One problem with most bumper sticker theological statements is that they are made as blanket statements without considering the context in which the statements are made, the motives behind them, and the situations to which they are applied. These factors determine if they are true statements or not. Such is the case with the statement, “Do your best, trust God with the rest.”
When is this statement true?
- When your best is your all
There are some examples in the Bible where this saying is valid. There’s the story of the boy with five loaves and two fish when Jesus fed 5,000 (John 6:1–15). The boy gave all he had and left the results with Jesus.
There is also the widow who gave an offering of two coins. Jesus said, “…she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:41–44). She wasn’t worried about how God would use her offering, she just gave her all.
Finally, there is the widow of Zarephath who was preparing her last meal and was asked by Elijah to feed him with it (1 Kings 17:8–16). She gave all she had left and trusted God to sustain her. These people gave their best—all they had—and then trusted God with everything else.
- When your best is wholeheartedly for the Lord and not with wrong motives or attitudes
For example, I could write this article to the best of my ability, but if I am doing it with wrong motives and not wholeheartedly unto the Lord then I can’t expect God to use and bless it. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).
- When your best is righteous and not in the direction of something sinful
Some people’s best in Scripture was wrong or misguided. For example, Abraham and Sarah used Hagar to have a child (Genesis 16). Their best effort to have a child of promise was misguided. They didn’t trust the Lord to fulfil His promise in His time.
Or consider Tamar, who was doing her best to conceive a child with her husband but she was misguided when she coerced her father-in-law, Judah, to have sex with her and she bore twin sons (Genesis 38).
- When the whole saying is adhered to
On one hand, trusting God with situations doesn’t absolve us from fulfilling personal responsibilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis I read of one woman who was confronted for irresponsibly risking infection by attending church. Her response was “I’m covered by the blood of Jesus.”
On the other hand, doing our best and acting responsibly as if everything depends on us doesn’t absolve us from trusting the Lord. There is an old Arab saying, “Trust in the Lord, but tie up your camel.” We are 100 per cent responsible to do our best and depend on and trust the Lord 100 per cent.
When is “do your best, trust God with the rest” untrue?
- When your best is mediocre
With this statement we make doing one’s best the standard. What about the quality of thing being done? With some people “doing their best” is a cop-out because it excuses them from making their best even better through training or hard work. Sometimes doing one’s best involves taking steps to raise the bar on what one’s best looks like.
- When your best is legalism
The Apostle Paul describes the legalist’s approach, “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:3 NLT). The legalist is trying to earn God’s love and favour by doing their best to keep man-made rules. When we are doing our best as an expression of legalism we have missed the truth of the Gospel, which says our best will never be good enough. Only Christ is all-sufficient. We can only receive, not achieve, God’s love.
- When trusting God with the rest is a last resort
For some “do your best, trust God with the rest” means do all you can first and having done that then it is time to trust God. But this begs the question, at what point do you allow God to do the rest? When you are exhausted? When you are injured or incapacitated? When you have made a mess of things? No. The truth is you allow God to work from the very beginning.
Before you act commit your effort to the Lord. Then do your best, totally, wholeheartedly, and righteously while depending 100 per cent on the Lord. Keep making your best better, not because you are earning God’s favour but because you already have it.