You want to be excellent. The pursuit of excellence in the workplaces and life is something I think we all want. I doubt there are too many people out there that only desire to be average or worse. Everyone wants to be the best at what they do. That’s a natural desire. However, that’s not reality for many of us. Excellence is elusive. One reason is that it’s not clearly defined. Webster gives us a vague idea, with its definition.
Excellence – An excellent (good) or valuable quality related to virtue.[/su_quote]
What Does The Bible Say Is Excellence?
I think we all knew that excellence was something good. The Bible mentions excellence and excellent people all throughout. Joseph, David, Daniel, John the Baptist and Jesus are just a few of the obvious examples. However, there is one story in the Bible that stands out to me as an example of someone being found excellent and being rewarded. The story doesn’t have a happy ending and the very things that cause this man to receive praise might be his downfall. It’s a story not unlike Saul that is almost forgettable, except for this one line in scripture. However, for now, let’s look at what Jeroboam can teach us about excellence and we can review his story in more detail later.
When we look at this passage and the rest of his story, we find that Jeroboam has some distinct qualities. He was “very capable” which in other translations point to Jeroboam being a powerful warrior. He was also industrious. These two traits caught Solomon’s eye and Solomon put him in charge of his forced labor. Likewise, Jeroboam’s excellence was seen from Heaven. When Solomon began to pursue other gods, Jeroboam was annointed as a king.
Excellence = Responsibility + Industriousness
In Israel at that time every young man would have served in the military. This is more than a line about how many enemies Jeroboam defeated. In order to be considered a powerful warrior, you would have had to serve well by being submitted to authority and made decisions that were in line with the will of the commander. In other words, you had to have the characteristics of a kingdom leader.
In order to be noticed, he would have had to do all of this and rose through the ranks as a leader. Before you dismiss this part because you don’t see yourself as a leader, hold on. As the son of a widow, Jeroboam likely had to take responsibility at a young age. Normally the loss of a father would set back a man. It has for many today. However, it was this circumstance that likely led to him being excellent. It’s never the loss that empowers, it’s the responsibility for one’s self that does. Leadership might be influence according to John Maxwell, but it starts with responsibility for yourself and for others.
If you look up the definition for industrious it describes someone always active. I really like this word over other labels, such as “task-oriented.” Have you ever met a person that can’t seem to sit still? They need to be doing something like this. The most famous of these industrious people might be Martha. When Jesus visits, she’s busy doing household chores and getting the place ready while her sister is just sitting there at Jesus’ feet. Most of us know this story and know people like this. I’m very guilty of this one in particular. I always want to be doing things and accomplishing things.
Another way to look at industriousness is that it’s the opposite of doing nothing. In other words, it’s taking action. You can see why taking action and having responsibility is a powerful combination. Essentially it means doing what needs to be done. When you work at completing tasks alone, you feel busy but you’re not excellent. It’s only with the responsibility added in that you are able to achieve excellence.
Pursuit of Excellence
The Bible charges us with the pursuit of excellence. We’ve already covered that excellence is Responsibility + Action or Industriousness. Ther is one other aspect of excellence that is often missed but was not missed by Solomon (or God). Essentially, the pursuit of excellence is being faithful in the little things. Little things matter. When you go from leading an army to an army of forced labor on big projects, details count.
The next time you want to pursue excellence ask yourself, am I being responsible, am I taking action and am I paying attention to the details. If you are, chances are good you are excellent!