"BUILDING BLOCKS OF CHARACTER: DILIGENCE"
written and preached by David P. Nolte


2 PETER 1:5-11


Many old buildings have had their foundations rebuilt. One example is Winchester Cathedral in England. The Beech Trees which had been used in the foundation were mostly rotted away and the building was sinking down. When excavation was performed, water from the Itchen River flowed in and flooded in some parts to 14' deep! Fear of causing the foundations to further crumble prevented the water being pumped out. Divers removed the rotted timbers and replaced them bit by bit with concrete and blocks of masonry. After 6 years the famous cathedral was once more situated on a firm foundation. Peter has set forth some building blocks with which to rebuild the foundations of integrity, honor, morality, and godly character. The first of those building blocks is diligence: it comes from the word that means "earnestness, zeal, haste to do something; and exertion in our endeavor." Consider how diligence works in life. In terms of practical living, what does diligence mean?:
  1. DILIGENCE MEANS USING MY ENERGY TO FULFILL MY TASKS:
    1. Peter said that God has "granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness." He says that God "has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." God has graciously done for us all we need to be saved and to live as He requires. But grace demands something of us as well as it enables us. Listen to these texts:
      1. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB): "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
      2. Titus 3:5-8 & 14 (NASB): "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men."
    2. Those who have receive the grace of God must bring alongside that grace every ounce of energy to do the works He saved us to do. We are to work out our salvation.
      1. Now hear me carefully: working out salvation is not working for salvation. Salvation is a free gift, but it will always produce works. Works are the fruit, not the root; works are the result, not the cause.
      2. The NLT puts the thought like this: "you must be even more careful to put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him." Philippians 2:13 (NLT).
      3. Grace works to save us; but we are saved to work. Diligence means using my get-up-and-go to do that work. The task may be sharing with others, encouraging others, winning others to Christ, teaching, serving, and helping others in every way possible to God's glory. We are called to be diligent in our efforts. That means pouring on the energy.
    3. Sometimes we are like the man seen running like a demon was pursuing. A friend saw him and hollered, "Hey, Sam! Where are you going in such a hurry?" Sam, pausing momentarily to pant, said, "I heard of some work!" The friend said, "Well, Sam, I'm proud of you for hurrying to get to it." Sam said, "I'm not hurrying to get to it, I'm hurrying to get away from it!" He expended more energy to avoid work than he would have expended to do the work.

To build Godly character we must be diligent in our work. That means using our energies to fulfill our tasks. Further:

  1. DILIGENCE MEANS REJECTING DISTRACTIONS WHICH HINDER ME:
    1. As we go through life, there are numerous distractions which hinder us from completing our tasks if we allow them to do so.
      1. We might be distracted by the desire to make a name for ourselves; to gain popularity and fame and recognition.
      2. We might be distracted by the desire to get rich quick and to acquire all the material things and luxuries we can. We often make a living and fail to make a life. We might believe the bumper sticker that says, "He who dies with the most toys, wins!" We ought to believe the answer to it that says, "He who dies with the most toys still dies!"
      3. We might be distracted by the desire to live a life of ease and comfort. Having fun, recreation, and leisure are not wrong unless they distract us from fulfilling our tasks for the Lord.
      4. We might be distracted by ungodly attitudes and actions. We may be indulging animosity, hostility, selfishness, laziness, dishonesty, lust, envy and other unholy attitudes.
    2. To counter those distractions, here are some sage words:
      1. Jesus was diligent and rejected distractions, and "As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Luke 9:51 (NIV).
      2. Jesus urges His followers to be undistracted in their diligence, saying, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62 (NASB).
      3. Paul was diligent and expressed it like this: "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven." Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT).
      4. We are urged to run the race with diligence, not distracted along the way. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
    3. The poem sums up the situation nicely: "As you travel on through this life, Whatever be your goal, Keep your eye upon the doughnut, And not upon the hole." Diligence means rejecting distractions which hinder me. Rejecting distractions may mean a price to pay:
      1. Certain relationships may have to come to an end if they distract us from our purpose in Christ.
      2. We may have to drop out of, or severely curtail, some activities and pursuits when they distract us.
      3. We may have to lower the standard of living somewhat so we are not distracted with the lust to acquire more.

To build Godly character we must be diligent in our work. That means rejecting distractions which hinder us. But there is more:

  1. DILIGENCE MEANS COMPLETING MY TASK SO IT STANDS SCRUTINY:
    1. In his letter to Corinth, Paul likens our task to building on a foundation. He says, "For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have - Jesus Christ. Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone's work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames." 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NLT).
    2. To build with lasting materials, gold, silver and jewels, means doing our task so it stands scrutiny. Here are some clues to doing works that will last:
      1. Do those things which benefit others for eternity, not just for this life: that is, help them know and surrender to Jesus Christ.
      2. Find what God is blessing and do those things. Do what He commands, avoid what He forbids.
      3. Do what you do so that God receives the glory rather than yourself.
      4. Do what you do so when you come to the end of your day you can retire without regrets.
    3. When Harry Ironside was 14 years old, he got a job as a helper to a shoemaker. Harry's task was to take leather which had been soaked all night in a tub of water and to beat it with a wooden mallet. That process toughened it and yet softened it so that it was both pliable and enduring. It was a tedious task. Just a few doors down the street was another cobbler's shop. One day Harry, walking by, noticed that this man didn't beat the water out of the leather. He'd just take the leather out of the tub, cut out a piece, and nail it on the shoe. One day Harry stopped by and said to him, "Sir, I noticed that you don't beat the water out of your leather. Why is that?" The man gave him an evil wink, and said, "Ah, they come back all the quicker this way." So Harry went back and said to his boss, "Sir, why do we do this? It's such a hard job to beat all this water out! And the man down the street says if you just take it out and put it on the shoe the customers will all come back quicker." The old man looked at him and didn't say a word. He led Harry over to a bench and sat him down. He said, "Harry, I expect to see every pair of shoes I've ever made in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ. And I expect the Lord to take those shoes and go through every one, and examine the work I did. You know, when I make shoes, I keep remembering that. And I want to so make shoes that every shoe I make will pass the judgment of the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ." Now, that's diligence

Jesus set the example of diligence. He used His energies to do the task the Father gave Him. He rejected all the distractions that came His way. And He carried the task to fulfillment on the cross. His death provides life for us. He saves us by grace for works. It takes diligence to perform that work so it satisfies the Lord. This is the time to commit yourself to diligence. Give your best, do your best, be your best. You can do no more and He deserves no less. It all begins with surrender, a yielding of all we have and are to Him for His purposes and pleasure. You can make that surrender as we sing our hymn.

Outline based on and adapted from Bill Gothard, Character Sketches, Poem unknown source, Ironsides, Ray Stedman, Powerful Expository Preaching


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