In Malachi 1, it is recorded how the people of Israel were guilty of bringing damaged gifts to the Lord. In the Old Testament, offering sacrifices was part of worship & God had given strict guidelines regarding the animals that could be offered in sacrifice. One of the most important guidelines was that the sacrificial animal must be unblemished, with no physical ailments & no defects. The problem is that these are precisely the kind of animals that the typical Israelite family would want to keep for themselves. As an Israelite, there would exist in your life a tension & a temptation to keep the best members of the flock for yourself & to bring the second-best to the Lord as a sacrificial offering. Unfortunately, the Israelites on many occasions gave in to that temptation. God was not fooled, & we see His anger displayed Malachi 1.
It is clear that God does not settle for second best.I believe that excellence honors God and inspires people. I see three truths about excellence in ministry:
1. EXCELLENCE IS ESSENTIAL
A. The message which God is trying to get across here--to the Israelites & to us--is that bringing our acceptable sacrifices & offerings to Him is not optional. Excellence in ministry is essential because it is a reflection of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
2. EXCELLENCE IS ATTAINABLE
It is very possible that some people are reluctant to bring God "their best" because they feel their best isn't good enough. Someone has said, "The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form." But the truth is, God is not looking for perfection in our ministry, He is looking for us to give Him the absolute best that we have to offer.
3. EXCELLENCE IS AFFECTIVE
There's one more fact which we can't lose sight of. We must not lose sight of the fact that, when we decide whether or not we'll give God our best, that decision affects people. People who may or may not have the opportunity to make a decision for Jesus Christ, depending on whether or not you give God "the best" of your time & energy. Missionaries who may or may not have funding to spread the gospel in a new area, children in our own community who may or may not realize that there is hope in life despite a torn home life--all of these situations depend directly on our decisions each day whether we'll give God our "best" or whether we'll give him our "leftovers." What will you give to the Lord today?
(my thanks to Donald L. Howard for this look at Malachi 1)