There is Grace in the Pursuit of Excellence

What I learned when I failed at being “perfect.”

Has your Christian walk ever fumbled after failure? Mine has. Of course it has. But this summer, I failed a small, yet mighty, test that forced me to expand my understanding of what it means to truly walk with Christ. It was a test that I had asked for. I prayed, “God reveal to me what I need to know in an undeniable way.”

And he did.

What surprised me the most about not passing this test is how quickly condemnation crept up. The enemy tried to use this test — the same test I prayed for — as a tool to hold me hostage and to separate me from Christ. I felt myself wanting to recoil and give into the separation. I thought: I’ve messed up — how could I? I know better than this.

Sometimes it’s in our pursuit of excellence that the enemy is able to wreak havoc on our spiritual walk and cause separation. He wants you to think that you have to be perfect in order to be used by God but we know that this is a lie, as lie is all Satan knows how to do (John 8:44).

Yet, somehow, excellence is a guiding value in many areas of our lives, and even in our walk with God. We want to be like Christ. We want to hear well done. And so we pursue excellence. The word pursue means to follow, almost aggressively, after a thing. But what God revealed to me this summer is that as we pursue excellence, we must acknowledge that it is a lofty and moving target. Who can grasp and hold onto excellence always? We may achieve excellence in one area or on one particular day and then on the next fall short.

That is the nature of our human condition.

But when we fall we cannot remain down; we must get back up and aggressively continue our pursuit. You know the saying: this is a marathon, not a sprint.

How do we get back up? For some, simply taking the time to return to God’s presence and spending time in his word will be enough. However, as Christians, it helps to surround ourselves with other like-minded believers who can encourage and remind us that there is grace in the pursuit of excellence (James 4:6).

Our communities remind us who we are in Christ

We need community and time with the Holy Spirit to remind us that not only are we predestined and called by Christ, we are both justified and glorified. We are more than conquerors in Christ and nothing can deny us this truth — nothing can separate us from the love of God and the call that he has placed on our lives (Romans 8).

It is so important to keep this in perspective. We can pursue excellence, but God knows that we all fall short of perfection, and he loves us anyway. We often read in James 5:16 to confess our sins to one another, but what speaks to me in this scripture is the play-by-play of how to overcome the realities of waging war with our flesh while living in a fallen world: If you’re suffering, pray. If you’re sick, ask for help. If you’ve sinned, confess. THIS is the pursuit of excellence!

In each of these we are asked to take the next step to move us from hardship to holiness. But, we must first resist the temptation to wallow in our own guilt and condemnation and silence the lie of the enemy trying to convince us that separation from Christ (and our calling) is what we “deserve.”

What is it that you need to do to get back (or stay) on track in your pursuit of excellence? For me, I had to show up. When I reached out to my sister in Christ and shared how condemnation was creeping in, she immediately shattered the lie of the enemy in my head and assured me that now is the time that I need to press in more than ever. God has revealed to me what I asked and I can praise him for the trial because it produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:4). And it is our hope in the Lord that allows us to renew our strength and continue this walk (Isaiah 40:31).

This is my prayer for you: I pray that God will keep you and shine his face upon you, even if or when you may have turned your face away from his. I pray that the Holy Spirit will rise up within you and remind you who you are in Christ and equip you with the boldness and the confidence that comes with an identity that has been predestined, justified, and called. In the name of Jesus, I cancel the assignment that Satan has on your life to condemn you and whisper lies that you are not excellent “enough” and I pray that God will turn your test and trials into the hope that allows you to quickly realign with the Holy Spirit and continue your pursuit of excellence and Christ himself, revealing his glory within and upon you here on earth.

I’m an ordinary person but I’m saved.