The Plight of Excellence
Some of the more popular and well known stories in the Bible have to do with the prophet Daniel. Daniel was such an amazing man that thousands of years later, we still tell of his story and the example that he set forth. In the entirety of Scripture, God did not have anything negative to say about Daniel. We know that he was a sinner just like all of us, but he chose to set himself apart in integrity of characters and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. God loved him and blessed him with great favor.
However, this excellent spirit that Daniel possessed did not come without a cost. It almost cost him his life if the Lord had not intervened to deliver him. During the reign of king Darius, Daniel was appointed as one of the three presidents overseeing the princes that ruled over the kingdom. Daniel was preferred above the other two presidents and all the princes “because an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3). Because he was such an excellent man that these princes were jealous of him and wanted to cause him harm. “Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6:4). Using wicked scheming, they managed to get Daniel thrown into the lions’ den for choosing to obey the Lord rather than men. Then the Lord miraculously delivered Daniel with no harm that came to him. In the end, those evil men and their families were the ones getting killed by the lions.
Reading the account of Daniel’s life, we can feel a deep sense of admiration for his excellent spirit, integrity of characters and courage in the face of intense pressure. The Lord greatly exalted him to a privileged position under a few kings because of his faithfulness. What if Daniel did not see a reward for his excellence? What if he did end up dying in the lions’ den? I am fully convinced that he would choose to do what was right no matter what the cost might be even if it meant his very life. Daniel did not choose to be excellent just so he could be rewarded, rather he chose to be excellent because the Lord would have wanted him to. He did it out of obedience and honor to God because the Lord is an excellent God. The Lord never settles for mediocrity, as everything God does is perfect and good. Would you have served a mediocre God who only does the bare minimum? Just the thought itself is ludicrous. God is perfect and He expects an excellent spirit within His children. Daniel believed God and set himself apart to be excellent for God in all that he did regardless of whether he got rewarded or not.
Can you honestly say that you identify with Daniel? Are you an excellent Christian both at home and at the work place? Do you do what is right no matter what the cost might be? Excellence does not come without a cost. I’ve seen people collapse morally in the workplace when the heat is turned up, and peer pressure is intense. Some would back down from doing the right things just so they would not be criticized or disliked. Some settle for mediocrity and status quo because everyone else is doing it.
Maybe you might be someone who is struggling to be excellent in a place where many do not care. You might feel frustrated and alone in your struggle for integrity and excellence. You might be on the verge of giving up striving to be excellent for God thinking it does not matter anyway since no one really cares. But that is where you are wrong! God cares and He cares deeply the choices that you make. It might cost you greatly to stand up for what is right. However, the cost of choosing to back down, fit in with everyone and settle for mediocrity, is so much greater than the cost of fighting for what is right. Each time you choose to settle for mediocrity and let peer pressure win instead of choosing to do what is right, you lose a piece of your soul and your integrity. Eventually, your heart will turn cold and you, like those around you, become calloused to a sense of right and wrong. The lines are blurred and your compass is no longer God’s Word but what feels the least uncomfortable and less pressure from the people around you.
This is the plight of excellence that all of us must face in life, and each choice we make in life either draws us closer to our excellent God or further away from Him. There is no middle ground. God stated this in James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” There is no where in this command that God made an exception to the rule.
How excellent are you in your own personal life? Do you choose to do what is right no matter what it takes and who is watching? God is honored when you choose to be excellent in all you do and will greatly reward you whether in this life or in the life to come when we are finally home with Him in eternity. As God’s children, let’s follow Daniel’s example of choosing to have an excellent spirit in all we do and how we serve the Lord in our daily lives!