Dear Heavenly Father,
You are the Creator who does all things well. Help me to remember to work with enthusiasm, as though I were working for you instead of people. Give me the desire and the ability to handle the responsibilities you have given me with excellence.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Working with Excellence
Before we get started tonight, just by a show of hands, how many of you want to go out and embarrass yourselves tonight on the court? How many want to be labeled a terrible teammate tonight? Anyone want a poor performance tonight to be joked about for the next year at men’s Bible study?
If we’re honest, no one wants any of that. Let’s ask a few more questions: who wants to be known as a good husband, fiancé, or boyfriend? Who wants to be known as a good father? How about a good son or a good brother? Who wants to be known as a good employee or employer? Sometimes I fear that we take the first series of questions more seriously than the second. Guys, we want to excel at things we care about. If we aren’t passionate about something, we probably don’t care all that much whether or not we excel at it. I’m afraid too many men in this culture are more concerned about how they perform in a pick-up basketball game than about how they stack up as husbands, fathers, and workers.
Ephesians 6:7 tells us to: “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” We can spend a lot of time and money on things that bring us pleasure. But, to work at something that is difficult, and that doesn’t always offer instant gratification is…well…work! We would do well to picture our efforts to do the hard stuff in the light of how Paul describes it. If we focus our energy on working with excellence, as though we were working for the Lord, I’m convinced it would change much of how we go about our everyday lives.
Continuing our series on the example of Barnabas in Scripture, we will turn our attention to Acts 11: 22-26. In this chapter, we learn that the church had been reaching various regions throughout the Roman Empire because of the persecution it was facing. As we had mentioned in the first week of our study, Barnabas was from Cyprus, one of the cities that is mentioned in Acts 11. Barnabas is sent to another of the cities mentioned in chapter 11, Antioch. Verses 22-26 say: “News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
There is much about Barnabas that we can emulate that is mentioned in this passage. First, Barnabas was commissioned to investigate the new churches as the representative of the church in Jerusalem. This tells us that he was well-respected and trusted in leadership circles. This type of responsibility only falls on someone who works with excellence. Second, Barnabas once again showed that he had great spiritual sensitivity to what God was doing in the lives of the churches. Instead of acting out of pride or jealousy, he encouraged the new churches. If there still was any doubt about the character of Barnabas, the Bible leaves little doubt by describing him as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit.” Not content to just encourage the church in Antioch, Barnabas got involved by recruiting Saul to join him for a year in the city. Once again, Barnabas was able to go above and beyond what he was asked to do. His life was marked by a commitment to excellence.
Guys, if we want to see progress in our lives, we have to do the little things well. In addition, we have to work with excellence, especially when it comes to matters of the Kingdom. My challenge for all of us tonight, is to focus our creative energies, not on just perfecting a jump shot, but on things that have eternal ramifications.