Grace vs. Excellence
John Telgren

We live in a culture that strives to be average. The message is often not that average is okay, but that excellence is somehow bad. If you are average, then you are "one of us." But if you strive for excellence, you stand out. You might be called a "geek,” a “nerd,” “uptight,” “stuck up," or some other derogatory term. The world wants us to be average. Not too good, but not too bad either.

The Bible nowhere tells us to settle for average. In fact, it tells us just the opposite. Here is one small example: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in showing honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).

Notice some of the words. "Devoted." "Not lagging behind." "Fervent." The word "fervent" is an interesting one. It literally means to boil or to seethe. God wants us to be on fire for him.

In other words, God wants us to strive for excellence in our walk with Him. In fact, the Bible specifically tells us to add excellence to our faith (2 Pet. 1:5). What is excellence? It means to be the best we can be. Not better than someone else, but better today than we were yesterday.

This seems hard. How does grace fit in with this? Many misunderstand grace. Grace does not lower expectations. Grace has little to do with where the bar is set. It has more to do with acceptance and love. Grace says, "I love you and accept you even when you mess up."

Grace is costly; therefore excellence is also costly. God wants us to strive for excellence, but it is not cheap.

1) Excellence will cost us close relationships. "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

2) Excellence will cost us our personal plans and ambitions. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).

3) Excellence will cost us our possessions.

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33).

So let us never let a misunderstanding of grace move us to settle for average. We should always remember that the great enemy of excellence is "average." In this case, I prefer another word that expresses in a stronger way what I mean by "average." Mediocrity. God is never pleased with mediocre love, service, or devotion.

There is no reason for mediocrity. God has given us everything we need (2 Pet. 1:3). So let us put to death that great enemy of excellence—average.


"The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time." - Unknown