Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

  by Jeannette Haley

   Are you steady, earnest and persevering on the job and in your home? If so, you are diligent in those areas.  But, how diligent are you in your spiritual life?  In other words, do you make your personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ your daily priority?
   Perhaps you claim to be diligent in church attendance every Sunday. You are involved in church activities during the week. You tithe to your church. You invite people to your church. Others know that they can depend upon you in your church. You take pride in your reputation as a fine, upstanding Christian because you have always been diligent about church.
   The question is, is this really God’s perception of spiritual diligence? God says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23. There is not a hint in this verse of outward religious activities.  On the contrary diligence in this verse means to guard or watch as in to hedge about, protect, attend to, take heed, observe, preserve, regard, look narrowly, and save (self).
   Today the institutionalized church the world over is full of people who give lip service to God but their hearts are far from him. Within this group are four types of people, all of whom operate in a form of delusion.  First, there are those who go through the motions (or play the church game) simply to appease their religious conscience. You will find this type of person in cults as well. Secondly, there are those who use their outward show of piousness or diligence in religious formalities as a justification for their hard-heartedness, pride, rebellion, slothfulness, complacency, self-centeredness, unbelief and lack of faith. They can appear pious outwardly while inwardly remaining god of their own lives. The third group is made up of those who truly believe that they are “okay” because they have no comparisons between their dead religion and real Christianity. They may have gained a lot of “facts” and head knowledge but in the process they have been systematically indoctrinated and brainwashed. Last but not least, there is the “happy-clappy” bunch. These people are in love with their own concept of Jesus and woe to the one who tries to give them a reality check!
   In the Old Testament God warned the Israelites, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” Deuteronomy 4:9. The Hebrew for diligence in this verse means vehemently, exceedingly, much, quickly, utterly and very well. We read in the New Testament, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:15.
   We live in a day of “instant everything”. Those of us who live in America are used to a fast-paced life with little, if any, room for patience. As a result, we eager beavers want instant salvation and instant spirituality. The truth is, when it comes to spiritual maturity there is no such thing as “instant”. True spiritual maturity comes at a price, and diligence is a main factor in this price.
   Diligence, as with integrity and godly character, is not something we are born with. In fact, diligence was deliberately ignored and set aside by Adam in the Garden of Eden even though God instructed him “to keep it” Genesis 2:15b. It is interesting to note that the word keep in the Hebrew is the same root as diligence in Proverbs 4:23, quoted above, concerning the heart. This word is shamar. So what God told Adam was to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e., guard; protect, attend to, beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep, mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch.
   We may conclude, then, that Adam’s deliberate disobedience to guard or keep the tempter out of the Garden was due to a failure to ‘keep his heart with all diligence.’ Job 31:33 gives us this fascinating insight into Adam’s heart: “If I, like Adam, covered my transgression, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom,” and Hosea 6:7, (R.V.), “They, like Adam, transgressed the covenant.” Sin is conceived within the heart, developed in the imagination and finally given birth through deliberate action.
   Today people are diligent to pursue whatever their flesh desires, and diligent to insure that their lusts are satisfied. Tragically, people who think of themselves as Christian diligently pursue entertainment with the same hot fervor that the world does, and, I might add this includes pornography. Christians need to wake up and realize the horrible, satanic implications and results of such wickedness and become diligent in their spiritual lives before it is too late.
   Diligence is a choice each individual believer must make. It comes down to a determination in the will area to be diligent at any cost. Those who ignore the command to be diligent end up being complacent, slothful, lukewarm and treacherous.  In the end he or she will reap the eternal consequences of neglecting “so great salvation” Hebrews 2:3a.
   Jesus’ life gives us a perfect picture of diligence. He was diligent to be baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness” Matthew 3:15. He was diligent to guard against the temptation of Satan (see Matthew 4) and in every way that Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. He was diligent in prayer and in doing the will of the Father all the way to the cross.
   The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) deals with man’s heart and the “issues of life” which we are to heed with diligence. In fact, diligence (or the lack of it) is a common denominator in all of Jesus’ parables and discourses. The truth is we cannot enter heaven without diligence for diligence is comprised of faith (belief) and initiative. Diligence is more than being “on the ball” or intellectually sharp. It is faith in action.
   The woman in Luke 8:43, who had an issue of blood had diligently sought healing from physicians for twelve years with no success. She is an example of perseverance and diligence. She never gave up seeking and searching for a means of being cured. When she heard that Jesus was passing by to go to Jairus’s home, faith sprang up in her heart. This woman knew that if she could only grasp the tassel on Jesus’ talith that she would be made whole. She believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He fulfilled Malachi 4:2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.”  She “came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched” Luke 8:44. The word border comes from the Hebrew word tzit tzit meaning twisted coils, fringe, or tassel. (You may recall the commandment of the Lord in Deuteronomy 22:12 to wear the twisted coils.) What did she touch? The twisted coils on the border of the garment (His Prayer Shawl) that Jesus being Jewish, would have been wearing!
   How many of us would continue to diligently seek healing after twelve years of sickness, and suffering as a social outcast? How many of us would give up in despair and become angry with God for our miserable plight? Consider these words of Jesus: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” Matthew 7:7, 8. 
   Diligence and righteousness go hand in hand. A person of faith will be diligent in the Lord, diligent to guard his or her heart in righteousness. Likewise, a believer’s righteousness produces diligence in the things of God. Consider this verse in light of both diligence and righteousness: “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God” Ezekiel 14:14.A study of the lives of these three men reveals unwavering diligence, inwardly and outwardly, before God.
  Diligence is an action word, and seeking is part of that action. Deuteronomy 4:29 declares,“But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”  Scriptures such as Psalm 27:8, 105:4, 119:10; Isaiah 55:6; Daniel 9:3; Hosea 20:12; Amos 5:4; Zephaniah 2:3 and  Matthew 6:33 all emphasize the necessity of seeking God. However, nowhere in scripture are we given the idea that we are to “chase” God as if He was somehow on the run, eluding us.
   Diligence in seeking God originates from a heart determination that results in a decision that cannot be deterred by the world, the flesh or the devil. The true seeker will find him or herself on a journey that begins with denial of self, taking up of his cross daily and following Jesus.  (See Luke 9:23.) Diligently seeking God means obedience to His Word and will. It is losing his or her life for Jesus’ sake. This means that there will be no more rights to the self-life which includes self-gratification, self-exaltation, self-promotion, self-fulfillment, self-pity or any of the other “self-isms”. It takes diligence to daily guard the heart from self-serving motives.
   Christians in our day and age face a never-ending barrage of temptations from both the world and the apostate church system. It takes diligence to guard one’s heart against the flesh-titillating perversions that permeate our ungodly society. It also takes diligence to discern, reject and expose the spiritual perversions that appeal to the carnal nature that are sweeping through Christendom in these last days.
  The Apostle Peter summed diligence up well when he wrote: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:5-11.
   May we all be diligent in heart and mind, watching and praying until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ from heaven!