It is very easy to be a mediocre person. All you have to do is make no extra effort of any kind and drift through life making no difference in the world, which will guarantee that you leave no legacy behind when you are gone. You probably won’t even be noticed or stand out because there are millions of other people who are also mediocre. But if you will dare to form the habit of being excellent in all that you do, you will be a bright light in the darkness, and that is exactly what God has called you to be.
Joyce Meyer writes this in her recent book, Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits. In reading it, many memories flood my mind. One of my pressing goals in life when I was a younger adult was my desire to not be ordinary.
It might have been my excuse at the time for not being as socially accepted as I wanted to be or for pursuing such a wide variety of directions within my career.
I don’t need to go to lunch with everyone. I am a little different…which is so much better than being ordinary.
I don’t care if I have a degree in finance, I think I can make a bigger impact in marketing.
I am going to be myself on this interview. If they don’t hire me, it’s okay because it wouldn’t have been a good fit.
At this time, I didn’t have Jesus in my life. I am afraid that my desire to be different was more centered around pride and self-worth. The motivator may have been misdirected.
Working In My Own Strength
However, the effort was placed towards striving for excellence.
I worked hard.
I didn’t cut corners.
I even worked hard to become a people person because I felt that leaders needed to have people skills and technical skills.
I had a bar for myself and it wasn’t other people. I wasn’t trying to beat out my peers. I wish I could say definitively it was to glorify God, but I wasn’t walking with the Lord back then. Yet, maybe since He had already chosen me, I innately was trying to be all He created me to be.
There was still one major pitfall. I was absolutely trying to do it all in my own strength. I wanted to be excellent in my work. I wanted to be distinct and different. I wanted to make an impact.
Glorifying God Instead
Fast forwarding a decade, everything changed when Christ changed me. My source of excellence changed. It became more of an internal pursuit. If I can change my thoughts and beliefs and strive to be more like Christ, I will truly be pursuing excellence and glorifying God, if only He knows of the pursuit.
I focused on my motives. Why did I want to work hard on something? Was it still just to be different? Was it to achieve in this world? Or had it changed to help others and to please God?
I measured my work differently. Everything used to be about metrics and higher numbers were usually better. Achieve more objectives. Increase sales and profits. Get promotions. It changed to feeling a sense of peace and accomplishment (I am still human after all) when I helped someone else see their value or create purpose. I focused in the moment on helping or making a difference on the one person I was working with or the one thing I was doing. I guess, I started looking at each day and each moment and asked myself if I was being a good steward of that moment.
I allowed God to work through me. I have learned, slowly, to let God work through me and let go of the me in my work. This is unfortunately still all too conscious of an effort for me. I have to sometimes pray out loud, “Lord, please get me out of the way. Let me be a vessel for your work. I pray you will work through me and not let me mess it up!” This has been difficult and it all stems from truly understanding that we can not earn salvation and that we can do nothing on our own. I am totally dependent on God, even to glorify Him in what I do.
Continue to do my part. The cool thing about the God-view of the world is that it is complex. A circular to me. As much as I say I can’t do it in my own strength, and that we need to let God work through us, I believe firmly that we need to do our part. That for my love of God, and in obedience, I need to step up and step out and try. I have to pursue what I feel called to and pursue it with vigor and strive for excellence. For me, sometimes the striving and effort has to be in calling on God in each moment, but I still am stepping out with effort.
When I think about excellence as I sit here this morning, I recognize the need to meditate on it and pray on what this looks like in this season of my life.
For me, I believe it becomes more about quality than quantity. I have felt a pull for more depth than breadth. I wrote about this over a year ago here, Do We Work To Finish or Dive Deeper to Excel.
At 50, I have a large circle of relationships, a vast variety of experiences, and a more seasoned relationship with God. Although I believe that our life into eternity is a journey that continues and doesn’t seek an end destination (how can eternity have a stop?), I believe right now is a season of settling in this place on the journey and digging deeper into what God has for me to do with my relationships, my work, my life.
That is hard for me because I do thrive on change. (Another way I am different!)
However, to glorify God in this season, I feel that pursuing excellence is fully developing the place He has me right now.
What about you?
Are you in a place in your life where you are pursuing excellence? Is it for you, or to glorify Him? What does excellence look like to you? Joyce Meyer is quick to point out that excellence and perfection are two different things.
How can you choose excellence and begin to create a habit of living excellently for God?