Faithlife Sermons

Ministry Of Excellence

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →


Malachi 1:6-14



A. [Last year a church in a North Carolina town had a food bank drive & Christmas toy collection for families in need.

- Boxes were placed around the church at the beginning of the holiday season to collect canned goods & toys.

- Unfortunately, it seems that some of the people in the church wanted the food & toys to go to only non-minority families; &, when they learned that all of the recipients would be minorities, they quickly spread the word among the members. - The Christmas gifts which actually ended up getting collected as a result serve as an embarrassment to all of Christianity--open jars of peanut butter, broken toys, torn clothes, stale boxes of crackers & even old bags of flour.]

- Imagine the worthlessness these needy people felt when they received this worthless junk.

- Imagine going from the expectation of having a great Christmas for your kids, to the horror of receiving what they received.

- Second-rate gifts for second -rate people -- that was the message that was sent.

B. In Malachi 1, it is recorded how the people of Israel were guilty of bringing these kinds of damaged gifts to the Lord.

- They had taken their imperfect goods, their second-rate stuff, their leftovers, & wrapped them up in an attractive package.

- 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 in our text.

          C. It is clear that God does not settle for second best.

- In light of that fact, we have written the following core value for (NAME OF CHURCH): We believe that excellence honors God and inspires people.

Transition: Let's consider three truths about excellence in ministry:


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.

- Consider the analogy in vs. 8 (READ)

- Imagine what would happen if we approached the IRS this year with a "blemished sacrifice," in the form of a tax payment that was far less than what the forms say we owed, or w/a blatantly fabricated tax return.

- In either case, do you think that the IRS is going to stand quietly by for even a moment & permit us to get away with our "blemished offering"?

- Try presenting a half-hearted effort to your boss -- Will he or she be satisfied?

- Try presenting a blemished effort to your teacher, or to your coach.

- What will the reaction be?

- Try giving that kind of 2nd-rate portion of yourself to your family.

- What will be the outcome then?

- The reaction we'd expect in all of these situations is the same reaction that God has, in vs. 10b (READ).

          B. Excellence in ministry is essential because it is a reflection of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

- Rom. 3:25 tells us that Jesus was offered by God as a "sacrifice of atonement."

- Heb. 10:10 "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

- Did God offer second best on our behalf? NO! According to 1 Pet. 1:19, in Jesus Christ God offered "a lamb without blemish or defect."

- Everything we do in ministry is an act of appreciation for what God has done for us in His Son.

          C. Consider some of the ways the Bible tells us God expects us to sacrifice to Him in an excellent way:

-  (Rom 12:1-2) "…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. {2} Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

- In Phil. 4:18 Paul tells the Philippian church that their financial gifts were "an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."

- Heb 13:15 instructs us to "continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise."

- Heb 13:16  "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

- 1 Pet. 2:5 instructs us to offer "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

- When we summarize these verses we find that God requires excellence in ministry through our physical bodies, through the transformation of our minds, in our financial giving, in our praise & worship assemblies, & in sharing & doing good for other people.

- In every area of ministry, whether it is preaching, teaching, playing instruments, singing, shoveling the sidewalks, cleaning our carpets, visiting the sick, witnessing, giving financially, or any other area, God expects us to give Him the best that we've got to offer.

- Excellence is Essential -- The 2nd truth we learn about Ministry Excellence..


A. 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.

- Notice with me that in vs. 11 God says that "incense" is an acceptable offering.

- Incense was a mixture of aromatic spices; & in the book of Exodus a very specific formula was given to the priests for the mixing of incense.

- Incense for the offering was composed of equal parts of four of the finest spices available to the Israelites, one of those spices being frankincense, the valuable spice which the magi brought to the infant Jesus.

- Frankincense was relatively rare & very valuable, but it was available to the Israelites; so that's what God required.

- There's a passage in the book of Exodus which speaks of incense, a very significant passage. It's Exodus 30:1-5 (TURN TO -- READ)

- This is a portion of the instructions which God gave regarding the construction of the altar, the Ark of the Covenant, & the tabernacle.

- Throughout this passage, & for several chapters following in the book of Exodus, God insists on the finest & the best materials for the building of His altar & dwelling place.

- But there's one building material in this list that doesn't quite belong.

- It's "Acacia wood." -- Acacia wood was not "the finest & the best."

- It was the best wood available to the Israelites at that time; but better wood could easily be found.

- Acacia wood is described by one authority as a "gnarled, rough-barked, thorny" wood; another notes that acacia was of "limited use in construction."

- The wood of choice in that era was not acacia, but cedar.

- Cedar was used by the ancient Egyptians to build monuments & temples; in fact, there's a record from the 6th century B.C. of the Pharoah Amasis actually tearing down a monument made from acacia wood & rebuilding it with cedar.

- Cedar was used for the temple roofs & palace doors of Greece & Rome.

- If you look up the word "cedar" in a Bible concordance, you'll find that as you get into the most very prosperous period of the kingdom of Israel, under the reign of Solomon, the references to "cedar wood" get more & more frequent; & that, after the reign of Solomon, when the nation's influence began to wane, & their prosperity began to fade, those references become sparse once again.

- Cedar was the "best of the best."

- But, during the particular period of Israel's history when the tabernacle was being built, cedar simply was not available to the Israelites.

- It didn't grow naturally in their land, & they didn't yet have the money or the influence to have it imported.

B. Isn't it good to know that God didn't require "the best of the best" (cedar) but rather was content with the "best" of what they did have (which was acacia)?

- Even as God was insisting upon the finest spices for the incense, & even as God was insisting on gold, the finest metal both then & now, for the trim, God also accepted acacia wood, because God knew that was the best which His people had at that time.

C. Now how does all this talk about acacia & cedar wood apply to (NAME OF CHURCH)?

- You may be one of the rare individuals that can honestly attest to being the "absolute best" at something.

- There's no one in this world better than you.

- It may be speaking; it may be teaching; it may be fundraising; it may be construction work; it may be cooking; & so on.

- More than likely, though, you're like the other 99+% of us who know all too well that, on any given day, with regard to any given job, there's someone out there who can do that job better than us.

- You may be all too aware that you're just doing an "acacia wood" job, while someone else could come behind you & do a "cedar wood" job.

- Understand that, if you're not one of the rare ones that God has equipped with the absolute "best of the best," then God doesn't expect "the best of the best" from you; He simply expects the "best" of what you do have.

- Does this mean that we can do a half-hearted job in ministry, that we can give God only 70 or 80%, & that God will be satisfied?

- No, absolutely not; because if you've got cedar, then God expects cedar.

- The people of Israel had frankincense; so God would not be satisfied with something inferior.

- They had gold, so God expected gold, not silver or bronze.

- We always are expected to do the absolute best that we can with the abilities, resources, & opportunities, which God has given us.

- But, at the same time: Even if you are very much convinced that your abilities are mediocre or average, & that your resources are small, God still wants what you can bring to Him!


- There's one more fact which we can't lose sight of.

- We began by looking at a story of how one church decided to give second-rate gifts at Christmastime when they realized that their gifts would go to minority persons, folks who were "second-rate" in their eyes.

- 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.

- People who may or may not experience a happy holiday season, depending on whether or not you give God "the best" of your resources.

- 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?

Related Media
Related Sermons