Seeking to Excel
‘Seek that ye may excel.’—I Cor. xiv. 12.
AN almost startling command; yet it is addressed to ‘all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,” therefore unmistakably to ourselves.
Very likely our thoughts have been quite different from God’s thoughts about it.* We have been thinking it was useless to seek to excel, because we saw no likelihood of doing so; that it was presumptuous to think of such a thing; that it was even positively wrong to aim at it; yet, all the time, there the commandment stood, ‘Seek that ye may excel 1’
For its right fulfilment, there must be one preliminary and one object. The preliminary is, that we must be ‘zealous of spiritual gifts.” It is only when we are coveting earnestly the best gifts4 that the exercise and development of all others comes in its right place; that is, we must be eagerly desiring and heartily striving and using His own means to
1 I Cor. i. s. 2 Isa. lv. 8.
• 1 Cor. xiv. 12. * l Cor. xii. 31.
grow in grace,1 to receive always more and more of His fulness,* more light and love, more faith and power, more, above all, of His Spirit.
Even when this is the case, how often we set some human standard before us, and say: ‘Ah! if I only had half as much grace as So-and-so!’ Comparing ourselves among ourselves, we are not wise;3 it is a fruitful source of limitation and hindrance. We are not to aim at ‘half as much grace,’ nor even as much, but at excelling the fair self chosen standard, which after all is so far below the ‘exceeding abundantly’* which He is able to do for us. Let us give it up, once for all, and strike out into God’s more excellent way, and ‘seek to excel.” Let us open our mouth wide that He may fill it,6 asking for such great gifts that His royal bounty may be magnified because of our very poverty;1 asking for such excellency of power that it may be seen to be of Him and not of us;” asking that He would so fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us.3
Then, the one object. ‘Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not.’10 But ‘seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church.’
Apart from this, seeking to excel would inevitably become sin. Emulation, ambition, pride, would come in like a flood; envying and strife would follow, ‘leading to confusion and every evil work.’11 ‘All things edify not,’—should not this guide the
1 I Pet. ii. 2 ; z Pet. iii. i8. 2 John i. i6, ^2 Cor. x. 12.
4 Eph. iii. 20, 6 I Cor. xii. 31. * Ps. Ixxxi. 10, 7 2 Cor. ix. II. 8 2 Cor. iv. 7. ^ 2 Thess. i. 11, la.
l** Jer. xlv. 5. ^^ Jas. iii. 16; i Cor. x. 23.
directions in which we seek to excel? For this end only let every good gift,1 spiritual or mental, inward or even outward, be continually cultivated and carefully used. Let us this day and henceforth aim at nothing lower.
Perhaps He grants us power to excel in some seemingly very little things, some little peculiar gifts which we don’t think much of. ‘He that is faithful in that which is least,'”‘ will be enabled to use even that for the edifying of some part of the Church. Those who have no hand in raising the strong pillars, may yet be called to give a delicate touch to the lily work which shall crown them.3 ‘To every man his work and in that, even if it is only running little errands for the skilled workmen, we may excel to the edifying of the Church.
There are ‘diversities of gifts,’5 but none are without any. ‘Every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” If we think it humble to profess, or are humble enough really to believe, that we have but the ‘one talent,” that is the more reason why we should eagerly make the very most of it for our Lord; for if it is only one, it is not our own, but ‘our Lord’s money.’
1 Jas. i. 17. 2 Luke xvi. lo. 3 i Kings vii. 22,
4 Mark xiii. 34. 5 i Cor. xii. 4. * 1 Cor. vii. 7,
“i Matt. XXV. 15.