Do you remember the first time you won an award at school? Or a gleaming trophy for playing sports? Or a bright blue ribbon at an art show? Maybe you've earned a certificate or plaque at work.
It feels good to excel. Our society promotes it, and there's a lot of competition to excel in academics and the workplace, everyone trying to get promoted, catch the coach's attention, stand out among other scholarship applicants, or win a client's approval.
There are plenty of people who excelled in scripture, too.
Take David, for example. He was an excellent enough harpist that they summoned him to play for King Saul and calm his troubled spirit.
What about Joseph? Even when he was a slave and a prisoner in jail, he was so capable that his superiors kept trusting him with more and more responsibility to the point that he eventually became second-in-command to Pharaoh.
Remember Daniel? He had such an "excellent spirit" in him that King Darius favored him above all the other princes and gave him charge of the whole realm.
Striving for excellence is a good thing ... but ... Satan loves to turn every good thing into a stumbling block, doesn't he? I don't know about you, but for me, I sometimes lose my perspective regarding excellence.
First, I think that I'm the excellent one. People are shaking my hand and patting me on the back. Wow, I must be something special.
Second, I often equate excellence with perfection. Unless everything is 100 percent perfect, it's not good enough, and I shouldn't even have gotten out of bed in the morning.
Colossians 3:23 conveys a lot of wisdom about excellence. It says, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
It encourages me to work "heartily" — with real heart — when I tackle a task. But it's the next part that holds the key. I'm doing it ... For. The. Lord.
Not my boss. Not my professor. Not my coach. Not the judges. Not even me!
Godly excellence isn't about me at all — it's about the Lord. It's not about how hard I worked or about how naturally talented I am or about how flawless the performance was. It's about honoring God with my best — and understanding that all the strength I have to be excellent comes from Him, so it's not really my victory at all.
I don't think David was playing the harp to hear the sound of his own voice. Joseph and Daniel weren't the best servants because they really loved being slaves. They did the best they could, and God used their excellence to position them for great things.
The next time I prepare a lesson to teach or cook a dinner for guests or perform a task at work ... or even write a blog article, I want to remember that it's not about me and my performance. It's about honoring God with the best that I have and letting Him take that small offering, magnifying it in the amazing way that only He can.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.