Reaching for Excellence

Featuring Tom Kraeuter Posted on January 23, 2010

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... (Colossians 3:23).

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to visit a fascinating exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo.  In it, there were numerous displays of exotic animals from around the world. Unfortunately, all through the exhibit there were blatant, as well as subtle, inferences to evolution.  As I walked through the display, two feelings came over me. The first was pity for the learned scientists who believe that all of these things came into being simply by chance. The second was an overwhelming awe of the God of creation Who made all of these creatures. His creativity is limitless. The variety in those creatures was so great that it seems to take more “faith” to believe that they were an accident than to believe in a God Who created them.

God apparently held nothing back when He created the earth on which we live. Why, after all, did the Lord make the creatures in the ocean depths which no human would even discover until this century? Why did He make each animal unique? Why so many different kinds? Would not just a few dozen have been sufficient? It seems apparent that God chose to make creation not just a half hearted effort, but the absolute best it could be. This attitude was manifest in Jesus also. When the people witnessed His healing ministry they responded, “He has done all things well...” (Mark 7:37).

We, in the church, need to grasp the concept of excellence more fully. I frequently have the opportunity to interact with those involved in worship ministries in churches. There have been more times than I care to remember when I have encountered someone doing a half-hearted job with the attitude of, “It’s good enough for church.” This attitude is totally opposite from God’s perspective.

Proverbs 18:9 tells us: “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”  From the Lord’s perspective not doing your best is akin to being a destroyer. Clearly God is not interested in a half-hearted effort but in excellence.

In the second century, Christian apologist Justin Martyr grew up over the hill from Galilee. Interestingly, he notes that the plows made by Joseph and Jesus were still being used widely in his day. How intriguing to think of Jesus’ plows, to wonder what it was that made His plows and yokes last and stand out.
Wooden plows that were used regularly and lasted more than 100 years? This was not merely “acceptable” craftsmanship. The work of Joseph and Jesus was apparently outstanding. The reality is that they could have cut some corners and not done such a quality job. After all, if the plows lasted just 30 years, surely the purchaser would have been satisfied. There certainly could not be any recourse for any type of reimbursement if a regularly-used plow made it through 50 years of plowing. Why expend so much effort to make plows that would last so amazingly long? As Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...”

Author and teacher Os Guiness, in his book, "The Call," said this:  Instead of doing things because of their intrinsic importance—their value in themselves—we do things for instrumental reasons—their value for our self expression, our fulfilment, our profit, and our publicity.
Unfortunately, he’s right. We are too often more self-motivated than God-motivated. “What’s in it for me?” is a common thought. Instead, our attitude should be, “What’s the right thing to do?” and “How can I glorify the Lord in this?”

If we really want to follow the Lord, then we have no choice but to desire and pursue excellence. The standard of excellence is simply a part of the nature of the God whom we serve. We need to strike the death blow to mediocrity within the church. If we can grasp and implement this attitude in our lives, we will see the blessing of God poured out upon us to maintain it.

We should have the attitude of, “Regardless of what others think, regardless of what it costs me, I will pursue godly excellence, even as my Creator has pursued it.” If we will pursue this attitude of excellence in all that we do, God will be honored and, in return, honor our efforts.
Work at your musical abilities. Don’t rest on past accomplishments. Don’t compare yourself (favorably or unfavorably) with someone else. Honor God by working to do the best you can. Reach for excellence.

Adapted from the book, "Living Beyond the Ordinary" by Tom Kraeuter (Lynnwood, Washington: Emerald Books, 2000)