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FIRST-PERSON: Excellence in a mediocre world

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–We live in a society that considers average as exceptional, and slothful as normal. There was a time when the adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” was true. Today, the motto is more like, “Seek the path of least resistance, or quit when the going gets tough.”

Many schools in our educational systems “grade on the curve.” That means everyone’s grades are averaged together. And many Christians have allowed their standards to be graded by the curve of the world — and have become just average. What happened to Christians being the “lights in a world of darkness”? Many find it easier to adjust downward to mediocrity than to reflect the source of excellence, the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s Word.

Well, just what does God require of us? “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). The common attitude today is, “somebody owes me something.” Many Americans think a lifetime job with good pay and a guaranteed retirement plan at age 65 should be theirs because they were born in the U.S.A. Employees believe that promotions should occur as a matter of time in grade — never mind the quality of work — and that a 40-hour week is maximum endurance for any worker. Many think the last hour of the workday is a benefit provided to help make the transition to home easier. They consider that 10-minute coffee breaks are meant to last at least half an hour, and half-hour lunches should take at least an hour and a half. Unfortunately, those same attitudes are often reflected in the lives of professing Christians.

The banner of nearly everyone today reads, “We demand our rights!” Well, exactly what are our “rights” as Christians? We have the rights of servants. Not a particularly appealing image to most Christians, but that is precisely what we are called to be.

It could be that many Christians have found no satisfying and useful role in life, because of their proud, defiant attitudes toward an employer or spouse. That sort of attitude actually has its roots in a rebellious spirit toward God. Someone has suggested that one of the clearest ways to tell whether you have the spirit of a servant is to check the way you respond when you are treated like one.

You may think that you can have little impact on changing the course of our culture, with its mindset that considers average as exceptional and slothful as normal. However, you can have a great impact on your own life, your family and your relationship with God when you choose to do everything with excellence—as if you’re doing it for God: “Whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

It should be sufficient for the Christian simply to know that God has established excellence as our norm, and to understand that accepting less is dishonoring to God and demoralizing to us. As believers, imagine what a wonderful testimony it would be if we were to begin living in such a way that it would confirm that, when times become mediocre, Christians choose to live excellently — for the glory of God!
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.

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  • Howard Dayton