LEGACYouth: The Importance of Being Excellent

One of my favorite 80’s movies is Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I mean…you talk about a blast from the past in more ways than one. This movie, man…it definitely qualifies. Not to mention you get to see Keanu Reeves show some actual emotion for once in his career.  

But in all seriousness, with all the ‘Back to the Future’ talk this week, I couldn’t help but think about the movie, particularly the iconic speech scene when Abe Lincoln proudly proclaims: “Be excellent to each other… and party on dudes!

Granted...you’re probably wondering why the random movie reference.

Well, let’s start with the word “excellent”; specifically…what does it mean to be excellent?

When we talk “excellence”, we normally associate the term to satisfactory or above satisfactory performance…which isn’t too surprising considering we’re conditioned as kids to think as such. Even as adults, the tendency is to discount excellence as a quantitative assessment. Yet, when we consider excellence is more an integrity virtue than a performance appraisal, we find its true core has more to do with giving your best than anything else.

Consider the following:

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Excellence is not a level of perfection we hit. It is your very best right now with what you have.” ~ Jad Gillies

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” ~ Pat Riley

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” ~ Ralph Marston

"Excellent people exceed expectationsYou can run into mediocrity accidentally but you have to purpose to be excellent." ~ Joyce Meyer

"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…[working] at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." ~ Colossians 3:17, 23-24

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Note the common threads…particularly how excellence is just as much (if not more) pursuit as it is outcome.

But here’s what really rocks me having processed these passages: Excellence is one of the few things in life we’re meant to strive for.

But wait, Cam, isn’t striving a bad thing?

Well, not necessarily. Yeah, I get how the word “strive” tends to rub people the wrong way, especially in a “grace vs. works” context.

However, when we define excellence as “giving it your bestshot1, then we can understand spiritual striving as living faith determinedly and living strength enduringly.

In other words, when we strive for excellence, and make the desire known to God, He not only provides the day-to-day strength (present courage), but the steadfastness (continued courage) to see it through. Pretty cool, eh?

You see…far too often, we focus on just one end of the spectrum. For instance, whenever I used to feel lost or challenged, my default would be to ask God for endurance…to stay the course…to press on no matter what; however, once I recognized endurance as the follow-through to what I wasn’t asking for, my whole perspective changed. More specifically, once I realized my joy had latched on to a future hope as opposed to present striving, I was able to re-center my faith into the “now”, which in turn, renewed my commitment to be more excellent with the tasks God had given me (#gamechanger).

Of course, I still messed up from time to time; however, whenever obstacles came, I was able to conquer them more quickly since I had become more equipped to not give up/give in.

How, you might ask? By believing I had been given the present strength to do all things through Christ...and the steadfastness to continue doing so! By His grace, I discovered I could be what I prayed in the moment…while giving others the opportunity to trust in what I believe.

And it's this truth...this reality, dear ones, that captures the essence of excellence. To live as Christ (Philippians 1:21) is ultimately what being excellent is all about.

So next time you’re tempted to wave the white flag in the face of adversity and/or apathy, consider the relationship between effort and testimony. ‘Cause if to be excellent means to strive for the best, then that best should point people to a better place. Thus, it makes perfect sense to be excellent in what God has assigned for us considering it cannot be removed from our testimony.

Footnotes
1)      Bam! That’s what I call marrying the secular to the sacred!
Photo credits: brianknittings.com

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