Proverbs 22:29 “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”
Diligence is described as careful and persistent work or effort. Biblically, this quality is applied more as being prudent (plan ahead, forecast, project, anticipate, provision), be wise (learn from experience), deeply ponder, and to do this consistently (everytime, all the time).
What does this consistency lead to?
Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”
With a definition in mind, what do we plan for or anticipate in our walk with God? Whether it’s temptation that comes from the enemy of our souls or trial that comes as a result of God’s love and strengthening, anticipation helps when the time comes. Being prepared is wise, how do we prepare for temptation?
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Being wise against temptation is knowing where your weaknesses exist. Avoiding the circumstances that lead to your fall, placing safeguards in your life that will protect you and allowing other believers to help hold you accountable to your objectives. All these patterns of purity strengthen you to walk in righteousness.
Knowing where our strength comes from gives us the focus we need when we feel the heat of temptation. Trusting the Lord that His way is better while walking in the Word, this brings a steadfast spirit in us that will satisfy our needs and fill up in our flesh all we are lacking.
Being diligent to every good work is the life of the wise, investing into an eternal reward that will not be stolen, become corrupt or be eaten up. This pattern of life brings rest, peace and freedom.
So what is it that diligence leads in?
2 Peter 1:5-7 “ For this very reason, make every effort (be diligent), to add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
This progression of growth in the life of a believer requires a consistent focus on the prize waiting at the end of the journey. The ultimate prize is Jesus Himself, until then, we allow the steady, revelation of God’s mercy to demonstrate His love through us to the world.
2 Peter 3:14-15 “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.”
Stumbling causes heartache, pain, misery, broken relationships, regrets, shame, and the list goes on. Keeping you from this trouble is God’s love demonstrated toward you. He has shown you the way, now you must walk in it.
2 Peter 1:10 “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;”
As we look at Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, we see his godly influence over a young man, committed to the gospel. Paul recognizes the journey can feel long, so these encouraging words likely helped Timothy in pressing on.
1 Timothy 4:12-16 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attention (be diligent), to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them(be diligent), that your progress may be evident to all. 16Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
The diligence required for a young man to become like a Paul was laid out very carefully for him. Studying the Word, sharing the Word and refining his understanding of the Word is key in ministry. As Timothy progressed, he inspired confidence in fellow believers and the inspiration he gave to others, strengthened the church. These precepts that the early church was founded upon still remain true today, they don’t come naturally, we have to work at them.
Deuteronomy 6:17 “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.
So, what happens when we neglect so great a charge? Sometimes it helps to see the alternative to a subject when inspiring yourself to move. The antonyms of diligence are a rap sheet of shame: slack, derelict, impatient, delinquent, negligent, neglectful, lax, inattentive, hit-and-run(a), remiss. Anyone who is characterized by even one of these attributes brings shame not only on themselves but on their family as well. The 5th commandments to Honor your father and mother is breached as well as being reflective of other sins of covetousness, stealing, lying and all else needed to supplement a life that can’t or won’t strive for what’s important. Ultimately, we fail to love the Lord with all our heart when His guidance and direction are ignored.
How do we know if we are being diligent? This concept can easily be confused with the Ecclesiastical notion of striving after the wind or being a workaholic, which in itself can be idolatrous. If we only strive foolishly, without direction, we strive for that which is temporal. Diligence has its due reward and the reward is well received when performed according to God’s counsel and lead. Ironically, this encouragement is often times directed to those who lead.
Romans 12:6–8 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Notice, with all the attributes of godliness that Paul was noting, diligence is reflected in leadership. I would surmise that diligence isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to lead, it is more of a function of good leadership. Those who lead are to be an example to others in conduct and spiritual maturity. The ability to diligently move forward in godliness requires the consistency, planning, foresight, pondering and growth in wisdom through experience that gives others reason to follow.
Diligence is a mark of maturity, worth considering for those who desire to press on in their walk with Christ.