Have I Done My Best?

March 12, 2022

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?”

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus,

Who died upon the cruel tree?

To think of His great sacrifice at Calvary!

I know my Lord expects the best of me.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?

How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?

I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,

When He has done so much for me?

-E. Edwin Young

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

  • Lawrence Morra
    March 12, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    I never heard of this story and knew nothing about Edwin Young until now! I’m so happy I read this today as it fits into my own soul searching and deep thoughts of the last several days and something I wrote last night in that regard; now like a God Send this!

    “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?”

    Just before I read that line I had tears in my eyes and said to myself Edwin Young was right where God wanted him to be on that fateful day as an instrument of God! God does work in mysterious ways and Edwin not only did his best to save 17 souls that day from the frigid water and imminent death but his story I believe that God wanted to be told as a lasting legacy to go on saving souls by his example of what our lives really mean and how we are only here to Love and Serve Almighty God and His plan, and as we know now even more from this story the centerpiece and most urgent part of the plan is Saving Souls! I had paused reading to write my first thoughts and feelings to this point; when I began to read again this next line I quote was the seal of approval I believe from God for all of us to tie it all together!

    “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?”

    I understand why Edwin Young was so focused on asking that question so urgent a question; which is for all us here on earth to also be asking ourselves and the Lord above each day to the best of our abilities, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?”

    John 15:12, 13, 14 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command you.”

    This is what it’s all about the saving of souls and we must consistently remember what Jesus Christ did for all who would otherwise be lost; Edwin’s example exemplifies the great importance of making our lives living sacrifices to God, seeking always to do His will; which is of paramount importance, if we truly care to ask our heavenly Father this one question upon our final moment on earth, “Have I done my best?” Only to hear His loving merciful reply;
    “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!” Matthew 25:23

    This is something profoundly important that my father told me as a boy, and I’ve remembered taking to heart these words; “God gave us a conscience for a reason and life is a test, we’re always being tested.”

    I actually wrote about this last night and now like a perfect connecting of the dots again; it all fits perfectly!

    Such a perfect melody and remembrance for Edwin and all the unsung heroes because most go unnoticed or not thanked here in this life by others; but, we can rest assured Jesus absolutely knows and it’s so appreciated by Him and our Father in heaven!




    God bless you!
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

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