Isn’t God excellent? We know that and the Bible affirms it repeatedly from cover to cover. In Exodus 15:7, Moses and the Israelites sang about “the greatness of [God’s] excellence.”
If we know God and are being recreated into His image, excellence should naturally mark our way of living as well. It’s no different than godly Ruth who was described as “a woman of excellence” (Ru. 3:11; cf. Pr. 12:4; 31:10). No wonder we are therefore called to “dwell on the things” that are “excellent” (4:8) and pursue “moral excellence” (2 Pet. 1:5). However, lest we hide His excellence under a bushel, we are compelled both out of duty and delight to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Being people of excellence is a necessity if we wish to show the world a God who is excellent in all things. Reflecting His glory in this area – that is the primary reason our personal lives and church ministries should shine with excellence.
However, if we are not careful, the pursuit of excellence in all things can easily be used by Satan to reap spiritual destruction. We must not be “ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). Carefully consider the following potential landmines when pursuing excellence. All of them flow from the sin of pride.
1. If we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to misplaced superiority. We always fall into grave danger when we compare ourselves to others. Perhaps we begin to feel more spiritual when our ministry now appears better than theirs. Eventually we may find ourselves doing ministry just to draw the attention from people and not the praise for God.
2. If we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to misplaced strength. It’s easy when the goal is only producing the right product that we can rely on our own strength and not the strength which the Lord supplies.
3. If we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to misplaced goals. There is nothing we do in excellence that is an end in and of itself. Sometimes being overly consumed with excellence allow us believe the means are more important than the spiritual results that God aims to produce.
4. If we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to misplaced trust. Instead of confessing that God must bless in order to harvest anything worthwhile, we become convinced that our efforts alone, if they are good enough, can somehow achieve divine purposes.
5. If we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to misplaced methods. When it becomes nothing but achieving excellence in all we do, there is a temptation to look to sidestep God and pursue worldly methods to achieve our purposes. It’s not that we can’t learn positively from the secular world in some areas, it’s only a problem when their techniques of excellence are contrary to or in place of how God instructs us in Scripture
These are significant landmines and perhaps you might be able to add a few to this list, but we can never operate in fear as a defense to excuse the behavior expected of us from the Lord. Pride characterizes all these pitfalls, but please understand that a lack of excellence often reveals a heart of pride as well. Mediocrity flows from the pride of indifference and laziness.
However, victory can be gained by gazing up, feasting upon and then being overwhelmed with the excellence of our God. Such a lifestyle will produce humility and a desire to show God’s excellence. Simply put, less-than-excellent efforts are a result of not admiring a nothing-but-excellent God!