I remember being in Basic Training for the Air Force and upon hearing the Training Instructor (TI) bark out the infamous “Attention!” everyone snapped to the position of attention, with their eyes peeled, head forward and just waiting to get busy zealously doing whatever it was the TI was about to command. Upon giving his instructions he would always tell us to work diligently and pay attention to detail.
In our Bibles we find the word ‘diligent’ attached to important commands as well. God is concerned with his children’s spiritual work ethic as well as what is accomplished. The word translated ‘diligent’ is the Greek word spoudazo (another Gk. word that is fun to say). It has the basic meaning of earnest and eager exertion.
God calls his children to be diligent in many areas. I want to highlight three here.
Be Diligent to Preserve Unity (Eph. 4.3)
As believers we are called to earnestly and eagerly work to preserve unity within the body of Christ. We understand, of course, in this passage the theme of unity originating in the fact that there is one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one baptism and one faith (vv. 4-6). This is helpful for me because it lets me know that when I am involved in something less than unity then I am involved with something contrary to God and his calling.
Fortunately the Scriptures diagnose the heart so as to help us understand what diligent unity preservation looks like. In verse 1 believers are commanded to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and then we see the specifics of this worthy walk in verse 2: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”
As believers we are to eagerly and earnestly labor to preserve unity by walking in the truth just as we were called, with a disposition of humility, knowing that it is our job to promote unity that reflects our heavenly Father. This calling is extremely helpful when our flesh feels undervalued and under-appreciated and begins to cry out for attention. When we put ourselves first it is at the expense of God’s own agenda of promoting his supremacy, and often times we see this manifested in the body through a lack of unity. A diligent pursuit of unity is reflected in a humble, submissive and eager pursuit of the glory and fame of God at the expense of our own pride.
Be Diligent to Handle the Scriptures Rightly (2 Tim. 2.15)
Paul is telling pastor Timothy to eagerly and earnestly work to make sure that his interpretation and application of Scripture is accurate. While Timothy is a pastor he is also to be an example for all of his flock that they might follow after his deeds to the glory of God (Heb. 13.7).
The command here is diligence. The diligence is to express itself through rightly dividing, or accurately handling the word. This involves a personal commitment to the word that is strengthened by grappling with what the Bible says and how it applies. This involves having personally become convinced of the truth, knowing it owning it and being able to explain it. Notice it does not mean inventing it! There is a right way and a wrong way to handle the Bible.
The diligence here is expressed in terms of handling the Scriptures rightly or to be cutting a straight course. We are not given editorial license or creative liberties with the Bible. God has spoken and he commands that his followers exercise diligence in handling the word in accordance with the intended interpretation, lest we become worthy of shame.
The diligence commanded here presses the ‘mute’ button on the popular Bible study method of asking group members, “what does this verse mean to you?” In all honesty it does not matter what it means to me or to you, the issue is what it means to God. Believers must be committed to accurately handling the Bible in a way that brings God glory and does not produce personal shame.
Be Diligent to Prove that you are in Christ (2 Pet. 1.10)
The aging Apostle Peter is, under the Holy Spirit, commanding believers to evaluate their salvation based upon their conduct. In verses 4-8 he gives them a list of items that should be practiced and evidenced in the life of a believer: diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
It is interesting that he frames the list with the same word: diligence. We are to diligently examine and prove that we are Christ’s. And what is the basis? The evidence of fruit such as what is listed in verse 4-8.
So on the one hand believers are commanded to practice these things, because that is what believers do and on the other hand they are commanded to evaluate their lives to make sure that these times are present and increasing.
So much of our evangelical culture is proclaiming that we never question or evaluate or salvation. Well here the Scriptures command believers to do the opposite. Instead of ignoring the facts we are to examine the facts. We are to be busy producing fruit in accordance with godliness and then also examining fruit to prove or validate genuine salvation.
Diligence is a good thing. God desires that his children are diligent. He wants us to be diligent in the pursuit and preservation of unity, in the handling of Scripture and in the evaluation of our spiritual pulses.
Well, the highest ranking commander in the history of the world has commanded that you and I, his soldiers, lock-up, give him attention, and eagerly and earnestly labor to obey his loving commands in all humility. What can you say but “Yes Lord!”