I’ve lived in my current home for 11 years. Other than my childhood home where I lived for 12 years, this is the longest I’ve lived in one place. The house was about 20 years old when we bought it – not very old in house-years. But over the last decade, I’ve been surprised by the upkeep I’ve had to pour into the house.
As soon as we moved in, the one-year-old roof started leaking. Within a year, the exterior paint was screaming to be overhauled. And the carpet throughout the house has ripples in it. There are a few other annoyances around that house that show the place just hadn’t been maintained well before we bought it. Every Saturday morning I wake up to a honey-do list of repairs. I also wake up to the memory of a conversation I had with the seller after we’d closed the deal. It went something like this:
Me: So, Ed, you’re a lawyer. What kind of legal work do you do?
Ed: Oh, you know, divorces, DUIs, defense work for misdemeanors and small felonies – the kind of stuff [cases] you get sitting at bar. I go to Johnny’s after work and just talk to people.
And then, connecting another passing conversation, it dawned on me – Ed’s clients were also his housing trades contractors. All the work had been done with trade-out labor. Ed represents old Bob on a DUI in exchange for laying some new carpet. Dwayne and the Missus split up so Ed got a new roof out of it for just the cost of materials. My entire house has been “kept in shape” by Johnson County’s criminal element. Makes sense now. Let’s grab a couple words from our Sponsor… look out, here come da’ Judge!
They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7:37)
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. (Ecclesiates 9:10)
(This last one is kind of funny. I know a pastor who brags about saying this to his son all the time. It’s kind of weird because it actually says, “You’re going to die and be buried, might as well do a good job today.” Encouraging words?)
Throughout scripture, followers of Jesus are called to excellence. The way we live our lives is a testimony to our sense of self-worth and also the value we find in God loving us. Long before Jesus was revealed to be our Savior by conquering Death, He lived excellently. He didn’t feed five people, He fed 5000. We didn’t wade in water, He walked on it. He didn’t say “I’m sorry you feel bad”, He told the lame man, “pick up your bed”.
Yes, many things Jesus did were miracles, but even more of His life was revealed in His speech and His daily activity. He didn’t slack off or do things half-way. I really think somewhere in Israel right now there are a couple kitchen chairs that are just over a couple thousand years old - built to last by the Carpenter of Nazareth. Followers of Jesus are called to follow Jesus’ excellence as well. People should be saying about you, “he/she does all things well.”
I’m going to stray off the reservation here to relate another personal story. When I’m not writing illustrations about following Jesus, I yack about barbeque restaurants. A few weeks ago, I had an experience that was not so great and I wrote a review that reflected as much. I shared the review with the restaurant owner. To my amazement, I got the sweetest email back from him. In short, he re-committed himself to the claims he’d made about his joint. We’ve dialogued several times since then. I’ve discovered that he, too, is a follower of Jesus and he’s mentioned he wants to be excellent in all the areas of his life – consistent with his claims of being a follower, and a barbequer. My heart soared when I heard that. Philippians 4:8 (above) is one of his favorite passages.
Follower of Jesus, what does this illustration say to you. Have you been giving God “trade-out” value – a get-it-done-and-get-it-over-with approach to following Jesus closely throughout the day? Wouldn’t now, right now, be a good time to commit to staying right on Jesus’ heels and living a life that reveals the excellence He expects. Let me hear from you. I’d love to encourage you on your excellence adventure.