Summary: As followers of Jesus we are to be committed to excellence in every sense of the word.
Commitment To Excellence
Commitment is key. No matter what it is that we are talking about there is no greater determining factor than our commitment. I'm not talking about commitment by coercion. I'm not talking about commitment by convenience. I'm not talking about commitment by compliance or conformity. I'm talking about commitment to excellence! I'm not talking about one of those half-hearted commitments that causes you to show up when you feel like, give it your all when there is something to gain, or follow through only because of pressure. I'm talking about commitment to excellence! I'm not talking about one of commitments made because of duty because duty won't do. I'm talking about commitment to excellence!
Whether we are talking about plumbing, carpentry, preaching, teaching, medicine, law, parenting, marriage, athletics or academics - it is one's commitment to excellence that will largely determine their outcome over the long haul.
On October 13, 1962, a little boy was born in Starkville, Mississippi. His father was a bricklayer. As the young boy grew and matured he and his brothers would go with their father to the job site to help out. As he continued to grow, Jerry joined his father on the platform while his younger brothers would throw bricks up one-by-one for Jerry to stack for his dad. Jerry never dreamed that in catching brick after brick he was preparing for the most prolific professional football career that any receiver would ever experience. The Jerry I'm speaking about is Jerry Rice of the San Francisco Forty-Niners.
Jerry Rice graduated from high school and attended tiny Mississippi Valley State on a football scholarship. Out of college he was drafted in the first round as the 16th overall pick of the 1985 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He wasn't even the first receiver chosen. There were two other receivers drafted before him; the New York Jets' drafted Al Toon and then the Cincinnati Bengals chose Eddie Brown before Jerry was ever given the nod. Have you heard of those guys lately?
In the twelve years that Jerry Rice has played professional football he has always been known as the hardest worker in his profession. As the preseason rolled around this year Jerry arrived at training camp five days early - during the time for the rookies to report. Why would the most successful receiver in NFL history who is destined for the NFL Hall of Fame show up to workout with the rookies? Because Jerry is a champion who strives for excellence every day of his life.
The June 6, 1997 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the beginning of the Forty-Niners' training camp. The article states, It's hard to say what kind of impression the 49ers' two top draft choices are having on new coach Steve Mariucci, but Jerry Rice certainly knows how to make the coach smile on the first day of training camp. ``How about this,'' Mariucci gleefully said at his opening press conference last night. ``Jerry Rice was not invited to the rookies-and-selected-veteran camp. But he shows up anyway. He's been here since Monday. Is there any wonder why the guy is the greatest? ``We're going to have to tell him, `Jerry get out of here. Let the other guys get some work, please,' '' (San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1997.)
It is easy for those of us who watch incredible athletes like Jerry Rice to consider their abilities and accomplishments and bow out of the race of excellence. It is not just athletes who have committed themselves to excellence my friend.
David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived. He moved to Africa in the 1800's, married his wife Mary in Africa in 1845, and never stopped pursuing excellence for the Kingdom of God during his lifetime.
There was a time when Dr. Livingstone was approached about the possibility of a missionary society sending some more men to help him in his efforts to reach the people of Africa. They wrote him a letter that read, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all."
It is that type of mentality as we make our commitment to excellence that will guarantee our success over the long haul. You will notice as you study great men and women of excellence that they had a very narrow vision. Jerry Rice is not good at all things, but he is excellent at the one thing he had committed himself to in life. Dr. Livingstone didn't pursue excellence in several fields, but only one - reaching people for Christ. The great violinist Fritz Kreisler testified to this point when he wrote of his own life.