Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose]. — 1 Corinthians 15:58, The Amplified Bible
At the beginning of a new year, the Austin Stone Worship (ASW) Collective always reminds the service teams about what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for. We share a meal, or, in this year’s case, cookies and Blue Bell ice cream; worship God together; and hear from one of the worship pastors before taking communion.
Usually, the worship pastor talks about excellence. This year held true to the trend, with Aaron Ivey discussing excellence and how to abound in it. Rather than rely on Bezalel (an ASW Collective tradition and an amazingly blessed artisan mentioned in Exodus), Ivey turned to several passages, including the 1 Corinthians 15:58 one.
Excellence pervades the Bible, both the words and the creation. God says to pursue excellence, then provides examples of the quality. Excellence looks like Bezalel. It appears as Daniel and the company of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Excellence evidences itself in Joseph’s character and skill. It looks like glorious sunrises and majestic mountaintops, stars spread across ink-black sky, and an infant’s little fingers and toes.
Excellence is everywhere, and yet God calls us to seek after it more and more, to be persistent. Excellence, as Ivey would say, is “outstanding. Not outstanding in the sense of superiority, but ‘outstanding’ as debt, something incomplete.” Excellence requires a mindset of never arriving. It is never finished until the last breath is drawn, or Jesus comes back.
Until then, excellence in skill and character remain. Excellence, after all, concerns not only the work of one’s hands but also the inner work of one’s spirit. God desires and is accomplishing a renewal of all things, internal and external, and he won’t stop until the work is complete. Because of that, we seek to glorify God in all things, in our work and in our lives. We aim to “always excel.”
Image: steve p2008 (Creative Commons)