Fine: If you look up the word in the Random House dictionary or the American Heritage Dictionary, the first definition will describe something of excellent or superior quality. However, often when we say, “I’m fine” we mean anything but that. What we are usually saying is that we are OK. But are we?
I recently came across a presentation that addressed this little word. The point was to say that often when we use that word we are settling for something less than the best. Think about it. When someone says to you, “How are you doing?” and you respond, “I’m fine”, what do you mean? Do you usually mean that everything is excellent with no room for improvement? That everything is falling apart around you? OR do you mean that while there is nothing spectacular or disastrous going on, things are acceptable but not great? Or maybe it is just your way of expressing that things are well without any thought of a detailed analysis of your well-being.
BUT, at other times when we say, “I’m fine” it is said when there are other things on your mind. Perhaps you are upset or frustrated because of something that has happened, but rather than expressing your true feelings you simply say, “I’M FINE!” It is said because you don’t want to burden, or deal with whatever is going on with, the person who asked - at least right now. Sometimes this is the best thing to say and hopefully they “get it.”
At other times, however, “fine” is said as a concession. It is a statement of surrender. While you might like things to be better you just accept what is happening. It is like telling someone, “Whatever!” In such cases, one might be giving up rather than to keep fighting. Perhaps, it is rightfully done in humility, yielding to your brother in matters of liberty even though personally you do not like the decision. OR you might be accepting your station in life or something that you have no control to change (such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh). BUT at other times it is quitting when you need to keep going OR settling for mediocrity. IT is in this last sense that I want to address this expression.
As Christians we must never settle for mediocrity. One thing emphasized throughout scripture is the need to do our best. God will settle for nothing less. In Revelation 3 we read of the church at Laodicea. Of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 & 3, it was by far the worst. It’s character flaw was its mediocrity. John described them as being “lukewarm” and noted that “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Rev. 3:16) Paul told the brethren at Colossae, “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord.” (Col. 3:23) Peter said, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11) Notice how in this text, he challenges us to use whatever ability we have for God’s glory. The implication is that you give him the best, not merely some of your ability. In fact we know God will accept nothing less. In Matt. 6:33 we read that we are to seek first the kingdom of God. In Malachi 1 we find that God was insulted when man offered unto Him inferior gifts. In that text, some in Israel were offering to God their “left-overs”. Rather than the first-born or something of use, they were offering sacrifices that were blind and lame and sick (i.e. useless). God was highly insulted (Mal. 1: 6-8). Later in that same chapter (vs. 13-14) we find the people complaining about the “weariness” of their worship (I.e. it was boring). God would have nothing to do with such.
Throughout the New Testament, we are challenged to be diligent in our efforts. The word “diligent” means to do something with urgency and zeal. It is something treated as important and worthy of our total attention as we engage in it. That certainly describes one who desires to give God more than mediocrity. 2 Tim. 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Peter 1:10 after describing the “Christian graces” that we are to add to our faith” we read, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” We read in Hebrews 4:11, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” When we say we are fine, let us be sure that we are not settling for less that our absolute best.
Another consideration in saying, “I’m fine” is when one is giving up. There are many who say they are fine the way they are (i.e. ready to retire from serving the Lord.) Others see a dismal situation and say, “fine!” as they accept defeat and quit trying. Such is not a godly attitude. As Christians, we need to understand that as long as there is breath in us, we cannot quit. In fact, if such is our attitude, our souls are at stake. In Luke 9:62 Jesus said, “No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” This came in response to some who were making excuses to put off following Him. In the text Jesus was demanding that He be our first priority and that for one to quit before the task was finished rendered him unfit for heaven. Strong words for us to consider. Writing to the church at Smyrna in Rev. 2:10, a church facing tremendous persecutions, we read, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” Included in His encouragement, the angel to that church (2:8) was telling them to not give up or quit. On at least two occasions, Jesus warned His disciples that they would face difficult times as they served Him. He encouraged His disciples to not give up saying, “But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22, 24:13) Paul in 1 Cor. 9:27 speaking of himself (already greatly accomplished in the faith), “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” Finally, Hebrews 10:38 says, “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in Him.” If you have quit serving God, you are NOT fine!
So what do we do if we find ourselves wanting to say “I am fine” in the defeated or mediocre way?
1) The answer is DON’T give in to that attitude. You may be discouraged or tired but you can’t quit as we just pointed out in the previous paragraph. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
2) You have to FORCE yourself to keep going. If you have fallen down, GET UP and dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Practice self-discipline - 1 Cor. 9:24-27, 2 Pet. 1:6, Gal. 5:22-23. All these verses speak of our self-control. That means that our bodies in subjection and we are controlling what we do (as opposed to being controlled). I am reminded of Paul as he faced so many different troubles and trials. Yet he said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upper call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13)
3) Think about the reward that awaits the faithful. The one who will inherit the kingdom of heaven is he who makes FULL use of the talents he is given. Consider the 5 talent and 2 talent servants who doubled their resources while the master was gone. He praised them saying, “Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful in a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matt. 25:20-23). Paul as he concluded his life said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8) God knows of your endurance and faithfulness. Use that thought to keep you doing your absolute best for Him.
So what about you? Are you “fine”? In this article, my goal is not to discourage one from saying, “I’m fine.” At times it is the right thing to say. But at other times maybe it is a symptom of something that needs to be changed. If you are not giving God your absolute best, you are NOT fine! Let me encourage you to do better. NO, rather – DO YOUR BEST! Think about it!