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As I situate myself to write this article, I’m somewhere over the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Salt Lake City and Honolulu. My wife and I, along with our five teenage children, are traveling to a church where I am scheduled to preach on consecutive weekends, and we’ll enjoy spring break during the days in between.

Trying to make the most of our extended flight, my wife and I set forth clear homework expectations for our younger children. There are books to read, papers to write, and subjects to master—all coming due after spring break. And the more they complete on the plane, the less encumbered our week in paradise will be.

But scattered seat assignments, carry-ons bulging with games, complimentary TV, and interesting passengers have all coalesced into a tsunami of distraction for them. Their attention is unfocused and, unsurprisingly, their academic progress is slow. Their diligence in study fizzled out somewhere over Nevada.

In this moment, my children have reminded me anew of the importance of diligence. It’s a discipline they need to learn—and, more urgently, a discipline our society needs to relearn. Indeed, diligence is essential to maturity, and every maturing Christian must learn diligence.

We can define diligence simply as sustained effort. It means to keep working hard. Focus plus effort plus endurance equals diligence. Diligence is easy to spot, but these days it’s hard to find. Our sluggish, entertainment-driven society makes diligence a lost virtue indeed. Against this backdrop of distraction and slothfulness, diligence always stands out.

God often sustains His work in the church by those who’ve diligently worked, diligently saved, and now diligently steward all that He has entrusted to them.

Throughout Scripture, diligence is both commanded and commended. Indeed, from Genesis to Revelation we learn the importance of diligence. For instance, in Exodus 15 Moses charged God’s people to diligently listen to and obey the voice of the Lord. In our earthly affairs, Proverbs 10:4 warns, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

In the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, diligence as a virtue gained renewed focus. The Reformers understood that all work is sacred work and that believers are to honor God through their vocational efforts. Diligence is essential, in other words, to God-honoring labors.

Diligence is a biblical virtue, but one need not be a Bible-believing Christian to value it. By common grace, diligence is rewarded in almost every culture. Diligence is a sign of personal, familial, and societal health.

Benjamin Franklin famously observed that “diligence is the mother of good luck.” Further back, Plato reflected, “Prefer diligence before idleness, unless you esteem rust above brightness.” Indeed, in almost any area of life, you can’t reach your full potential without diligence.

Yet our primary concern in this article is diligence in the Christian life. As we’ll see, diligence isn’t just beneficial for it; it’s essential.

First, diligence is essential to your Christian growth. The spiritual disciplines of the Christian life all require diligence. Prayer, Scripture reading, evangelism, giving, and even worship all require diligence. Where you find a spiritually inactive Christian, you’ll find a stagnant one.

Second, diligence is essential to your Christian witness. Slothfulness in your workplace will sully Christ’s name before your employer. Similarly, insufficiently providing for one’s family (when one is physically able to do so) is treated in Scripture as a high crime, with Paul those who do so persons as unbelievers. Additionally, to witness for Christ, you must have your life’s affairs in order. A life in disarray will lack the time and purposefulness needed for serious gospel work.

Third, diligence is essential to Christian service. In the local church, faithfulness wins out over flashiness. It’s the pastor who diligently prays, diligently preaches the Word, and diligently shepherds the flock—over the long haul—whose service usually bears the most fruit. Faithfulness requires diligence. In your local church, cultivate and celebrate diligence in Christian service.

Fourth, diligence is essential to Christian ministry. Those who most generously support their church and other Christian ministries typically do so because, in God’s kind providence, their vocational diligence has, quite literally, paid off. Christian ministry is usually not underwritten by lottery winners and professional athletes. On the contrary, God often sustains His work in the church by those who’ve diligently worked, diligently saved, and now diligently steward all that He has entrusted to them. As you increase your vocational and financial diligence, you will—Lord willing—increase your kingdom impact.

What about you? How diligent are you? Are you task-oriented, or do distractions usually win out? Does sustained effort characterize your life, or are you prone to complacency or diversion? Resolve to do hard things first. Don’t move on to a secondary task until you’ve completed your primary one. Strategically incentivize diligence in your own life and pray for God to strengthen you.

Whatever we do, let us root out laziness, distraction, and procrastination as if they were unpardonable sins. Until we do, we won’t have the diligence to reach our full spiritual and ministerial potential.



Keep Reading Lost Virtues

From the October 2022 Issue
Oct 2022 Issue