Reading: 2 Peter 1:1-11.
Although I may not see a particular call for this word here, it has so impressed itself upon me that I feel it is a word that the Lord wants underlined - this word 'diligence', twice used by Peter: "...adding on your part all diligence" (verse 5), "...give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure" (verse 10).
Diligence does not need very much defining as a word. It simply means earnest application, the applying of ourselves earnestly to the matter on hand. It is a word used quite a lot in the New Testament, and apart from the word, the atmosphere represented and created by the word is found everywhere in the New Testament, especially from the book of the Acts onwards. The spirit of the Christians and the Lord's servants is one of diligence, earnest application to this great matter of the knowledge of the Lord and of what is associated therewith.
Diligence Over Against Passivity
Very simply, then, diligence first of all stands over against passivity. Passivity can be one of the great enemies of spiritual progress, spiritual strength, and spiritual effectiveness. Spiritual passivity is a very dangerous thing. It is dangerous very largely in the direction of a failure to discriminate between passivity and restful trust. We need not point out the difference between those, but there it is. It is one of the things where we have to be instructed and on which we have to be very much alive, the difference between passivity, inertia, spiritual carelessness, indifference or even laziness, and that restful trust which is always powerful and which is always energetic.
There seems to be a strange contradiction in ideas, if not in terms, in the suggestion of the apostle that we should labour to enter into rest. That sounds strange. "Let us therefore labour to enter into that rest" (Heb. 4:11). But true rest is something that you have to be very definite about, very strong about; you have to take yourself in hand and definitely roll your anxiety on the Lord. Faith, rest, trust, is energetic. Passivity has none of those elements. It is just supineness. Well, diligence stands positively over against passivity.
Diligence Over Against False Contentment
It also stands over against a false contentedness. There is a true contentment of which the apostle speaks when he says, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content" (Phil. 4:11). That is true contentment, a fruit of the Spirit, and the outcome of definite self-discipline. But there is a false contentedness, a settling down too soon and accepting our present position as sufficient. And there are many today who are losing a great deal because they have no outreach, no sense of great need. That may not be true of us, at any rate the majority of us here, but it is something to note that there is a contentedness which is very wrong and which will deprive us of all that the apostle is presenting as that to which we are called and chosen in Christ. Beware of a false contentedness.
Remember that there is a standpoint from which all God's movements and activities with us come out of His own discontent: His movements with His servants of old, as with Abraham: "Get thee up, get thee out, get thee into", were the expression of God's discontent with things as they were, and He had to bring Abraham into fellowship with His own discontent. While on the one hand there should be a true contentment, on the other hand, no child or servant of God should ever be characterised by contentedness which means there is no real pressing on, reach out, and consciousness of much more yet that has never been imagined as to the Lord's purpose.
Diligence Over Against Distraction
Again, diligence will stand over against distraction, dividedness or detraction. Here is something which the apostle says is a matter for us, and what it amounts to is resolutely resisting the distracting things, the things which would divide mind, attention, and heart, and that will detract from the one business on hand. It is a case of undividedly and unreservedly applying the heart and mind to God's calling, and diligence will therefore require just the brushing aside of things that would come in to take from the completeness of application. It is the refusal to be divided over a number of things, to have one object, and to make everything come into line with that and what cannot, must stand back; we are on this business. That is diligence over against distraction and dividedness.
Diligence Over Against Superficiality
Once more, it will certainly stand over against all superficiality, just glibly skimming the surface, just passing lightly on our way. Diligence will mean a getting down to the heart of things and seeking to grasp the inner depths of God's meanings, not just taking things at their surface value, but seeking to know all that God means by something: diligence working against superficiality.
Diligence Over Against Procrastination
And then, finally, diligence will certainly be opposed to procrastination, to delay. This is one of our great enemies, the great peril of thinking that sometime we will get down to it, things will help us when we get here or there, when this happens or that. Sometimes it is without any kind of defined situation in which it will be done, but it is not now; it will be. We may not have thought when or how, but it will be, that is ahead, that is our object. Or it may be when we know this or that, when we are sure on some point we will be able to concentrate and get down to it, but that goes on for ever. You never will, however old you get, you will never be free of that peril of thinking, "Yes, this is going to be, but it is not now". Diligence says, "We are not delaying this; as far as in us lies, now is the time, and it may never be unless it is now". Diligence says, "Now is the time to get down to it as far as possible". Probably we shall discover, as we take that attitude, that we are making possible a good deal more and ruling out a great deal of the weakness and the loss which is continually sustained by this tomorrow that never comes, this going to do it which never arrives. Diligence says, "No, today!"
We have not said anything about the things that come into Peter's great addition sum, but we approach it by this word 'diligence'. Give the more diligence, add in your diligence. The Lord make us diligent servants.