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Elements of Excellence

I have always had the goal of pursuing excellence in my life and I believe everyone starts out this way. Looking back, I can see it was a drive in my heart from the time I was very young. I dreamed of being a super hero, going on great adventures, and overcoming insurmountable odds. As I watch kids play today, I see the same thing. Girls dream of being princesses. Boys fantasize about being pirates and knights. Kids talk of exploring and doing battles and being great. Then life grows bigger. We grow up, take on responsibility and enter the cynical world of adults where our pursuit of excellence gets tested. Tough circumstances and tough people threaten to steal from our hearts the motivation that used to give us freedom to think big and live with energy. As adults, it takes a decision in addition to a dream to keep the pursuit of a quality life in focus.
Defining excellence can be elusive. We all have a sense of what it is but have a hard time answering the question, “What is it?” As I read 2 Corinthians 13:11 this morning, I noticed a working definition. Paul gives 5 quick statements that help us put handles on what a life of excellence looks like.
• Rejoice! This is the attitude that tenaciously focuses on what is good about life. It is important to do when things are doing well so we don’t grow cynical waiting for the next bad thing to take place. It is even more important when the unwanted happens. We all face circumstances that are harsh, unexpected and demoralizing. At times, we even face scenarios that are so hurtful we would never even wish them on people we don’t like. Excellence calls us to rejoice over our eternal hope, the presence of Jesus in us, and the compassion we can have for others through our struggles.
• Strive for full restoration. One of the reasons Paul wrote to this group of people was to address relational problems that had infected their community of believers. He wanted the problems to be addressed, forgiveness to be realized, and repentance to be practiced so the relationships would be healed and not just tolerated. He wanted their relationships with one another to be reflections of how Jesus restored us to Himself through the cross.
• Encourage one another. This is the commitment people make to stand alongside one another in an effort to make each other better. It is more than compassion and nice words. It is the realization that we are all in this together and we will take turns needing reassurance, guidance, and assistance. Excellence says, “When it is my turn, I will receive it. When it is someone else’s turn, we will give it.“
• Be of one mind. Excellence accepts truth. Paul is admonishing his friends to discipline their thinking so they accept what is right. He is not blandly telling them to tolerate any and all views. Instead, he recognizes that people can only live excellent lives if their thinking is compatible with the way God made life. Otherwise, their thinking will lead to foolishness and self-deterioration.
• Live in peace. We all live in relationship with imperfect people. We, therefore, cannot demand perfection from them and must tolerate some conduct that is inconvenient but bearable. There is other behavior, however, that is so destructive it must be confronted and changed or it will ruin the opportunity to interact in any kind of healthy manner. Excellence pursues the wisdom to discern the difference.
Jesus, give us the wisdom, strength, and determination to live with excellence today.

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