Diligence: The Quest For Christian Character

Sunday am 18 June 2017 – Johan Esterhuizen

2 Peter 1:4-7; Deut. 6:4-7(NASB); (Prov. 22:6); Prov. 14:4; Eccl. 9:10; (Phil. 3:14); Jer. 6:16; (Rom. 13:8); Prov. 26:14-15; Prov. 18:9 (NKJ); Col. 3:17, 20-24; Col. 2:6-8, 20-22; (Heb. 11); Col. 3:17, 20-24;

I am astounded at what God has in store for His Body in these days – to be partakers of His divine nature. It feels blasphemous to say that, yet that is God’s intended purpose that you and I become salt and light to the world by displaying the very nature of Christ through our lives. The apostle Peter says “with all diligence”. He does not say “with diligence.” Why “with all diligence?” Basically, because we are lazy! The brain has three positive circuits to eight negative circuits. We have to train our brains. They talk about the 7/11 principle. Seven to form a habit and eleven to break it. Sometimes it is even more. With all diligence these qualities we have to be added to our lives. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4-7).

Diligence requires self-discipline and self-denial on a continuous basis. Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deut. 6:4-7). Have you noticed your children want to go their own way and you have to diligently train them in the way that they should go? Here is the promise: when they are old they will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox (Prov. 14:4). Oxen in a stall produce manure. It is hard work to have oxen in the stall, you have to feed them, you have to water them and you have to clean. This is a wisdom instruction for farmers and for us today. Do not complain about the manure, do not complain about the hard work, enjoy the harvest. In other words, the farmer is not going to have a harvest if he does not work.  The oxen in those days were the tractors, they could plough they could pull they could work. The cow produces milk, butter and cheese. The farmer who wants a tidy clean crib is not going to have a harvest. The Scripture encourages us with all diligence to add these qualities to our lives.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going (Eccl. 9:10). The apostle Paul says “I press, I strain, I fight towards the mark of the prize of the upper call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls’” (Jer. 6:16). The word ‘ancient’ there comes from the Hebrew word ‘olam’. It means God’s fixed established principles of doing things. When we see the word ‘ancient’ do not think it is old. The ancient old ways are not old fashioned; they just cannot be modified. It is God’s way of doing things. When we do the ancient pathways, the Scripture says we will find rest for our souls. God’s Word has instructed us how to live regarding finances, being a father, being a mother, being a daughter, being a son. The greatest thing God instructs us is to owe no man anything except to love (Rom. 13:8). We sometimes rob Peter to pay Paul and it is not Scriptural. The ancient pathways are the instruction that we must walk in those ‘olams’ of God and find rest for our souls. We need an anointing of blushing and being ashamed in our lives today. This is not sin consciousness; this is walking in the pathways of God so that we could find rest for our souls.

Success means different things to different people. Sometimes people destroy with their character what they built with their talent. You do not have to be gifted or have a lot of resources to be talented. Do you have to have all those things to be diligent, to persevere or to have self-control or to practice love? No! Do you have to have all these things to study hard and be teachable, No! With all diligence add to your life these qualities and you will find success.

Joseph’s life can be summed up. He knew about betrayal, he knew about discouragement. His life can be summed up: from the pit to Potiphar’s house, from Potiphar’s house to the prison, from the prison to the palace, from the palace to the prime minister, from the prime minister to prosperity. Throughout Joseph’s life, he was diligent in the things of God. There comes a time in your life when you will have to taste your tears and bite your lip, pull the blanket over your head and have a good cry, but tomorrow morning the sun shines again. Tomorrow morning it is a new dawn, it is a new day. Get up and shake the dust off and say, “As for me and my house we will serve God, as for me and my household we will walk in God’s ways, we will practise the ‘olams’ and see God doing great things”.

Faith comes through hard work. As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again (Prov. 26:14-15). Lazy people are always willing to instruct everybody. They know it all and do nothing. They are unteachable. To be teachable is to be willing to be corrected.  He who is slothful in work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer (Prov. 18:9 – NKJ). Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism (Message). A lazy person is as bad as someone who is destructive (TEV).

Study shows 80% of your life turns out the way you have planned it. If you plan for nothing that is what you will get – nothing! You will spend about 150 000 hours of your life working. This equates to 40-60% of your waking day. The other 40-60% you are sleeping (some of us longer). You will spend less time with your family and be commuting to work and back. Then there is still your social life and some time to go to church. Do we think that everything must happen within these four walls?  The field of evangelism is the marketplace. God has given gifts, talents and abilities to gain resources so that we could be a blessing. This place is a place of equipping, a place of developing, a place of training, a place where God speaks to us. This is a place where we are challenged to become better and reach higher heights, but the evangelism and the influence lie out in the marketplace as we are spending most of our time there. Being a hard working person is one of the finest qualities you can have. Have you noticed today people want to work fewer hours for more salary? People have forgotten the blessing of work. Some think that work is a curse. If you do not have work, you will see the curse.

God loves you too much to leave you the way you are. God wants us to change. God wants to take us to better, bigger and higher things to be effective in the kingdom. With all diligence add all these qualities to your life and you will look much better than you look right now. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Col. 3:17). Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Col. 3:23-24). If you do everything as unto the Lord, it is the Lord who will reward you. If you are working unto God and you do not get that promotion, do not worry for God is in control. Maybe that promotion was not for you, but your day is coming when you work for the Lord, and from the Lord you will receive your reward.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Col. 2:20-22). He gives it truth and amplifies it. Whatsoever you do, do it with all your heart as unto the Lord.

In the palm of your hands are two “M’s” this is ‘Mens Moet’ or ‘Man Must’. Right here is the work ethic, ‘mens moet’.  When your children come to you and they must study, you say ‘mens moet’. When your husband does not want to help you with the dishes you say ‘mens moet’.  Somebody was very clever and he said I have got two “w’s” in my hand.  I looked at him and I said ‘work wonders’. The fact is this, faith comes through hard work. When you start working and studying and you start applying yourself your faith grows. We thought faith comes just by hearing and hearing by God’s word and then sit back and do nothing. My mission statement in life is based upon Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Col. 3:17). God has given me talents, gifts and abilities to gain resources so that I can become the person He wants me to be. My part is I must maximise these to serve Him and others better. With all diligence, I must add these qualities to my life so that I can be a blessing. Opportunity does not necessarily come our way, we create them. Opportunity follows hard work, ambitious responsible people with a positive attitude. Life is never easy; there are constant struggles, extreme lows and extreme highs. Remember the times that you should persevere are the times you will be tested the most. One of the most inspiring chapters in the Bible is Hebrews 11 as you read about those who through faith overcame greatest obstacles. Somewhere in the future, I look much better than I look right now.