Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
There seems to be a difference between those whom God uses in a mighty way, and the rest of Christianity. It’s not their skill or education that makes them most likely to succeed in the kingdom of God. It’s certainly not their pedigree or upbringing that matters. For 1 Corinthians teaches that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). God can take anyone, of any background and experience, and turn them into a D.L. Moody or a Billy Graham.
It seems the single attribute that separates those who serve Him with reckless abandon and those who just go through the motions, is commitment. Or, to use the words of Jude, being very diligent.
It appears Jude had a different intention for this letter. He begins by saying he wanted to “write to you concerning our common salvation (Jude 1:3). But in the span of the same sentence, Jude pivots by saying something has changed. “I find it necessary (as the Holy Spirit changes his focus) to write to you exhorting (helping, encouraging) you to contend (strive, struggle) earnestly (not casually or haphazardly) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). In other words, what began as a letter exploring the nature of our “common salvation” has now changed. The Holy Spirit is moving in a different direction.
It’s this new direction, the warning and rebuking of the apostates within the walls of the church, that gives Jude a special place in the New Testament. But we’ll talk more about that later.
The phrase Jude uses, very diligent, means “speed, haste, earnest in accomplishing something, zeal.”1 It implies someone who is totally committed or single-focused with tunnel vision aimed at completing the task set before them.
It’s a trait we honor in every area of life except the spiritual. Michael Phelps, for example, won more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone in history. Do you think he was able to accomplish that feat with a haphazard attitude towards his sport? Of course not. We applaud his commitment, his diligence, and the obvious sacrifices he made to achieve success in his field. But do we applaud the same in other Christians?
For some reason, we see diligence and commitment as a necessary element of success in every form of life except in our relationship with Christ. We admire those who make sacrifices to attain certain levels of success, like Michael Phelps, yet we assume the same is not required of us. When we study the lives of great men of God, we see that’s not true. Those who accomplished great things for God also sacrificed great things for God. They were very diligent about serving Him. As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”2
Plus, there are promises made, not to the casual believers, but to the one who seeks the Lord with his whole heart. Or, as Jude would say, is very diligent about the things of God. And each of these promises is conditional. They only belong to the diligent and committed, and not the casual or carnal. Consider the following:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with (condition) all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In (condition) all your ways acknowledge Him, and (promise) He shall direct your paths.
Note the conditions and the promise. If you want the promise, you must first meet the condition. You must be very diligent about the things of God. It’s Contract Law, 101.
Jeremiah 29:13 – And (promise) you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me (condition) with all your heart.
Again, note the condition and the promise. If you want to find God, you must meet the condition He sets for that revelation. And, as always, it’s “with all your heart.” Jude would call that being very diligent about the things of God.
No Pain, No Gain
We’re all familiar with the No Pain, No Gain mantra when it comes to working out or getting a graduate degree. It shows how much we’re willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals. The same is true with the things of God. For some reason, God seems to honor the fervent, the committed, and the diligent— and not the casual. And we do the same. What employee gets the raise and promotion? The one who works hard and is trustworthy? Or the one who shows up when it’s only convenient for him?
One final thought. Paul understood this principle in his life. Look at what he said about sacrifice and commitment:
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
That’s run with sacrifice, commitment, diligence. It’s getting up early and training harder than the rest. It’s doing your best and giving your all to the race that’s set before you. In fact, Paul goes one step further:
1 Corinthians 9:27 – But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
By disciplining his body, Paul is saying “no” to the distractions, to the things that don’t bring him closer to his goal. In the spiritual life, we call this living with fervency, with total commitment. Or, as Jude says, being very diligent.
Examine your life today and ask the Lord what you’re wasting it on? And then burn those bridges and center your life on Him and Him alone. Run the race the Lord has set before you— and don’t get distracted and don’t look back.
Be very diligent in all you do for Him.
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 1307). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
2. Jim Elliot (1927-1956) was a missionary who gave his life, along with four others, while trying to evangelize the Huaorani people, also known as the Auca, in Ecuador. He was 29 when he was martyred. This quote is from one of his journals, written on October 28, 1949.