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Search For Excellence!

1 Corinthians 12: 27-31

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it... Are all apostles?
Are all prophets? Are all teachers...? Earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way
."

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian church, says that the church is like the human body
-- all parts have to work together.
Some for healing -- some are physicians.
Some for instruction -- some are teachers.

Then, he talks about a higher gift of the spirit.
It is the gift of Christian love, which he describes in 1Corinthians 13.
He introduces this chapter by saying: "I will show you a still more excellent way."

When we think of excellence in the history of our own country,
we are reminded of Benjamin Franklin.
There was a schoolboy who wasn't so sure about Benjamin Franklin.
He was required to write an essay on Franklin's life.

He squirmed in his chair, chewed his pencil, took out a piece of paper,
wrote at the top of it, "Benjamin Franklin," and then, produced this masterpiece:

"Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, but got tired of Boston and moved to Philadelphia.
When he got to Philadelphia he was hungry, so he bought a loaf of bread.
He put the bread under his arm.
He walked up the street.
He passed a woman.
The woman smiled at him.
He married the woman and discovered electricity
."

The best selling nonfiction book of 1983 was entitled, "In Search Of Excellence."
There seems to be a new concern for excellence in our land -- in education, in business.
There is also a growing emphasis on exercise and physical fitness.
We are not content to sit back and watch the world go by.

A former football coach for a western university was once asked by a television reporter
what contribution modern football had made to physical fitness.
His reply was, "Absolutely nothing."

He defined football as "22 men on the field who desperately need rest,
and 50,000 people in the grandstand who desperately need exercise
."

We have seen the tragic consequences of indifference and neglect in our country
The late Sen. Adlai Stevenson, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations,
once remarked, "This is a rich and resourceful country.
But its spirit of adventure and invention may be drying up.
Nations fail, when that happens
."

There is a sense in our nation today of that happening to us.
Other nations are beginning to challenge our moral leadership.

A manufacturing firm once used an advertisement which stated that it wasn't the Goths
that defeated Rome; it was the free circuses.
Luxuries, power, and indulgences had made the Roman people soft.
The ad went on to say that to stay popular, the emperors gave the people more and more
of the ease they craved -- free bread, free circuses, and easy living.

So, the Romans were too soft when the ambitious, hard-working barbarians invaded.
Then, in A.D. 410 the greatest nation the world had ever seen fell.

We are beginning to understand the danger of complacency and neglect.

As someone once said:
"When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence,
it may be that they take better care of it over there
."

In the 1960s and the 1970s it was out of vogue to talk about hard work.
Creative use of leisure was the concern of the day.
What we forgot was that the human creature is designed in such a way that complacency
and neglect are destructive to the human spirit.
The time-honored principle -- use it or lose it -- is still true!

Excellence requires hard work!
We may not like work.
We may agree with the man who said that he loved work -- he could sit and look at it all day.
Nevertheless, it is true that hard, enthusiastic work, with a high and lofty motive behind it,
is essential to society and to the human spirit.

The search for excellence is a great Christian principle.
We are stewards of our minds, our bodies, and our souls.
We must seek the best.
Neglect and complacency are among our deadliest enemies.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said:
"The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night
."

Excellence requires not only hard work, but it also requires a spirit of adventure.

I read about a man who was invited to try out a friend's new sailboat.
The owner said, "I have been sailing for 70 years,
and would you believe that in all those years I have never tipped over a sailboat
?"

The other man looked at him unbelieving.
He was a veteran sailor.

"Are you serious?" He asked.
"You sailed for 70 years and never tipped over? I don't think you have ever really sailed."
The veteran sailor knew that part of sailing was the possibility of capsizing.

Excellence always involves risk.

Paul was a man who was never afraid to risk his life for Christ.
Whether he was speaking to a hostile crowd in a marketplace or shipwrecked
on some island in the Mediterranean, he was a man who lived life to the fullest.
The search for a more excellent way is a call to adventure.

The search for excellence also involves an upbeat, expectant attitude.

There is a story about a farmer who was continually optimistic and seldom discouraged.
He had a neighbor who was just the opposite.
Moody and gloomy, he faced each new morning with a heavy sigh.

The happy, optimistic farmer would see the sun coming up
and shout over the roar of his tractor, "Look at that beautiful sun and clear sky!"

With a frown, the negative neighbor would reply, "Yeah! It'll probably scorch the crops!"

When the clouds would gather and a much-needed rain would start to fall,
our positive farmer would smile across the fence,
"Isn't this great? God is giving our corn a drink today!"

Again, the same negative response,
"Oh! But if it doesn't stop before long, it'll flood and wash everything away."

One day, the optimistic farmer decided to put his pessimistic neighbor to the test.
He bought the smartest, the most expensive bird dog he could find.
He trained him to do things no other dog could do.
Then, he invited the pessimistic neighbor to go duck hunting with him.

They sat in the boat, hidden in the duck blind, and the ducks started flying in.
Both men fired their guns and several ducks fell into the water.

"Go, and get them!" ordered the dog's owner.

The dog leaped out of the boat, walked on the water, and picked up the birds one by one.

Well, what do you think of that?"
The pessimist said. "He can't swim, can he?"

Some people are defeated by their attitudes before the race is ever started.
Others will never be defeated for the same reason.

The man who was responsible for building the Brooklyn Bridge was a dreamer.
His dream was to span the East River in New York City with a suspension bridge.

"You can't do it!" he was told.
He continued to dream.
He found some backers and started building.
Then one day, a tragic accident crippled him for life.
He was confined to his apartment.
Only the foundations of the bridge were completed at that time.

He turned over the on-site supervision of the bridge to his son.
From his apartment window he could see the bridge in the distance,
and every day he supervised his son's work by watching through a telescope.
The Brooklyn Bridge was built exactly as he had specified!
He was able to dream, and he finished the job.

Some people will never get started -- others will never quit.
It is those who never quit who will find the excellent way.

Zig Ziglar has motivated many people to dream big dreams.

I like what he had to say about David and Goliath in Confessions of a Happy Christian.

Once, as he was reading the story of David and Goliath, he began to add
some extra intelligence to the story.

He realized that David's brothers were negative and afraid, and they figured Goliath was
"too big to hit."

David's attitude was positive, and he knew that Goliath was "too big to miss!"

The brothers compared Goliath's size to their own, which made Goliath awfully big.
David compared Goliath to God, which made Goliath awfully small.

What a difference!

All these make up the search for excellence.
But there is more!
In the long run, Christian love is what ultimately matters!.

There are many today who are looking for a more excellent way for the wrong reason,
"I'm doing this for me."
Those are the catch words of our time -- "For me."

If I am at the center of my universe, what ultimate reason do I have for doing my best at anything?
One day I will be gone -- forgotten!
No one will even remember my name.
What difference will it all make then?

It made a difference to Paul.
For him, to live was Christ.
He did not live for himself.
He knew the presence of the living Lord in his life.
How could he help giving himself to God completely in everything?

In our search for excellence, let us make sure that we have our priorities in order.

First, we are told to seek God's kingdom and His glory.

Sometimes, we can't find the more excellent way because we are afraid of getting involved.

Maybe your faith has been like the man who spoke to the pastor after church
about becoming a member.

The man said that he was rather busy, "I don't want to be called on for any committee work
or teaching in the Sunday school or singing in the choir.
I would like to be spared from anything that would take my time
."
Then he added, "And one more thing, don't expect me at worship too often."

The pastor thought for a moment, and then replied, "I believe you are in the wrong church.
The church you are looking for is down the street
."

The man decided to check out the other church and went down the street to find it.
He came to it and was dumbfounded to find that it was abandoned and had been boarded up.

That man did not want to get involved.
He was not willing to let God use him.

Some people never find the right way because they refuse to take even the first step.

In the church at Corinth, the most amazing things were happening through the action of the Holy Spirit.
They were happening because the Christians in that church
had learned to say "Jesus is Lord," in spite of the consequences.
The Roman government had warned that everyone had better say,
"Caesar is Lord," or pay the consequences.

When a man or woman said that "Jesus is Lord,"
-- that person was giving to Jesus the supreme loyalty of his or her life.
It meant that person gave to Jesus the supreme worship of his or her heart.

In our search for the more excellent way, let us be certain that we have our priorities straight.
Let us work enthusiastically, adventurously, and with commitment and service.
Seek Christ and His kingdom, and we will discover the more excellent way!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com