Pursuit of Godly Excellence

Whether it was in the Old Testament or the New Testament, God expected excellence from His people:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in the grave, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

Instead of excellence, the following two portions of Scripture are examples of how God’s people in the Old Testament gave Him their second best:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of My house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” (Haggai 1:2‭-‬11 ESV)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ By offering polluted food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted You?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that He may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will He show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on My altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:6‭-‬10‭, ‬13‭-‬14 ESV)

Even though His people in the Old Testament gave God their 2nd best much of the time, look what God the Father turned around and did, despite of it, in the New Testament for all mankind by giving us His most precious possession:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

In return, God expects us to give Him our very best, now that we have access through His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants His people to excel in both what they are (inward character) and in what they do (behavior and good deeds):

But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound (excel) more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9‭-‬10 ESV)

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May He, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all His holy people. Amen. (1 Thessalonians 3:12‭-‬13 NLT)

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God, just as you actually do walk, that you excel still more. For indeed you do practice love toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1‭,10 NASB)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

God wants all of you, not just a part of you:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37‭-‬40 NLT)

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10:27‭-‬28 NLT)

Look at what one woman did, recognizing the fact that we must give Jesus our very best:

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me.” (Mark 14:3‭-‬6 ESV)

Paul made it clear that he wanted to give the Lord his very best:

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

As you can see, there is no way a person can love God with all his heart (Matthew 22:37) without seeking to do his or her best to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Since this is true, the pursuit of excellence is both a goal and a mark of spiritual maturity. However, the pursuit of excellence must be stimulated by pure motives. If we go astray here, the pursuit of excellence can quickly become a mark of immaturity and end up being another result of man’s obsession with his own significance. Read the following take on the subject of ‘Motives’ by GotQuestions:

Motives

I will sum up this article by simply saying, “Pursue godly excellence, but with a pure heart and motives!”

I will leave you with the famous devotional made up of the writings of Oswald Chambers. Its title should be our motto:

My Utmost For His Highest

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About annointing

Defender of the Christian Faith
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