Pursuit of Excellence
In our society, excellence has become a goal to obtain, a test score to achieve, a set of rules to follow or a value to have. But where is the standard? Every teacher in my daughter's elementary school, for example, views academic excellence through a different lens. One measures excellence by test scores, but what if that straight "A" student isn't fully applying herself? Another values process and organization, but what if the student cannot apply what he is learning to the real world? Yet another looks for commitment and ability to get the work done, but what if her students have no social skills?
It seems we can agree on many aspects about excellence, but the question remains: what is excellence?
Webster defines excellence as "the state, quality or condition of excelling, superiority. Something in which one excels."
At work, school, and at home, excellence is generally defined by the quality of what we accomplish.
Yes, but what is excellence? We may agree that excellence is something to strive for and usually associated with the highest honors. But what is excellence?
God has told us what excellence is—and his standard of measurement is far different from ours. God looks at our motives: ". . . The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).
Yes, God desires quality work produced through the application of the talents and abilities he has given us—but not to meet our own needs or gain approval from our coworkers. Rather, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Col. 3:23).
Joseph modeled excellence. Whether in prison or managing Potiphar's household, he fully applied himself using the talents and gifts given him by God. Because his motive was to worship God by pleasing him, he was honest and upright in his words and deeds. It was this desire that drove him to resist the advances of Potiphar's wife.
Paul modeled excellence in everything he did, from tent making to church planting to writing. He was intentional and focused on serving Christ to the best of his abilities. Nothing less than the best would suffice, so he pressed toward the mark with all his might. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24).
God models excellence. How marvelous that we serve a God of integrity, whose promises hold true every time they're applied. And because God is who he is, we who call ourselves Christ-followers must be diligent to imitate his qualities. If our commitments, character, and work do not reflect an excellent and reliable God, how will others believe in the God who is the standard for excellence?
We must model excellence. We must fully apply our knowledge and skills to the tasks put before us. In that way, we will bring glory to God and increase our influence, credibility, and reputation among those with whom we work. Excellent work is the bridge of credibility for evangelism. Excellent work is an act of worship. Excellent work makes God smile.
"Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 3:13)