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Seeking Excellence or Just Getting By?

The phrase "good enough for government work" is an idiom indicating that something is done just well enough to get by.  It is based on the notion that work for the government is not typically done with much care.  Whether or not that notion is true or fair, the attitude described by this idiom is real, and it is present in many facets of life.  For example, doing just enough to get by has become the preferred method of operation for employees who work only hard enough to keep their jobs and their paychecks.  Likewise, many manufacturers do just enough to meet only the minimum standards of safety and quality for their products.  In the home, doing just enough to keep the family going has become an acceptable standard for husbands, wives, parents, and children.  In education, the standard of achievement is to teach or learn just enough to pass the required tests regardless of whether the subjects are mastered by the students.  In all of these areas, the lowest acceptable measure has become the goal.

This "get by" attitude may be adequate in the world, but it fails in the kingdom of God. The Lord has never accepted minimum effort and second quality in service to Him.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37).  Such complete love for God is not demonstrated by half-hearted efforts and lame sacrifices.  Instead, it is proved by those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).  It is demonstrated by those who deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24).  It causes those who love God to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). Such lovers of God do not aim merely to do just enough to get by, but instead they seek for excellence for the sake of the Lord. 

An attitude of excellence for a Christian is not just a matter of lofty rhetoric, but instead it is a practical way of life. It begins with keeping his behavior "excellent among the Gentiles" (1Pet. 2:12).  In other words, a Christian must exceed the world's standards for moral behavior.  This does not mean that he simply stays one level above the world's corruption, but rather his behavior is so outstanding that he appears as an alien and a stranger (1Pet. 2:11).  In fact, the world's standards of morality have no bearing on a Christian's behavior, for his mind is on the standard of heaven (Phil. 4:8).  Notice Colossians 3:1-4:

1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

This attitude of excellence permeates all that a Christian does.  In the home, Christians seek to fulfill their God-given roles as spouses, parents, and children (Eph. 5:22-6:4) rather than just making the home a place to eat and sleep.  In the church, Christians want to function as vital members of the body of Christ (Rom. 12:3-8; 1Cor. 12:12-27) rather than simply "going to church" once a week because they feel compelled.  In the workplace, Christians work in the sincerity of their hearts as to Christ and not by way of eyeservice as men-pleasers (Eph. 6:5-8).  In all things, Christians observe the direction of Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

An attitude of excellence also means that Christians do not "rest on their laurels."  In other words, they never consider that they have done enough to suffice in the Lord's kingdom.  Instead, they have the same spirit that was expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:12-14:

12Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Indeed, a Christian's spiritual eyes are always cast forward, looking for more opportunities to serve the Lord.  Even when Christians have done well, it is their desire to "excel still more" (1Thess. 4:1, 10).

Therefore, let us reject the "get by" attitude of the world and take on an attitude of excellence.  Remember that we serve Jesus Christ, who is worthy "to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).  Christ deserves the very best we can give, for He gave His very best for us so that we might be saved.  Just getting by may be good enough for the world, but servants of the Most High God must seek for excellence.

Stacey E. Durham



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