For my high school graduation in 1975, I received a special Swiss watch as a gift—a stainless steel 1953 Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
It belonged to my father’s boss, Mike Kadane, who took his personal watch, engraved my name on the back, and told me I probably should hang on to it. The 65-year-old watch has been stored away, unused for many years, until I recently put it on my wrist. It remains fully functional and still keeps great time. I said to myself, as the second hand continued to sweep the dial with no winding, no batteries and no maintenance, “Excellent….”
Because it is an original without defect, I became curious as to what it might be worth. After gaining a good idea of its value from websites where vintage Rolexes are bought and sold, I said to myself once again, “Excellent!”
We have convened this year in Switzerland, a nation whose brand is excellence. The Swiss are known for the world’s finest watches, irresistible chocolate, the most complex and useful knives, globally trusted banks and busses and trains that run precisely on time. The Swiss brand is so closely associated with excellence that the flag is used on products from backpacks to airplanes.
God made us to recognize, appreciate and reach for excellence. But excellence is not proving your worth to the world. Success is often expressed to mean being the best or getting ranked better than the pack by human standards. That is not the true meaning of excellence. It means being your best, rising up and possibly exceeding the demands of the task at hand. For Christians, it is doing the job, facing the challenge or managing the issue to the highest possible standards in a manner that is God-glorifying, not man-exalting.
The value of God-glorifying excellence cannot be overestimated because it is priceless. It pays dividends in every field of human endeavor but more importantly, for eternity.
Humanity is God’s Excellence on Display
The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Inc., is heralded as one of the greatest innovators of the technology era. He famously wore an unassuming outfit of denim jeans and a black T-shirt as he stood on stage to unveil his latest product in the line of Mac computers, iPods, iPads and iPhones. While the beauty and seamless functionality of the latest gadget Apple produced were truly engineering and design breakthroughs, the most impressive and awe-inspiring creation on the stage was the human holding the product.
Scottish biologist Sir J. Arthur Thomson said, “We speak of the body as a machine, but it is hardly necessary to say that none of the most ingenious machines set up by modern science can for a moment compare with it. The body is a self-building machine; a self-stoking, self-regulating, self-repairing machine – the most marvelous and unique automatic mechanism in the universe.”
One of my personal favorite apologetic works is essentially a brag book on God. Dr. Richard Swenson, who is both a physician and a physicist wrote More Than Meets the Eye to document the precision by which our Creator demonstrated a work product that He himself called “very good.” Ponder the stunning facts of our human body compiled by Dr. Swenson in the highlighted area.
Isaac Asimov stated, “In man is a three-pound brain, which, as far as we know, is the most complex and orderly arrangement of matter in the universe.” This avowed atheist appears to be complimenting God. Our brain has the capacity to hold the equivalent information found in 25 million books; that’s enough to fill a bookshelf 500 miles long. It can make a thousand trillion computations per second.
Although the title of Excellency is sometimes given to heads of state, royalty and aristocracy, it is clearly a description of the infinite power and perfection of our Creator, the fountainhead of all that is good and perfect.
Dr. Swenson asked, “What kind of Power is this that we so blithely invoke? He spoke the Universe into existence. Nothingness obeys his voice. He controls time, space, matter and light. He is sufficient unto Himself. He does not need anything or anybody to accomplish His purposes. He answers to no one. He obeys only his own counsel. He works on thousands of levels all at the same time. His scientific sophistication is unfathomable. He created the laws of physics, and appears to be a pure mathematician. His intelligence is so superior, according to Einstein, that in comparison ‘all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.’”
We need to live in ever-present awe of our Creator before we truly understand the meaning of excellence. As we become less impressed with our own powers, our own ideas, our own abilities and learn to turn to our All-Powerful, AllKnowing, All-Loving God and ask Him to share His thoughts, His ideas and His creativity with us, it is then we are drawing upon the excellence that only He can give.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Beyond Human Excellence
Throughout history, those who have humbled themselves and drawn upon God and His Word have made such remarkable contributions to the world that their economic impact is impossible to quantify.
Matthew Fontaine Maury was an American oceanographer and cartographer. He was nicknamed “Pathfinder of the Seas” and “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology” and later “Scientist of the Seas” due to the publication of his extensive works in his books, especially The Physical Geography of the Sea (1855), the first extensive and comprehensive book on oceanography to be published. Maury made many important new contributions to charting winds and ocean currents, including ocean lanes for passing ships at sea.
Matthew Maury’s seagoing days came to an abrupt end at the age of 33 after a stagecoach accident broke his right leg. Thereafter, he devoted his time to the study of naval meteorology, navigation, charting the winds and currents, seeking the “Paths of the Seas” mentioned in Psalms 8:8, “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” Maury had been a student of Scripture since childhood and believed if God’s Word declared there to be such paths, he wanted to find them. As a result, his lifework reduced by 50% the time it took to circumnavigate the world by ship; an incredible contribution to the global economy.
George Washington Carver, famous African American scientist of the Tuskegee Institute, credited with saving the agricultural industry in America’s South, gives credit for his accomplishments to God Almighty. He was roundly criticized for stating his scientific discoveries were a result of humbly asking this question: “Dear Mr. Creator, why did You make the peanut?”
Nikola Tesla, the prolific Croatian inventor, credits God with the ideas that “flashed into his brain.” His contributions to mankind include the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), radio, and the electric motor. Can the ongoing economic value of his work even be calculated?
R. G. LeTourneau, one of America’s greatest engineers and inventors is credited with designing sophisticated earth-moving equipment and the first offshore jackup drilling platform. He said that the ideas for these machines were given to him by God to explain how this could happen to someone lacking any formal education.
Countless others have made contributions in the fields of medicine, education, exploration, biology, theology, arts, math, science, engineering, construction and every field of human endeavor. God’s genius and kindness are on display as glimpses of Himself in the character of experts and leaders who produce excellent products and services across the spectrum of what we call the economy.
As Solomon urged us in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” My basic translation: give every task at hand your very best effort since this is your only shot at it!
May we leave CEF 2018 with more knowledge, more wisdom and more inspiration to pursue excellence in everything as we live in awe of HIS Excellency, the King of King and Lord of Lords.