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FIRST-PERSON: Excellence in a mediocre world

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–We live in a society that has lowered its sights so radically that it considers average as exceptional and slothful as normal.

There was a time in our country when we could confidently say that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, the trend today is to seek the path of least resistance and then, if the going should become difficult, to give up.

Most of the schools in our educational system use a method in which the grades of all the students in a course are averaged together; it’s called “grading on the curve.” In our society, many times Christians have allowed their standards to be graded by the curve of the world.

Too often we Christians are no longer “the lights in a world of darkness,” particularly where excellence is concerned. We have lowered our standards to those of the average around us. Too many Christians have come to depend more on the government than they do on God. Why? Because we have found it easier to adjust downward to mediocrity rather than look to the source of excellence: God’s Word.

Many Christians think it’s acceptable to have spiritually dim lights, based on the rationalization that their lives or standards may not be as bad as the nonbelievers around them. However, as Christians it is vital that we walk according to the precepts and principles of God’s Word, and if we are to do so, there are some basic attitudes to reassess.

IOU versus U-O-Me

A common attitude today is “somebody owes me something.” Many Americans think that a lifetime job with good pay and a guaranteed retirement plan at 65 comes with just being born in the U.S.A., that promotions should occur as a matter of time and that 40 hours a week is the maximum endurance for any worker. Also, the last hour of every workday often is seen as a benefit provided to help make the transition to home easier; 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. And, of course, equal shares of the company profits belong to the workers.

Honestly consider whether you, as a Christian employee, act as if you believe differently than those with the you-owe-me attitude in industry today.

What does God require of us? “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23). God’s biblical principles demand that we serve him through every action we take, no matter what others are doing.

The banner of nearly everyone in our society today is, “We demand our rights.” Exactly what are our “rights” as Christians?

We have the rights of servants. Being a servant is not a particularly appealing image to most Christians, but that is precisely what we are called to be. Perhaps the most common reason why most Christians are not useful to God is due to a proud, defiant attitude toward an employer or spouse. That sort of attitude actually has its roots in a rebellious spirit toward God. One of the clearest ways to tell whether you have the spirit of a servant is to check out the way you respond when you are treated like a servant.

When a person with a rebellious spirit is confronted with the principle of self-sacrifice from God’s Word, the truth will become evident. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Excellence for the most high God

“Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4). It should be sufficient to say that God established excellence as our norm.

We may have little impact on changing the course of our culture, with its mindset that considers average as exceptional and slothful as normal. However, we will have great impact on our own lives, our families and our relationship with God when we choose to do everything with excellence, as if we’re doing it for God.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). To accept less is dishonoring to God and demoralizing to us. The result may well be a loss of credibility in the eyes of others and the chastening of the Lord.

So, in the midst of a mediocre world, be determined to be a man or woman of excellence, so that in all that you do it will be as unto the Lord and to the glory of God.
Burkett is chairman of the board of Crown Ministries, which merged last fall with the ministry he founded in 1976, Christian Financial Concepts. A Southern Baptist layman based in Gainesville, Ga., Burkett is the host of the national “Money Matters” radio program and author of two resources published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention: “How Much Is Enough? 30 Days to Personal Revival” and “Jesus on Money.”

    About the Author

  • Larry Burkett