How good are you at what you do? Whatever it is you do, whether at school, on the job, at church or in your community–do you always do a great job? Moreover, do you keep working to perfect the skills you have and get better? Or, do you just go through the motions because it’s something you’re expected to do?
“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” (Proverbs 22:29 NKJV)
What makes the difference between an amateur and a professional–between a wanna-be and the real deal? I just watched an exercise video a friend posted on Facebook that visually illustrated the answer to this question–at least as it pertains to exercise videos!
The entire group knew the motions, but the leader–the woman center front–was clearly the professional. She performed exactly the same moves everyone else did, but hers were crisp and sharp from start to finish. She had a perfect smile glued on her face throughout, she moved her head to look completely to the side when the move required it, and she was just as energetic and enthusiastic at the end of the video as at the beginning! Clearly, she knew, and had practiced and perfected, the skills of a great video instructor. And even though I don’t typically watch exercise videos, I sat through the entire clip and genuinely enjoyed it, simply because her performance was so good!
It’s the same with anything else in life, and that’s what today’s verse is all about! Consider any aspiration or endeavor in life–it’s always those who are exceptional who rise to the top, whom we follow and admire and want to be like. These are the people who typically end up in the spotlight, or with the best jobs and the best pay, because, well…they are the best at what they do! But how did they get there? Were they born good at what they do?
You can always argue a “nature” component to anything–that someone was born with more natural ability at something than another person–but the truth is that even those with the potential to become great aren’t handed actual greatness on a silver platter: they have to work hard at it to develop the potential into actual abilities. And many who don’t seem particularly talented can frequently achieve greatness if they work hard enough at perfecting themselves.
This isn’t an argument to choose the most unlikely and difficult endeavor to tackle; rather, think about your own life–what is it that you do, could do, or would like to do? Whatever it is, pick something, and perfect it!
Take our youngest daughter: possibly because we homeschooled for many years and because she was often alone in her room, she ended up spending a lot of time drawing. Every child picks up a crayon, but she kept at it; even when video games entered her life, I would often find her drawing. She started out with manga characters from books, but wasn’t content simply to copy them–she found an art model we had purchased for her brother and practiced drawing the characters in different poses–reaching up on tiptoe, twisting, sitting. At some point her brother passed down to her a program for drawing on the computer and she worked at mastering that–until now, at age sixteen, her drawings (no longer copied, but of her own choice of pose and activity) are every bit as good as any manga you would see in a book. That’s skill, and it’s an excellent example of how to perfect whatever it is God has gifted you with!
The problem is that we sometimes look around and see the people who have already put in an awful lot of time to perfect their craft, and we get discouraged because we’re not there yet. My daughter frequently gets oohs and ahs when other kids see her work, and they probably think she’s just naturally very gifted, not realizing she has put in the time and practice to get good! I work with someone who’s a genuine people person and very successful at selling, and the rest of us are sometimes tempted to get discouraged faced with that kind of competition, but the moral of the story is not to resent those who have already achieved excellence in their field, but learn from them–because they have lessons we can profit from.
But the first thing to figure out is what you’re going to invest yourself in. Sometimes life hands you something and you don’t have much of a choice, but other times you can participate in the decision. I don’t sell for a living; it was something I got into part-time for a little extra money years ago when our children were younger, and never really got out of. I’ve developed as a person as a result of it, but I have no desire whatsoever to make my mark on life in sales. I do, however, care very much about people’s eternal destiny–and love to write–so I keep writing this blog! Because words are the tools of a writer’s trade, I keep a running vocabulary list of unfamiliar words, and if I don’t grow old and die before I have available money to do so, I would like to do graduate studies in Apologetics.
So what’s the take-away? Apply yourself! Find something that you can do and become the best at it. If you’re on the volleyball team, practice until all of your serves go over the net and you can spike the ball over the net. If you’re on the speech team, write the best speech you can and practice it until you can say it exceptionally, even if woken up from a deep sleep at 3am! If you’re preparing to become a translator, keep honing your language skills; if you need to take the architecture licensing exams, study and study and study and study–and then study some more! We become good at that which we’ve worked at enough.
Our youngest got good not by just drawing the same characters over and over, but by also progressing onto drawing them in different poses and with different media, and that’s how you get better at anything. You take whatever it is that you’re trying to master and do it often enough until it’s great–then you take it to the next level and perfect that too–and on and on and on!
And what’s the result? Why should we bother? Sometimes Christian people get the wrong idea that God doesn’t want us to be too good at what we do, but nothing could be further from the truth! God doesn’t want us to be prideful–to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, to see ourselves with “God’s eyes”–but excellence itself glorifies Him! It shows the world an incredible God, who has created people who can reflect Him with the creativity and intelligence and excellence He has endowed them with and use it to do “the good works that He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them!”
So, are you good at what you do? Are you making the effort to get better at it, to perfect your skills so that your work reflects the excellence and glory of the One who endowed you with these skills? I truly hope so!
Thank You for the abilities and opportunities You’ve given me; help me develop them so I can faithfully reflect Your excellence and bring You glory! Amen.