The famous super hero creator Stan Lee ended his comics and articles with the phrase “Excelsior!”. Excelsior’s original meaning in Latin was “higher”, but over the centuries it has taken on an encouraging new perspective. While the world has recently embraced the encouragement this phrase implies, the feelings it expresses are by no means new. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 (NAS) Paul encourages his fellow brethren by saying, “Finally then, brothers and sisters, we request and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel even more.”
If the Thessalonians are already walking in a manner that pleases God, then why is Paul telling them to go beyond what they’re already doing? Have you only done one thing to show your parents or your significant other that you love them? Or, have you gone out of your way, or even so far as to outdo yourself in expressing your love and appreciation? God conveyed the amount of love He has for us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sake. The reason why God should be our standard for love is because He did this while we were enemies of His (Romans 5:6-8). If God has conveyed this much love and effort for us, then what are we conveying to Him?
In chapters two and three of the book of Revelation, God’s children conveyed various messages about their love for Him. Thus, Jesus encourages each church in their own way. To the churches that sinned, Jesus calls them out on their iniquities and then reminds His children that they will gain eternal life if they repent and embrace Him again. God only has no grievances with the church in Philadelphia. However, Jesus doesn’t just praise this church and leave it at that. In Revelations 3:11, Jesus says, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Jesus does not tell the Philadelphians that they finished their good work and ran their race well. He essentially tells them to excel still the more and remain vigilant, so that nothing strays them from the path of righteousness.
To put it another way, the children of God that are currently running their individual race are like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). In the parable, the older brother stayed with their father as the younger brother demanded his inheritance early and left. After the younger brother came back, the older brother got angry because he felt more righteous and more deserving of the father’s excitement than the younger brother. After all, he is the one who stayed and worked while his younger brother insulted their father and squandered his inheritance away in some distant land. In the same way, the more mature children of God must not look down on the spiritually young, or feel as they are deserving of God’s love. Everyone at one point or another was spiritually immature and has sinned. With that being said, what can you do to excel still the more in your relationship with God and shine your light in the world?