January 24, 2016
For the first 3 weeks of the year we’ve been looking at what it means to strive for excellence. What does it mean for us individually and as a church. I believe we can never be the church Christ calls us to be, if we don’t strive for excellence.
How can you be excellent if not being excellent is totally acceptable. If you don’t want to be excellent, how are you going to get there? I mean we’re not going to wake up one morning and discover – – – while we were sleeping we attained excellence. That might be fun, but it’s not realistic.
Excellence just doesn’t happen. It takes work. For some people, they could honestly care less if they achieve excellence. It doesn’t mean anything to them. We could say . . . it’s not in their DNA. But I don’t buy that. People can be great, excellent, if they want it. I believe God has planted that seed within us. But we allow too many other distractions get in our way. We come up with too many excuses. And too often others allow the excuses or even make more excuses for people.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Colossae ~
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. – Colossians 3:17
It’s pretty straightforward. At least it is to me. The call in our lives in whatever we do, whether speaking or doing, is to do everything, not just some things, BUT – – – everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. To clear this up a little, Paul tells us a little more in verse 23 ~
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, — Colossians 3:23
This spells it out a little more for us. Again, Paul uses that word WHATEVER. It’s really not a popular word in anymore. You tell someone to do something for you and they respond . . . WHATEVER! That’s obviously not what Paul means.
Paul is telling us whatever you do – – that means anything you do, whether it’s your words or your actions, work heartily. In other words, “Work with all you heart / or work with all your soul.” Whatever you are doing, give it everything.
Don’t just do some of your job half-heartedly –
Don’t just play the game – without passion –
Don’t just go to work to earn a paycheck –
Don’t lazily read the Bible –
Don’t pretend to worship –
Don’t just go through the motions,
In whatever you do – – – give it everything.
Kobe Bryant plays basketball for the LA Lakers and is probably one of the top 10 basketball players who ever played the game. I was reading an article about him and his work ethic. And I understand he makes millions of dollars to play a game. I get that! But, he could rest on his laurels and go through the motions.
Rasheed Hazzard, Lakers scout, 2006-11; current New York Knicks assistant coach: I got a phone call from a blocked number the day after Labor Day. It’s 11 p.m., and it’s Kobe, and he wanted to know if I would help him on the court at 5:30 a.m. I told him I’ll be there, and I show up at 5:20 a.m. thinking I’m early, and he’s already in a full sweat. He hired a guy just to stretch him that year and to show him different ways to do active warm-ups, so he had already done that and lifted weights. He’s in a full sweat 10 minutes before we’re supposed to meet and ready to go. That’s when I realized 5:30 a.m. meant 4:45 a.m. with Kobe. When we were done, he went and had a track workout. When he was done at the track, he had a core workout, and then I met him that night to get some more shots in. He averaged taking 1,000 shots at every practice. I’ve never seen anyone work like that. His hunger to be the best is unmatched.
I’ve read about Walter Payton, the great Chicago Bears running back, how he would run up and down a hill during the off-season, how he would do it 20 times, and most guys couldn’t last 10 times. He strove for excellence. I’m sure you could give me examples of musicians and singers and actors and people you know in your life.
Most people combat that by saying, ‘well, if you paid me millions I’d do that.’ The point is, people do this, because they want to be the best at whatever it is they are doing. Again, do we want to be the best at whatever we do?
What strikes me is the fact that very few people want and strive for excellence. We think we’re content, even though, honestly speaking most people are not content. They’re longing for something . . . generally, it’s a relationship with Christ, but they can’t articulate it. It’s a longing for community, it’s a desire to be somewhere, anywhere, where people know you, really know you and accept you!
But to move beyond where we are . . . honestly . . . . it takes work and effort. It takes energy. In fact, the word for work, comes from the Greek word, energy. To work, we must expend energy. To overcome the effects of a disability or injury or illness – – – we have to work. If we don’t, we don’t improve.
Whatever we do, we are called to do it, as Paul says, not for other people. Don’t do it for your bosses, don’t do it for your spouse, not for your children or best friends. That sounds really strange, but in everything you do, do it for the Lord.
That’s what Paul is getting at. This is how we move towards achieving excellence. In whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if you are working for the Lord! The One who is over you is not a human boss. It is Jesus! He’s the One you must please. He has high expectations. He expects you to give everything you have.
Paul adds 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. — Colossians 3:23-24
Your reward is your inheritance. It’s heaven! It’s eternity with the Lord. But as I’ve said so many times, eternal life begins the day you embrace a relationship with Christ. So, you’re on that journey. It’s knowing Christ is with you. It’s trusting the Holy Spirit is with you, guiding you, comforting you, loving you, empowering you to do more than you thought you could.
That’s part of the reward. It’s because you said YES to Jesus. You accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. The One who lived the Most Excellent life, who left the one place of perfection, heaven, and came here for you, who became sin for you, who suffered for you, died for you . . . but death didn’t stop Him, it couldn’t contain Him, and Jesus rose from the dead and He crushed death for you. That’s excellent!
If He willingly did that for us, could we willingly give our best in whatever we do for Him!? I want to play you the audio from a speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave. You’ve maybe heard this before, I’ll have the words on the screen as well. I thought it was important to hear it in his words.
His point is going to be that when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that nobody could do better.
Here is the VIDEO (from youtube.com) ~
Even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.
If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley. But be the best little scrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
I love the way King said that. Even if it falls your lot to be . . . . whatever it is that you are. Whether you chose it or it chose you. Whether it is your lifelong dream, or it’s a job because it’s all you could find. It doesn’t matter! Be the best! Be the best street sweeper, be the best accountant, be the best at maintenance, be the best parent, be the best sibling, be the best worshiper.
Strive to be the best! Don’t let anything get in your way! I’ve read of people who have gone from the mailroom to the boardroom. All because they wanted to be the best, they wanted to succeed and they did. Be the best of whatever you are!
It’s true in life, whatever you do. It isn’t about winning and losing! It’s about being the best you can be. Are you the best you can be?
Let’s bring it back to you and the Kingdom of God. The first question of the Westminster Catechism is this – – –
What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
That’s it! It’s pretty simple, it’s not rocket science. Your job is to glorify God AND, it’s not an either / or . . . AND enjoy God not only when the time is right or when things are going your way . . . BUT enjoy God forever!
That’s a reminder for us to move towards excellence in our worship, in our Bible reading, in our prayer time, in our time with friends and family, in whatever we are doing. On the job and off the job. We have this amazing opportunity to bless people by the way we live, by the way we work, by the way we play, by the way we treat others in stores.
Paul reminds us ~ 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Doing that takes work. It takes effort. God calls us to give it our all. Now, there are steps to getting there.
I’m going to move into that in 2 weeks. Next week Ric Escobar, one of the missionaries we support will be here and he will be delivering the message.
Understand this until we hit February 7, the question we need to answer is this . . . Does excellence mean anything to you? What does it mean for the way you live your life as a follower of Jesus Christ? We will make mistakes, we aren’t perfect. Yet in spite of our imperfections, can we strive for excellence in all we do.
On February 7, I will talk about Spiritual Gifts and how they impact our life and the lives of others as we seek to be excellent for the Lord. I will also have spiritual gift inventories available if you want to learn about your gifts.
Until then . . .
17 Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . . And
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . . BECAUSE You are serving the Lord Christ.