Are you a diligent person, a lazy person, or a little of both? Do you try to do your best in everything that you do? Do you exert yourself fully, or do you just try to squeak by with the bare minimum? Or, do you not even get projects, responsibilities, or assignments done at all? Do you get up on time each morning, or do you all too frequently stay in bed late? Do you put off doing things you know you need to get done? Or, do you ever start a project and not complete it? If so, it may be due to laziness. It’s possible to have established convictions about things we know we ought to do or areas we need to submit to the Spirit’s control but still fail to accomplish them. One of the biggest reasons we fail is because of a lack of diligence on our part. We aren’t willing to put forth the effort. We have instant coffee, instant tea, instant dinners, pizza delivery, and fast food. We can even do our grocery shopping over the Internet. We’d like everything in life to come instantly or with very little effort, but the fact is that most things, in order to be done satisfactorily and/or excellently, require work. So it is with the Christian life. We as Christians should be diligent rather than lazy. As such, we need to know what laziness and diligence are, why we should be diligent rather than lazy, and how to become diligent.
First of all, what is laziness, and what is diligence?
To be lazy is “to be disinclined to activity, labor or exertion; not energetic or vigorous; moving slowly; sluggish.”1 The main Hebrew word in the Old Testament used for laziness (which is “atsel”) means “slothful, sluggish”2 or to “be slack, indolent”.3 There are two Greek words in the New Testament which may be translated “lazy” – “nothros” meaning “indolent or sluggish” and “okneros” meaning “shrinking or irksome”.4 Here are some synonyms for “lazy”: idle, inactive, indolent, inert, lackadaisical, laggard, lethargic, negligent, shiftless, sleepy, slothful, sluggish, supine, torpid, weak, and worm.
“Diligent,” on the other hand, means “hard-working, industrious; conscientious, not negligent”5; “attentive and persistent in whatever is undertaken, industrious.”6 The Hebrew word, which is the main word for “diligent” in the Old Testament, is “charuts” which means, “diligent, sharp-pointed, determined.”7 The main Greek word for “diligent” in the New Testament is “spoude” which means “to be eager to do one’s best, to exert one’s self; intense effort.”8 This is an excellent definition of the word “diligent.” Here are some synonyms for “diligent”: alert, assiduous, attentive, careful, earnest, industrious, intense, keen, persevering, and quick.
Now that we know what it means to be lazy and what it means to be diligent, why should we be diligent rather than lazy?
The number one reason why we should be diligent rather than lazy is because God commands us to be diligent in the Bible (Rom. 12:11; 2 Pet. 1:5, 10; 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:15; Eph. 4:3; Heb. 4:11; 6:11-12). He created heaven and earth. He created us and saved us from the penalty of sin through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Creator and Almighty God, He deserves our obedience. If we really love Him, we will obey Him (1 John 5:3).
One reason we are commanded to be diligent is in order to serve the Lord as He wants us to and as He deserves. Romans 12:11 says, “…not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” The phrase “not lagging behind in diligence” can also be translated “not shrinking”, “not hesitating”, “not being lazy” in diligence9. The Lord doesn’t want us to be lazy or hesitant in serving Him. He doesn’t want us to have the attitude of: “Come on, Lord, You don’t really want me to do that, do You? I mean, that sounds kind of difficult and I don’t really feel like it” or, on a somewhat more spiritual note, “Well, after all, You are the Creator, Almighty God. I guess I’d better do what You say, even though I don’t really want to.” God wants us to serve Him diligently. He wants us to be eager and willing to serve Him. He wants us to have the following kind of attitude: “Lord, whatever You ask me to do, I’m willing and ready to give my all to doing it, even if it is a difficult task or one that might require me to give something up that I cherish.” Is that your attitude in serving God? Do you give God all the energy that you have in serving Him?
One area we can be diligent in serving God is in evangelism. We can do this by taking the initiative to stop students to take the “philosophy of life” interview or in sharing the gospel with people in general as a way of life. God wants us to be bold and diligent to take the initiative to verbally share our faith with others. Acts 10:43 says, “And He ordered us to preach to the people and solemnly to testify…” (used in conjunction with Matt. 28:19-20). God doesn’t want us to just pass out gospel tracks or to wait until people come up to ask us why our lives are so different. Paul and Jesus did not go around passing out miniature scrolls or go around befriending people only to wait three years later to tell them the “good news”. They took the initiative to verbally share the gospel with people, even when they were tired after a hard day of ministry and persecution. Are you ever lazy to stop people and tell them about Christ whenever you have the opportunity? When you sense the Holy Spirit is leading you to share the gospel with someone, do you resist and make excuses or do you go ahead and eagerly share the gospel with that person?
Another area we can be diligent in serving the Lord is in follow-up. Follow-up is a very important part of the discipleship process, which we should all be doing. Baby Christians need instruction and guidance to help them grow; otherwise, they are easy prey for false teaching, Satan, and/or the world system. We can do this by taking the time to call up the people we are working with to show our concern and interest and to schedule appointments with them. Sometimes we make excuses not to call, like: “He’s probably not home; I’ll call some other time.” or “I don’t really feel like calling him right now, so I’ll try back later” or “He’s probably not even interested.” Give the follow-up a chance; call him! If you don’t get a hold of him, keep trying back until you do reach him. Another thing we should do when following someone up is to make an effort to visit with him or to do things besides just reading Christian articles, especially if your follow-up shows an interest in spiritual things. Sometimes we get so much in the habit of just reading articles with people that we don’t think about doing other things with them. By playing games, going places, or just talking with them, we communicate that we are really interested in them. Are you diligent to call your follow-ups, or do you make up excuses? Do you make an effort to try to do things with your follow-ups besides just reading Christian articles? How about visiting them at their homes?
Another area we can be diligent in serving the Lord is in teaching Bible studies. Sometimes leaders can become lackadaisical in teaching Bible studies, especially if they have already taught a particular study once before or if they have been teaching studies for quite a while. Leaders – or anyone who’s teaching a Bible study for that matter – should be careful to prepare adequately and not just rely on past experiences of teaching a particular topic. If someone is teaching a Bible study that he has taught previously, he ought to try to think of new or improved discussion questions, illustrations, examples, or points to stress. This can help keep the study fresh and, therefore, benefit the Bible study members even more. The teacher should make sure he knows the topic well and that he is ready for any questions that might arise. If you are a leader or teach the Bible to others, adequately prepare in advance and thoroughly know what you are going to teach so that you can do an excellent job. Look up definitions of words you don’t know that are in your study material. Don’t be lazy.
Another reason we are commanded to be diligent is in order to maximize other godly qualities in our lives. We see this in 2 Peter 1:5, where it says, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge…” We are to see to it that the various Christ-like qualities listed here are included in our lives. We are to do so “applying all diligence.” These qualities may already exist in our lives, or we may be trying to supply these qualities in our lives, but in either case, we shouldn’t merely do so in a lackadaisical manner but with an intense effort.10 The more effort we put into having godly qualities, the more those qualities will be evident and manifested in our lives. If a bodybuilder wants to have bigger muscles, he doesn’t just exert a little energy, but he puts heavy weights on and exerts himself with intense effort. If he lifts some weight, he may get a little bigger and a little stronger, but if he really wants to reach his maximum potential, he’s got to diligently lift those weights. So it is with the Christian life. Jay Adams says, “It is by willing, prayerful, and persistent obedience to the requirements of the Scriptures that godly patterns are developed and come to be a part of us.” Are you working hard to maximize godly qualities in your life? Are you working hard to be more loving, more self-controlled, more persevering, etc.?
We are also commanded to be diligent in order to strengthen our faith in Christ rather than having doubts about our salvation. We are told in 2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you (i.e., that you are one of His elect, chosen one’s – that you are saved).” “The exhortation here is that a believer should make sure of the fact that he is saved by seeing to it that the Christian graces super-abound in his life,” says Kenneth Wuest. He continues, “There is no idea here of making sure that we retain our salvation but that we possess salvation.”11 We can know for certain that we are saved simply by believing in Jesus Christ, that he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (1 John 5:13), but a life of godliness gives further evidence that we are truly believers in Christ and will go to heaven. The writer of Hebrews makes a similar statement, as Peter, in Hebrews 6:11, which reads, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end…” The writer was exhorting these believers to be diligent in confirming their faith. Homer Kent says in his commentary, The Epistle to the Hebrews: a Commentary: “They needed to be active in strengthening their belief in Christ…in manifesting Christian virtues.” The “full assurance” (of salvation) can be obtained through being diligent in living an obedient Christian life.12 Does your life show significant evidence that you are a true believer in Christ? How can you tell?
Another reason why we are commanded to be diligent is so that we will be found by God in peace, spotless and blameless. 2 Peter 3:14 says, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless…” Notice the words “Therefore … since you look for these things.” What things? The context tells us that Peter was talking about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the new heavens and the new earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13). The earth and the heavens are going to be burned up, and God is going to establish new heavens and a new earth, “in which righteousness dwells.” Righteous people are going to be in God’s kingdom. These are the kind of people God wants in His kingdom. That is why God commands us to be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless. Since we are looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth where we will live, then we ought to be diligent to be like Christ and live a life of holiness and righteousness. Thinking about the second coming of Christ and our future in heaven should stimulate us to actively and persistently pursue a life of holiness. Do you look forward to Christ’s second coming and to your future in heaven? If so, do your attitudes and actions show it? Are you diligently pursuing a life of obedience, or are you exerting little effort to be found pure and blameless in His sight?
A fifth reason why it’s a command to be diligent is in order to present ourselves approved to God, accurately handling the word of truth rather than having the shame of God’s disapproval for mishandling His word.13 This is found in 2 Timothy 2:15, where it says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved (i.e., accepted after testing) to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Those who teach God’s word will be tested to find out if they correctly handled God’s word. Just as a workman who does an excellent job does not have to be ashamed before men, so Christians who accurately handle God’s word will not be ashamed before God for incorrectly teaching the Bible, which would be far worse. We should be very careful to be sure that we are properly interpreting, teaching and applying God’s word. We should make every effort to know what we are talking about when teaching God’s word and make sure that it’s right because teachers are going to incur a stricter judgment, as it says in James 3:1. If you aren’t sure about something regarding the Scriptures, then don’t be dogmatic until you are sure. In the past, when I’ve done seminars and while working on this one, I worked very diligently to study, examine, think about, read in context, and refer to study helps regarding the Scriptures that I was to teach. If I didn’t understand a passage, then I studied it harder until I was sure about what it said, instead of just writing down something that was my own opinion or that just sounded good. If, after all that study, I wasn’t absolutely sure about the passage, then I just left it out and found one that’s more clear. I would rather leave it out than to get it wrong and be ashamed before God. When you teach a Bible study or are explaining the Bible to someone, do you work hard to make sure that you know what you are talking about and that it is correct, or do you ever speak your opinions as if it is what the word of God truly says?
A sixth reason we are commanded to be diligent is in order to better insure the preservation of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 states, “…Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is a spiritual (not organic) unity which was originally imparted by the Spirit, but needs to be maintained by believers by being of the same mind and spirit (i.e., they should all believe the same thing about what the Bible says). We are to do our utmost to maintain this unity.14
A seventh reason why we are commanded to be diligent is in order to remain spiritually firm until Christ returns or we die and not fall away from the faith. Hebrews 4:11 says, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”15
Besides being a command, another reason why we should be diligent and not lazy is because being diligent will decrease the amount of problems we have in life. How many of you already have enough problems in life? Being lazy will only create more problems. Proverbs 15:19 says, “The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns…” The sluggard creates many unnecessary problems for himself because of his laziness. An example might be a student who is lazy in studying for a test. As a result of his laziness, he has to face the otherwise unnecessary anxieties and stress of cramming for a test. In our ministry, we have to memorize Christian songs for a ministry outreach project, and we also have a Scripture memory verse program. We get tested periodically. If one is diligent to study regularly, the test times are a breeze. He saves himself anxiety, guilt, and sometimes a rebuke. Those aren’t pleasant experiences. If you are a disciple planning on being a leader of a ministry someday, I urge you to follow the same principle. Be diligent to observe your spiritual teacher-trainer and concentrate on your training now, so that when you do become a leader, you will be spared many painful trials. Get in the habit of being diligent in little things. Make this part of your attitude in life. There will be plenty of trials in life anyway; we don’t need to add more for ourselves by being lazy.
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will increase our strength and energy so we’ll be able to serve God better. Take a look at Proverbs 26:15. It says, “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.” (See also Prov. 19:24) This person is so lazy that he doesn’t even want to bring food to his mouth so he can eat. This may be an extreme case, but the principle is generally true. When I used to work out in the chemical plants, I knew a guy who was a habitually lazy person. He was never really involved in any kind of sport or physical activity. He rarely exerted himself and hardly ever did any physical activity. Needless to say, when he started working out there in the chemical plants, he didn’t last very long, and the work he was doing was not extremely, physically demanding. He always complained about how demanding the work was, but hardly did anything. All he had to do was hold a ladder for someone, go get parts, and every once in a while cut a length of electrical tubing, none of which was demanding work at all. Because of his habitual laziness and because he never did much physical activity, he could not handle the work, even though I think he could have handled it had he been a little more motivated. If you don’t seem to have much physical energy or strength, a possibility could be because you are habitually lazy or don’t get enough physical exercise. Most guys in our ministry probably don’t have too much of a problem getting physical exercise, but we need to be hard-working, diligent so that we have the physical capacity to serve God to our fullest potential as He directs.
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will decrease the risk of poverty. Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (See also Prov. 6:9-11; 10:4; 13:4; 19:15; 20:4; 24:30-31; even death by starvation Prov. 21:25-26). Laziness does not always result in poverty, especially here in America. Proverbs are general principles and not absolute truths that apply to every situation. Due to many factors, such as welfare, food stamps, abuse of unemployment benefits, disabled worker’s benefits, frivolous law suits, and inheritances, there are many lazy people here in America who are not poor. But if they lived in other countries, they would probably be poor. Though not specifically stated, I think the following principle holds true as well: “Spiritual laziness results in spiritual poverty.”
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will decrease the chance of things breaking down because of a lack of maintenance. Ecclesiastes 10:18 says, “Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks.” (See also Prov. 24:30-31) We need to be diligent to maintain things that the Lord has entrusted us with. If you’re not diligent to do necessary maintenance and routine check-ups on things, the chances of them breaking down increases and the cost will be more, not to mention the time it takes to fix it. If you have an automobile, are you diligent to change your oil and filter every 2,000 – 3,000 miles? Do you check and/or maintain the brakes and fluid, the air pressure on your tires, transmission fluid, air filter, belts, antifreeze, grease joints, etc.? Do you wash and wax your car regularly? If you own a copy machine, computer, stereo system, or other electronic devices, do you clean them regularly and maintain operating conditions on them? Do you take care of your books, CDs, or videos (especially those that are hard to replace) by keeping them off the floor where they can be stepped on, keeping them away from drinks which could cause water damage, and storing them on the bookshelf or in a cabinet or drawer where they belong? Are you careful to maintain your filing system by keeping everything in order and filing articles right away, so you will be able to find them when you need them? Do you keep your books, CDs, and videos in order, so you can find them quickly or find them at all? When things start to break down, do you get them fixed right away, or do you put it off, or do it in a shoddy way that will not last long?
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will allow for more productive living. Generally speaking, the harder you work toward a specific goal, the more likely you are to accomplish it. The more you work, the more you will accomplish. The lazy man sleeps-in and develops a habit pattern in life of lounging around or only going half steam; consequently, his life will not be nearly as productive as it could be. This is how the lazy person is described in the Proverbs. Proverbs 26:14 states, “As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed.” He’s attached to his bed like a door is to its hinges. Proverbs 19:15 says, “Laziness casts into a deep sleep…” If a person gets more sleep than he needs, it tends to have a negative effect. Instead of feeling more energetic, he’ll probably feel more tired and groggy, and, as a result, want to sleep more. This kind of behavior wastes valuable time, decreases productivity, and is dishonoring to God. God expects us to be good stewards of our time. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time…” We can’t very well do that if we are dilly-dallying around, sleeping in, or doing things slothfully. We ought to plan our time in light of what God says our priorities in life should be (evangelizing the spiritually lost and building up believers spiritually), and work hard to stick to those plans. Do you plan your time in light of your priorities, or do you just do whatever you feel like doing? Do you get up when you should and put in a hard day’s work so that you can be the most productive and pleasing to God, or do you stay in bed late and/or go through the day lagging along, putting forth little effort? If you have your quiet time and/or prayer time in the mornings, do you sometimes put it off till later so you can get some more sleep or do you wake up in time so that you can do it before the day’s activities begin? In order to have a productive quiet time or prayer time, we also need to make sure that we concentrate and not let our minds wander. We shouldn’t rush through our quiet time either. God wants us to seek Him with all our heart, not in a half-hearted, lazy way.
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will result in better and completed work. Proverbs 18:9 says, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” The one who is indolent in his work is like the one who destroys. Like work that has been destroyed, so is the work that has been poorly done, or that is unfinished. It is of little value. It might as well have been work that was destroyed. Sloppiness is a form of laziness. One area this applies in that we probably don’t think much about is in writing or typing. We shouldn’t be sloppy when writing. We should take our time and make an effort to write neatly and legibly so that others will be able to read what we have written. I’m guilty of this myself sometimes. My handwriting is absolutely atrocious, especially when I write in cursive. I never made an effort to change it because it was so easy and quick to write the way I did. I thought, “It’s what I write down that is important, not my handwriting. As long as I can read it, it is O.K.” That may be O.K. in some cases, but when we are writing something for others to read, we should write neatly and legibly. Even though it takes a lot of effort and is slow, I try to make sure that my writing is neat and legible. We should also be careful not to be sloppy in our typing. We should be careful to proofread for grammatical mistakes, spelling, punctuation, unclear content, and at least use “spellchecker” if nothing else, so there will be no room for misunderstanding. If you’re not sure about how to spell a word, take the time to use a dictionary. We should be diligent in doing our goals so that they not only get completed, but also are done excellently. If we are lazy in applying our goals and only do the minimal requirements, then our character will not have much chance of improving and our ability to lead others will be greatly hindered. When you apply your goals, do you work hard at them or do you just barely meet the stated requirements or not even finish them at all? When you set weekly goals for yourself, do you make them challenging enough to stretch you, or do you make them so you know they will be easy for you to accomplish?
Another area we shouldn’t be sloppy or slack in is in planning and organizing, especially for leaders. We should be careful to think through all the details of what we’ll need in order to execute a smooth running retreat, conference, or activity. Details are very important. Being lackadaisical in them can be costly. For example, if you’re going on a camp-out and plan to have a fire to cook your food, but forget the matches, you may have to go hungry or eat your meat raw. Or, if you are planning a conference and fail to notify those whom you want to speak far enough in advance, you may have to cancel the conference or have an inferior one.
Another area we shouldn’t be sloppy in is in maintaining a clean room, apartment and/or house. We should make sure we take out the trash/garbage when it gets full and before it starts to stink. We should also make sure we hang our clothes up or put them in a dirty laundry basket instead of piling them up on the floor or just leaving them laying around wherever you took them off. Also, we should try to keep a clean desk. It should be organized with nice neat stacks instead of having papers laying everywhere. Old papers should be filed away or dispensed of. We should make sure we turn out the lights and/or fan when leaving a room to save electricity. When leaving our apartments or houses we ought to make sure we close and lock any windows as well as lock the door. We should also make sure we wash our dirty dishes and put the clean, dry dishes away. Some people (including myself, at times) leave their dishes lying out and forget to wash them or put them away. Maintaining a clean apartment or house is very important. If people come over and see that your place is a mess (dirty dishes lying out, clothes lying around, and things are all disorganized), what kind of impression do you think that will leave on them? Do you think they’ll still be as motivated to come to you for help in their Christian walk?
Another reason we should be diligent rather than lazy is because it will strengthen responsibility and help avoid God’s judgment. This principle is found in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:15, 26, 30. In the parable, the master gave each slave certain responsibilities (v. 15). When the one who received the one talent did not fulfill his responsibility, the master called him “wicked” and “lazy” (v. 26), and passed judgment on him for being lazy and failing to do his responsibilities (v. 30). If he had been diligent and worked hard to do his duty, he would have received a reward like the other slaves. Christians are going to be judged as well in order to determine whether they will or won’t receive a reward (2 Cor. 5:10). Laziness prevents us from maximizing our God-given potential, robbing us of many blessings we could have enjoyed. Are you faithful to use the opportunities and to fulfill the responsibilities that God gives you to serve Him, such as: witnessing, teaching the Bible, helping someone out, being hospitable, encouraging people, discipling/training new Christians, leading a ministry, etc.?
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will help avoid irritating those who give us responsibilities. Proverbs 10:26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.” Most of us have experienced what it feels like to have smoke in our eyes. It doesn’t feel good, does it? It burns and stings, and you just want to get away from it. It can get rather irritating. That is how a lazy person is to those who send him to do some work or to run an errand. Some people, including myself, forget to do things they are asked to do (like give someone a message, get an item from the store, make phone calls, prepare beverages and have chips for Bible study, put something away, clean something up, etc.) because they were too lazy to write them down. Or, if they wrote them down, they were too lazy to check the list periodically and, as a result, are aggravating to those who give them responsibilities. Failing to return phone calls, emails, letters, etc. in reasonable time can be irritating as well. If you have sponsors or potential sponsors who are expecting newsletters, and you fail to send them out on time or don’t proofread them, you could be irritating to your sponsors and could possibly lose them. Being lazy in corresponding to friends can be irritating to them as well. Are you irritating to anyone because you are too lazy to record responsibilities, check your list periodically, or reply to correspondence quickly?
Another reason we should be diligent is because it will help to eliminate shame on one’s self and others. Proverbs 10:5 says, “He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.” If we are lazy in keeping up with our responsibilities, we could end up causing much embarrassment and shame for ourselves. For example, if you have goals such as quiet time, prayer time, memory verses, etc. and are accountable to someone for keeping them, and you are lazy in doing your goals, it can be rather embarrassing, not to mention shameful when that person holds you accountable. You can bring shame on a whole group of Christians if you are associated with that group and you are a lazy person. For example: There’s a true story of a guy who was involved with a well-known Christian organization. He liked to eat and do his studying in a restaurant across the street. One day, he decided he was going to give himself a haircut, so he went into the bathroom and cut his hair. The only problem was that he didn’t pick up his hair off the bathroom sink and floor. When the owner of the restaurant found out who it was, she associated the whole group of Christians with him and she began to tell everyone she knew about how sloppy, lazy, and inconsiderate those Christians were. If you or someone in the group that you fellowship with is a lazy person, you or he is not going to present a very good testimony for Christ or for the group with whom you or he fellowships. Not only does being lazy cause shame on one’s self in this life, it will be even more shameful for the person on judgment day. Do you ever bring embarrassment or shame on yourself or others because of your indolence?
Another reason why we should be diligent is because it will make ridiculous excuses unnecessary. Being lazy results in making extreme, ridiculous, lame excuses. Listen to what a lazy person says in the book of Proverbs to keep from having to work: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I shall be slain in the streets!’” (Prov. 22:13). Most likely a lion would not be wandering the streets of an Israelite town. And if a lazy person really feared being killed, he would never go outside!16 What kinds of excuses do we make to get out of doing things we know God wants us to do because we don’t want to exert ourselves? We might say something like: “I can’t witness because I don’t know how,” or “I don’t know what to say.” (When you know someone who can teach you, but you just don’t want to make the effort to learn); Or, have you ever said something like this to yourself while witnessing on campus: “I’m not going to ask that guy because he doesn’t look very responsive, ” or “He looks like he’s in a hurry, ” or “I’ll put off filing my articles, recording my goals, mailing that letter, doing my quiet time or prayer time, putting up the dishes, cleaning my room, or calling my follow-ups because I have too many other important things to do?” (When you still seem to find time to play on the computer, surf the internet, play guitar, listen to music, play basketball, relax, have a late night snack, sleep-in late, talk on the phone, watch T.V., etc.) It’s amazing how we just can’t seem to find time to do the most important things that we don’t feel like doing, but manage to find time to do those things we enjoy. That’s because we like to do what is easy. We don’t want to exert ourselves any more than we have to. When you are asked to do something, or when you know you should do something that you really don’t feel like doing, do you ever make excuses to get out of doing it or to put it off simply because you are lazy, not because you really have a good, legitimate reason that is a higher priority? Perhaps one of the most tragic excuses people make to get out of doing God’s will is: “I don’t want to be discipled or make disciples because it requires too much dedication and hard work. I’d have to give too much up. Besides I don’t really know if I’m cut out for that.” If we would just be diligent to do those things we know we ought to be doing, we would eliminate a great deal of lame excuses that we make.
Another reason we should be diligent – especially those of us aspiring to a position of authority or leadership – is because it will increase the potential for promotion. Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” As a general rule, those who are hard working as opposed to one who is disinclined to activity, are more likely to rise to a position of leadership, assuming they possess the other essential qualities of a leader. Laziness is unbecoming to a spiritual leader and is, in fact, a sin. It makes the leader far less effective in his ministry and an unfit role model. J. Oswald Sanders in his book Spiritual Leadership, says, “The lazy and disorganized never rise to true leadership… The young man of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others sleep, pray while others play.”
Another reason we should be diligent is because it is exemplified in Christ’s life as a pattern to follow. Christ was not lazy but was eager to do the will of the Father. A cursory reading of the Gospels will reveal this. An example of Christ’s diligence in prayer can be found in Mark 1:35. It states, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” That He got up to pray early in the morning while it was still dark shows that He was not lackadaisical about His praying. But what is more amazing is that Jesus did so after a hard night of ministry as the previous verses reveal (Mk. 1:32-35). In fact, verse 32 says that the whole city had gathered at the door where He was staying. Such a practice was not an isolated occasion as Luke 5:16 and Matthew 14:23 reveal. (For another example of diligence in the life of Jesus read Mark 6:30-56. Pay close attention to the relatively little time that elapsed during the recorded events). That Jesus could say to the Father near the end of His ministry on earth, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do,” gives further evidence of Jesus’ diligence in serving the Father. Wouldn’t you like to be able to say the same?
How can we be diligent? Now that we know that it means to be diligent and why we should be diligent rather than lazy, how exactly do we go about doing so? What do we do if we are not particularly motivated to work hard, or we are extremely disinclined to certain activities that are God’s will for us to do excellently?
The first step to being diligent is to admit that you have a problem and confess the sin of laziness. We can’t very well come up with a solution if we don’t identify and admit we have a problem. It is a command from God that we not be lazy (Rom. 12:11). To disobey is sin. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Just agree with God that you have sinned and trust in Him for your forgiveness. Take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t blame them on others or on a lack of time.
Since we cannot overcome the sin of laziness by our own strength, the next step is to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit by being filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him control of your life. Just ask God in faith to fill you with the Holy Spirit as He commanded us to be (Eph. 5:18) and as He promised He would do in His Word (1 Jn. 5:14-15).
Once you are controlled by the Holy Spirit and have the fruit of the Spirit available to you, then choose as an act of your will to apply the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 2:12) and be diligent. Determine what area or areas you are lazy in and choose to be diligent in that area. Choose not to go by your feelings any more.
Don’t make excuses. Just be diligent. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I shall be slain in the streets’” (Prov. 22:13). Don’t be like the sluggard. When you find yourself beginning to make excuses, stop. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize your sin.
Another way we can be diligent is by observing the ant and doing likewise (i.e., work with initiative, diligence, and foresight). Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Go to the ant, o sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer, or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” Ants apparently have no ruler or chief to lead them, motivate them, and drive them on. They work with initiative. They are self-motivated. Have you ever just sat and watched an ant work? It is fascinating. For their size, ants are some of the hardest working creatures on the face of the earth. They can carry 50 times their own weight. One time, I actually traced out an ant trail that was over 75 yards long. And these ants carried pieces of leaves the size of a dime. They never seemed to get tired. The proverb mentions that the ant prepares her food in the summer and gathers in the harvest. The ant exercises foresight and plans ahead. It works hard at the opportune time. We ought to do the same. We can’t blame a lack of time. God has given us all the time we need to accomplish all that He expects of us. If you find yourself using the excuse that you don’t have enough time in order to justify your laziness, or if you don’t seem to be getting those important things done that need to be, then you need to schedule your time in light of your God-given priorities. Then do those things you know to be the higher priority first, instead of doing what you like to do. If you’ve really got a problem with time management and establishing objectives, then ask your spiritual leader for material that will help you out in this area.
Something that will help us to be more diligent is to place a high value on our time. Ephesians 5:15-16 exhorts us to be wise and make the most of our time. If we value our time highly, then we will want to work hard to use that time in the best, most productive way, and thereby make the most of our time. How do we gain a high sense of value on our time? One way is to realize that life on earth is short (Jas. 4:14), and that Christ is coming back (2 Pet. 3:3, 10, 14) to judge how we lived here on earth (2 Cor. 5:10). One thing about time is that you can’t get it back once it’s wasted.
Another way that we can be diligent is by maintaining our physical well-being. If you don’t feel good physically, or you’re sick, exhausted, or not getting enough sleep, or nutrients, then your performance and amount of activity will be hindered. That’s common knowledge. If you have a problem with laziness, your physical condition could be a possible factor. Be honest with yourself, though. If you’re lazy just because there is some unpleasant task that you don’t want to do, don’t blame your laziness on your physical condition. However, you should eat nutritionally if at all possible. And don’t over-eat. You don’t have to feel stuffed before you stop eating. Too many carbohydrates (starchy foods like pasta) make you tired or sluggish. Vitamins in fresh or frozen vegetables are important, as is protein in red meat, fish, or poultry. And the Proverbs speak of honey as being physically refreshing. A second guideline to good health is proper exercise. If you don’t get much exercise and often find yourself exhausted, you might want to try getting on an exercise program. But don’t overdo it and make it an idol. You don’t have to be a body builder. Just 30 minutes three times a week will do. A third guideline to follow for good health is to get enough sleep. The amount of sleep you need may vary. Some people need a full 8 hours a day, while others only need 4. Eight hours of sleep a day should be sufficient. Any more than that is too much unless you’re sick. And too much sleep can actually cause you to feel drowsy. If you’re eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep, but your physical condition does not improve, then you should see a doctor for possible medical problems.
Are you tired of living a life full of unfinished projects, mediocre work, irritated people, and bad examples of a Christian worker due to your laziness? Are you tired of making excuses to cover up your negligence? Are you tired of rushing to do things at the last minute because you were too lazy to start on them earlier? When you give an account before God on judgment day, do you think He will be pleased with “how” you served Him, and not just that you served Him? If you have a problem with laziness, stop making excuses. Confess your sin to God. Remember that you can’t change by your own strength. Allow the Holy Spirit to control your life. Choose to stop being lazy, and start being diligent. Life is too short to waste. Do all that you do as unto the Lord with diligence and excellence. Start today!
- Webster, Merriam A., Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 647, G & C Merriam Co., 1981.
- Young Robert, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, p. 900, Hendrickson Publishers.
- Unger, Merrill F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. p. 1203, Moody Press, Chicago, 1988.
- Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 581, Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1984.
- New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, p. 266, Lexicon Publications, Danbury, CT, 1993.
- Halsey, William D., Collier’s Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 284, Macmillian Publishing Co., New York, 1986.
- Young, p. 256 (see #2).
- Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 4, 2 Peter, pp. 22, 23, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1966.
- Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 489, SP Publications, Inc., 1983.
- Wuest, Vol. 4, 2 Peter, p. 23 (see #8).
- Ibid., pp. 27, 28.
- Kent, Homer A., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, pp. 116, 117, Baker Book House Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972.
- Walvoord and Zuck, p. 754 (see #9).
- Hendriksen, William, New Testament Commentary on Galatians and Ephesians. p. 184, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994.
- Kent (see #12).
- Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 954, SP Publications, Inc., 1985.
- Sanders, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership, pp. 72, 73, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980.
- Jay Adams, Godliness through Discipline, p. 14.