Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.I Corinthians 9:24-27
Edward Spencer was a student at Northwestern University in 1860. He was a promising athlete, an Olympic Swimmer. He had so much potential. But one fateful day changed everything.
Northwestern University sat on the banks of Lake Michigan, which is know for its very sudden storms. Ed was studying in the library one day when a commotion tore him from his studies. Two boats had collided in the harbor and the Lady Elgin was sinking. People were drowning without help because of the strong currents.
Ed ran outside to be of assistance. He dove into the icy waves and was able, with his Olympic strength, to reach the first person and bring them to shore. He did this several more times before onlookers began to try and stop him. “Ed, you’ve got to stop. You are going to kill yourself if you keep going. You’ve done all you can.” The words unheeded, Ed without hesitation plunged back into the water, saying, “I’ve got to do my best.”
He rescued 17 people and on his last trip back to shore, he collapsed, unconscious. Unable to go on, his friends carried him to the infirmary. All the way there, he repeatedly asked, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?” All night he battled for his life, repeating, “Have I done my best?” In the end, he won but his heroic act had robbed him of his future. He lived the rest of his life as a semi-invalid, bound to a wheelchair. His dreams lost.
Several years later, another student by the name of Edwin Young had heard of Mr. Spencer’s heroic deed and decided to visit him and hear his story. Once there he found a shadow of the man Mr. Spencer had once been.
Edwin Young commended him on his actions that day on the shores of Lake Michigan and asked how he had been recognized by the lives of the people he’d saved. With tears streaming down his face, Ed Spencer said, “You know, not one person ever came back to thank me.”
It was the heartbreak of these words that inspired Edwin Young to pen the words of the sacred hymn, “Have I Done My Best For Jesus?”
How horrible. To be saved from certain death and not even thank your rescuer. To live out the rest of your life as if you hadn’t almost drowned. Given a second chance, but forgetting the one who afforded it to you.
I wonder if those people ever gave Ed Spencer another thought. Oh, I’m sure they did in passing. But it wasn’t enough to even acknowledge what had been done.
Paul knew this could happen to him. That even after he preached to others about His experience with God Almighty on the Damascus road, he could still become a castaway.
Castaway – n. a person who has been shipwrecked and stranded in an isolated place
Shipwreck can come to us all. If the apostle Paul knew he wasn’t above it, how can we think we are?
We see it all around us. More and more each day. People are thankless. How do I know? Well, how can you live in thankFULness without living your life as if you are truly thankful? How does one live a thankful life?
I think about someone literally saving my life. I would be indebted to them. I’d thank them every chance I got. I would offer to do anything in my power for them. I would live my life knowing I wouldn’t be here on this earth without them.
Why then, HOW, can we treat Jesus so indifferently?
We give our best to so many things. So many people. Things and people who aren’t able to satisfy our souls. Or save them from hell. Jesus without hesitation dove into those icy waters to rescue us. HE GAVE HIS BEST. He left the shores of Heaven. He knew what it would cost. He knew how heavy His cross would be. He knew we wouldn’t thank him. He knew we would ignore His sacrifice.
And yet, He looked to His Father and said, “I’ve done my best.”
And what a best it was.
How can we strive to give anything less?
It’s Saturday. A day to get caught up on things you can’t do through the week. Tomorrow, tomorrow will be the fun day. Sunday, fun day. A day to sleep in, to take it easy. To maybe do a little something fun with the family.
Jesus didn’t take it easy for us. He traded precious sleep for intercessory prayer. Prayer for us. He traded comfort for nails and a crown of thorns. Beating, mockery, shame, betrayal. Agony.
And what do we give Him? The leftovers. If there are any.
Too busy to spend time with Him in prayer.
Too much to do to read His word.
Too tired to worship Him in His house.
Too ungrateful to tell someone else about His great love.
But what about our hearts? You know, those people on the shore thought Ed Spencer had already given his best. Look at all he’d done. But he knew his own heart. He knew how much his best was. No one else.
We can get caught up in doing so much, that it may look like we are giving our best. But inside, we can be so burned out. So tired of doing it all. Weary of shouldering the burden, alone. Going through the motions with no motivation of love behind it. We are in as much jeopardy of becoming a castaway as anyone else.
Lord, help me. Not to shipwreck. Not to be stranded in an isolated place of my own making. I don’t want to be a castaway.
Life is hard. Burdens are heavy. But if I must enter Heaven’s gates exhausted, let it be because I did my best for Jesus. Let it be because I loved the unlovable. Let it be because I was faithful to serve. Let it be because I love my Savior beyond words and life and breath itself. Because He deserves so much more than I can give.
What makes me think I can keep my life, my dreams, my hopes and best laid plans? I can’t keep something His precious blood redeemed. No I MUST give Him all. What I have is not worthy enough for such a sacrifice. But it’s all I have.
What a wonderful Savior to only want…..me.
He knows how little I offer. And yet He graciously accepts it as a prized possession.
My greatest desire is to leave this life and enter that one with those same words on my lips.
“Have I done my best?”
Words & Music By Faith York