What if on a date night with my wife, I pulled up to the drive through window of McDonalds? Would she be “lovin’ it”? Unless she was a Ronald McDonald fanatic, she would rightly get the impression that I don’t really value spending quality time together with her. Even if I biggie sized her meal, that would still be an anemic display of the level of love and respect. If I didn’t make our date a priority, what do I think of her?
What does that communicate to my wife? How does a happy meal explain how I value her? Does this reflect the joy I find being married to her? She certainly would not feel very special even if I did order her that happy meal. In fact, she may even be severely tempted to think I didn’t care for her at all.
On the contrary, if I get all dressed up and take her to her favorite restaurant in town, would that communicate something different? Of course! By striving for excellence, we demonstrate a substantial level of respect and honor. Where we spend our time, thoughts, and resources denotes where our values are. The more I strive to be excellent to my wife, the more I communicate her value to me and the more joy I find in her.
I have this tendency to think that because my salvation rests in Christ, and not in my works, that I can be lazy when I serve. Sure I can say I am joyful, but does that joy show at all? Does it matter that I don’t tune this instrument or keep the books straight? Who cares if I show up late for handing out bulletins? God’s sovereign so he’ll take care of anyone I missed. I am already saved, so why does it matter if the chairs are in straight rows?
Excellence is a product from the joyful worship of God. Like date nights with my wife, my allowance of mediocrity testifies to the joy and value I find in God. We should be excellent in serving because it is the manifestation of the value of God himself. Our mediocrity can be construed as ingratitude. Ingratitude for being made in his image. Ingratitude for His providence. Ingratitude for salvation. To serve God and not strive for joyful excellence is like eating food without ever really tasting it.
As we strive for excellence by resting in His, we bring increasing glory to God. The whole world sees the power of God to change a hopeless sinner into a joyful servant. We have received the gift of salvation in order that we may bring God glory, not the other way around. We should not abuse our new-found access to God by using it as an opportunity or an excuse for joyless mediocrity.
When the passion is gone, motivation goes with it. We typically call this becoming “burnt out.” Most of us have experienced this at one time or another. Left unchecked, over time the grace of God slowly fades to gray in our eyes. Our passion for something once so vital and so amazing has now morphed into something we treat as routine or common. The apostle Paul warns us not let this happen by using our freedom to serve more diligently, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
In most cases, my problem is not laziness or busyness. It is a lack of gratitude and joy in the Gospel. Thankfully, God is ever merciful to encourage us by renewing our hearts afresh as we meditate on the Gospel. As we come to understand the implications of Christ’s excellence, we come to a place where our serving takes on a whole new meaning.
Jesus’ work on the cross was both excellence manifested and excellence purchased. His work was the final definitive statement and that grants us eternity with God. 2 Peter 1:3 states, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” He endured God’s entire wrath so that we may have the un-searchable riches of God. Jesus suffered it all so we could have it all!
Joyful excellence also communicates the value and joy that is found in the Gospel to those who don’t know Christ. The more we strive to serve others with joy and excellence the more of God’s power and grace is on display for unbelievers. What does it say about God’s grace and love to us if when an unbeliever walks into the church, he or she is greeted with only obligatory smiles? What if he also finds a messy sanctuary, off-key music, and disgusting bathrooms? Lack of care, joy and excellence says very little of the holy and powerful God.
The good news is that our failures and complacency do not hinder him from saving souls in the slightest. We desire joyful excellence in what we do because it communicates what God has done for us to others. It invites others to come discover the God that people desire to be joyfully excellent to. “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16. We should strive for joyful excellence because it brings glory to God.