An Excellent Spirit
by Rich Murphy
One of the cries we hear going forth from the world today is one for excellence. Too many people are just trying to get by, doing the minimum, and not really caring. Unfortunately, this lazy attitude exists in the church and ministry as well.
The world is looking for the church to be different than they are. Granted, each and every unbeliever has his or her own idea of what a believer should be. Of course, most of those ideas have nothing to do with what the Bible says we are to be. But, no matter how right or wrong their ideas are, when they look at us, they are judging our Lord and Savior by how we look and act.
I am sure, without a doubt that our God does everything He does in an excellent manner. I don't remember the specific statistics, but there are about a dozen environmental factors in our world that if changed less than one percent would cause us all to die.
I'm glad that when God created this universe, He didn't do things with an attitude of, "Well, that's close enough." If he had, we wouldn't be here. No, when He spoke the universe into existence He did so in a perfect, excellent manner; every detail and characteristic just right, from the greatest to the least. No mistakes, no errors, no remakes.
God expects us to portray His character. So, if He did and does things with excellence, we should as well.
Probably the greatest example of excellence we have, other than Jesus Himself, comes from the life of the prophet Daniel. Three different times in the story of his life we find the word "excellent" used in regard to him.
"Well, okay," you might say. "He had an advantage. Daniel lived in Old Testament times. He was a prophet. He didn't have the problems we have today. It was much easier to live an excellent life for the Lord in those days."
Wait a minute now. Are you sure of what your saying? Daniel lived and ministered during the time that Judah was in captivity to Babylon. The Babylonians were a pagan culture, anything but what we would think of as a good environment for serving the Lord. Not only that, but Daniel was a high government official during the reign of three successive kings, and still didn't compromise his excellence for the Lord.
Daniel's excellence of spirit comes more than anything out of the decisions he made as a child. Let's take a moment to look at the early part of the book of Daniel, and see how God was able to establish this man in His service.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had besieged Jerusalem, and captured the Jews. As he did with most of his conquests, Nebuchadnezzar relocated the leaders and nobles of Judah to Babylon. Amongst those relocated was Daniel, the son of an Israelite nobleman (Dan 1:1-2, 6).
To facilitate the government of his kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar would take some of the local inhabitants from each area and have them trained to be administrators for him. Since these people were part of the culture in that conquered area, they knew the people, their culture, customs, and language.
Daniel was among those who were taken into the king's service, and trained to govern his own people. Although Daniel was in Babylon, he didn't forget his God.
Notice in verse three that it says they were children. In the Jewish culture, when a young boy has his Bar Mitzvah, at age 13, he becomes a man. So, we can discern from this verse that Daniel was younger than 13 when he made the decision not to defile himself. I would say that he was probably 10 to 12 years old.
At that age, Daniel already had made the most important decision of his life. He was already so committed to his God that he would not defile himself in any way, but would seek to serve him with his whole life. Knowing the danger involved, Daniel stood his ground for God.
How much do we expect of our children? Many times, I have heard people say just the opposite of this. They write off the sins of their children to their age, saying: "Oh, well, they're just children." What a wrong attitude!
How would eating the king's food defile Daniel? There are two obvious ways that I can see. First of all, the food that the Babylonians ate was not prepared in accordance to the Jewish dietary laws as shown in the Torah (the books of the law). In more modern words, it wasn't kosher food. That in itself would have made Daniel defiled to eat the food.
In addition to that problem, there was a high probability that the food the king ate was food sacrificed to idols. The people of Babylon didn't worship the God of Daniel. They worshipped their own. It was customary in many ancient lands that the kings would eat the best of the food. That would have to be the food offered as a sacrifice to their gods. The offering would be made, part of the food would be left at the foot of the idol, and the king, the priests, and other important people would eat the rest.
Many would think that this was a minor point, and "God would understand" if Daniel ate the food. "After all," they would say, "he was in captivity at the time. He didn't really have a choice." Yes, Daniel did have a choice. He could make the choice to take a stand for God no matter what the consequences, and that's what he did.
Many people are afraid to take a stand for the Lord, because they're afraid of losing their jobs, or of just being ridiculed. But I tell you today, if you take a stand for God, you will receive favor. God will make sure of that!
Not only that, but just as Daniel did, you can put the Lord to the test on it. He was so sure of his God that he asked for a test. Even though the official was afraid, he was willing to go along with the test. Daniel relied on his God, and God came through for him. At the end of the test, it was obvious that God had taken care of him, and his companions.
Daniel put himself in a place where God had to move, and God did. That's what God likes. He doesn't get any glory out of a situation that we are able to take care of by ourselves. His glory comes from the impossible situations. His glory comes when we run out of possibilities in the natural. His glory comes when the problem is bigger than we are.
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his companions looked healthier and better fed than those who had eaten all the king's rich food. All they ate was vegetables, and all they drank was water. But God made what they ate and drank take care of every need their bodies had.
Daniel Didn't Compromise
More than anything, Daniel's excellence was shown in that he wouldn't compromise. We see how he didn't compromise in the above story. But, this isn't the only incidence recorded in Scripture where Daniel took a stand for his faith.
Later on in Daniel's life, in chapter six of the book of Daniel, we see a situation where Daniel is again forced to take a stand for God.
In this story, Daniel was serving King Darius, the third of the kings who raised him to a high position in their government. He was so highly esteemed by the king, that Darius wanted to raise him up to a position second only to himself in the kingdom. This of course enraged the other government officials, who set out to find a way to entrap and accuse Daniel.
How's that for a testimony of excellence? His enemies could not find any fault with him! As they spoke amongst themselves, they said, "We shall not find any occasion (fault) against him, unless we can trap him with the law of his God." They not only could not find anything he was doing wrong; but knew that the only thing they could do would be to create an artificial circumstance where he would have to break the law of man in order to obey the law of God!
Oh, that we would have a testimony like Daniel had. And oh, that we would stand as firm as he did when we are faced with our opportunity to compromise!
So, to create their artificial situation, the other government officials appealed to the king's ego. They asked him to pass a law which stated that nobody could pray to any man or god except the king (Daniel 6:6-9). Of course, it sounded good to the king, and he signed the law.
So, pretend you're Daniel for a moment. If you pray, you'll be cast into the den of lions. What are you going to do? Skip praying? Do it in secret? Put it off for a while? "After all," you might say to yourself, "God will surely understand that I must protect my life in order to serve Him." What do you think Daniel did?
Read that verse again; there's a lot there. Daniel did exactly what he had done before. Three times a day, he went into his house, with the windows open, and prayed, just like before. He didn't close the windows; he didn't stop praying; he didn't change anything.
Oh, and you can't say that Daniel kept on praying because he didn't know about the law. The first thing that verse says is that "Daniel knew that the writing was signed."
So, what do you think happened? Of course, since the whole thing was a trap, Daniel's enemies were there to see him praying. Not only a few of them either. Verse 11 says that "these men assembled, and found Daniel praying."
Well, you know the rest of the story. Both Daniel and the king were trapped by the circumstances. The king had to command that Daniel be thrown into the lions' den, saying to Daniel, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16). That's another great testimony for Daniel. The king knew he served God continually.
God, of course, delivered Daniel from the lions. Then, just in case anyone might be thinking that the lions weren't hungry, the Bible records that the king demanded that Daniel's accusers be thrown into the lions' den. The Bible tells us that "the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den" (Daniel 6:24 NKJV).
Unlike many believers, Daniel didn't compromise, even at the cost of his life. There isn't any promise in the Bible that says we'll get out of life alive. But, it does say that as believers, we have no reason to fear death. If we must die sometime, let's let it be a witness to others.
People with excellent spirits don't compromise their stand for the Lord.
Daniel Surrounded Himself With Companions of "Like Precious Faith"
Although this isn't an obvious characteristic of excellence, it is one that helps a person continue to walk in excellence. I won't take the time to list them now, but there are a number of verses in the Bible that talk about the effect that good or bad companions have upon our character.
When Daniel made his decision to not eat the king's food, his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego made the same decision. The four of them together determined in their hearts to serve God, even in the midst of captivity. God gave them favor, and all together they served God while working in the government of Babylon.
They also had their time of testing before God and the king. In chapter three of Daniel, king Nebuchadnezzar made a 90-foot tall idol and set it up in the plan of Dura (Daniel 3:1). A decree went forth from the king commanding all his subjects to worship this idol, whenever they heard the sound of music. He gathered all his government officials together before this idol to explain the decree, and test their faithfulness (Daniel 6:2-7).
Of course, Daniel's three friends refused to bow down and worship the idol and were singled out by the king.
I like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's reply to the king. It is probably one of the most incredible declarations of faith I've every seen:
Here they are, three Hebrews in exile, speaking to the most powerful king that's ever existed, and they say, "We don't need to answer you." I don't know about you, but I think that took some intestinal fortitude on their part. Then they say, "Our God is able to rescue us." That's a part we've learned to say real well in the Body of Christ. We expect our God to rescue us… however; we expect the rescue to come before we get into the problem.
But, the best statement of their faith was the phrase, "But if not." Just like Daniel, they were willing to die if that was necessary to maintain their holiness before God.
People with excellent spirits gather together with others who truly love the Lord.
Daniel Allowed God to Use Him
Another characteristic of excellence is allowing God to use you for His purposes. When God called Isaiah the prophet to the ministry, He said:
Isaiah's qualification for ministry was His willingness to be used by the Lord. Daniel's was the same. Even though he was a high government official, with lots of responsibility, he was still available to God. He didn't allow his position, his work, his schedule, or his pride to get in the way of being a simple instrument in God's hands. In fact, if anything, he recognized his position as the means by which God could minister through him.
Due to his position, Daniel had direct access to the king. Actually, he had access to several different kings at different times. Instead of only trying to use that for his own benefit, he used it for God's. When the opportunities arose, he spoke out for God.
Daniel was clearly a witness for the Lord. There are several verses where we see the various kings mentioning Daniel's God. In some of those, the kings say that Daniel's God is the only true God. Obviously the testimony of Daniel's life showed forth his relationship with the living God.
There were several instances recorded in the book of Daniel when the various kings received visions, dreams, and even handwriting on the wall. In each of these situations, Daniel testified to his God, saying that God would give the interpretation. Then, he went on to receive that interpretation from the Lord. He stated what God gave him, and gave God the glory for it.
Not only did Daniel interpret the dreams and visions of his kings, he received prophetic visions from the Lord, such as the visions in chapters 7 and 8 of Daniel. In this manner, he operated just as the other prophets in the Old Testament. He obviously had a close enough relationship with God that God was able to reveal things to him. Not only did God reveal things to him, but the messenger that God used was Gabriel, one of the archangels; instead of just any other angel.
Finally, Daniel allowed God to use him as a teacher of the Word of God. In chapter two, king Nebuchadnezzar received a dream that troubled him (Dan 2:1), but couldn't remember it (Dan 2:5). None of the wise men of Babylon, known as Chaldeans, could tell him this dream (Dan 2:10-11), but Daniel, received both the dream and it's interpretation from God (Dan 2:19). When he told this to Nebuchadnezzar, the king promoted him, making him ruler over Babylon, but also over all the wise men (or Chaldeans) of Babylon (Dan 2:48).
When Jesus was born, "wise men from the east" came in search of Him (Mt 2:1). How did these wise men know to look for the "king of the Jews?"
They knew because they were Chaldeans, the descendants of those whom Daniel had been put in charge over. Obviously, more than 500 years earlier, Daniel had taught the Chaldeans the prophecies about the Messiah who was to come. They had passed this information on for over 500 years, so that these wise men could come and bring gifts to that Messiah when he was born.
God used Daniel in many different ways, but of all of them, this is the most striking. A Jew in captivity, taught God's Word to his captors, and had an effect on the birth of his Messiah.
People with excellent spirits allow God to use them.
Daniel Wasn't Afraid to Tell the Truth - He Was a Man of Integrity
If you look at the various dreams and visions that Daniel interpreted for the kings, there is one common theme that stands out. In each of them, the news that Daniel gave to the king wasn't something that the king would want to hear. Yet in each of these cases, Daniel told the king the truth. He didn't change his words to soften the blow any. He told the kings exactly what God had said to him.
Nor did Daniel use the words of God to gloat over the kings as the enemies of his people. He was direct, honest, and sure of what he was saying. It may not have been what the kings wanted to hear, but they were sure that Daniel was giving them his best.
I think that it was this quality of honesty and integrity that impressed the kings the most. They could always count on Daniel to tell them the truth, and do the right thing.
If the courtiers of those kings were anything at all like the courtiers we find in more modern history that was probably a pretty rare quality. We see throughout the Bible that there were always false prophets giving the kings "good" words; telling them how much God would bless them. Always quick to say something to garner the king's favor, instead of telling them what God was saying.
Daniel even went a step further than just telling the truth. In Daniel chapter four, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream but couldn't remember it. Instead of taking the opportunity to prophecy what he desired to the king, Daniel went to God to seek that same dream. He could have probably said anything to the king, but he sought the truth on the king's behalf.
People with excellent spirits are people of integrity.
Daniel Always Gave God the Glory
In each and every story from Daniel's life, whether he was interpreting a dream, standing for God in prayer, or interpreting a sign, Daniel took the opportunity to glorify God.
When king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him, he called for the magicians and wise men to tell him his dream and interpret it for him. They couldn't do what he wanted, because he wouldn't tell them the dream. Of course, had he told them the dream, they could always come up with an interpretation, but he was seeking a true answer, not just any answer. When the magicians couldn't tell him, he demanded their execution, which included Daniel (Daniel 2:1-13).
However, when Daniel heard of this, he sought the Lord for the dream and its interpretation. As soon as he received it, he raised up his voice in praise to God (Dan 2:19-23). But, that wasn't all, when he went to the king with the answer, the first thing he did was give the glory to God (Dan 2:28).
Later, when king Belshazzar received the writing on the wall, Daniel again started out his answer by taking the opportunity to give God the glory (Daniel 5:18).
Every opportunity, Daniel publicly gave God the glory. He didn't try and steal God's glory for himself, nor did he try and hide his faith. He used the opportunity of his life and his position in the government to glorify God and let others know about his God.
People with excellent spirits give God the glory.
Daniel Knew the Word of God
At a time when the rest of the Jews were probably not paying much attention to God, Daniel was seeking through God's Word to find out what God was going to do.
He had such a desire to know God, and know His will, that he was searching the scriptures. In Jeremiah, chapter 25, he finds the scripture where Jeremiah prophesied the captivity of Judah to Babylon, and that it would last for 70 years. But, he didn't just stop there and have a party. The rest of chapter nine deals with Daniel repenting before the Lord for the sins of his people.
Daniel obviously knew enough of the scripture to add 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Deuteronomy 30:1-3 to the prophecy he found in Jeremiah. Then, he took action on it.
Knowledge of God's Word enables us to be in a position where we can accomplish God's will. We can only live a life of excellence, when we do it in accordance with God's will. Although Scripture doesn't exactly tell us so, it is obvious by looking at Daniel's character that he knew and applied God's Word to his life.
People with excellent spirits know the Word of God.
Daniel Was an Intercessor
As I mentioned in the previous section, Daniel repented before the Lord for the sins of his people. One of the surest signs of a prophet is that all prophets are first and foremost intercessors. Much of what God shows them they never reveal to anyone, they just pray about it.
Daniel took his knowledge of scripture, and God's plan, and instead of beating the people over the head with it, took it upon himself to intercede for them.
The greatest ministry in existence isn't the preaching of the Word before thousands of people. The greatest ministry is the secret ministry of prayer and intercession. Those that preach before thousands don't accomplish the change in the world that the intercessors do. Yes, preaching is important. But without powerful prayer there can be no powerful preaching. Without prayer that touches God's heart, people's hearts won't be touched. Without changing things in heaven, nothing will change here on earth.
Billy Graham, one of the greatest evangelists of our day says that of all the people who make a decision for the Lord in his crusades, only two percent are in a church after one year. That's not exactly an impressive statistic. I can't fault the evangelist for this, he's doing his part. But somewhere, those people forget the decision they made.
On the other hand, if you look through the history of the church, every revival that has ever happened started because of a small group of people who were interceding. Through those intercessory prayers; people crying out for God to move; many thousands have come to know our Lord and Savior.
People with excellent spirits intercede for the world.
Daniel Was Patient and Steadfast
We live in a microwave society. If we can't get our answer instantly, we don't want it. If our food doesn't show up within two minutes of our order, we're upset. If we pray, and don't see the manifestation immediately, we think God isn't listening. We aren't willing to wait for anything.
In Daniel chapter ten, the prophet Daniel was seeking wisdom and understanding from God the Father. He undertook a partial fast for this time, spending much time in prayer, seeking the Lord.
Finally, at the end of twenty-one days, an angel came from heaven with his answer. It wasn't that God had taken that long to answer him, it was that it had taken that long for the angel to battle his way from the throne room of heaven to bring the answer to Daniel.
What do you think would have happened if Daniel had quit seeking the Lord halfway through that fast? That angel would have lost the ability to fight his way to Daniel, and would have had to return to heaven, carrying the answer that Daniel needed.
This is what happens with us most of the time. We pray and ask God for something, and then when we don't see it happen right away, we stop seeking. The angel who has been dispatched with our answer must then return to heaven, taking our answer with him. Unfortunately for the angels, we keep asking, and then turning away from God, over and over again. There are probably a lot of frustrated angels traveling back and forth trying to bring the same answer.
People with excellent spirits are patient and steadfast.
Daniel Was An Excellent Employee
Daniel served in high positions of the government for about 80 years of his life. That's an incredible accomplishment in any time of history. However, in those ancient times, it's an even more amazing accomplishment because normally a new king would kill all the advisors of the previous king. Yet Daniel continued to serve for four successive kings.
The Bible records that for at least three of those kings, the king raised Daniel to one of the highest positions of trust and authority. Why? Because of his excellence.
Remember in Daniel chapter six, when the other government leaders wanted to trap Daniel? They said: "they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God" (Daniel 6:4-5). They couldn't bring any charge against Daniel, because he was faithful, and all his work was done without error or fault. That's an incredible testimony!
We need to have the same kind of testimony. When the boss wants something done, and it has to be done right, he should be able to count on the Christians in his employ. Why? Because we are to do all things as unto the Lord (Col 3:23).
This goes in the church as well. The pastor should not have any problem finding people who are not only willing to serve, but who do it with excellence. Not a sloppy job, but a job they would be proud to show the Lord.
People with excellent spirits are excellent employees.
There is a call for excellence going forth today. The world is looking for it, but more importantly, God is. Will you answer that call? Or, will you like many, ignore the call; thinking it is for someone else?
This teaching is also available in our book "Wisdom For Christian Leaders"
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Copyright © 2003 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.