"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
2 Peter 1:5-9
Faith and Excellence, foundation and first block
As we begin to look at the building blocks for perfect Christian living it is essential to build upon a solid foundation.
That foundation is Faith in Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:11
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
“everything that does not come from faith is sin”
John Piper has written a short and excellent article on this verse, I recommend it for context to this thinking about building on a foundation of faith.
It is essential that all we do is by faith, for if not we are in sin. That means that we can do very good things from a worldly human perspective but if it does not come out of faith. If it does not give glory to God it is sin. It is a great reminder that sin is a depraved condition of man primarily in relation to God and secondarily in relation to other. Just as the greatest commandments are primarily in relation to God and secondarily in relation to others.
So, in building ourselves up in the building blocks of being perfect it is essential that all is done by faith and to the glory of God. We are often motivated to do good things to benefit ourselves (to serve ourselves) or to attain glory or recognition for ourselves. Sin.
It is what we believe about Jesus and have faith in that should give birth to our building blocks.
Excellence: “to do well whatever you do.”
Almost all the translations say "virtue" - some say "moral excellence" or "goodness". I believe excellence pertains to more than morality and is closer to or more relatable as a description to what the character the bible is speaking to. The greek word for excellence is 'arote' and is very widely used. the word means to do well, whatever you do. Our excellence as Christians should be far more than religious obedience in the witness of other christians but a living witness to God in all that we do. The greek illustrates it nicely. In that the 'arote', or the excellence, of a horse is to run fast. In the same way the excellence of the Christian is to Glorify God.
Whenever I think of the idea of excellence in everything that we do, no matter our station, I think of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."
One way we can glorify God in our work is to do our very best. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10). In Colossians, in the context of a passage specifically about vocation—husbands, wives, children, parents, servants, masters—the Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). “Heartily” means “from the heart.” When we do good work, we honor the Lord who called us to that work.
The passage also shows how we can be motivated to do good work. We are to work “as for the Lord.” In his great discourse on the various vocations in Ephesians 5–6, Paul underscores this point in his discussion of how “bondservants” (employees) should serve their “masters” (employers). In all areas of our life we should be seeking to serve others and glorify God. We can follow Daniels example in every area of life.
Daniel, is perhaps one of the finest example outside Christ of a life of excellence. The incredible thing about Daniel is that He honoured God in all that he did and he was also highly esteemed and appointed to authority in a pagan kingdom by four kings!
Let’s take a closer look at the excellence of Daniel.
“Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” Daniel 6:3
In this post I would like to give an overview of the nature of Daniels excellence, but I encourage you to go through the book of Daniel focused solely on examining the character of Daniel in all his circumstances.
Ch.1: 1-7 Daniel was in the company of many when first selected by Nebuchadnezzar to be taken to Babylon. Daniel was a special kind of exclusive, there were many called to Babylon based on some discernible good traits among the Israelites.
Ch1: 8 Daniel stayed obedient to the Lord, not defiling himself. He knew clearly how the Lord wanted him to live and he put that before pleasing the people above him.
Ch 2:14 In the face of possibly being executed Daniel did not respond in fear or panic but with prudence and discretion (wisdom and caution)
Ch 2:17 having reaped an opportunity from the prudence and discretion Daniel responds by seeking out and informing his companions 1. To make them aware 2. More so that he could lead them to prayers to God for intercession, for mercy so that they, and the rest of the wise men may not be destroyed! Facing execution, he was not just focussed on himself but prayer, his friends, and all others in the same circumstance.
Ch 2:27 God acknowledges that he and all the wise men, enchanters, magicians or astrologers could not do the things the king asks of Him but declares to the Pagan King that his God is able. Daniel was constantly wanting to proclaim his God.
Ch2 :46 -49 After being appointed to ruler and bestowed with many great gifts Daniels initial thoughts were for his the other 3 he had fellowship with and had interceded with, that they too would be appointed over the affairs of Babylon. Interestingly in this moment of great influence Daniel does not demand their appointment but makes a request.
Ch 5:17 Daniel was not motivated by the gifts and rewards a king could offer but by simply fulfilling the duty he was called to by the king and gifted by God to serve in. Always giving God the recognition for what he would accomplish. He didn’t seek a bonus for fulfilling his job description.
Ch 6. Daniel lived in such a way to the honour and reverence of God that the other leaders of Babylon knew that he would never offend his God or limit his dedication or worship to him. They used this knowledge to set a trap for him.
Knowing that praying to God would lead him to be put at risk of almost certain death he refused to stop doing so. He did not even try to hide the fact but instead continued in the pattern of being in full display to culture around him.
Ch 9 Daniel intercedes, repents and pleas for mercy. Acknowledging the great rebellion and sin of the Israelites. In continuing his pattern Daniel here asks for forgiveness not for the people of Israel necessarily but for the sake of the name of the Lord. A righteous priority and perspective.
This book is also entwined with descriptions of prophetic visions that the Lord gave Daniel. A man who truly sought to glorify God no matter the cost or the temptation could be entrusted with such great responsibility.
In summary Daniel was competent, courageous, committed, compassionate.
His number one priority was the will of God and obedience to Him no matter the implications.
He sought to give Glory and honour to God wherever he could and did not seek his own reward or gifts.
Even when presented with opportunities he thought of his people to afford them promotions and in doing so more representation to God in a pagan culture.
Daniel was discerning of the circumstances around him and never responded out of fear but with a humble and balanced response, preferring instead to open an opportunity for God to show his saving hand and might.
Daniel demonstrated great trust in the Lord never preferring to cheat God of his worship or honour in place of his safety.
Even working for a pagan culture Daniel worked in his administrative and governing roles in such a manner that he was highly esteemed and renowned for his excellent spirit, knowledge and wisdom, and we know this was of moral excellence by his character.
Daniel’s heart was for the Lord and the good of his people. He was not focussed on himself but had a heart for his people, interceding for them and their rebellion to God that their pain and suffering would be minimised through the mercy of God.
The mind of Daniel was so present and conscious of the will of God that he did not see that pursuing his own comfort or reputation to be a thing worthy of his time.
In the call to “be perfect” it’s important that we, like Daniel, remember that our primary call is to give Glory to our Father in heaven and to Jesus Christ his Son. The building blocks we are learning are steps built on faith climbing to the goal of ever increasing Glory to God. Excellence in everything we do, can accomplish that purpose as we have seen.
Following the example of Daniel is quite the challenge, you may not feel that you can measure up to the call. Why don’t we take the opportunity to ask God for help in this matter of excellence:
Dear Lord, you know exactly where I stand at this moment on this issue of excellence. I need your help! By your grace and strength please enable me to establish the building block of excellence in my work, my family, and all other aspects of my life. Im not as far along as I ought to or would like to be. I ask for your help to get me there. In Jesus name, Amen.