The Power of Excellence, part one

Whenever I studied the book of Daniel there was something really cool that spoke to me. This week I’m going to dig into it a bit and share with you what I felt like was a great message for believers that exists just under the surface of Daniel’s main subject matter.

At this point in the Bible, Israel has split into two separate nations, Israel and Judah.  As the book of Daniel opens, God allows the kingdom of Judah to be defeated in battle by the Babylonians, and many of the people of Judah are taken into exile by the Babylonians.  Among those are four men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (the last three are better known as Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego). They get put to work in a royal training program, and that’s where we’re going to join in.  

Daniel 1:19-20    The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20 Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

Four words just jumped out at me so strongly in those verses.  Ten Times More Capable. You see, Babylon was a nation that didn’t follow God, so when they needed to make a tough decision, they didn’t have any real power to turn to.  Then here come these four men of God, and all of a sudden when something is needed, they’ve got four guys who aren’t just better, they are TEN TIMES BETTER. Why were they so much better?  That’s easy, it’s because they were people of God, and people of God are called to excellence and imbued with the wisdom and power to achieve it. Anytime the people of God walk, act, and talk like we’re called to, we’re going to stand out.  

Here’s a very real truth for you. I don’t want to stand out. I am most comfortable in the back of a room with no eyes on me whatsoever. I am most comfortable when I’m just another face in the crowd.  And I tried really hard to stay in the back of the room and to stay just a face in the crowd, but the deeper into God’s word I got, the closer to Him I got, the more I began to realize that to stay out of the spotlight was to stay out of God’s will. Joseph, Moses, Noah, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Daniel, there’s something that all of these guys have in common. They were all in the spotlight.  Every last one of them was known, most of them eventually taking up positions of importance and leadership. So in God’s word, just about every single person of note was not only excellent at multiple things, but they were also in visible positions. They stood out. It’s a phrase we know better today as letting your light shine.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.        

I’ve always pictured this verse a certain way.  Letting the light shine is a passive thing, in my mind.  Jesus is in me, so Jesus shines out, people see it, I’m letting my light shine, right?  But as I studied the book of Daniel I felt God so strongly challenging me on this. Jesus shines out on his own, that’s true, but what happens to a light that’s in the middle of a crowd?  The few people right around it are gonna see it, sure, but what about people further away? If you’re blocked, the light isn’t going to be visible very far. What about a light that’s only at the back of a room?  Only the people right around it are going to see it. By the time it gets past rows and rows of people, it dies before it can even reach the middle of the room, much less the front of the room.

A light is most visible when it’s unobstructed.  When it is elevated, when it is separated from the things all around it. This doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t love the crowd it’s trying to illuminate, it means that to maximize the number of people who can benefit from the light it needs to position itself appropriately. We’re called to excellence not for our own glory, but so that the glory of God that shines through us can be seen by as many people as possible.
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I feel like some people may read this and feel like it conflicts with the call to be humble and be a servant, but I honestly don’t see any reason you can’t be both. Be the most excellent humble servant around! The nice thing about God is that if you submit to His plans, you really don’t have to worry about much. Let Him guide you to where He wants you, and then be absolutely excellent in that place. If you’ll stick with me for the rest of the week you’ll see what an amazing impact doing so can have.  

I love you all. I hope you had a great weekend and that your Monday is off to a great start. If anyone would like to talk about anything related to God or faith or if you have a prayer request, please don’t hesitate to email me at freejenkins@gmail.com. It would be my pleasure to pray for you and/or to talk with you.

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