Diligence

February 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

As a college student, sometimes I struggle with time management, and I know many of my peers do as well. Being diligent is not something achieved overnight neither is it something easy to achieve. When you’re taking six classes, being a leader for two groups, wanting a social life and good grades and enough sleep, it can be difficult to use your time wisely. I thank God that He gave me the strength to be diligent last year and continues to do so this year, but there are times when I fail. I’m human. I procrastinate, I waste time, I do things I probably shouldn’t be doing in the time allotted to me.

To further encourage myself and others to be diligent, I looked to the Bible. Now, I would be fully justified in spouting off tons of things that you should do to manage your time wisely from downloading Wunderlist (which is a great app, I recommend it), to keeping a calendar, to not over-booking yourself. And these things are definitely useful to know. But really trying to understand and apply a Biblical foundation to diligence would make being diligent all the better.

I thought two Bible characters in particular would help illustrate this concept of diligence well: Joseph and Daniel. This study will be from Genesis 39:1-6, 20-23 and Daniel 1:8-21. Their stories are very similar. Just for a bit of context, Joseph has just been sold by his brothers into slavery because of their jealousy. He has been sold into Potiphar’s house. In Daniel’s case, Jerusalem has been besieged by King Nebuchadnezzar, and he has taken the noble young men into his court to be educated in the ways of the Babylonians. Both were taken into captivity, and both exercised diligence in their respective situations.

There are four points I want to make. They are four similarities between the two stories and they can be applied to our lives, whether we are students or professionals or just people who want to manage our time wisely.

1. Make the decision and start (early)

Daniel 1:8 – But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8 KJV)

Not much will get done until you consciously and seriously make the decision to make the most of your time honor God through it. Of course we don’t want to make the effort to do certain things because we want to take it easy. But choosing not to procrastinate or delay in what you need to do is the first step to managing your time wisely. And with God we can actually go about being diligent. Although we only get an explicit verse from Daniel, we can assume that Joseph also made an early decision. Both were taken into captivity into a nation that didn’t serve God. And the journey was long, perfect for thought. Both had every right to choose early on to assimilate to the customs of the country they were going to or to be bitter towards their captors or be mediocre in what they gave them. But they purposed in their heart to follow God and live their lives for His glory.

In terms if how to apply this to us students and young adults, start early on your assignments. Don’t just say that you will, but actually do it. Words without actions don’t mean anything. Starting your tasks is the first step to finishing it (obviously), and starting it soon will give you the momentum to keep working. For example, essays are the hardest thing for me to start. The hardest part is writing the introduction, the first paragraph. But even if you start with a thesis or the topic sentences or an outline, you’ll get the momentum to keep going.

2. Make the most of your time (do your best)

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored. (Genesis 39:2-6 KJV)

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. (Daniel 1:9-14 KJV)

Both Joseph and Daniel were in unfavorable situations, and it would have been understandable if they had complained or done a mediocre job. But they did neither. Despite the fact that they were in captivity, they made sure to do their very best and to keep God’s commandments. And of course, this was possible by allowing God to work through them. In each case, God worked with them, and their masters saw God working in them. Joseph was the best servant in the house of Potiphar because of his diligence in all that he did. He didn’t do a half job, but he did all he could to be in the favor of his master. Daniel and his friends could have gone against what they were taught at home as children. They could have succumbed to the luxuries and temptations offered to them in Babylon. But they made the most of their time by following God’s commandments throughout their captivity. It was hard, especially when those around them were not following God’s commandments. But they did their best during their respective situations.

For us, we naturally don’t like to work or put in a ton of effort. In fact, we’re sometimes willing to do more work to not put in as much effort (this sounds like it doesn’t make sense but it’s true). But using the time allocated for work by actually working is beneficial. You will give your best and no less than that. When you procrastinate or waste time, the quality of the work suffers. Not studying or working today might mean a mediocre performance or bad grade (not to mention high stress) for tomorrow. And that’s why I put start early as the first point. When you start early, you’ll have more time to do your best. You’ll have two weeks to finish that essay instead of two days, or fewer. You’ll be able to get feedback on your project or essay well before it’s due, and it will come out much better than if you had done it on your own.

3. There is a reward for diligence

And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. (Genesis 39:4-6 KJV).

But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:21-23 KJV)

As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. (Daniel 1:17-20 KJV)

In Joseph’s and Daniel’s case, they became high ranking officials and great in knowledge, stature, and wisdom. They had great influence, and because of their influence, they were later great assets in future events; namely, they were integral to the seven year famine and to the interpretation of dreams and other things. And these rewards have their place of course. But perhaps even more importantly, they were witnesses for God. Both Potiphar and the prison warden saw how God was working in Joseph. The bible is silent on God’s influence on their lives, but the fact still remains that God was brought into their lives through Joseph. The same is true for Daniel and his friends. They showed who God was to their captors, and their witness led to Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual conversion.

When we are diligent with our work, our reward may not be as dramatic as becoming the head of something. It may be something as simple as a good grade or a word of praise from your supervisor or pride in your work. But regardless, something rewarding will come from being diligent. And when others see how well we manage our time, that’s an opportunity to let them know how God is working with you to be diligent and to manage your time wisely. Just as in Joseph’s and in Daniel’s case, our lives will be effective witnesses for God.

4. Keep God at the center

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. (Genesis 39:2, 3, 5 KJV)

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9 KJV)

But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:21, 23 KJV).

Remember that everything you do should be done for God’s glory and should be according to His will. And it is only with Him that we can be good stewards of our time. God was kept at the center of Joseph’s and Daniel’s lives. Each time, we read that God was with them and lead them to their prosperity. And notice that in their time of prosperity, Joseph and Daniel gave glory to God, not to themselves. They credited God with interpreting the dreams and with their success. When tempted to sin, they asked their tempter, “how can I sin against God?”

On our own, we don’t have the strength to be diligent. Naturally, we don’t want to work, we naturally want to do things that are pleasing to us. And work isn’t pleasing. Only by keeping God at the center can we succeed in anything and be diligent in anything. And of course, we should remember that it is God who gives us everything we need to succeed. So once we see our success in diligence, we should give the glory to God for his strength that he gives us.

Lastly, I wanted to look at our Supreme Example, Christ. He is also diligent, and during His ministry, he used his time wisely. He embodies all four points.

1. Make the decision and start (early)

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (Mark 1:35 KJV)

Christ started the day off early, and He started it speaking with God first and foremost.

2. Make the most of your time (do your best)

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:46-49 KJV)

Christ had about 3 years for His ministry and he wasted no time in ministering. Even as a child He was preparing Himself for God’s work

3. There is a reward for diligence

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3 KJV)

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:3, 4 KJV)

Christ’s sacrifice and diligence in doing God’s will results in Him spending eternity with His children. Sin won’t separate us from God because of Christ’s sacrifice.

4. Keep God at the center

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42 KJV)

Throughout Christ’s ministry, we see how He put God’s work first, how He put His Father’s will before his own.

To conclude, we have examples of diligence in the Bible, and we can take those principles and apply them to our lives. My prayer is that as you seek to be diligent in all that you do, you also glorify God and keep Him at the center.

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