Exodus 4:1-5, ‘1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”’
Bearing the Name of Christ, Christians have a responsibility to live lives of excellence.
WHAT EXCELLENCE ISN’T
Within each ministry and with every minister, (every Christian is a minister: Eph. 4:11-12), excellence has nothing to do with talent, how many people or resources there are, how much or what kind of training you’ve had, or how much you have. Excellence has nothing to do with age, our perceived wisdom, or our experience. Conversely, talent, training, and other supplements can be used to enhance excellence, but these attributes don’t make up Biblical excellence. As it has to do with how ministries operate in a local church or departments in a company, we might be tempted to think that because a church may be 1, 000 members that it’s that way because they have all the talent and therefore they’re excellent. A 75 member church can be just as excellent as a 1,000 member Church. Excellence can be had, but there is a struggle involved to attain it.
OUR STRUGGLE FOR EXCELLENCE
As Christians, we desire to be excellent for God and others; but we do struggle. One that knew this struggle all too well was Moses. God has called every believer to be excellent where they’re at with what they have. But there are times when we put faith in ourselves instead of God, we fall short of excellence. Examples of this are in Exodus chapters 3 & 4. Moses in Exodus 3:10 was told by God, “So now, come and I will send you to Pharaoh, and so you shall bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But then Moses in 3:11 says, ‘But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”. Here we see that God has chosen Moses for this specific task, and Moses questions what is a clear command from God. In Ex. 4:1, Moses still displays hesitation in trusting God; but He does do what God commands in Exodus 4:3-4. Then, in Exodus 4:10, Moses gives a protest based on trying to trust in his own ability and not God’s. God answers him but Moses’ whining pathetic protest flows into vs. 13… ‘10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”, “13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”. In verses 14-17 following, God’s anger is kindled at Moses and the Lord accomplishes His will by using not only Moses, but now Aaron as well. In Exodus chapters 3 and 4 we see the immense patience of God in the midst of not only a very stubborn individual, but also a disobedient individual. Had excellence been employed by Moses, his faith would’ve been in God and he would’ve accomplished what God commanded him to do. Do you see a pattern here? Partial faith, partial trust. All too often, we act the same as Moses.
WHAT’S OUR MOTIVE FOR EXCELLENCE?
Something else besides a lack of trust in God that causes us to stumble, and that’s when our motives become selfish in our pursuit of excellence. It could be said that a pursuit of excellence with the wrong motive just a hollow shell. There has to be integrity in our motives and integrity is a fruit of a holy heart. When we do something, what motives do we have for doing that thing? In wanting to walk in excellence, we need to critically and fairly examine our motives. If we want true excellence our motives need to come from Christ, our perfect example. As Ephesians 6:5-9 says, ‘5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the integrity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 serving with good will as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.’
Verse 5 points to ‘… the integrity of your heart, as to Christ’. The Bible is communicating to us that any integrity that we carry is from Christ and whatever we do, we do so with our motive fueled by Christ. Ensuring our motives are Christ honoring could be said like this: Christ is the springboard from which the Christian’s integrity jumps. This constant decision to refer our heart to Christ will regularly get us to ask important questions to ensure our motives are Biblical and not to feed our ego.
Some questions we should ask in our pursuit of excellence:
-Whatever the task is, what’s my motive?
-Ultimately, am I doing this task to please God?
In the task I’m accomplishing, am I fishing for compliments and recognition (which feeds the ego), or am I fully satisfied with commendation from God and the rewards He will give? One quick note on this: to receive praise in a humble way is healthy and in doing so, the humble heart gives the praise back to God. But understand that positively being acknowledged is part of God’s work of creation in us. To be sure, God does want us to honor one another. We see this honoring and praising with Paul commending the Church in the opening of his epistles, Jesus commends the Churches in the book of the Revelation, and we see praise given in the book of the Song of Solomon. However, for us to constantly seek the approval from people out of a need based sense of affirmation falls into idolatry and we’d be better served if we were satisfied in God and His promises. Settling in that truth not only brings comfort, it also regulates your expectations, gives glory where it’s due, and it also doesn’t place others in judgement if they don’t come through with a compliment. Excellence, true spiritual excellence, always points back to Christ. The Holy Spirit shows us this example in John 16:14, “He will glorify Me,…”.
-Are others benefitting from this?
-Am I treating this task, paid or not, as a task that is directly from and for God?
-Am I getting joy out of the task knowing that this benefits God and others? Even menial and/or painful tasks can be filled with joy. (Hebrews 12:2, ‘… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’)
OUR EXCELLENT EXAMPLE
Christ is the pinnacle of excellence. However, as we saw in the life of Moses in Exodus 4, a failure of trust in God lead to Moses failing to fully obey God which equaled a lack of excellence on Moses’ part. Moses had one job: obey God. He obeyed God but only partially so. Had he fully obeyed God, his excellence would have been a shining example. This account also shows us that true excellence has nothing to do with what we ‘think’ we can do, what tools we have or don’t have, or what we sometimes ‘prefer’ to do and in what way we prefer to do it; but rather excellence is about what God does through us while we are fully and joyfully obedient to Him. In other words, we trust Him and His power, submitting our body and our will to Him, while at the same time we use what He’s given us to the best of our God given ability. Excellence, true excellence then, is trusting God and joyfully living in obedience to Him; which is a form of worship. When we are excellent unto Him, we are actually worshiping God.
To execute the plan of excellence, then, is to:
-Trust in God– Constantly place your hope in Him knowing that He will accomplish what He desires in the way He desires through you.
-Obey God– What you know about God, walk that out in your daily life faithfully. He will take care of the results.
-Continually look to our perfect and excellent example, Jesus Christ. How did Christ live, walk, talk, etc.? We emulate Him.
So, the best example of excellence is Jesus Christ. John 8:29, “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”. Did you catch that? Christ did what was pleasing to the Father and therefore everything that Christ did was an example of excellence. Jesus obeyed and His motives were to do the Father’s will and serve humanity by providing the only sacrifice for sin as the Savior of the World. Christ’s motives weren’t money, prestige, accolades, or recognition. He always made the most of His time and His effort. Spiritual excellence, then, on our part is exclusively found in Christ who lives in us.
Galatians 2:20, ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.’
Christ’s Blessings to you,
Pastor Scott Welch