transcripts

Diligence – 14th Feb 2021

Slide 1) Diligence: Wisdom for the Way.

 

Oxford: careful and persistent work or effort.

 

Slide 2) Doing the work we’re responsible for

 

Including the jobs we hate

 

Doing it well

 

Starting in good time

 

Keeping going till the job is done.

 

Some jobs are never done.

 

Diligence is central to living as God would have us live.

 

If we are to cultivate contentment, righteousness, good habits of speech – as we’re covering in this series that will require steady effort over many years and the job won’t be finished in this life.

 

Slide 3) Proverbs describes someone who isn’t diligent as a sluggard. The sluggard is mentioned eight times:

 

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 6v6.

 

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 6v9.

 

As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them. 10v26.

 

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 13v4.

 

Slide 4) More sluggards

 

The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. 15v19.

 

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth! 19v24.

 

Sluggards do not plough in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. 20v4.

 

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. 21v25.

 

Slide 5) Three sections:

 

1)Consequences of a lack of diligence

 

2)Motivation for being diligent

 

3)Practical steps towards becoming more diligent.

 

Slide 6) 1)Consequences of a lack of diligence

 

a) material harms

 

Sluggards do not plough in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. 20v4.

 

So the sluggard may have done some work, but didn’t get going early enough and so has no harvest.

In an agricultural society such as ancient Israel that could mean hunger or starvation.

As Vijay said at the start of this series; Proverbs describe general trends, not cast iron laws.

 

There are in this world, notably but not exclusively in poorer countries, people who work from morning till night and who remain impoverished.

 

Similarly there are sluggards in this world who live very comfortably: off the efforts and earnings of others or off of inherited wealth.

 

But, as a general rule, being a sluggard, lacking diligence, is linked to material hardship.

 

b) Relationship harms

 

As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them. 10v26.

 

Our first point concerned the sluggard mainly harming himself or maybe those dependant upon him.

 

We now move to harms to others, and to relationships with others.

 

Are you driven round the bend by a family member or a work colleague whom you need to remind twenty times to do something?

 

Do you get frustrated as you can’t go ahead and do B because the sluggard of your acquaintance STILL hasn’t done A?

 

Even worse, are you, am I sometimes that sluggard who is being unfair to someone and, inevitably damaging our relationship?

 

Let’s not be vinegar in someone’s teeth or smoke in their eyes.

 

And – because Proverbs deals with general trends, not cast iron rules – we may find that some relationships remain poor, despite our best efforts.

 

c) I wanted to say something about ‘busy lack of diligence: lots of projects, none of which gets completed.’

 

There is a variant of this: Lots of projects. The things I like or find easy all completed. The things I don’t like or find difficult – well I never seem to get round to that.

 

Not everyone lacking diligence is lazy.

 

Sometimes we lack diligence whilst being busy, but putting off that job which is important, but which we can’t face.

 

And that can harm us, harm others and harm our relationships.

 

Let’s be diligent in fulfilling all our responsibilities, including the jobs we dislike.

 

Slide 7) 2)Motivation for being diligent.

 

a) material, relationship and character benefits

 

The material and relationship benefits are obviously the other side of material and relationship harms caused by lack of diligence.

 

Work well and you will probably be rewarded with reasonable prosperity and good relationships.

 

The character benefits are an outworking of a point Vijay made in the sermon on righteousness.

 

If we make a steady effort to perform the actions of a better person, gradually we will become that better person.

 

Sow an act, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

 

b) diligence is central to our relationship with God.

 

Colossians 3v 23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

 

In the gospels, when we see Jesus forgiving sin, he is making it clear that when we sin, it is primarily against Him, against the Lord that we sin, whoever else is harmed.

 

Similarly, if we are lazy, if do we do not properly apply ourselves to the tasks which God has set for us to do, our relationship with God with inevitably be harmed.

 

Habitual laziness is incompatible with being the people God wants us to be.

Sluggards cannot live the lives God wants them to live.

 

c) diligence is a vital part of Christian witness.

 

Matthew 5v16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

This is an evangelical church.

We seek to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ with those who don’t know him personally.

 

Good deeds attract people to God.

A lack of good deeds, including the sin of laziness will repel people.

 

Many years ago I was speaking to a group of around forty at a conference of Christian doctors.

I asked for characteristics of what makes a good work colleague and the list included:

hardworking, nice to patients, up to date, cooperative on the issue of whose turn it is to get Christmas or other school holidays off

 

I then suggested a five point scale for rating colleagues.

 

This began with 5: an outstanding colleague with whom I love working. I want to know what makes them tick and become like them.

 

At the bottom was to 1: I hate working with this person. I’d hate to be like that.

 

3 was average; as good or as bad as any other typical colleague.

 

I then asked this group of around forty – whose combined experience would be hundreds of years of work – to rate their average Christian colleague.

 

We suddenly had a very interesting carpet.

 

One person out of forty, a young Russian, was very positive.

The consensus amongst others, however ,was that Christian colleagues were no better, or possibly even a bit worse than non Christian colleagues.

 

In my own experience I’ve had some very fine Christian colleagues with whom it has been a joy to work and who have been a great witness.

 

I have to say, however, that I have worked alongside others who were quite vociferously Christian who treated both colleagues and patients appallingly.

 

Something is surely terribly wrong in the results of that survey I carried out.

 

And, I’d be amazed if these results were unique to Christian doctors.

 

If being a Christian doesn’t on average make us more hardworking, kind and considerate colleagues there’s something very wrong with our relationship with God.

 

If there are no good deeds to attract others to our Father in Heaven, it’s legitimate to ask whether he really is our Father in heaven.

 

On a positive note: around the time of that disappointing survey I was treating a patient who worked for a certain oil company. I asked if she knew so and so, an elder at my church.

‘ I do,’ she said. And he’s a lovely man.’ That’s as it should be folks.

 

 

Slide 8 3) Practical steps towards diligence

 

a) a combination of reliance on God’s help and personal effort

 

Philippians 2v12-13 Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you.

 

Galatians 5v24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with all its passions. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

There is a popular but unbiblical and unrealistic view of the Christian life that it is easy.

 

We just get in the boat, lie back and float downstream.

 

According to this view the Holy Spirit changes us so quickly and completely that struggle with sin isn’t an issue.

 

In its worst form Satan uses this false teaching to say to people ‘ No need to change or struggle at the moment. The Holy Spirit will change your desires for you when he wants to deal with that issue. Carry on as usual in the meantime: you don’t want to be trying to do God’s work for him.’

 

Now it’s certainly Biblical – as per these verses – to emphasise our need of the enabling of the Holy Spirit if we are to become better people.

 

But – and it’s a big but – there needs to be decisive, costly and even painful effort from us ourselves.

 

If we are to crucify our sinful nature that’s painful and not easy.

 

If your character has been marked by lack of diligence it won’t be easy to change. But, if you do wish to change, God will work with and in you.

 

To change -as regards lack of diligence or any other sin – we need to confess our wrongdoing, we need to ask in prayer for God’s help, and we need to persist, generally for years in so doing.

 

 

 

b) aim for small manageable goals

 

Some people have experienced instantaneous release from certain harmful habits.

‘ I stopped smoking the day I was converted and have never been tempted since.’

 

More often change is a long struggle so it’s best done in small steps.

 

For those struggling with problem drinking the motto ‘one day at a time’ can be a lifesaver.

I can’t speak about ten years hence or even next week but intend to remain sober today. Lord help me to stay sober today.

 

Similarly, if your life has been characterised by laziness or avoiding vital jobs you hate you’re unlikely to have an entirely different character any time soon.

But: sow an act, reap a habit, sow a habit reap a character, sow a character reap a destiny.

 

The longest journey begins with the first step.

Why not make a commitment to God to taking that first step today?

 

c) be accountable to one or more persons

 

If diligence and effort is a struggle for you it might be a good idea to share that with someone, to make a realistic plan for some changes, and to give them permission to ask in future how it’s going.

 

 

So: diligence: a topic that comes up a lot in the book of Proverbs and elsewhere in Scripture.

 

God grant that we may be a people characterised by diligence whose hard work and good deeds are a positive advertisement for the gospel and who draw closer to God as we steadily walk in His ways.

 

God grant that we can look forward to that reward promised in Colossians 3v24 which is the outcome of our faithful service to Christ.

 

Amen.