A Man Of Excellence
A MAN OF EXCELLENCE
Pursuing Excellence (Part 3)
I have been exploring the idea of “excellence” in ministry over the past few weeks. I take note with some amusement that since I am not continually delving into the criminality of Hillary Clinton or the roguish behavior of Donald Trump, my readership has fallen off somewhat. Apparently, the idea of walking in excellence is not so attractive a topic as saving the world through a political coup.
However, I contend that real change will come in our culture not by the election of favorable political bosses, but by the continued walk in excellence of character by God’s people. If we will commit to engaging our culture in the power of God’s Spirit and with a hunger for personal excellence, God will raise some of us up to fill positions of great influence in the affairs of men. We must pursue excellence in our personal lives and by so doing, we will provide a playing field through which God can do some pretty amazing things.
So far, I have focused primarily on two individuals; Joseph and Daniel. You can refer back to two previous articles if you are so inclined to catch up: Pursuing Excellence and An Excellent Spirit. It was said of Daniel that he had an “excellent spirit.” I have wondered what an excellent spirit looks like in the real world. Here’s what I’ve discovered.
DANIEL HAD AN EXCELLENT MORAL ETHIC
When we examine the life of Daniel we will discover that this excellent spirit manifested itself over and over again. In chapter 1, we see that Daniel maintained high standards in his morality.
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. (v. 3-6)
Daniel and his friends were chosen among the elite of Israel to be trained as the seed-bed for a new breed of babylonized Jew. With his armies, Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the nation. It was through the re-education of these young people that the king sought to conquer the spirit of the nation. As these young men were to influenced by the pleasures and advantages of Babylonian life, they would indoctrinate not only their own generation, but generations to come through a slow process of cultural transformation. As these were trained in the new ways, they would train others and in time, the old traditional ways of their fathers would become antiquated and useless in this new culture. What Nebuchadnezzar could not account for was that within these elite young men there were at least a few who had that “excellent” spirit which could not easily be recultured. We see this exemplified in at least two instances. The first is in Daniel 1:8:
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
That same spirit is exemplified in the lives of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in Daniel 4:17-18:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But if not, be it known unto you, O King, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the gold image which you have set up.
If we are going to see excellence in the Body of Christ we must see men and women with an excellent lifestyle emerge in our midst. Daniel and his friends enjoyed the opportunity of a lifestyle of opulence, a lifestyle promising every convenience, a lifestyle of preferential treatment. It was not their fault they had been taken captive. It was not their fault that their nation had been subjugated. Why not simply “go with the flow” and take advantage of such a personal opportunity? Instead, they opted for a lifestyle of excellence which often demands great personal costs and risk. It is doubtful that any of us would not desire for the next generation of disciples to choose the lifestyle of excellence over the lifestyle of opportunity and convenience. If however, we want our children to be like Daniel, then their fathers must be like Daniel. If we want our children to choose the life of excellence of character who will teach them? Who will provide a model of excellence after which they can pattern their own lives? Who will be the Daniel for our children to take courage from?
DANIEL HAD AN EXCELLENT WORK ETHIC
It should be noted that an excellent spirit also belies an excellent work ethic. In chapter 6 of Daniel we we observe the passage of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon into the rule of Cyrus and Darius of the Medo-Persian empire. While Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar passes into oblivion because of his careless management and reckless lifestyle, we watch Daniel propelled directly into a place of influence in the next administration. He is placed into authority with two other men, and the three of them have direct authority over the 120 princes of the kingdom. So powerful is Daniel’s influence, he is noted as being the preferred of the three prefects because of that excellent spirit that is found in him.
[There is an important lesson to be learned here that should not be forgotten in the modern political arena- It is not only who sits on the throne who yields power, but who has the ear of the one who sits in the place of power.]
Because of their petty jealousies, the other presidents along with the princes over whom Daniel presided sought to find a point of accusation against him which might cause him to fall into disfavor with the king. Nothing really has changed since then as small men still try to look bigger by making others appear smaller. However, there was nothing in the performance of his responsibilities or in his loyalty to King Darius that provided a place of accusation.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no occasion or fault; for he was faithful and there were no errors or faults to be found. Try as they might, Daniel’s enemies could find no basis for any kind of accusation against him in the performance of his duties with regard to the kingdom. The scripture is very careful to point out here that this was not necessarily because Daniel had favor with God, but because he was faithful in the carrying out of his responsibilities. He was careful as well because they couldn’t find a single mistake in his work. The couldn’t identify a single instance of fraud, or any instance of sloppy workmanship or carelessness. Daniel was careful, diligent, thoughtful, prudent, and honest; and completely faithful to his superiors. So much so that even those who hated him admitted that they would not be able to find any occasion to bring an accusation against him.
What a faithful and honorable servant of God Daniel was. He was not a complainer. He was not a sloth. He was not a cheat. He, by the testimony of his enemies, was a faithful and careful worker; well trained and well able and willing to accomplish the tasks assigned to him with excellence. Would to God that even those who hate the church be compelled to say of us, “We cannot find an reason to bring an accusation against this one concerning his work because he is both faithful and careful.”
I am afraid there is too much occasion for accusation against Christians today. Men in the world who oppose the church and its message certainly don’t have to make up accusations because so many of us have become slack in our lifestyle and slothful in our work ethic. Excellence in ministry demands an excellent work ethic.
DANIEL HAD AN EXCELLENT INTERPERSONAL ETHIC.
In recent days, it has been easy to slip into an adversarial position with the world, and in many instances we actually relish it. Daniel’s lifestyle was in contrast to the lifestyle of Babylon and Persia. Daniel’s work ethic was embarrassing to his enemies because it was so superior to theirs. Daniel’s spiritual life was sterling and pure, giving him access to the knowledge and wisdom of God. he communicated both hope and judgement to the kings and princes of his lifetime and yet we see over and over again that Daniel managed to do this without becoming an adversary to power.
Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9)
Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. (Daniel 2:49)
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself and set his heart upon Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. (Daniel 6:14)
What is powerful here is that while Daniel was preferred in the kingdom and elevated and promoted within the kingdom, he compromised neither his personal standards nor his morals to maintain that status. There is no record of him compromising his message when he spoke on behalf of Yahweh. Look at his words to the throne:
Wherefore O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and turn from sin to righteousness, and repent of your iniquity by showing mercy to the poor, that it may add to your peace and tranquility. (Daniel 4:27)
This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. TEKEL: You are weighed in the balances and are found lacking. PERES: Your kingdom is divided among the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:26-28)
In chapter four, Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar that does not bode well for the king because of his pride and arrogance. Daniel does not gloat in the words of judgment for sin, but he pleads earnestly for repentance that the judgment might be turned away. Daniel had learned how to shun the sins of Babylon without hating Nebuchadnezzar. We need to learn how to fiercely hate the world and fiercely love the people of the world. We need to learn how to walk undefiled by the king’s meat while not alienating ourselves from the king. I am not suggesting here that we become friends with the world. I am saying that ours is a ministry of reconciliation and reconciliation rarely, if ever, is accomplished from an adversarial stance. We should never have a conciliatory stance toward the world, nor the things of the world system. However, a reconciliatory stance might be helpful in promoting the cause of Christ among the Nebuchadnezzars and Darius’ of our culture.
DANIEL HAD AN EXCELLENT SPIRITUAL ETHIC
Daniel steadfastly displayed an excellent spiritual ethic. By this, I mean that he recognized that the sources of his strength, wisdom, knowledge – – even his promotion in the kingdom – – came from God. Daniel 6:10 reveals that Daniel had a regular time of fellowship with God which he refused, even under threat of death to compromise or abandon.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed; he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, just as he had always done.
Daniel did not go to his place and time of prayer out of any spirit of rebellion or spiritual demonstration. The scriptures indicate that this was a time committed by Daniel to God which he was unwilling to compromise for any reason, or by reason of any danger. This time was so well known that even his enemies knew this was one “weakness” in Daniel’s life they might exploit. If they could just get the king to sign a foolish decree banning prayer they could then bring this accusation to the king. I pray that we become so spiritually ethical that the only accusation the world can bring against us is that we will not break our word or abandon our covenants.
The other important observation in Daniel’s life is that he bore responsibility for the people of God with a grave sense of duty. If one reads Daniel 9, he should be immediately impressed with the great spirituality and humanity of this man. (verses 3-15). Daily he intercedes for the people of God that they might know His mercy and His grace and His blessings. What a challenge to you and me who consider ourselves to be spiritually mature. Can we assume the same sense of responsibility for the next generation of believers? Can we bear the burden of a heavy heart for the blessings of god upon the people of God? Can we work faithfully and diligently to better the position of God’s people in the community and the relationship of the people of God to Heaven. We are ethically responsible to do so.