, and sometimes you have to make the hard call that you just can’t do something right now. It might be a great idea, it would help, it would be dynamic, but it’s not possible; there’s something else that you have to do, or put your time or energy or resources toward. It’s not popular to say “no” or to have to shelve a good idea or project, but you simply can’t do everything, and often something has to get cut, at least for the time being. There’s no crime in that.
From time to time you have to ask yourself: “Am I using my time in the best way?” There is always too much to do; there always will be. For most of you, there will never be a time when you’re completely “caught up.” Because even if you “catch up,” new things and problems and ideas will come along. That’s natural. That’s life. So you have to judge and evaluate, “Is what I’m doing the best use of my limited time and resources? We could be doing something that’s really good, but is it the best?”
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Good, better, best” … but in this fast-paced day and age and considering the contemporary challenges with living our faith and making a difference in the time we’ve been given, there isn’t a lot of time to spend on good and better. We want to shoot for the best. There’s little time for second-rate stuff. Not that the good isn’t good and the better isn’t better, but the thing that we really want to shoot for is what’s best.
If we’re doing that, we’re going to see more creativity and fresh ideas that get us to where we want to go, and more quickly than before. We’re going to see more change and progress that is significant and that lasts.
Sometimes you have to put forth big effort and make big investments to reap big results. But if you know that, “Yes, it’s a big investment, but it’s going to be worth it, because it’s what will help us to achieve what’s best,” then even if it does take a big investment of your time or resources, it fits the bill, because you’re doing what’s best. But you may not always hit the mark in selecting and focusing on doing the best. Sometimes you do a lot of work for something that’s very good, but if it’s not the best, then it can end up holding you back from reaching for God’s best.
The key is to be realistic. You need a healthy dose of realism, as well as a healthy dose of faith. It takes both. There is the God factor, and we can’t underestimate that, but there’s also wisdom and reality. You need both. You have to get ahold of the Lord and focus on what’s best, and sometimes you will have to let the good and better go, because realistically, there is rarely enough time to do everything. Maybe in the future you will, but maybe not, because by the time you get to the future, there may well be something else that’s “best.”
And “best” doesn’t mean perfect. “Best” doesn’t mean a walk in the park, or no challenges or tests or attacks of the Enemy or setbacks along the way. “Best” also doesn’t mean the most elaborate and complicated approach or solution. Sometimes meeting the most urgent need in “the best way possible” means taking the simplest, bare-bones, no-frills route.
You really have to isolate, with the Lord’s help and through godly counsel and all the other ways to know God’s will, what the most important things you need to focus on are, what the goal of giving your attention to that project, problem, or need is, and how to achieve the desired outcome, or as close to it as possible, in the simplest, most organized, and streamlined way.
Of course, “simple, organized, and streamlined” doesn’t necessarily mean no or little hard work, or approaching the matter without much thought or prayer. It just means that you don’t get sidetracked or top-heavy with other ideas that are “good” or “better,” but will ultimately be self-defeating, because you end up overextending yourself or others, or overdoing and taking on more than is necessary or feasible to the neglect of your greatest priorities.
We often say, “Don’t settle for anything less than the best,” but I wonder how much we—myself included—actually do that as much as we should. As we ask the Lord to help us and guide us in each decision and step we take, let’s keep this important factor in mind as we ask ourselves: “Is it best? And if not, what is? How do we do what’s best?”
Finding and doing “the best” in our lives and work for the Lord may be all that we have time for if we hope to realistically accomplish the most important things, while not neglecting the many responsibilities we each have or wearing ourselves out. So let’s run our decisions, plans, projects, ideas, and goals by the touchstone of good, better, best, and aim for “best,” by the grace of God.
Originally published September 2009. Adapted and republished November 2014. Read by Jon Marc.