Diligence

4ed073dfa480b.image“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, 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. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9

The strange looking football spiraled through the chilled evening air before slapping against my nearly frozen hands. Shifting the ball to my stinging right hand, I fired it back into the darkness. The dim glow of a streetlight revealed white adhesive tape wrapped around the specially adapted football. One of my friends reached high attempting to snag the long pass, only to have his brother leap and bat the ball to the pavement. Another game of night-time football was underway.

My friends and I loved playing football. We adopted the mail carrier’s motto: “Neither rain nor snow…or whatever will halt our football games.” Darkness? Just add adhesive tape and a streetlight. Rain? The more mud, the better. Snow? The white powder made an excellent cushion on the wrong end of a hard tackle. Even if the weather became impossible, we were not deterred. With a nerf football in tow, we would descend into their grandparent’s basement and deftly jump laundry baskets and dodge support beams. We just loved playing football!

I guess you could say the three of us were quite diligent when it came to football. How diligent am I all these years later in pursuing those things in our scripture above? The Bible uses the word diligence or its equivalent over fifty times. Why? Focus. Diligence says, “Fix your attention on what is of the utmost importance and pursue it with all your heart.”

Where are the biblical instructions to express diligence in having a dream home? A driveway lined with new cars? What about closets full of expensive clothes? Or those Country Club memberships? And we must not forget premium season tickets, stock portfolios, and elaborate vacations. Where is the command to focus our efforts on attaining power, position, possessions, and popularity? These things are not bad in and of themselves, but far too often our attention becomes fixed on them. Then if we are not careful, we can be consumed by them.

The prophet, Haggai, observed the same misplaced priorities in Israel after the people returned from captivity. The Temple lay in ruins while the people built and lived in fancy houses. (1:4) Christian hearts are the Lord’s temple. How many lie in ruins while we pursue the things of this world? Jesus tells us to seek Him first. (Matt 6:33) What might the world be like if the Body of Christ did just that?

A person might take up such a challenge with rolled-up sleeves and an earnest “work hard for God” resolve. How effective do you think that person will be? Recall my football playing days? What if our parents demanded we leave a warm, comfortable house to play cold streetlight football? Or if they turned off the television and told us to get out in the pouring rain and score some touchdowns? How diligent would we have been? Not very!!! So what produced our diligence? Yes, you have been paying attention – we LOVED playing football.

Do we LOVE Jesus Christ? If we do, we can leave our sleeves down and forget about working real hard. Jesus explained that apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) But with Him living His very life in and through our yielded hearts, we can do all things – with diligence.

With that in mind let us fix our full attention, not on being religious, but on being filled with the Holy Spirit and growing in a loving relationship with the Lord of life. And brethren, always, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov 4:23)

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