Excellence (in Education and Otherwise)
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, Whatever work your hand finds to do, to your best with all your strength.
As educators, we have the great privilege of shaping young minds. We have the opportunity to inspire, motivate and challenge minds.
There is a concept of seeing life as symbolic, mountains. Wherein are the mountains of business, of finance, of arts & media, of education and so forth (1). As teachers, we are on the Education Mountain. The exhortation in this concept is to be people of excellence and leaders in our given mountain. It is a concept of looking at excellence in these mountains from a Godly perspective, walking in the firm conviction that the Lord has many gifts and downloads of new school models, new curriculum, and new ways of teaching that are heaven sent, and will radically change our culture.
One of the pastors that teaches this concept speaks of the concept of the Rachel Church and the Leah Church. Leah was Jacob’s bride, but not his true love. The Bible also says Leah had weak eyes. Weak eyes? I believe that symbolically parallels our day to mean “weak vision”. The Leah Church has no vision. Rachel, on the other hand, was beautiful. She responded to Jacob’s pursuit of her and that response made her beautiful. They were madly in love.
The Leah Church has no vision, or weak vision. She continues doing church as it always has been. Today’s church is guilty of some Leah Church thinking. I grew up with some of those. It certainly wasn’t overtly taught, but I was a byproduct of these teachings. The first was a Pre-Tribulation (or “Pre-Trib”) Rapture Eschatology. This leaves us with the subconscious idea that since the world has to become horribly evil before Christ comes, we are better served if we allow it. The faster the world gets evil, the faster Jesus comes back. We end up not evangelizing and not taking a stand against evil. When you hear that out loud for the first time it almost sounds funny. then the gravity of it’s truth sinks in.
Another Leah Church teaching was that when you’re ready to be a real Christian you go into full time ministry. We’ve actually been told that to our faces. “When you’re ready for a real job, come see me. I’ll help you.” Likewise, after having been called to full time missions at the age of 9 I spent the next 10 years preparing for that, and the 10 years after that trying to shove myself in a missions ‘box’. Yes – full-time overseas mission work. That was it. Nothing else really counted; and I considered myself an abject failure for not completing that goal. All this in spite of the fact that the Lord made it abundantly clear that this was not the path we were to take.
The Mountain concept is a complete opposite to that thought. It says that we are to be exactly who God created us to be, with exactly the talents He measured out to us, and be people of excellence – fully devoted to God in the regular realms of society.
As a result of this erroneous teaching, I lost decades pursuing the “Will of God.” What is God’s will for my life? What if I miss it? How will I know it?
Let’s shout it from the mountaintops that the Will of God not so vaporous. “Whatever work your hand finds to do, do your best with all your strength.” Can it possibly be that simple?! I was NEVER going to find the Will of God that I was searching for. For one thing; it was undefined and thus, unknowable. Second, it was a fictitious thing elevated upon the high place afforded by my mind. Much like finding the perfect spouse. It’s never going to happen. It’s chasing unicorns. I dare say it was even a god.
So how do we train ourselves and our students to walk with excellence? We see more details in 2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind”…. Wait, I was raised on “sound mind,” but do you know it also translates: self-control, good judgement and self-discipline. Self discipline…. hmmm? Sounds a lot like that race we are to run with endurance. No race can be won without discipline.
I somehow grew up with the notion that if it was an anointed gift or talent, then it would be easy to learn, perhaps even downloaded like a child prodigy. Now, I wasn’t afraid of work. We grew up on a farm and that was all a normal part of life. But somehow, when I got to college, I found I out didn’t have to have a minor and dropped the music minor and accompanying work of it. I saw a cheaper degree and less work. Thus, I lost the ability to learn piano.
Furthermore, in what’s commonly called the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25, the Master “decides how much each servant would be able to care for.” Then they went out and set to work. They had to learn and employ their craft, just as they also had to first receive what was entrusted to them with the same weightiness and value that their master assigned to these same talents. The only one rebuked and called “useless” was the the one who did nothing.
To walk with excellence means to do the work and to embrace the discipline of the hours of hard work along with the sharpening our skills. We can and should embrace that. We can teach our students to embrace discipline. We should teach our students and ourselves to be the best that we can be; and most of all, we teach our students to listen to the Lord and do these things in His strength. This is what will change the world: His Spirit lived through those that are fully surrendered to Him and what He wants to accomplish in and through their lives – a Spirit led existence.
We must rid our “Christian” schools of the humanistic thinking and approach that is, at times, bordering agnosticism…. the belief that God created everything, set it in motion and then stepped back for us to do things our way. Instead, let us ask the Father how to teach each student, if there is any new way He wants to do things, and to Believe that it is even possible to have new revelations and new downloads. A fun but simple example is the day I was standing over a moveable basketball goal pondering over how to fix the crack in its plastic base. The crack was not large but merely a sliver just large enough to no longer hold water. There was no way to get glue into the crack. I prayed and asked the Lord how to fix it. Instantly, the thought came to mind (2) to insert a sliver of milk jug into the crack and hit it with a heat gun. I did and watched with glee as the plastics fused. To this day, the goal has never leaked.
That is what we can aspire too. Spirit led education. Spirit led excellence. Spirit led finance. Whatever your realm of work is, do it unto the Lord.
We get to chose to say “Yes” to His invitation to more! We get to say “Yes” to whatever level of ‘talents’ He has measured out to us. Don’t stop short of the greater things that our Father wants to give us as His children.
And certainly don’t fall in the comparison trap. I can see you doing it right now! Comparison kills all fruit of the Spirit. By that I mean, comparison to others and even comparison to your past self or your past ideas of who your future self was supposed to become! 2 Cor 10:12-13 12 [L For] We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with those who ·think they are very important [commend/promote themselves; 3:1]. They use themselves to measure themselves, and they judge themselves by what they themselves are. ·This shows that they know nothing [or What ignorance!; or What fools!]. 13 But we will not ·brag [boast] ·about things outside the work that was given us to do [L beyond the limits]. We will limit our ·bragging [boasting] to the ·work [sphere of ministry] that God gave us, ·and this includes our work with you [L which reaches even to you].
Boast in the Lord! If we are confident it is because of Him, because He is in us, working through us. God receives honor and glory when we accept and celebrate who we are and what He has given us; especially those things done in a spirit of love.
Say “Yes”, today!
(1) For more information on the concept of the Education Mountain and the Rachel/Leah Church, see J. Enlow’s book Seven Mountain Mantle.
(2) My spiritual gift type gets words of knowledge/answers to prayer/ prophetic words (whichever term you’re comfortable with 🙂 ) as “downloads.” Often times, it comes as a profound thought that comes to mind in an instant. Conversely, my husband is a visual personality type and he see pictures or even movies in his mind.