“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23 TEV).
During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps gave us an extraordinary display of the pursuit of excellence. But the truth is every athlete in the Olympics pursues excellence as peak performers in their categories of competition.
The Bible identifies five characteristics of people who excel at what they do.
1. People who excel work with enthusiasm. Regardless of whether the job is big or small, give it your best. Great performers give their best effort, no matter the size of the audience: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23 TEV).
2. People who excel sharpen their skills. They never stop developing, growing, learning, and improving: “If your ax is dull and you don’t sharpen it, you have to work harder to use it. It is smarter to plan ahead” (Ecclesiastes 10:10 TEV). It takes more than desire to excel, it takes skill! Remember, you’re never wasting time when you’re sharpening your “ax.”
3. People who excel keep their word. They are reliable. They can be counted on to do what they say they’ll do. So they excel because people of integrity are rare in our society: “Everyone talks about how loyal and faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is!” (Proverbs 20:6 TEV).
4. People who excel maintain a positive attitude. Even under pressure, or change, or unrealistic demands, they don’t allow themselves to become negative: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life . . .” (Philippians 2:14–16 NIV). And remember: “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes” (Ecclesiastes 10:4 NLT).
5. People who excel do more than is expected. This is a secret that every successful person has discovered. You’ll never excel by only doing what is required. Jesus said, “If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously” (Matthew 5:40–42 MSG).
The Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein once told the story of seeing the top of the Statue of Liberty from a helicopter. He was impressed because of the incredible detail the artist had sculpted on an area that no one was expected to see. In fact, the Statue of Liberty was completed with no idea that man would someday be able to fly over the statue!
When you’re tempted to cut corners, thinking, “No one will ever know,” remember God is looking down and sees everything you do. Give him your best this week!