Pursuing Excellence, Not Perfection
By Melanie Stone
God excels at what He does; He does all things well. He’s perfect in every way.
Psalm 8:1 O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
God has also made us to excel in life: however, we are not perfect. In fact, we have a lot of imperfections, yet God still encourages us to pursue extraordinary lives by giving our best. If perfection were the goal, how to we process it when we fail to hit that standard?
In fact, the Law of Moses was given for the very purpose of leading men and women to grace when they experienced the impossibility of keeping all the rules. However, being imperfect is not an excuse for a casual attitude toward serving God and others.
God wants us to succeed in life and ministry with the help of His Spirit and by giving our best effort.
Daniel was known for his excellent spirit
Daniel was a young Hebrew man that stood out among all his peers. In the book of Daniel, his excellent spirit is mentioned several times. He excelled while living in exile, known for having the help of God to understand and interpret mysteries. He was respected as a man of conviction, but what really set Daniel apart was the favor and calling of God that rested on him for having his convictions.
When we take a look at Daniel’s character and the choices he made because of his character, we see a man that faced a den of hungry lions, knowing his was breaking a manmade law in order to keep his commitment to pray. Daniel also faced death when he refused to worship a human king, choosing only to worship the Lord God. Daniel, as a teenager, also kept his convictions and stood up to his captures, denying to eat their choice food.
Daniel pursued to excel with God, and as a result, he excelled, even in captivity.
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.
Daniel 5:12; 13-14
Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and [a]explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”
13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel [b]who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my [c]father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard of you, that the [d]Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.
The Meaning of Excellence
In order to better understand the meaning of excellence in the Word of God, let’s dig into the meaning in the original language. We’ll start with the Scriptures in Daniel. They were written in Aramaic.
Aramaic Word “yattiyr” #3493
It’s used 8 times, only in the book of Daniel.
Definition: “extraordinary, exceeding, surpassing, abundantly.”
Strongs: Extraordinary, above the ordinary.
Daniel definitely lived a life that went above the ordinary. It was an extraordinary life, partially because of choices Daniel made, but even more so because God honored Daniel’s convictions and put His favor on him.
Now let’s look at the New Testament and the Greek meaning of the word for excellence.
a. Hyperbole (hoop-er-bol-ay’) #5236
Definition: “more, exceeding, out of measure or beyond measure, abundance”
Strongs: It has the meaning to throw beyond others. Beyond all measure.
The Greek word gives us a picture of having a goal to hit when throwing an object, and then going beyond that status quo. The word has a richer meaning when we look at where the word comes from.
b. Hyperbole comes from hyperballo #5235
Definition: To transcend, to excel, to throw beyond anything, to surpass in throwing, exceed, excel, exceeding.
Strongs: To throw beyond the usual mark.
c. Hyperballo comes from Hyper and Ballo
i. Ballo #906
Definition: to throw, to cast, to pour, to pour into, to arise or stand
Strongs: To give force or effort.
ii. Hyper (Hoop-er) #5228
This word is used in Ephesians 3:20 when God’s grace promises an “exceedingly” abundantly help to us when we fully rely on Him in obedient faith.
Definition: “Over and beyond, more than, for the sake of”
Strongs: On behalf of, on the part of, in the stead of, to bend over to shield another. It means to “be on one’s side” and “to favor and further one’s cause, to do that which is for another’s advantage. It also refers to offer offerings for a cause, to sacrifice. It has the idea of suffering and dying for another, in their defense, on their account.
When we look at the root word, we see how the word was used for serving someone else, as in how Daniel served foreign kings. Excellence is seen in serving God, serving leaders and serving one another.
The Meaning of Excellence
Excellence is a diligent effort to give our best for God or for another.
Colossians 3:23 “…whatever you do, do it heartily (with your all), as to the Lord and not to men.”
Jesus Gave His Best For Us
What better example of serving others with excellence than Jesus Christ? Not only was Jesus careful to do all things well, but He did all things well for us. His death and torture was the ultimate sacrifice for us.
We see His pursuit to do well for others in leaving glory to become one of us. We see Him giving His best when walked those dusty roads, going from city to city, searching for the sick, the poor, the blind, the lame and the lost. We see His pursuit for excellence is pressing forward through the persecution and questioning of religious leaders.
Jesus was perfect, and yet He loved us in our imperfections. He performed miracles, and still we doubted. He taught on the Word, and still we went our own way. He preached the kingdom, and still we put Him to death, yet Jesus was known for “doing all things well.” He did it out of love.
Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Let’s Give Our Best for Jesus
We love Him because he loved us first. The pursuit to give God our best is not out of mere obligation, but out of a passionate love. Even though our best often falls short of perfection, our excellence is based on His grace. While we have our part to play; it’s His grace that takes us beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
Our service to God includes serving others. Some are in authority over us – perhaps a pastor, a ministry leader, a community leader. Some are our peers and some are our subordinates. Like the ministry of Jesus, there will be those who reject us, betray us, abandon us, despise us and criticize us. If they did it to Jesus, if they did it to the disciples, why would we think it wouldn’t happen to us? If we represent Him, then we can expect some opposition, but we also can expect people who will receive salvation, people who will experience healing and miracles, people who will be restored for the glory of God.
If we were to ask Jesus if the cross was worth it, He would answer, “YOU were worth it.” As we pursue to excel in serving others, love needs to be our motive and grace has to be our means.
Examples of Going Beyond Expectations
Jesus said, if they ask you to go with them one mile, go with them two. Go beyond the expectation. When our ministry leader asks us to reach a goal, a pursuit of excellence will target to go over and beyond that goal. If we’re married, a pursuit of excellence will aim to exceed expectations as a spouse. With business, parenting, friendships, and all endeavors, the ones who excel are the ones who pursue excellence through hard work and by God’s grace.
Here are some examples of people in the Bible who went beyond expectations:
1. The Hall of Faith
Hebrews 11 gives us a list of people who went above and beyond for God. Among them are Abraham who left his country to claim a promised land, Moses who left royalty to lead grumbling freed slaves through wilderness, Joseph who survived a pit and served in a prison.
Hebrews 6:12 Don’t be sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherited the promises.
2. A New Testament Church
In Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus told the Laodiceans that their works aren’t hot, nor were they cold. They were lukewarm. Their half-hearted response was disgusting to the One who died in their place. Their attitude was “I am able to take care of me.” They were satisfied in self-sufficiency, all the while oblivious to what God wanted to do in them and through them.”
We can learn from this church to never take our salvation for granted. We can learn not to sink into complacency or settle for normal. We aren’t created for normal. Something on the inside of the born-again believer craves to add God’s “super” to our “natural.”
David wanted to worship God by giving an offering. Someone offered to give him the offering, and David responded in 2 Samuel 24:24,
I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.
As part of giving ourselves, there is giving of our talent, our time, our touch and our treasure. Our heart for God shows up in our giving. It goes beyond the tithe to our local church, what belongs to God, and it gives offerings to the church, to the kingdom and to those in need. Excellence is generous, liberally and extravagantly giving to others.
2 Corinthians 8:7 But just as you excel in everything, [and lead the way] in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in genuine concern, and in your love for us, see that you excel in this gracious work [of giving] also. AMP
4. The Excellent Wife
Marriage is important, and excellence should be seen in both the husband and the wife. In Proverbs, Solomon mentions an excellent wife on two occasions.
Proverbs 12:24 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband
Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The Hebrew word Chayil is translated excellent. The definition of the word is strong, capable, and hardworking. In Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem about the excellent wife who gives her best and excels in everything she puts her hand to doing.
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