Updated: May 26, 2021
Seeing as I have taken on the moniker of the "Diligent Disciple" for this blog, I thought it would only be fitting to do my first post on diligence. But before I begin my discussion, I would like first to share why I am starting this blog so as to give you some understanding of what it is I aim to do here. This blog is intended to be an outlet, a place for me to share my insights from studying scripture and my walk with God, and a place to encourage my readers to dive deeper into God's Word. I am nothing other than a man intent on learning more about what God is trying to say to me through His Word, and I want to use this blog to share what information I gather with anyone who is interested. While I intend to use the utmost discretion in researching and writing for this blog, you should know that all of its contents will simply be my opinions, backed by my own independent research. I do not desire for my interpretation or insight to be presented or construed as anything other than that. This blog is not a substitute for reading and studying the scripture on your own; rather, a tool for you to add to your arsenal and perhaps a place for you to find some spiritual encouragement. That being said, I desire that you read, enjoy, learn, and reach out if you want to discuss any of the contents of my blog. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on diligence.
Before I get into what the scripture says about diligence, I want to tell you what I mean when I use the word and build a model for what a diligent disciple might look like. For this, the dictionary seems the best place to start. Merriam-Webster defines diligence as a "steady, earnest, and energetic effort … applied to accomplish an undertaking". I like this definition and think it serves as a good foundation for the way I would like us to construct our model disciple. There are several elements to this definition, and I won't bore you with a rabbit hole of unpacking every single syllable. Still, I will spend some time addressing the separate but equally important aspects of diligence because I think it will be a fruitful endeavor. As it was with the noble Bereans who "received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day" (Acts 17:11), CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Thus, the first element of a diligent disciple is being "steady" or consistent in seeking God. At the lowest level this means praying and reading the Bible on a regular basis (ideally daily but "pobody's nerfect" as Steven Universe says). The second quality of the diligent disciple is that they put forth an earnest effort to be more like God. This word earnest simply refers to the intentionality and severity of the work towards whatever "undertaking" they aim to achieve. In our case, being a diligent disciple that is, this earnestness refers to how committed we are in our effort to know God and follow in the footsteps of Christ. One scripture that comes to mind on the subject of earnestness is in the book of Revelation, where John is writing to the church in Laodicea. The scripture reads: "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:16). This word of warning spawns from a lack of earnestness in the efforts of the church. Their half-baked attitude towards learning from God's Word and applying the scripture to their daily lives did not sit well with God and I know at times I can also be guilty of this half-baked approach. Whether its falling asleep when I start praying or zoning out on my phone during church service, certainly these are the kinds of behavior one could associate with a lack of earnestness. And so, the diligent disciple is one who sincerely acts, and is not apathetic or lethargic in their effort to become more like Christ. The third element of a diligent disciple is that they act with an "energetic" attitude. When I first started to consider this element I found it rather similar to that of earnestness, but I have come to differentiate the two. Like the Bereans, who "eagerly" examined the scriptures, the diligent disciple is one who takes pleasure in becoming more like Christ. Before now, I never really thought about following the Word of God as something pleasurable, as it came with tremendous requirements of self-discipline, personal sacrifice, persecution, and a lot of lifestyle changes I was not "eager" to make. However, I have come to realize there is great satisfaction to be gained from following the Word of God. While I have already seen personal benefits in my short time as a disciple (making many new friends and having significantly reduced anxiety), what I gain in this life is not the reason I take pleasure in becoming more like Christ. Matthew 6:19-21 reads: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by a seemingly insurmountable change you are called to make in your life on behalf of God, I encourage you to dwell on the eternal inheritance waiting for you. While it is truly by the grace of God alone that we are even able to have this hope, it should make us all the more eager to be diligent in our walk with Him so that we may receive the gift He so desperately wants us to have.
So there you have it, a model for how to be a diligent disciple of Christ. Make a consistent (daily), sincere effort to pray and to study God's word and apply it to your life, and do so with an attitude of joy. Easier said than done, I know. I'll be the first to admit that on some days, reading my Bible can seem like a chore at best, if I even remember to do it. Not to mention being happy to open up my Bible or to spend time in prayer. Needless to say, I need an attitude adjustment before I can honestly take up the mantle of "The Diligent Disciple." Nonetheless, even if I am not yet able to call myself a diligent disciple, it is what I aspire to be, and I hope that you are willing to join me in my effort.
But wait! There's more!
Our model for the diligent disciple is indeed progressing, but it needs a few more touches to be complete. The next building block for our model disciple is a bit more abstract and stems from a concept I studied in great detail while in law school. In several areas of the law (be it security regulation, contracts, torts, compliance, or one of the various other fields) there is a concept known as "due diligence." Recognizing that you probably did not come across my blog in search of a detailed description of abstract legal jargon (although if you did, you are in for a treat), I will spare you the several cases and statues that were used to teach me about this concept and just give you the short and sweet "spark notes" version. Without getting too complex, the concept of due diligence is a sort of standard (applied on a case-by-case basis) that all people are held to. For example, if a person has done their due diligence before entering into a contract, they have taken a sufficient amount of care in considering what is expected of them, what they can be held accountable for, etc. This concept defined in even simpler terms would be: what is reasonably expected of a particular person, given the context of their situation. I think it is worth noting that this standard of reasonable behavior is the MINIMUM that would be expected of a person contextually speaking. So, with that understanding of diligence, I would like to apply this concept to our model of a diligent disciple. That is to say, as a diligent disciple of Christ, am I doing what is reasonably expected of me?
When I first asked myself this question, I found it rather convicting. In fact, it was asking this question that led me to start this blog, and this legal understanding of diligence led me to choose its name. As a student of advocacy and apologetics (lawyering), I have come to understand that in order to advocate for something or someone sufficiently, much preparation is required. You cannot simply walk into a courtroom and argue a case without at least knowing the facts of the situation, understanding your position on the matter at hand, and having a plan to defend that position. I mean, you could, but it probably wouldn't go very well. A bit of reflection on this had me thinking, as a Christian, am I not an advocate on behalf of Christ? And as an advocate for Christ, have I done my diligence to give him fair and equitable representation? Could I stand in front of a court of peers and defend my behavior? Could I prove to anyone who asked that I am, in fact, a disciple of Christ? Inevitably, I concluded that as an advocate for Christ, I had not been fulfilling my duty, the consequences for which are nothing short of eternal. It was quite damning to have the realization that as a lifelong believer, I was not even meeting the minimum expectations of a person claiming to be a Christian, and if I'm honest, I was doing much less than the minimum. I'm not just talking about daily prayer and meditation on the scripture either (which I definitely was not doing when I first asked myself this question and still struggle with quite frankly). Given the way that I have conducted myself over the past few years, most people who know me would have never even suspected that I was a "Christian." So, finding myself condemned by my own inquisition, I decided to start this blog in order to document the process as I become a diligent advocate of my faith and hopefully encourage others along the way to do the same.
But let's get back to the matter at hand and finish building our model disciple. If you don't recall, the question we still need to answer is: What is reasonably expected of us as a disciple of Christ? To answer this question, we need to first be aware of what our minimum expectations are (keep in mind that those who are unaware of this minimum standard are usually found negligent in a court of law when they don't meet it, so ignorance is certainly no excuse), so for the final portion of our model disciple, let's open up the Bible and see what God has to say about diligence. We'll begin in the new testament. 2 Peter 3:14 says, "therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace." In the original Greek, the word for diligent is spoudasate, and modern English translations of this word say that to spoudasate is to "make every effort" to achieve something. Recall that from our legal standard, diligence is our minimum expectation, so perhaps at first glance, it seems a bit of a juxtaposition to say that the minimum expectation of us as a disciple is to "make every effort" to follow God's Word. However, this notion is firmly supported in the scripture. In Matthew 6:33, Christ tells us to pursue the kingdom of God above everything else; pretty straightforward, I think, but maybe you aren't convinced. For those of you thinking that making every effort is too high of a standard, I'll point you to a more convicting depiction of making "every effort" to follow God's Word. Found in Matthew chapter five, when Christ is talking about sin, Matthew 5:29-30 says: "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." Surely the preferred method would be to overcome our sinful habits through prayer and repentance instead of chopping off body parts, but Christ makes it clear what lengths we should be willing to go to be obedient to the Word of God. Certainly you would be hard-pressed to find someone more committed than a person who is ready to cut off their own hand to avoid sin. I can only speak for myself, but it's rare that I put "every effort" into anything I do. I mean, with some of the reckless behaviors I have participated in in my lifetime, one could make a legitimate argument that I haven't even put every effort into simply staying alive, let alone my relationship with God. Nonetheless, we are called to do it, so I suppose now is as good a time as any to redress that.
Now let's take a look at some old testament scriptures that use the word diligence to further our understanding of how the word is used in the Bible. Proverbs 12:27 says: "The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt." In the original Hebrew text, this word is ḥā·rūṣ. It is used several times throughout the old testament, in different contexts, but it translates to sharpness in most cases. In the literal context, it was used to describe sharp tools, but in this case, it is used as a figure of speech to describe the efforts of a person. I find it interesting that the Hebrew language uses the word for sharp to describe diligent effort as it implies diligence has a natural value or usefulness. In the Hebrew language, a tool's sharpness is associated with its effectiveness or ability to meet its intended purpose. Think about trying to cut down a tree with a saw that had not been sharpened. How challenging would that be? I mean, I find it difficult to cut up a chicken breast when my chef's knife is too dull, and those aren't even that durable! Putting this in context, we as disciples will lack effectiveness in our advocacy for Christ if we are not diligent in our effort to follow him. If we do not spend the time and energy needed to sharpen our knowledge of God's Word and commit to applying it to our lives, we will become like the dull kitchen knife that can barely get me through my chicken piccata recipe. We see this same use again in Proverbs 21:5, which says, "the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." It is no mistake that the use of this word, particularly in the book of Proverbs, is used in close association with riches and inheritance. When you think of what a diligent disciple will inherit (eternal life in heaven), its value is truly impossible to define. In some more poetic uses of the word ḥā·rūṣ it is actually used to describe precious metals like gold and silver. So what do I think God is trying to say? Well, simply put, the reward for diligence in our efforts to be more like Christ cannot be overstated. God is calling us to commit to His way, to develop our understanding of His Word through consistent study and prayer, and to become sharpened instruments in His kingdom. The Proverbs we reviewed link diligence closely to being rewarded because the diligent disciple will receive a great inheritance if they stay true to God's Word. "Feeding on the riches of the hunt" is the end goal for us as disciples; to run the race faithfully and collect our eternal inheritance by the grace of God.
So, now that we know what the scripture says about diligence; let's take a moment to recap and finish off our model disciple. A diligent disciple is a follower of Christ who MAKES EVRY EFFORT (maybe even cutting off a hand) to be obedient to the Word of God. They study God's Word consistently, making an intentional and sincere effort to learn and follow God's commands, and does so with a joyful heart. The diligent disciple is called to put God before everything else in their life with the hope that one day they will reap the benefit of eternal salvation. In writing this post, I challenge you to ask yourself if you meet this standard. Are you doing everything in your power to adhere to the Word of God? I hope that you find this challenge encouraging and join me on my journey to become a diligent disciple of Christ.
Until Next Time,