Written by MayBell Developments – August 31st, 2021
It is human nature to want to succeed. To be the best of the best. Biblically we are told that we should strive for excellence. Yes, we should strive to be the best at our work and relationships but how does this look from the Bible’s perspective? Our world would tell us that we should succeed even at the cost of the lives of those around us. Let’s look to Daniel and Paul who model true excellence.
Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
– Daniel 6:3
Daniel had an excellent spirit. In the book of Daniel, we can see his character and how he modelled this excellence every day of his life. Daniel modelled wisdom and discretion in his patience with the ungodly around him. Though many would have been frustrated by their actions Daniel always acted on God’s Will through prayerfully thought-out words (1:8-16). As Daniel spoke God’s Will, he would have been overwhelmingly aware of the unpopularity of the visions given to him. He would have known that many of the things he spoke could have meant physical discomfort or even death for him and yet he trusted in God and had the courage to speak (4:27; 5:22,25-28).
Daniel’s strong faith meant that he was wholly focused on God. In times of turmoil, he turned first to God asking him for favour and compassion (1:9, 2:17-18). In fact, Daniel’s faith was so strong that he continued to turn to God even when there was a death sentence for doing so! (6:10-11) Turning to God in times of need is not always a characteristic of an excellent spirit. There are many people who will turn to God as a last resort even if they do not put their faith fully in Him. A truly excellent spirit will turn to God first when in need but will also exalt God first when in times of rejoicing. For every vision that Daniel was given he praised God. We don’t see Daniel taking the credit for the gifts he was given by his Creator. At every opportunity, he gives all the glory to God as he humbles himself and exalts God (2:28-30).
Daniel’s excellent spirit is revealed in his actions through wisdom, discretion, courage, faith, and humility. These are all qualities we can ask God to encourage in ourselves and those around us. Our God loves to give good gifts!
The book of Daniel was written in Aramaic from which the word “excellent” is translated as “yatîr”. Yatîr is an adjective that can be expanded to include pre-eminent, surpassing, or excellent. The New Testament book of Corinthians was written in Greek, however, we find similar meaning in the Greek verb perisseuō. Perisseuō can include being pre-eminent, to excel, to make abundant or excellent. We see perisseuō used in the verb “excel” in 2 Corinthians 8:7.
But just as you excel in everything, in faith, speaking, knowledge, and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you also excel in this gracious work.
– 2 Corinthians 8:7
It may be helpful to read perisseuō as “abundance”. Paul is discipling the new Church in Corinth in their character, in what they should be abundant in. We will take some time to break down each of these characteristics.
Faith (pistis): We should overflow with abundant faith. As we saw in Daniel’s full reliance on God we should demonstrate complete belief, trust, confidence, and reliance on God and in Christ.
Speaking/Utterance (logos): We should excel or make excellent our speech process. The word logos does not imply the physical form of speaking but the entire act, including our thought processes, that go into communicating. We should work to communicate clearly and in a way that is pleasing to God.
Knowledge (gnōsis): The word used here implies a specific understanding of the Christian faith and of moral wisdom. We should desire abundance in the knowledge of God and not knowledge of the world. Drawing close to God in prayer, we can ask for the wisdom and discernment of Daniel.
Earnestness (spoudē): In this way, earnestness means diligence in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. We are abundant in our intent to strive after God’s will, promoting it to those around us and being dedicated to seeing it accomplished in our lives.
Love (agapē): The world sees love as a romantic endeavour. The Greek word agapē implies a brotherly love, a disposition of goodwill and benevolence towards one another. Agapē love is serving one another ().
Gracious work (charis): In the previous verses Paul has been talking about the generous giving of the Corinthians. The gracious work that Paul is referring to here is the reflection of God’s divine influence on our hearts and the abundant joy and delight we should find in giving to those working to do His Will.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
– 2 Corinthians 9:7
The pressure we feel to be abundant according to the world surrounds us on a daily basis. We are frequently tempted to “keep up with the Jones” in our accumulation of belongings and wealth. As Christians, we have to be diligent about not falling into this trap. Having and maintaining an excellent spirit requires an ongoing focus on God and His Will for our lives. Let us pray for God’s good gifts of wisdom, discernment, faith, courage, and humility not only for ourselves but also for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The world defines success as rising above others. True, Godly success comes only as we rise together. Push each other to become better, to excel, in faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, love, and joyful generosity. We encourage you to rise together with us as we serve one another in love.
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