The definition of Excellence is: The quality of being outstanding or extremely good. To surpass. To exceed. To be greater than. To do or be better than ever before.
My scripture is the book of Daniel.
Daniel exemplifies excellence. He personifies excellence.
You know the story - Babylon has come down and conquered Israel and they begin to deport the Jews to Babylon. That was part of their tactic to destroy the nations they conquered. There are three deportations over time, but in the first deportation Daniel and the other Jews who the Bible says were “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace,” were taken to Babylon and they were taught “the literature and language of the Chaldeans”. Daniel 1:4
These men have a high intellect and are willing to learn.
So Daniel and the others who came with him were brought to Babylon and were trained in Babylonian culture. They learned the language. They studied the literature. And after 3 years of study they entered into service for the king.
Daniel exemplified excellence in his captivity. But Daniel didn’t become excellent in spirit in captivity — No, his excellence of spirit started long before that! But in captivity he continued in excellence. And because of his spirit of excellence, he drew attention to himself.
Daniel 6:3 says,
“Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”
The king was inspired by Daniel’s actions.
Sometimes I read stories in the news about someone with an excellent spirit. Like, earlier this year a server at a Waffle House in Texas noticed that an elderly man was having trouble eating his food. She went and sat next to him and cut his food and helped him eat.
Then, there was a young man who had a job but no car. So he walked 10 miles to work each day.
That’s an excellent spirit.
We can see excellence all around us. Excellence is an attitude. Excellence is going the extra mile. Excellence says it doesn’t matter how someone else treats me, I will treat them the right way. I won’t retaliate if they are unkind to me. In everything I do, I will do with a spirit of excellence.
Excellence is when you care about the details. Excellence is caring about the small things. Excellence is understanding that the small things are actually the big things.
Excellence says everything should have an outstanding quality. No, it should be even better. Excellence says we should do or be better than ever before. Excellence says do it until it’s your best. Not until it’s good enough. But your best.
You see, the small things are the set up for the big things. Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us that the one who is faithful in the small things will become the ruler over many things.
Excellence is when you look at what your gifts are, what your talents are and you say - others may think this is a small thing, but I’m going to pour all my effort, all my energy, all my time into using what God has placed in my hand.
We can look around us and see people who are stewarding what God gave them. People of excellence. People who are doing the small things, who are setting the example. People who are creating the atmosphere in their churches where the Holy Spirit can show up and change things. Each in their own way, with their own gifts, are people of excellence. Don’t ever think that the small thing is insignificant. No task is too small. God values the person who takes seriously what He has placed in his hands.
The spirit of excellence means we value small things and that we care about the details.
If you are committed to the spirit of excellence you are also going to need determination. Excellence takes determination. Excellence takes everything you’ve got.
We see all of these things displayed in the life of Daniel. The Bible says he had the spirit of excellence.
How does a young Hebrew boy walk into a foreign country not knowing the language, not knowing the culture, but somehow the spirit of God rests on him so much that the king of this foreign nation wants to entrust the entire country to him? How does a young man walk into a foreign country that does not believe in his God and yet they recognize the power of his God within him? Like how does that happen?
That is the spirit of excellence residing in a young man who was submitted and obedient to the God he served.
How did Daniel find favor more than any of the other wise men in that country? God was more important to Daniel than the king. Daniel didn’t seek the favor of the king first. He sought the favor of his God first.
As you seek God, God will lay his hand on you. As you seek God, as you worship Him, as you read His word and put your trust in Him - God will favor you. He will open doors only He can open. He will give you opportunities only He could give you. Why? Because God is seeking men and women who are seeking His favor before and above the world’s favor.
Daniel sought God’s favor. Daniel found God’s favor. He found favor in a nation that didn’t believe in his God. But because he walked in that spirit of excellence he was able to live a life that pointed that nation to his God.
How do you cultivate the spirit of excellence?
First, we must GO. Go where? —
Do you have a vision for your life? Do you have a purpose? Is your vision, your purpose, pleasing to God or is it World pleasing? We talk about Fake News, right? Well, there is also a Fake Vision, a Fake Purpose out there. The Facebook, Instagram, ‘My life is so perfect’ trap that many people fall for. It all looks good on social media. But does your real life really look good up close and personal?
Many people seek perfection. But, if you are seeking perfection, let me just tell you, perfection is unattainable. Perfection is a destination that you will never reach. None of us are perfect.
In the Old Testament the Pharisees put on the mask of perfection, but they were not perfect. They pretended to be perfect. Maybe they thought they were perfect. But they weren’t perfect.
Being perfect is an unattainable goal. And, guess what?
God has never called us to be perfect. If you’re going for perfection, it’s a destination you will never reach.
Instead we should be going for excellence. Seeking excellence is a journey, not a destination.
It’s a journey. It’s an adventure. If you are pursuing perfection, though, you will be constantly failing. You will constantly be disappointed. You will constantly be missing the mark.
But you have been invited to a journey to excellence. And if you will move forward, you will be able to find your way to excellence.
Perfection looks at your past and tells you — it’s too bad. Or, it looks at your future and tells you — it’s too hard, you’ll never make it.
But Excellence says, “Yeah, you’ve made mistakes, but you can learn from it.” Excellence says “God chose me, he’s called me, he’s put his spirit within me. He said he’ll never leave me or forsake me. I’m going to pursue what God has put before me.”
There’s a prize. There’s a goal. God is in my future. And God is waiting for us to move forward into our future. All we need to do is seek excellence.
How do you cultivate a spirit of excellence? - You go there.
You go there with your thoughts.
Before you go there physically you have to go there with the way you think. Phil. 4:8 says, ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
Think about excellence.
An excellent mind says, ‘I’m going to think new thoughts’ - You know, If you always think what you’ve always thought you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Think something new. If what you were thinking yesterday isn’t producing good results - think something new! I’m going to think in FAITH. I’m going to think that the situation I’m in doesn’t have to remain the same. I’m going to go there in faith. I’m going to go there in prayer. I’m going to go there in obedience to God. I’m going to trust God. I’m going to go there in worship. I’m going to lift my eyes to where my help comes from. I’m going to go where God is waiting for me. Because God is in my NOW and God is in my FUTURE.
I’m going to allow my thoughts to think that there’s more that God has prepared for me. God has prepared an excellent path for us.
Our God is not mediocre or average. Our God is excellent. And we have been created in His image. We are Excellent beings.
Get a vision for your future, for your marriage, for you work, for your family.
And because you are beginning to go in a spirit of excellence you are going to go the extra mile. Because the spirit of excellence has been placed within you.
And as you commit to go you will begin to grow.
How do we cultivate a spirit of excellence?
First we GO.
Then, we GROW.
So, Daniel goes to Babylon, a foreign country. He begins to study the language and the culture . He grows and he finds favor and soon the king himself takes notice of Daniel. He gains favor with King Nebuchadnezzar who wants to put Daniel over the entire country.
That would never have happened if Daniel had not taken seriously the opportunity which had been placed in his hands. It wouldn’t have happened if Daniel hadn’t applied himself. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t responded to the spirit of excellence that God had given him.
Maybe you are in a new season. And now God is requiring a new standard of excellence for you. Like Daniel you will have to study to find out how you can come up to the new standard of excellence. Commit to be willing to grow. Commit to God that whatever He places in your hands to do, you are going to plant it and cultivate it and you are going to watch it grow. Until it becomes what God intended it to become.
2 Peter 1:3-9 in the Message Bible says, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God....So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you,”
If you don’t allow God to develop the spirit of excellence within you your eyes will never see everything that he has prepared for you.
So, Go and then, Grow.
The last thing you need to develop a spirit of excellence is to:
Guard. We go, we grow, but everyone must guard the spirit of excellence in our lives.
Daniel guarded the spirit of excellence in his life. Daniel practiced a pattern of excellence. He was a man of prayer. He valued his relationship with God more than any other relationship. And he was willing to pay the price.
You know the story, others in the kingdom became jealous because Daniel found favor with the King. They tricked the King into making a decree that no other god could be prayed to except those already worshipped in Babylon. Daniel shouldn’t be allowed to pray to his God. But Daniel prays any way and the others lay in wait for him to do just that and they arrest him and bring him to the king accusing him of breaking the law. He was thrown into a pit of lions. The king is so dismayed by this that he can’t sleep. He runs in the morning and cries, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?“ Daniel, of course, had prayed and God had shut the mouths of the lions.
But that wasn’t the extent of the miracle. When the king saw Daniel in the pit alive, he puts out a new decree to the entire nation that everyone should recognize the power of Daniel’s God.
When you face the mountains of your life and you guard the spirit of excellence with prayer, people around you, who don’t know your God will begin to recognize His power. They will see that your God is able to do the impossible. To do the miraculous.
That is why we have the spirit of excellence. We don’t have the spirit of excellence just to be excellent. We have the spirit of excellence to point people to God. You won’t have to say anything. Your life will speak.
Daniel guarded the spirit of excellence through prayer but also through having the right relationships.
Daniel came to Babylon with Shadrach, Meschech and Abednego.
The Babylonians had changed their names but their original names were: Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azzariah.
Hananiah - the Lord is gracious
Mishael - who is like the Lord
Azariah - the Lord helps
Those are the friends we need.
We need friends who, when we are in trouble will look at us and say, ‘The Lord is gracious’
When you feel like giving up will say, There is no one like the Lord and He is faithful.
When you feel like quitting they will say, God is with us and He will help.
Those are the kinds of friends we need. The kind of friends who are there when we need them. Who have faith words to encourage us. Who don’t even have to say words, but we know they are praying for us. We know they have our backs. They aren’t Fake friends. They’re the real kind.
That is the power of relationship.
Daniel guarded his spirit of excellence by surrounding himself with the right people.
How do we cultivate a spirit of excellence. We Go. We Grow. We Guard.
We have a vision. We are committed to follow God. We surround ourselves with strong relationships,
The life of excellence you live will impact lives around you. You never know how far the spirit of excellence will go. Just think of others you know who have had that spirit of excellence and imagine the ripple effect of their lives. Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Semple McPherson, TL Osborne, Kenneth Hagin and there are many more whose names are not famous. Put your name there.
One of those not so famous people was Lillias Trotter who was a missionary to the Muslims in Algeria in the late 1800’s. At the end of her life she wrote,
“God may use...the things He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us:...God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!”
There are endless possibilities in each of us.
Let’s cultivate that spirit of excellence.
And allow God to uncover the possibilities that are folded in us.