Caleb’s Excellence as an Example for Us

Stephan Beitze

“But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it” (Num 14:24). An application for our lives.

A spiritually-minded leader, a devoted believer, a true servant of Christ distinguishes himself by the excellence with which he performs all his tasks. The testimony regarding Caleb, issued by God Himself, is impressive. But I’d like to emphasize a phrase here: “he had another spirit with him.” The Wycliffe Bible translates this, “[he] was full of another spirit.” The “other spirit” showed itself in the fact that Caleb pursued excellence, trusted the Lord, and was filled with the Lord’s presence. This is in contrast to the spirit of unbelief and the negative example of the other ten spies. Caleb was ready to do his best for God’s glory. When we read the story of the conquest of the Promised Land, we’re struck by the laziness, unbelief, disobedience, and lack of commitment of the people. In describing the borders of the Promised Land and the land allotted to each tribe, it’s stated again and again that the Israelites didn’t expel the inhabitants. The taking of the land was therefore not consistently carried out. And this was even though God had expressly commanded them to do so, and promised them victory if they did. But they didn’t obey, so they couldn’t win. Despite being 85 years old, Caleb led the final conquest of Hebron, the land of giants, the most dangerous enemy that the previous generation had so dreaded. Halfheartedness, conformity, and complacency were not Caleb’s style.

As believers, we must also strive for excellence in all things. This doesn’t mean becoming perfectionists, because perfectionists are never satisfied with themselves or others (hurting the people around them as a result). If Caleb had been a perfectionist, the extra endless years in the desert would have driven him to suicide. Or, he would have fallen into a deep depression because of his disappointment that he wasn’t on the quickest path to the Promised Land.

Excellence doesn’t mean having to be superior to everyone else. No, excellence is simply the desire and effort to do everything as well as possible, and to live in total dependence on God. A believer pursuing excellence doesn’t always have to be satisfied with everything. But, he isn’t standing around with his arms crossed either, criticizing others or their actions. Instead, he’s prepared to apply himself to change things for the better. This personal commitment under the Lord’s direction can have an impressive impact.

Unfortunately, many brothers and sisters in our churches are content with the bare minimum. You can’t expect any dedication, reliability, or full commitment from them. They always have an excuse. And when they actually do something, it’s just to please someone else or to be noticed.

An example of where the effort toward excellence is lacking, is when children’s Bible teachers do not review Sunday’s Bible lesson until five minutes before the start of the class. Or brothers and sisters who initiate Christian gatherings and prayer, may do so without prayerfully preparing for them, or selecting suitable songs and Bible texts. Even preachers and Bible teachers often rely on their supposed experience and their ease at finding the right words, rather than taking the time to study the Bible and pray. Is it any wonder that there is often so little spiritual growth and fruit to be seen?

A striking feature of our society is mediocrity, and this leads to a downward slide. Those who strive to do their best are often ridiculed or mocked. You can see this early on in students who strive for high grades; they’re disparagingly referred to as “teacher’s pet” by their classmates.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Young Daniel and his three friends had been led away from their homeland and became prisoners in Babylon. They were forced to study a great deal, and adapt to the culture (including food culture) and religion. Despite this difficult situation, Daniel and his friends pursued excellence in opposition to their superiors, because they didn’t want to violate God’s commandments. Thus, they were recognized as the empire’s wisest (Dan 1:19-20). Later, Daniel also sought excellence in his work, so that even his enemies had to acknowledge it:

“Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (Dan 6:4-5).

Daniel sought this perfection first and foremost with regard to God, even at the possible risk of his life. As with Daniel, we also observe this faithfulness in Caleb. It was the constant desire to do his best. God recognized this. The king elevated Daniel to the position of senior official in various government affairs. And Caleb was recognized as an outstanding leader alongside Joshua. God blesses excellent people.

We ourselves should constantly review the manner of our ministry in the Lord’s work, to see whether we’re doing it in the best way possible, because we’re working for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24).

Midnight Call - 10/2019

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