Coffee Stains: Why “Excellence” Burns MeAuthor: David Porter
Sometimes “excellence” burns me.
It’s become such a watchword that instead of encouraging it can intimidate, or create a false inspiration that results in no change of actions–just a lot of enthusiastic talk. In a small place, ‘excellence” can sound like a taunt , ‘What are you doing? What have you done? Excellence, hah! Look at you–you’re nothing.” Peers celebrate those with big results; People praise those churches which ‘explode,” who ‘mark their generation.” I don’t’ discount anything anyone does for God, it’s just that a lot of excellent people never get praised. Who lauds the little lady who agonizes in her place of prayer so that others will come to Jesus? Evangelical Christians revere the name of Charles Finney because of his powerful revivals which changed the face of America. One of the keys to the success of his meetings, though, was a simple man that Finney called ‘Father Nash.” This prayer warrior would precede Finney into a place where meetings were to be held and fast and prayer until spiritual breakthroughs came. He preached very little but oh, how he could pray.
He achieved excellence in an unseen place.
When you read the history of a generation, you read of George Washington, not Abner Everyman. The little fellow who lived by the creek on the edge of town gets left out of most histories and after two or three generations he’s forgotten, even by his own family. Is it possible that his life was excellent? And the rest of us? Is everyone who doesn’t accomplish great things, noticed by a lot of people, mediocre?
A friend of mine shared a story about a Korean carpenter who worked in a Bible school in Korea. He put his whole heart into building each thing that the president of the school asked him to, and the result was some first-class woodwork all around the school. Once the president of the school asked him to do a job, but nothing special, because the work would be replaced by something permanent shortly. This one would serve only a little while. When the president saw the finished ‘rough” work he could hardly believe it. He had asked for a quick and simple job but the carpenter had done a masterful job. ‘Rough, quick, and just ”˜good enough’” weren’t in this man’s vocabulary. He couldn’t do it without doing his best.
How does real excellence grow in us? ‘You stoop down to make me great,” said an inspired writer in Psalms 18:35” or as the New American Standard version has it, ‘And Your gentleness makes me great.” NASB. Excellence has nothing to do with how well known you are, how rich you are, what high position you hold, etc. Excellence has everything to do with how well you do what God has put you on earth to do, as you work in the strength he gives you. Some people are excellent and the world sees it. Some people are excellent and only their children, neighbors, and brothers and sisters at church know it.
It’s a shame to wander down here for eighty years and never do the thing that God put you on earth for, or if you do it, just half-way do it. God can give you the ability to be excellent. How do you become excellent? —start with God. Gain your strength from Him. His gentleness makes us great. Remember, ‘You stoop down to make me great ” —do what you were put here to do. Find His plan and don’t try to be someone else. God needs pastors in towns of 300 as well as in towns of three million. Some excellent pastors will never be recognized down here.
When I was in the States, I attended a pastor’s meeting which honored those who gave to missions. One of those who spoke was a young fellow who pastored in a small town, lost somewhere in the beginning of west Texas. He inspired the handful of people in his care to give an incredible amount of money to missions, incredible at least for the size of that congregation. Lots of churches gave much, much more than this little church but for their size, this plucky group outdid them all. They were excellent and this time lots of people saw it.
- Ask God to help you discipline yourself, because there is no excellence without discipline.
- Grow. Do what it takes to get better. Excellence involves striving to be better than you are. Pray, read, go to conference, takes courses, pick the brains of experts–learn!
- Persevere. The hardest thing is to keep going when no one notices. Decide that God put you here for this reason and you’re going to do that whether anyone cheers or not.
- Get a vision of what can be. Keep it before you and it will inspire you to keep going, when the applause isn’t ringing in your ears.
- Subscribe to God’s value system. People measure excellence in different ways, position, beautiful cars, houses, influence. You were put here to do one thing, to accomplish God’s will for your life.
God created some for big places, some for small places but none for unimportant places, it’s all important for Him!
Your excellence may not always applauded or covered with adulation, but it sure changes the world!