These days we hear a lot about excellence, but the question for today is, “Are you living excellence in your day-to-day life?” Even more importantly, “Are you living excellence in your walk with God?” An excellent person is someone who’s willing to go above and beyond what we consider the normal standard. Look at this quote:
Someone once said, “It’s a sad commentary on society that the new standard of good service is, “everything went the way it’s supposed to.”
That’s the usual standard of “It’s good enough.” I’m doing the minimum work required to make it okay…to keep from trouble. Is that what we want do? Is the minimum what you’re boss is looking for from you, or is he looking for excellence? Today I want to examine excellence in life and excellence in your walk with God.
Daniel 6:1-5 (NKJV)
6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."
Daniel’s life is an amazing story of excellence. He’s risen above the others, “because an excellent spirit was in him.” So the king looks to make him chief of all the governors. Everyone will answer to him. He was the one who distinguished himself. That means he went above and beyond the norm. He made himself indispensable; he was the “Go To guy.”
There is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers, It’s the story of people who have risen “distinguished themselves” by virtue of their success. The Beatles are used as an example. They are arguably the best Rock and Roll group ever. They have been enormously successful but what has raised them above all the others? According to this book they played their music as a group for more than 10,000 hours.
In their early days they played in Munich Germany at small clubs. They played almost every night. They practiced for 8 hours a day and played for about 4 hours every night. Because of this they played together for more than 10,000 hours and rose above everyone else.
Think about it for a moment. Their music became their whole lives. They lived out their commitment to their craft. They didn't blow off practice; they played together, between practice and concerts twelve hours a day. They were committed to improvement. They rose to distinction…just like Daniel. Do you remember his story?
He was taken as a slave as a young man and he refused to compromise God’s standards about food:
Daniel 1:8 (NKJV)
1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
He’s refusing to compromise. He’s refusing to lower his standards. He’s standing firm in what God has asked of him. Do you know what that really is? It’s faithfulness. He’s faithful to God’s standards. He’s faithful to do what God expects.
You do what our bosses expect of you, don’t you? You’re on time for work. You’re not always on coffee breaks. You’re diligent. You do what your boss tells you. But what about what you do for God? Are you on time? Are you diligent? Are you responsive to authority? Do you want to be excellent?
Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.
Warren G. Bennis, Founder of the Leadership Institute at USC
Do you think it’s interesting that because of Daniel’s excellence his enemies couldn’t attack and destroy him? They had to look for a way to defeat him that used his unwillingness to compromise his standards and adherence to God’s standards.
Daniel 6:7 (NKJV)
6:7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
So they made it illegal to pray, knowing Daniel would continue to pray and worship.
Daniel 6:10 (NKJV)
6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
So, even though Daniel knew of the consequences – He knew what would happen: He prayed anyway.
This is excellence. Even when it would be easier and safer to compromise, you continue to hold to your standards. Daniel set the standards for himself, and they were higher standards than everyone else’s. That’s how he “distinguished himself.”
What do your standards look like? Are your standards bold, do they stand out? Are they limiting you or causing you to excel? Do you think beyond the moment? Do you just focus on what you’re being pressured to do or are you looking to the future? Do you have a handle on the vision? Are you striving to see the vision accomplished or do you only care about the individual task you’ve been assigned? Do you commit yourself to being the best you can be or is good enough…good enough? The way you answer those questions will tell you something about you commitment to personal excellence.
Look at the things your involved in at church. First, are you even involved at all? Are you looking for ways to improve YOUR ministry? Are you willing to invest, your finances and your time, in YOUR ministry? Are you self-motivated or do you constantly need encouragement and reminders to complete YOUR ministry? Do you follow up on things that need to be done? Do you reach out and offer help to other people in ministry? Do you want to have an EXCELLENT spirit?
Examples of Excellence
I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.
Michael J. Fox Actor
Colossians 3:22-24 (NKJV)
3:22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
We are called to examples of excellence. That word “heartily” speaks of having an abundant spirit; Diligently. This scripture is written to those who were slaves; people who had to work with no expectation of reward. The scripture says to do the work as id your doing it for the Lord, not because you HAVE to.
This is interesting, because how do we look at ministry? That word minister mean to serve; we serve in ministry. So, then why do we look at our ministry as if we’re doing the church a favor?
You know what I find interesting is that we hold volunteers to a lesser standard than we do workers. I understand that a volunteer could be doing something else. I understand that they’re giving of their time to do what they’re doing but why should it be inferior just because they volunteered.
There was a woman in the Riverside church, who would volunteer to help clean when there was a church event. So she’d come over and basically did nothing. The things she did do we would have to go back and do again because they weren't done properly. She was a volunteer
She was a volunteer, but she wasn't a minister. We have ministry. This is a gift from God. It’s a privilege. We should do it heartily. We should be an example of the excellence of Christ.
Jesus was the only one of us who was perfect. He was the only man who lived without sin. He is the epitome of excellence. We are His representatives on earth. We should be trying to live up to who He is. Do you realize that people form opinions about Jesus by the way we live and act?
I had a General manager one time who did something that stood out in my mind. There was a young man on our sales staff, who was a great salesman. He could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo. But one night he got involved with a girl and ended up with hickeys on his neck. Bite marks. When he came to work this general manager fired him on the spot. When I asked him why he said, “He represents me and this company. I don’t want people to associate that behavior with me. It doesn't represent my moral character.”
It didn't reflect his lifestyle. As Christians we represent Jesus. How we live reflects who Jesus is. If Jesus is excellent then we must strive for excellence, as well.
How do we strive for excellence? We can start by being on time for church. We can be involved in the worship service. We can do our best in our ministries, always looking for ways to improve it. We can come to ministry practices prepared and ready. We can care about the details, making sure that what is needed is ready and available. We can be there to pray. We can be there a little early so that visitors won’t feel awkward. We can be friendly and outgoing. These are the details and it is the details that separate adequate from excellent.
2 Corinthians 8:7 (NKJV)
8:7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also.
Taking care of the details is how you abound in diligence.
In Daniel 6, they looked for a way to get rid of Daniel.
Daniel 6:4 (NKJV)
6:4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.
They couldn't find anything wrong because he was FAITHFUL. A faithful man takes care of the details. Getting the job done is what’s expected. Taking care of the details, too, that’s doing it excellently.
I read a story of a man whose car was broken into. They smashed his window and stole something out of his car. So he called a company to come and replace the window. The guy who came and replaced the window put in the new one…Then he vacuumed up all the broken glass in the car. Then he made notes of scratches and dings and al, the problems with the car as a result of the break-in, with diagrams, so the man who have it for his insurance agent. All of this was done outside in the bitter cold.
He was only expected to change the window, but he took care of the details, too – that’s excellence.
I read another story of a soldier who was in Afghanistan. For his wife’s birthday he wanted to do something that he knew would make her happy. She loved Pizza from a certain Pizza place. So he called that place, from Afghanistan, and told them what he wanted to do. He just ordered a pizza. So this pizza place made a pizza for her in the shape of a heart. On the way to the delivery of the pizza they stopped and bought flowers and balloons for her and delivered them all at NO charge.
All that was required was that they deliver a pizza, but they took it upon themselves to go the extra mile and take care of the details – that’s excellence.
One final story. There is a town of 6,000 people in a remote part of Alaska. Some joker played a prank on the entire town by convincing them that Taco Bell would open a fast-food restaurant in their little town. Taco Bell found out. They had no plans for opening a restaurant in that place. But, they purchased enough meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and hot sauce for 10,000 tacos. Then they used a helicopter to airlift a catering truck, all the food and a few employees so they could feed tacos to the people of Benton, Alaska…at no charge.
There was no action required on Taco Bell’s part, but they did something anyway – that’s excellence.
Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.
Edward Simmons Artist
Just be Excellent
"If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less than excellent work."
Thomas J. Watson Chairman of IBM in the 40s
Think about people you admire. What is it that makes them so admirable? Is it the courage to do the right thing even when it’s not to their advantage? Is it their willingness to suffer so someone else doesn’t have to? Is it the way they made their business successful while being concerned about their employees and their customer’s needs? What is it that lifts them up in your eyes? What is it that makes them excellent?
I don’t want you to think that this is about business or about doing things. This is really about our walk with God. Daniel had an excellent spirit. His excellence caused him to “distinguish himself.” We should aspire to excellence as well to distinguish ourselves as Christians, so that people will see Jesus favorably because of our actions and lives. When we lift Him up He will draw all men.
Daniel 5:11 (NKJV)
5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father--your father the king--made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.
That same Spirit dwells in you. Show it to be an excellent Spirit.