Equipped for Excellence Part 1 of 7 (Ephesians 4:11-13; Daniel 6:1-3)

Figure 1: Reasons for Failing on Resolutions

At the time this post is being written people are setting off fireworks, gathering with friends to welcome the new year, and considering resolutions. Are you considering a resolutions for the new year? Maybe you are not considering a New Year’s resolution. After all, most people do not keep them. But some do, beloved! And there are things that you can do to increase the likelihood that you will succeed.

  • Get in a Group – Successful individuals reported more stimulus control and willpower. Social support and interpersonal strategies became important after the first six months of pursuing the goal.
  • Expect Failure but Forge Ahead – Successful individuals are likely to experience 14 slip-ups during a 2-year interval, indicating that resilience or the ability to bounce back from setbacks is essential for goal success.

Did you see the part about the slip-ups? (It was the second bullet.) If you make a resolution there are likely to be failures, mishaps, and mistakes. Who plays a difficult piece of music the first time just because they decided to play it? Practice is needed. That practice involves repeatedly attempting to play the music right — pursuing excellence. And you should not stop pursuing excellence or making the decision to try again. But we have to be equipped for it. This is where the servants in your church should prove to be helpful.

Equipping for Excellence (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

The question that so-called apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers have to ask is whether or not the people being served are being equipped (Ephesians 2:10). The measure of the ministry is not in the magnitude of the crowd but in the increasing capability of the congregation, the move toward maturity in those being mentored, and the mobilization of those who are supposed to be making disciples. It is nonsense to take the title but not the task. Imagine calling oneself a fire fighter but refusing to fight fires. Even so, it is absurd to be regarded as an apostle but not apply oneself sacrificially and through suffering to the building up of the body (1 Corinthians 4:9-12).

The aim of the apostle, the point of being a prophet, the desired effect of evangelism, the purpose of being a pastor, and the task of the teacher is the equipping of the saints for serving and the building up of the body. He or she lives to lead you into a fruit-bearing walk with God. Excellence in your life is the purpose of the pastor’s life (Ephesians 4:12).

The Essence of Excellence is Spiritual (Daniel 5:10-12; 6:1-3)

Example 1: Excellence as the Outworking of the Spirit is Indisputable Among Infidels and Idolaters

King Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, made a great feast in his palace. He was not content with good company and sumptuous living. He had to take it a step further and (1) drink from the sacred things taken from the temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 5:2) and (2) praise the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone (Daniel 5:4). God responded to his arrogance with a sign that shook the king to the core (Daniel 5:5-6). When they could find no one to read the writing that was produced in the sign, the king’s wife suggested they seek help from a man characterized by excellence.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. 

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.

Daniel 5:12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”

Do not miss it! In this country of pagans and idolators Daniel is recognized as having unusual abilities. Most importantly, his abilities are attributed to his excellent spirit (Daniel 5:12). In fact, Daniel is regarded as being host to the Spirit of the Holy God (Daniel 5:11). Excellence in life is the outworking of underlying spiritual excellence.

Later another king will require help with the management of the kingdom. The same Daniel, now about 80 years old, is recognized as being the best there is. Why? Read it for yourself.

Example 2: Irrefutable and Immutable Evidence that Excellence is the Outworking of the Spirit

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom;

Daniel 6:2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss.

Daniel 6:3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.

The reason for Daniel distinguishing himself at his advanced age is very clear – an excellence spirit was in him (Daniel 6:3). What kind of spirit is in you? Can it be improved?

Christ-Centered Concentration on the Core (Proverbs 20:9; Matthew 12:34-35)

There is a problem, though. As much as we would like to have an excellent spirit, the heart is desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). It is unknowable and unrighteous and cannot be made right by human effort (Proverbs 20:9; Romans 7:24-25).

The Purification Problem (We will come back to this.)

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”?

And everything we say and do comes from the heart (Matthew 12:34-35).

The Principle of Production

Matthew 12:34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Matthew 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

If there is going to be excellence in our lives it will need to begin with the inner man. The heart will have to be the priority and focus of our efforts. This is what Jesus tells the high and mighty religious folks of his day.

The Priority of Pure Production

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

Matthew 23:26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also….”

But how? It will have to be replaced (Ezekiel 36:26). And the inner man will have to be washed and regenerated (Titus 3:5). Finally, love will have to be poured out into the new heart (Romans 5:5).

Do not set your bar lower than excellence in this year. Make one more resolution to bring God-honoring excellence to your work as a mother, father, brother, sister, employer, employee, husband, wife, son, daughter, ministry leader, civil servant, and school teacher. But start with a change of heart. It all begins with giving your life to Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Action Items to be Equipped for Excellence

1) Take The Notes

In genius studiesCatherine Cox (1890-1994) (CR:103) was an American psychologist noted for her 1926 book Early Mental Traits of 300 Geniuses, in which her and a group of psychologists at Stanford University methodologically assign IQ values (see: Cox IQ) to the top 300 geniuses, that lived in adulthood age during the years 1450 to 1850, based on the magnitude and density of their intellectual accomplishments over their lifespan. (Hmolpedia, n.d.)

Researcher Catherine Cox studied the habits of 300 geniuses — luminaries such as Isaac Newton, Einstein, Thomas Jefferson — and discovered that all of them were “compulsive” journal or diary keepers.

2) Take The Knee (Luke 11:1).

3) Acknowledge the Need (Psalm 51:10; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:5; Romans 5:1-5). Change will not come unless we acknowledge our need and come to Jesus for it.