Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9 (NIV)
My oldest daughter loves to make things for me and her mother – drawings and cards decorate our walls and both of our desks – but it is clear that she has moved from quantity to quality over the years. Her drawings are more detailed and realistic, her cards are more thoughtful and legible and she expresses her feelings with clarity and meaning.
My youngest daughter has just begun her journey in this area, presenting pages full of scribbles and scratches, but containing just as much love. I am just as pleased with the scribbled page as the drawing of a sunset over the mountains; because the desire to express pure love should be valued at the level it is presented. This same value system applies to homework, chores, getting ready for bed and dozens of other areas where love is communicated by action rather than words.
I have been convicted lately that I just might be falling short in this regard in my relationship with God. Am I giving Him scribbles on scrap paper when I could be producing works of art? Is the quality of what I do consistent with who I am doing it for? How well am I communicating my love to God through my actions and words? I fear that sometimes I am operating at the toddler level when I could do far better. Excellence is a funny thing because it isn’t just about doing your best, but striving to do better.
I pray that God will continue to work on my heart and mind in such a way that works of my hands are excellent. I want to possess the qualities of Christian living in “increasing measure.” I want to pursue excellence instead of waiting for it to fall in my lap. I want to let my Heavenly Father know how much I love Him with child-like purity without childish immaturity. Lord help me to be your growing, maturing child of excellence.
6 responses to “Practical Theology: Excellence and the Work of Our Hands”
Greetings: Once again, you touch home. Remember the steps at the back of the church there in Beaverton? One day while I was unloading the boxes of food and bringing them down the stairs, Belle (granddaughter) was “helping”. I would pull out some box that she could handle and she would proudly carry it down the stairs “for me”. She was definitely hindering my progress, but was totally thrilled to be “helping”. As she was helping, it suddenly dawned on me that the Lord was “allowing me to do His Work there in Beaverton through the ministry of The Salvation Army” even though He really didn’t need me, and even though I was probably just getting in His way most of the time.
I pray that He will continue to be patient with me and, as a retired pastor of the Salvation Army and a yet a child of God, to be used by Him in a more efficient way in the years to come.
Your brother in Christ,
Great story, Keith. It is amazing how much I have learned about God’s grace to me through parenthood. Children are involuntary teachers in God’s hands.
Your brother in Christ,
Really enjoyed this one. Thanks hon!
Another great post, Chris. This phrase is the one I’m chewing on: “child-like purity without childish immaturity.” How often the opposite it true for me (i.e., I exhibit childish immaturity without child-like purity!). I’m with you in pursuing excellence.
Thanks Tim. I think it hinges around the tention of maturing in Christ while maintaining humility and awe. It is difficult in our world to be excellent at anything without the pressure to be proud and arrogant.