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The spirit of excellence

Feb 10, 2015, 10:53 AM

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.”(1 Corinthians 12:31)

“I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you.” (Daniel 4:9)

Daniel had an excellent spirit. What does that mean? God had put a superior spirit in him that singled him out among his peers. He sought only what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. He did not dabble. He could hold his head high because of the values he nurtured. No crap! He was resolute in that he knew what he wanted – to please God and none other. God was high on his agenda. Put simply, Daniel was a man of no compromise.

Exiled in Babylon and living in the king’s palace, Daniel purposed in his mind to distinguish himself. Wonder why? Daniel was royalty. He and his colleagues - Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, were selected from among the Israelites “from the royal family and the nobility” when king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel and brought them back with him as slaves. These were “... young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” Check those credentials!

The underlining reason for the excellence they displayed could be traced to their upbringing. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) These folks in their teens were already honouring their parents. In three years they were to be taught “the language and literature of the Babylonians” prior to entering the king’s service. They were supposed to eat and drink “from the king’s table”, that is, what the king was eating. Daniel however sought permission from his supervisor “not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Though he voiced his reservations, the supervisor agreed to let them off the hook for ten days. “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food.” (Daniel 1:12-13)

At the end of the test, the Bible records that these young men “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” Mark you, there is nothing excellent about eating vegetables and still looking well-nourished. The excellent spirit is derived from the fact that Daniel and his mates refused to eat food or drink from the king’s table particularly when it was uncertain whether it could have been sacrificial meat that was offered to idols, or not.

Daniel refused to bow to pressure, and resolved not to bend or break the rules. He stood his ground (though not forcefully) by holding firmly to his moral commitment not to consume meat - most probably pork - forbidden by Jewish law. How committed can we be to the guiding principles that our parents have passed on to us; principles to help us scale some of life’s ordeals? How much strength can we muster in order not to bend the knee? What does it take not to compromise and devalue our standards because of some unexpected favour? It will take character and an excellent spirit.

At the end of the three years Daniel and his companions were brought before king Nebuchadnezzar. In the course of the exchange he remarked that he had found none equal to these four young men. “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20)

Having an excellent spirit is the trade mark of sound and sober upbringing, and is synonymous with the unchangeable and eternal principles transmitted to us by our parents. When our attitudes and lifestyles testify to the quality of parenting/mentoring we have received down the line, then the excellent spirit attributed to Daniel becomes our portion.

Succumbing to the influence of every ‘wind of doctrine’ that has flooded the marketplace would be a far cry from the excellence we should display and be identified with as Christians in this dark and wicked world. Cultivating the spirit of excellence also bears tangible fruits. It elevated Daniel. Whilst today’s generation may not think highly of excellence, yet it is still worth its weight in gold.

Seeking to excel in all our endeavours must be a natural phenomenon with us. Our Lord Jesus, our role model, makes it possible if we look up to him. Nothing is impossible with him.