Each September, for the past 183 years, the citizens of Delaware County come together to enjoy the Delaware County fair. People come from far and wide to listen to the music, sample the food, and ride the amusement rides. Many also come to tour the exhibits found there. People from Delaware County and beyond, both young and old, bring items to the fairgrounds in the days before opening day to exhibit.
They compete for prizes, whether it be money, a ribbon or recognition.
These exhibitors often begin weeks and months in advance of the fair to plan, prepare, nurture, grow, craft or assemble their items for exhibit. Whether it is a prize azalea, a beautifully fashioned quilt, a photograph, a prize heifer, a 4-H project or something else, much time, effort and attention is given to bring the absolute best to the judges.
The exhibitor wants to bring the best example he or she has of the work they do. Once a year, they have the opportunity to bring their best to be judged.
For the Christian, not once a year, but each day they present their best to God. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (ESV). Colossians 3:23-24 encourages us to work hard for the Lord. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (ESV)
At the recent fair, ribbons were awarded, prizes were bestowed, and the hard work and skill of individuals was recognized. That recognition was no doubt very meaningful to those who had worked hard for it. The Christian understands that a prize awaits them that is eternal.
The Scriptures talk about winning a prize, particularly in reference to athletic contests. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (ESV)
At the fair, exhibitors strove for excellence. Every Christian should be striving for excellence. Aristotle said, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” We believe that the Bible teaches this truth in a number of passages. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
We should notice the word “abound” because this word is in the scriptures to motivate us to exceed and excel toward excellence. It is the same word that we find in 2 Corinthians 8:7, But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge,…” (ESV) Excellence is not meeting minimum requirements, but exceeding and never settling for mediocrity. I grew up hearing my father say that “a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.”
Most readers probably heard the same. Good parents will encourage their children to do the best that they can, and then praise them for their efforts. It is a mistake to expect someone young and inexperienced to have skills like someone that has performed the same task many times, for many years.
God takes great delight in our efforts when we give it our best. Our loving God will not and does not expect more of us than what we are capable of giving. However, what we give needs to be our best. Proverbs 22:29 says, Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men. Not only will great and many doors open to us in this lifetime because of our excelling, we will stand before the great judge and hear Him say, Well done thou good and faithful servant.