I know several people who probably saw that title and instantly an image popped into mind. It’s a portion of the motto of the church my family ministry was based out of for many years. “Serving Christ with an excellent spirit”, that was the theme, that was the mantra of this church. But for pastors, evangelists, and biblical theologians, the words “excellent spirit” immediately conjure the image of Daniel in their minds.
Like David, the man after God’s own heart, Daniel was the man with an excellent spirit. It was kind of his nickname, it’s what people associate with Daniel. He didn’t have an excellent spirit because of anything he did, except that he was obedient to God. His excellent spirit was the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit: for nothing on earth is excellent save God is in it.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.
The king formed his government, these verses tell us that the king set men over areas and then over those positions throughout his country to ensure that everyone followed his rules, paid their taxes, and so on. But Daniel stuck out among them, he was the first of them. But not only was he the first, he was also the favorite, and the next verse expounds a little bit upon that idea.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Daniel wasn’t just in a position of power, but he was preferred above all of the other men in positions of power. He was preferred because of a standard of excellence he held, which the others didn’t. He was preferred because an excellent spirit was in him. It doesn’t say he had an excellent spirit, it doesn’t say that he was of an excellent spirit. It says that an excellent spirit was in him, the Spirit of God, Daniel allowed this Holy Spirit to permeate his life in such a way that others recognized this. So much so, that the king thought to set Daniel over the entire kingdom, over the whole realm.
Where did Daniel’s excellent spirit come from? He didn’t just wake up one morning to have an excellent spirit. Daniel’s spirit was a result of Daniel’s prayer life. Daniel’s prayers permeated his life.
Prayer is an attitude and a lifestyle so much more than it is a single moment in time where we have a conversation with God. Prayer is something we should do without ceasing as the Bible says, and the only way to do that is to live a prayerful life. Prayer is the first step to an excellent spirit
- Prayer determines your attitude
- Attitude determines your outlook
- Outlook determines your intention
- Intention determines your action
- Action determines your spirit
How we pray, and what we pray for determines what attitude we take towards others. What attitude we take towards others determines how a look at others and how we see the world. How we see the world determines where we set our mind; what we intend to do based upon what we have seen. Our intentions define how we interact with the world, what actions we take. What actions we take determine our spirit, what we believe, what we intend to do determines how we do it.
Now, some of that may seem a little bit weak. By itself each individual one of these links is weak. They don’t make perfect transitions, because we’re looking at them, as it were, forsaking one step when we move to the next. We aren’t. An excellent spirit is your character, it builds upon itself so there is nothing added and nothing lacking. Once we reach the end of these five steps, once our prayer, attitude, outlook, intention, and action are aligned in that order, we will find our spirit has changed.
However, we don’t control our spirit. We don’t create within ourselves an excellent spirit; nothing we do in and of ourselves will result in us having an excellent spirit. God has to show up, we can invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, but unless he takes up residence and works through us we won’t have an excellent spirit. We need to be open, honest with God, available, and obedient to Him.
How can we allow the Holy Spirit to take up residence in us, how can we, for our part make that happen?
These are the five steps to allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you. The first step is praising God for who He is: looking and seeing the things He does in this world; recognizing His power and giving Him the glory and praise for it. The second step is listening to what God has to say, be in prayer yes, but don’t do all the talking, allow God to speak to you and listen to Him. After we listen to God, the logical next step is to obey what He asks us to do. Sometimes that’s hard, sometimes we don’t want to do what God tells us to. I mean, look at Jonah.
But we can’t have an excellent spirit, we can’t truly serve God if we don’t obey Him. Then we need to learn, when we do what God would have us do, when we are obeying Him, we need to learn more about God, more about the heart of God. Read His word, go to church and hear men who have studied His word give their revelations of it; and study it for yourself. And then finally grow.
When we do everything else, when we’re living as God would have us live, when we have acquired an excellent spirit, we need to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to grow in what is right, we need to grow in the faith. When we grow, God can truly use us.
Lastly, coming to a close here: what are the evidences of an excellent spirit in your life or someone else’s?
- Others like being around you
- You love people
- You don’t respond in anger or in haste
- You don’t hold grudges or act in spite
- You love God more than you love yourself
Really, the evidence of an excellent spirit is selflessness. The willingness to do anything you can to help others even at the expense of your own happiness and convenience. If we prioritize God, if we put him first and everything else is second or doesn’t even place, then we will have the essence of an excellent spirit. Then stay true to the steps, follow the plan, learn more grow more, obey, praise, listen. An excellent spirit doesn’t happen overnight, it’s often a lifetime of work.
But those with an excellent spirit can be used of God for great things. Daniel was set over all the princes and presidents of the land. The king wanted to put him in charge of the entire realm because an excellent spirit was found in him. What other story does this remind you of? To me it sounds a lot like the story of Joseph in the Egyptian captivity. Both of these men were taken as slaves early on in their life, both were recognized for having an excellent spirit and in spite of the fact that they were captives, slaves in a foreign land and may never see their homes again. But God blessed them because they had excellent spirits, and He raised both of them to positions of extreme power and influence. They made an impact for God and His people because an excellent spirit was found in them.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist