Excellence: noun 1: the quality of being excellent. 2: a valuable quality such as virtue
Excellent: synonyms are superior, first class, outstanding, exceptional, superb, best, top, prime, choicest, exquisite, admirable, magnificent, extraordinary, remarkable, the best attainable, sterling, exemplary.
Excel: verb 1: to surpass in accomplishment or achievement, 2: to be distinguishable by superiority. Syn are to exceed, outdo, outshine, stand out, outdistance, go beyond, outreach, eclipse, outperform, rise above.
I am asking myself, Am I serving God with excellence? Am I giving my family exceptional service? Am I outperforming my work colleagues and going the extra mile in academic performance than my fellow students?
Before reward points were the norm on credit cards, I introduced an incentive program that I named GEM to the team of child care workers I managed twelve years ago. The acronym stood for going the extra mile. Employees could earn monolopy cash by performing acts that went above or beyond their job description. Staff were expected to notice each other outperforming or going the extra mile, and nominate colleagues at our weekly staff meetings. Reward cash was redeemable for gifts that I kept on display in my office.
My aim was to reward excellence and externally motivate superior behavior. While the incentive program was readily accepted, it was flawed. My graduate studies taught me that superior performance cannot be sustained by external means, rather, is intrinsically generated. That is, it comes from within us, we are hardwired for it. As in the intrinsic brightness of a star or the intrinsic value of a gemstone.
So, does that mean that only certain people have excellence belonging to their essential nature? Does God predestine some for greatness and others not so much? Not according to scripture. My bible tells me (1 Samuel 29:6) that David was a trusted ally—excellent in all the ways he worked, beyond reproach in the ways he conducted himself.
We also see more of David’s character in 1 Samuel 16:18: “One of the young men spoke up, ‘I know someone. I’ve seen him myself: the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, an excellent musician. He’s also courageous, of age, well-spoken, and good-looking. And God is with him.’ We are given another glimpse of godly character in 1 Chronicles chapter 7 which details Asher’s sons, all of them as “responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders.”
Set up to achieve
Success, competition and achievement are foundational to who I am. I was privileged to graduate from Mercy High, a Catholic college preparatory school immersed in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, with a mission to educate and inspire young women of diverse backgrounds to lead and serve with compassion. Their tagline is educating women who make a difference. Throughout its 69 years as an exemplary high school, over 13,000 students have graduated from Mercy. Its website boasts of ‘an enriched curriculum that enables 99% of Mercy graduates to attend colleges or universities. The student body is made up of young women from over 70 metropolitan Detroit communities. This broad, inclusive base provides Mercy with a rich, multi-ethnic constituency from diverse, socio-economic backgrounds. The common thread among staff, students and parents is a commitment to academic excellence, cultural diversity and the integration of Mercy Values into daily life.’ Mercy values include human dignity, mercy, justice, service and options for the poor. The high school is nationally accredited as an Exemplary Private High School by the United States Department of Education as well as AdvanceEd.
Our excellent God
The entire Bible describes the brilliant excellencies of God Almighty and His Son, King Jesus. As offspring of a royal family, are we not expected to outperform, outshine and surpass in accomplishment or achievement the performance of others as an act of devotion to our heavenly Abba, King Eternal?
You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too (2 Corinthians 8). Paul goes on to say, “the best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit.”
So what am I saying here? My intent today is to encourage you while reminding myself to complete the assignments we have each been given by the Lord and to do so with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. I get that in a long journey one fatigues. Sometimes we become weary and lose our focus, our muscles hurt and our mind wanders off course. Receive invigoration now, fresh inspiration from the fountains of truth that you have been intrinsically hardwired for success by the One who sees you achieving all that He predestined for you to accomplish. All of the days ordained for us were written in His book years ago, before one of them came to be! (Psalm 139: 16)
Scripture tells tales of excellent and rotten figs (Jeremiah 24), the excellent, flawless pearl for which everything is sold (Matthew 13) and superior quality salt found in Luke 14:34, “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing. “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
“Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely (1 Corinthians 3).
Word of Caution
Finally, a cautionary word, lest you, gentle reader assume I am advocating legalism (righteousness by works) or prideful arrogance in one’s own accomplishments. We give the Lord our very best because we know that He gave us His supreme best. We serve with excellence because we are wise servants who desire to represent our glorious King in shining brilliance. He deserves no less.
You may be considered brilliant by others, with intelligence that exceeds average. You may have been graced with a sharp wit and the ability to speak your mind with clarity. You may have been fortunate enough to have been given a wonderful education, and with great experience you’ve reached the top of your field. Yet with God, the door to the truth is not the intellect, but having a heart yielded and teachable.
“Make no mistake about it–if anyone thinks he is wise by the world’s standards, you must first become ignorant, and then you can become truly wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18 TPT)
We do our best by filling our minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies (Philippians 4:8 The Msg).