When teaching students how to write an essay, I always provided them with a model so they knew the quality of writing to which they should aspire. I also provided a rubric, which clearly delineated the qualities of poor to excellent writing so students could self-assess, make revisions, and submit an essay as close to excellent as possible. Everyone was given the opportunity to aspire to excellence.
The redeemed people of God have more than just an opportunity to pursue this very nature; they have an imperative to pursue excellence in all that they do. The Apostle Paul states in Colossians 3:17, “And therefore in all that you do whether in word or deed, do all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In speech and in actions, the people of God are to put forth their best. But how can one put that into action?
How to Achieve Excellence?
In Outliers (2008), Malcolm Gladwell, indicates that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in any field. Others have come along to refute his theory. But the point remains: To be excellent at anything requires practice, and consistent practice requires discipline.
When I was learning how to play tennis decades ago, I began hitting with players who were as new to the game as I was. As a result, our balls ended up on other players’ courts a little too often. Once I hired a coach, my game improved exponentially. He showed me how to grip the racket, how to hit a forehand, and other tennis fundamentals. What can we learn here? Engaging with people who are better at a skill or craft can improve a person’s own performance. A little mentorship can go a long way.
At the core of everyone who aspires to excellence is a tugging of the heart, which is called desire. Without desire, the pursuit never gets off the ground. With desire, the pursuit never rests. It’s what drives individuals in the morning and what keeps them awake at night.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech, “Street Sweeper,” characterizes excellence with these words:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” Whoever the individual and whatever the gift or skill, everyone should aspire to excellence.
If anyone ever questions the need to strive for excellence, s/he needs to remember the Creator Himself. After phases of His creation, the word says, “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10 NIV). The sun, the moon, the heavens and earth were good. His good is beyond excellent. Made in His image, we are compelled to produce works of excellence as well. If anyone is ever baffled about this need to do one’s best, don’t ask, “Why?” Ask, “For Whom?” The confusion about the quest will be resolved. Nothing but the best for the Highest.
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