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One-a-Day...for the Heart: An Excellent Spirit

Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm (Daniel 6:3 KJV).

An excellent spirit stands out as one of the highest goals to seek in serving the Lord. Few people attain it, and when you encounter a person of excellent spirit, there is a certain purity and nobility that leaves an indelible imprint.

Daniel was completely smitten by God's love, and he was committed to upholding God's laws and precepts as he modeled a life of absolute surrender to the Lord. When thrown into an uncomfortable situation of life with his enemies, Daniel continued to faithfully serve the Lord no matter what consequences might occur. Each time he chose to honor God—whether in speech, worship, prayer, submitting to authority, or even eating—he courageously displayed an invisible breastplate of righteousness and shield of faith in the face of compromise, threats, and temptation.

What is an excellent spirit? I struggled for years striving to achieve perfectionism in almost everything I did--schoolwork, jobs, dress, parenting, playing piano—everything. During an unforgettable time of personal ministry in 2006, a very godly, seasoned pastor who did not know me kindly looked me in the eyes and said, “Excellence, Chris, not perfectionism. That's what the Lord wants from us!” Busted by the Holy Spirit! Clearly, excellence and perfectionism are not the same.

A huge weight lifted, and it was as if scales fell from my eyes. What did Daniel know that I did not? Lots, I'm sure, but he learned some valuable skills while walking with the Lord that produced an excellent spirit. It is within our reach, too, and by diligently incorporating a few principles of Christian living, we can attain excellence just as he did. Every hair will not be in place; every relationship will not be Pollyanna-pretty; every task will not be flawlessly completed, and yes, we will still fall prey to sin that needs Jesus' blood to cleanse.

The following excerpt is from Pastor Eric Gonyon's 2-part teaching on A Spirit of Excellence, which can be accessed through Revival Ministries International at Gonyon differentiates excellence from perfectionism as follows:

Excellence and Perfectionism Are Not the Same.

Definition of excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good, distinction, quality, superiority, brilliance, greatness, merit, caliber, eminence, and mastery.

Definition of perfectionism: a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.

“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Psalm 18:30 KJV).

"For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him” (Romans 12:3 AMPC). Excellence is humble, teachable, and free. Perfectionism is proud, arrogant, and legalistic.

Excellence is being led by the Holy Ghost. Perfectionism is driven.

Excellence is about preferring others. Perfectionism is only about you.

Excellence is faith driven. Perfectionism is fear driven.

Excellence flows like a river. Perfectionism is performance with pressure.

Excellence is always green and growing. Perfectionism is ripe and rotting.

Excellence has joy. Perfectionism has depression.

Excellence is a journey. Perfectionism masks itself as a destination.

Notice that God's way is perfect, not ours. God can and should have a superior attitude because He IS supremely superior; we are not, therefore we are exhorted not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

It is quite unpleasant to be around someone who is full of himself. In contrast, Jesus emptied Himself, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV): Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant.

One of the most effective disciplines in cultivating an excellent spirit is to “work heartily, as unto the Lord”. Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23 AMP). A half-hearted approach to life, work, relationships, the Lord, etc. does not lead to an excellent spirit. Nothing about God is middle-of-the-road or mediocre.

It was also said of Daniel (Daniel 5:14 (NKJ) that he had excellent wisdom—extraordinary wisdom. He was honored and revered as being wiser and more capable than all the other administrators and high officials in the empire. Daniel had learned to fear the Lord above all else, and his wisdom exemplified the scripture in Proverbs 9:10 (KJV): The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

In our pursuit of an excellent spirit, how do we get wisdom? We ask for it. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5 NLT).

Putting God first in our lives gets His attention and develops excellence in our spirits. Fearing Him and adhering to His ways yields wisdom from above, which is excellent wisdom, not man's solutions. One who is of excellent spirit is full of the fruit of the Spirit and in a constant state of being made more like our excellent Lord. Why not make it your highest goal?

© 2024, Chris Custer Werre

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