Why pursue excellence? Biblically speaking, we should pursue excellence not because we’re motivated to boost our ego or to achieve success, but because our glorious, excellent God deserves no less, and because he’s created us for excellence and has called us to pursue excellence for His glory.
How Should We Respond to God’s Excellence?
What’s our proper response to God’s excellence? I believe Scripture tells us that we can do so in primarily three ways: (1) proclamation; (2) imitation; and a (3) committed, conscious, and deliberate pursuit of Christian virtues.
When Peter, in the second chapter of his first epistle, talks about the church, he writes that God called it into being so “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). So the first way to pursue excellence is simply to pursue God, and to reflect on his character, and to proclaim his excellent character traits to others. God is awesome! He has so many wonderful attributes, and he is so worthy of our worship and praise. Let’s not overlook this first important aspect of our pursuit of excellence, the contemplation and worship and praise of God himself.
Paul writes in Eph 5:1: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” And Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Second, then, God calls us to imitate him. We’re his children. You’ve heard the saying, “Like father, like son.” Or, “Like mother, like daughter.” God made us in his image, that is, in his family likeness. And as his redeemed children, we’re being restored to that image in Christ. By his grace, God calls us to become like him and to shine for his glory, so others see our good works and praise our Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).
- Pursuit of Christian Virtues:
The third major way to pursue excellence, besides proclamation and imitation, is our conscious, deliberate, committed pursuit of Christian virtues. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter writes that in Christ, God has given us everything we need to live a godly life and to pursue excellence (v. 3).
What’s more, Peter urges us to “make every effort” to supplement our faith with excellence and a series of other Christian virtues such as self-control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly love (vv. 5-7).
In this way, we’ll be neither useless nor unfruitful in our Christian lives (v. 8). We’ll also confirm our calling and election (v. 10) and safely enter God’s eternal kingdom (v. 11). Wow! That’s amazing! God expects us to grow in excellence of character and conduct, yet he himself empowers our efforts in Christ!
Excellence: The Pursuit of a Lifetime
God is the grounds of all excellence; it’s His excellence we must proclaim and strive to emulate. We are called to pursue excellence. In fact, God has given us all that we need to do in and through our relationship with Jesus Christ. But it’s you and I who must make every effort to pursue excellence.
The pursuit of excellence is a habit, the pursuit of a lifetime, a commitment that must be continually renewed. Break it down into the pursuit of a series of distinct but related virtues. Apply it to your particular calling and vocation. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Live your life holistically and recognize the need for balance. Be a witness.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve had various people in my house – plumbers, carpet people, wood floor installers, etc. Some did a great job; they were committed to excellence. Others, however, did sloppy work, arrived late, or charged too much. Let’s make sure the work we do, and the people we are, is marked by excellence, for the glory of God.