HOLDING OURSELVES TO A HIGHER STANDARD
For over 40 years I have positioned the words of this plaque within eyeshot of my main working area. “EXCELLENCE can be attained if you… CARE more than others think is wise… RISK more than others think is safe… DREAM more than others think is practical… EXPECT more than others think is possible.” A contentment with average has always been the main enemy of the best.
Companies that are making their mark and growing in the midst of uncertainty and cultural change are those that have determined to hold themselves to a higher standard. Churches that are growing and being effective in the work of the ministry – regardless of size – are those that are clear on their mandate and refuse to allow themselves to drift or accept time-consuming secondary agendas as acceptable. What is true of companies and churches is also true of individuals.
People who hold themselves to a higher standard know why God has placed them on this earth. They are frequently renewing their focus on purpose. “Why has God put me here and am I doing all I can to accomplish that?” Actions are regularly scrutinized to ensure they are aligned to their overall reason for being. People who hold themselves to a higher standard don’t just prioritize what’s on their schedule – they schedule their priorities.
The Apostle Paul is a sterling example of one who worked to hold himself to a higher standard. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,” he writes to believers in Philippi, “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. …One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)
Again and again we find Paul challenging churches and individuals to stay the course and not lose heart. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) “I want you to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (3:10-11) “Stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (4:1) “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1:6)
John appealed to the churches in Asia Minor to hold themselves to a higher standard. To the church in Ephesus he said, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:5) To the church in Pergamum who had incorporated some false teaching and slipped into sexual immorality, he raised the flag of excellence and called them back to full allegiance to Christ. And to the other five churches in the region he similarly issued the call to a higher standard as the people of God.
So what is the fundamental difference between those who push for that higher standard and those who just coast? It reduces most often to two things. Clarity and passion. Clarity on their reason for being – and a passionate pursuit of that goal – often leading to caring more than others think is wise; risking more than others think is safe; dreaming more than others think is practical; and expecting more than others think is possible.
Dr. Charles Stanley likened life to a ladder we climb until we die. He adds, “It would be a shame if we simply sat down and never progressed. But it could be utterly disastrous if we placed our ladder against the wrong wall and after a lifetime of climbing discovered that we had wasted all the years given.”
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group (Loads of Love)
Proverbs 8:1-11, 32-36; II Cor. 5:9-10; 6:1; 8:1-5; Phil. 1:20-21; 3:8; Duet. 7:6