Good, Better, Best

It is not a sin to be average if that is what you are, but it is a sin to be mediocre, for mediocrity is being average when you have the ability to do better. It suggests indifference and complacency.

Mediocrity is one of the curses of current Christendom. Mediocre Christians attend mediocre churches shepherded by mediocre pastors, ministered to by mediocre deacons, inspired occasionally by mediocre choirs, blessed by mediocre facilities, kept busy by mediocre programs, staffed by mediocre teachers, directed by a mediocre staff, all doing a mediocre job! This is not to say there are not many ministries that exhibit a standard of excellence in ministry, but too many are settling for less than their best. It’s an encroaching affliction on the 21st-century church.

“It’s a sin to do less than your best,” a great evangelist preached, and with scriptural authority. With unparalleled opportunities available to today’s Christian community, we have succumbed to a comfortable state of mediocrity. We, like the first-century church, are “rich and have need of nothing.” Never before has a church had so much—of opportunities, of freedom, of  knowledge, of resources (including money), of manpower, of material advantage, of anything and everything—as the late-20th and early 21st-century church.

Yet, we’re not gaining ground on the task of world evangelization. We’re not even gaining ground on the task of winning our own cities!

Why? For many reasons, no doubt, but we’d have to put “mediocrity” at or near the top of the list. We’ve settled for the convenient. We’re content to “get by.” We’ve grown accustomed to being satisfied with past achievements. We need to shake off this stranglehold that mediocrity has on us, and we need to settle for absolutely nothing short of our very best for Jesus Christ.

Here are some basic principles that, if made a part of our mindset and melded into our core-belief system, will help us to avoid the trap of mediocrity as believers living in the last days:

  • Each of us has been endowed with certain “unalienable” God-given talents, capabilities, and responsibilities. What is “best” for one person will differ from what is “best” for others. God has equipped each of us uniquely to serve Him, and there is probably something that you can do with great skill. Find out what it is and how you can use it to serve God—and do it! You may be multi-talented by the grace of God, and you can use those abilities to bring glory to your Lord and Savior.  You can and you should!
  • The greatest ability is dependability. Jesus taught using illustrations and stories from nature and from life. Remember the parable of the talents that He shared? (Matt. 25:14-30)

A man took a long journey to a far country, but before doing so he gave to his servants his goods, “to every man according to his ability.” To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to a third he gave one talent. After a prolonged period of time, the lord returned and demanded an account of how his servants had employed the talents entrusted to their stewardship. The man who had been given five had put them to work and gained five more; the man who had been given two had also put them to work and had gained two more. The man who had been given one talent hid it and had no gain to report. The first two stewards were commended and blessed for their wise use of what they had been given; the third was cursed and damned for his unwise, indolent misuse of what he had been given to work with. The sober lesson must not be lost: “Thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.” The test was dependability according to ability. We are not measured against other servants, but according to what we have done with what we have been given to work with, considering our ability to do so.

  • There is no difference between the “secular” and the “sacred.” To the believer “every bush is a burning bush, and all ground is holy ground.” Plowing is just as important as  preaching, if God has called you to plow. Being a mechanic is just as sacred as being a missionary, if you are doing what God wants you to do with all of your heart and doing it “as unto Him.” There are no “big shots” in His kingdom, just servants. One task is no more crucial than another, one servant no more important than any other servant.  The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
  • To avoid mediocrity in one’s life, the believer—surrendered, serving, and to the best of his ability using his God-given talents and opportunities, and exercising the spiritual gifts he has been equipped with by the Holy Spirit to build up Christ’s body—must be able to affirm that “for me, whether eating or drinking, or whatsoever I do, I will do it, by His grace and in His power, to the glory of God.” (cf. I Cor. 10:31) Above all, rely absolutely upon the power of the Holy Spirit in every endeavor. Jesus did everything that He did in His earthly ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38); so must we!

Charles Rolls, a co-founder of the Rolls-Royce car company, once walked through his factory and overheard a lathe operator say, “Oh, it’ll do,” as he threw a part into a bin. Rolls stopped and reprimanded the employee with these words: “That may do for anyone else, but it will not do for Rolls-Royce.” Rolls expected his workers to use a micrometer and to be satisfied with nothing less than their very best. That should be our standard for the King of Glory. He has given us His best. How can we settle for giving to Him only what will do? Let us shake off the numbing grip of mediocrity and determine to give to Him our very best!

“Good, better, best; never let it rest, ‘till your good is better, and your better’s best.” (anon.)

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Eccl.9:10)

P.S. If you are a bit taken aback by my bluntness in assessing the church as cursed by mediocrity, let me assure you that this was a judgment that first of all began at the house of God. I preached this message to the church I pastored on the last Sunday of July, 1988, and again on the fourth Sunday of September, 2010. If you took this personally, that is good, for that is exactly how I intended it to be taken. Selah.

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