Yesterday we started a look at something in the book of Daniel that I really loved. It’s the call to excellence, and in part one we saw how after their nation of Judah was defeated by Babylon, Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego were taken captive and put into service for an enemy government. The four of them immediately stand out because they are ten times better than those around them at matters requiring wisdom.
Today I want to keep looking at how this unfolds, because as you’ll see here, being excellent sets an expectation. And consistently meeting that expectation is how you gain a reputation. When Lebron James steps onto a basketball court, people EXPECT to see him perform better than anyone else on that court. When U2 releases a new album, people EXPECT it to be great. I could use tons of these examples, but the point is that these people I named have built an expectation of excellence.
One thing that Jesus undeniably did during his three-year-long ministry was set an expectation of excellence. As more and more people heard about Him, as stories of his excellence spread, there became an expectation that when Jesus showed up, something amazing was going to happen. Why did people who had never met him before know that Jesus was someone who could heal them? Because that was his reputation. They’d heard stories of his excellence, stories of what he’d done and who he was, and so his reputation was known to them.
Now let’s look at Daniel again. The new Babylonian king Belshazzar had a disturbing dream, and look who he goes to for answers.
Daniel 5:13-14 So Daniel was brought in before the king. The king asked him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles brought from Judah by my predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar? 14 I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods within you and that you are filled with insight, understanding, and wisdom.
Now he didn’t understand it yet, saying spirit of the gods, but the king knew that there was SOMETHING different about Daniel. Look at what the king said there. “I heard you were a man who was filled with insight, understanding, and wisdom.” This was Daniel’s reputation that he’d built during his time serving the government of Babylon. Who were his enemies who were holding him captive, I think it’s important to remember that part of it. This wasn’t just excellence, this was excellence in adverse conditions. Why keep being excellent when now that excellence is being utilized by your captors? It seems Daniel and his three friends knew a truth in their hearts that would later be written into the Bible.
Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Okay, so Daniel had built a reputation for having God within him and having insight, understanding, and wisdom. So this heathen king who didn’t follow God had heard enough about Daniel to call on him, and thus inadvertently call on God, even though he didn’t share Daniel’s beliefs. All of a sudden, God is in a position to speak directly into the life and situation of the King of a nation that didn’t follow God, all because Daniel had been consistently excellent and thus built a reputation of being excellent. His reputation got God a meeting with the king of Babylon.
Quick side note here, but let’s read a few verses later in that story.
Daniel 5:16-17 I am told that you can give interpretations and solve difficult problems. If you can read these words and tell me their meaning, you will be clothed in purple robes of royal honor, and you will have a gold chain placed around your neck. You will become the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” 17 Daniel answered the king, “Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means.
Daniel made it clear that his excellence wasn’t for his own glory, but for the glory of God. He wasn’t in it for rewards and accolades, he was just doing what God called him to do in the place God had put him. This is another place where you can start to differentiate between the Godly call to excellence and the worldly ambition to be “great”. Greatness seeks reward and accolades while Godly excellence simply seeks to do the will of God and spread His love as far and wide as possible.
Okay, so back to the main point. If you’re a Christian, then you represent Jesus. I teach extensively at church about the fact that as Christians we are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Him in this world. So I want you to think about something. If I am a Christian, and people know that I am a Christian, then I represent Jesus to those people. So I’m gonna throw a saying at you here. I’m even gonna bold it. A representative’s reputation often times becomes the reputation of the one they represent. I’m gonna say that again. A representative’s reputation often times becomes the reputation of the one they represent.
Look at an example here. When I have awful food at a restaurant, let’s say Chili’s, I don’t generally walk out saying “Wow, whatever chef was on duty tonight was awful.” I walk out of there and say “Man, this Chili’s is disgusting.” The chef’s reputation becomes the reputation of that entire restaurant to me. When a customer service representative for AT&T keeps you on hold for three hours and is rude to you and still doesn’t solve your internet problem, guess what, “AT&T IS THE WORST.” A representative’s reputation often times becomes the reputation of the one they represent. If you don’t believe me, look up any business online and read the reviews. A SINGLE bad experience not only ruins the place for the person who had the bad experience, but they then start telling others, which starts the process of building a bad reputation for that business.
Daniel understood this and yet it doesn’t seem as if modern Christians really do. In one of his great moments, my Pastor at church spoke several months ago about how he wished some people would stop referring to themselves as Christians. I’m sure it’s a point that some found controversial, but his reasoning was so good. We make ourselves known as a Christian, then we lie and we cheat. We make ourselves known as a Christian, then we gossip and hurt others. Some people call themselves Christians and then go hold signs saying they hate certain people groups. We identify ourselves as a representative of Jesus and then build for Him a poor reputation that doesn’t at all reflect who He really is. Not only is that shameful, it’s heartbreaking, because He deserves much, much better.
Living a life of excellence is important for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is because it shows the world around you who Jesus is and what he can do. He can still transform people and heal people, He still loves others, He is fair and He is good and all of these things and so many more. When I endure a bad situation with grace I show the world around me that Jesus brings peace. When I am kind to those who have been unkind to me I show the world around me that Jesus loves the unlovable. Living a life of consistent Godly excellence builds for our Lord the kind of reputation He deserves and puts us in a position to make a true and lasting difference on the world around us. Just like you’re going to see it did for Daniel when we finish this study on Thursday.
I love all of you guys very much. You can probably tell that I’m really passionate about this. Once I saw this in the book of Daniel it stuck with me and I’ve tried to keep it as a core concept in my life ever since. I hope everyone is doing great this week and just like always, if you have any prayer needs or want/need to talk about anything, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.