Sweat drips down my brow; I can also feel it drip down my back. I just spent a fruitless hour trying to remove shelves from these metal bookcases in my classroom. I had one goal in mind: maximize storage opportunities while maintaining a clean, minimalistic effect. I had successfully removed these shelves the past two years and could not understand why- for the love of all that is good- these shelves were not cooperating. It was the clichéd one step forward and two steps back, way back.
After several choice words mixed with desperate prayers, success was finally mine. I stood up, wiped my face and hands and triumphantly muttered to those cases, “I win.”
I did not begin that endeavor prepared to give up. I did not enter that battle with a mindset that was ready to lose. To use another cliché, failure was not an option. Spending an hour on that task only made me more determined to succeed and made success that much sweeter.
You see, I haven’t told you what made me so determined. It was more than mere stubbornness (which was definitely a factor and is a factor for much of what I set my mind to). It was the voice of God that had whispered to me earlier as I tackled another classroom project. I heard the voice of God whisper three words to me: “spirit of excellence.”
So with sweat rolling down my back, I began contemplating what a spirit of excellence meant in this life. I began to examine my life in light of this call.
In John Bevere’s book Good or God, he explains that Christ-followers must live holy lives. I’ve come to understand and believe that a spirit of excellence and holy living are not two separate things; rather, they are inseparable. This concept, though, should not be new for today’s Christ-follower.
Colossians 3:23 provides mandates for this type of living.
Furthermore, Jesus tells us in Matthew to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good [excellent} works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (5:16)
You know what the spirit of excellence is not? It is not the spirit of complaining. It is not the spirit of mediocrity or complacency. It is not the spirit of defeat. We are called to higher living; we are called to holy living. I was guilty of each of these mindsets by the end of the last school year. I complained whether I was at work or at home or with my friends; heck, I complained in my dreams in my sleep. Why did I complain? Because I was living in complacency with the spirit of defeat. I did not see how the year was going to be ok until it ended, and that was it. All of these mindsets had me trapped because I was not living or walking in a spirit of excellence.
A spirit of excellence and holy living come from grace. Also in Good or God, Bevere explains that grace goes further than simply covering our sins (which is fantastic!). Rather, in addition to being a benefit we receive, grace is also an empowering force that enables us to walk in the fullness of life God has called us to. It is the grace of God that allows us to live out His spirit of excellence in all we do.
So, whether you are a teacher or a preacher or a baker or a writer or a soccer coach or a barista- whatever you do, do with a spirit of excellence, and God will bless your efforts more than you can imagine. Our best is best done when His power invades and overcomes our weaknesses. So yes, give your best, despite your shortcomings, and be amazed at what His spirit of excellence and grace empower you to do.
I don’t know about you, but I want my next steps to be empowered by His grace, and I want His spirit of excellence to be the driving force of each of my endeavors.