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A Commitment to Excellence
All the passages below are taken from Jim George’s book “God’s Man of Influence,” published in 2003.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
-COLOSSIANS 3:17 NIV
The captain of the plane came on the intercom with a cheery voice and announced that we were fifteenth in line to takeoff. Having put everything away in preparation for takeoff, Elizabeth and I sat in our plane seats with nothing to work on. If your job requires for you to fly, you know that's an unpardonable sin---plane time is work time!
So as we sat there on the runway at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, we began looking at the Sky Mall catalog that is placed in every seat pocket. (As you can tell, we were pretty desperate for something to do!) In the catalog we noticed a unique collection of audiotapes entitled "The World's 100 Greatest People." Can you imagine the honor it would be to end up on the list of the 100 greatest people out of the billions who have ever lived on this earth? Who were these people, we wondered, and what made their influence so great? What had they done to become part of such an exclusive list?
These questions were so compelling that I pulled out the telephone provided for plane passengers and made a collect call to order the tapes. As I hung up the phone, the captain came on the speaker and said we were making good progress ... now there were only ten planes ahead of us!
With those questions continuing to bounce around in my head, the tapes finally arrived and I tore into the box and began to listen and learn about these people of influence---people with "Achieving Personalities," as they were described. I began to notice a single, shiny golden thread that was woven throughout the lives of these greats---every one of them had a commitment to excellence! Their lives of influence and accomplishment radiated a desire to do their best in their field of endeavor.
That's what excellence means---doing your best. Which brings us to our next visible sign of a man of influence-he, too, is committed to a life of excellence.
Many of the "world's 100 greatest people" were committed to excellence because they saw their life as a stewardship. And that should be our focus as well---which brings up another definition of excellence:
Excellence is the maximum exercise of one's gifts and abilities within the range of responsibilities given by God."
This is a very important definition, for it keeps in mind that God is the one who determines the standard of excellence for us. The measure of excellence is unique for each one of us because God has given each of us a different set of talents and abilities. And He expects you and me to be good stewards of those resources.
You and I must see our lives as a stewardship from God and an opportunity to fulfill His desires for our lives. How can we do this? Let me describe our stewardship as men of influence in this way---it's spelled E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-C-E.
E - Eyes the goal---A man of influence lives a focused life. Regardless of the distractions that come his way, he concentrates on the matters that have the greatest importance. He knows and accepts that he will not be able to do all things, and certainly not do all things well. What one grand goal will your life be known for? Paul understood our need to keep our eyes on the goal. He declared, "This one thing I do," not "These many things I dabble in"!
X - Excels at finding solutions---A man of influence is creative. He is always thinking, always finding answers and fresh solutions. He is flexible, innovative, and always endeavors to find a way to make things work.
C - Curious about the future---A man of influence is a visionary. He is a forward thinker. He is a planner. He plans for the future in his personal life, in his business life, and ultimately he has planned for his future life in eternity. As a visionary, he will have a powerful and permanent influence on his generation because he is able to see more and farther ahead than others. He is a man of faith, for faith is vision.
E - Excited about change---A man of influence is flexible. He has a burning desire to know the truth and he is flexible, willing to make changes in his life if they're needed.
L - Learns from everyone---A man of influence has a passion for learning. He has an unquenchable thirst for growing, and he willingly seeks out anyone who can aid his thirst. He prepares himself for any task by researching, reading, and training. A man with a spirit of learning will encounter no hurdle he cannot overcome. It's been said that continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field. This passion for learning was a major element in the powerful influence of Henry Stanley, who lived in the 1800s and started his life with every disadvantage you could think of. He was deserted by his mother when he was only two and raised in a "poorhouse." Stanley could have excused himself (like most do!) from any opportunity to live a life of influence. Yet with a passion for learning, he went on to become a missionary and explorer in Africa, a member of the British parliament, and was knighted in 1899.
L - Loves to take risks---A man of influence is not a fool. . .but he is also not afraid to take risks. He simply will not settle for security and comfort. He is willing to break with convention if he believes that to be the will of God for his life. When I lived in Singapore with my family, I had the privilege of meeting Hudson Taylor, III, the great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission. Hudson Taylor felt led by God to go to China. However, no mission board would sponsor him. So he founded China Inland Mission. Because of his willingness to take a risk, he and hundreds of others went to China under this mission's banner and were a great influence for the cause of Christ... all because God was able to use one man who was willing to take a risk.
E - Endures opposition---A man of influence is willing to endure pain, suffering, and persecution in order to accomplish God's demands on his life. He will persevere through all obstacles and opposition. We've already considered the apostle Paul's life of adversity---the prisons, the beatings, the treachery, the persecutions (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). "Yet," as is written, "from such rocky soil grew the fruit of his ministry. Adversity builds character, perspective and vision into the life of a leader.""
N – Names failure a learning experience---A man of influence has Resilience.. .with a capital R! He is able to bounce back after what seems to be a failure. He uses his failures as learning experiences. Every step is a step forward. And no defeat is final. Every time I think of this quality of excellence, I think of Thomas Edison, the great inventor of the light bulb, who endured 10,000 tries before he invented the incandescent lamp.
C - Convinced of what he is doing---A man of influence has conviction. Anything he believes to be the will of God is entered into with the full force of his being. Therefore he can endure great difficulty and adversity in the course of completing the task. His confidence is not in his own abilities, but in God's ability to work through his limited abilities. As martyred missionary Jim Elliot exhorted, "Live to the hilt any situation you believe to be the will of God."
E - Envisions a higher purpose---A man of influence has a sense of God's calling on his life. Whether he is a minister, a missionary, a mason, or a meter reader, he does his work as though doing it for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). He is compelled to live out every area of his life to the maximum (to the hilt!) for God's glory and the good of others.
Excellence. Brother, don't leave home without it! Endeavor, by God's grace, to live each day to its fullest, to live each day to its maximum, to live each day with excellence. And that, of course, is going to take commitment. As Vince Lombardi said in the quote at the beginning of this chapter, "The quality of your life will be determined by the depth of your commitment to excellence, no matter what your chosen field."
Determining to Become a Man of Excellence
The question for you (and me) today is this: Where, what, and how deep is your commitment to excellence? In relation to commitment, one sharp writer divided people into four types:
· Holdouts---People who don't know if they can reach their goals, so they're afraid to make commitments.
· Dropouts---People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough.
· A11-outs---People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to reach them.1
I'm sure your desire is to do well with your commitments, to be an all-out man of influence who makes a lasting impact. With that desire in mind, here are some ways you can improve on making and keeping your commitments.
Determine the areas of your life where a greater commitment is needed---How you spend your time and money are the two greatest indicators of your focus and interest. So take a look at your calendar and your checkbook and determine what you've been committing yourself to. Ask yourself if these are the right priorities for you as a Christian man. Ask if these pursuits will enable you to have a lasting impact. Maybe you need to readjust your priorities. If you're a workaholic, a sports fanatic, or overly materialistic, maybe you need help in re-prioritizing your life. Remember to make the things of God your first priority. As the scripture verse for this chapter reminds us, "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).
Determine the extent of commitment that is needed---Some areas of life call for more of a commitment than others. For instance, exercise requires commitment, but it doesn't demand the same level of commitment as your job. Ask God to help you discern the level of commitment required in each area of your life. And always remember that excellence ought to be your goal in all the areas you commit to. That's where the influence will come from!
Determine if you are willing to make that higher level of commitment---After giving thought and prayer to your priorities and the level of commitment needed in each area of your life, the next step is to determine if you are willing to pay the price of excellence. It will cost you to be a growing Christian man of influence. It will cost you to be a man of God. It will cost you to be the kind of husband the Bible calls you to be. It will cost you to be a good parent and to be the best at work. It will cost you to serve in your church. Commitment to excellence always comes at a cost!
Determine what it will take to keep your commitments---First, ask God to help you follow through on the commitments you want to make for His glory and the good of others. Second, ask someone to hold you accountable to those commitments. Finally, remember that God has handed you the baton for "the race of life." Others are depending on you to keep your commitments, whether it's at home, on the job, or at church. Please, don't drop the baton that's been passed to you...keep your commitments! [161-167]
1. Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, 20
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