Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 1 – The Need For Diligence – by Rev. Bob Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
The Need For Diligence
By: The Rev. Vicar Robert S. Liichow
Ah the New Year. Always a time of forgetting the past years failures and looking with hope to new beginnings! Probably most of us make voiced or unvoiced commitments at the beginning of the New Year. As Christians we often make promises of renewed faithfulness in serving the Lord, in attending Church, in our Bible study times as well as our financial stewardship and prayers.
You are no doubt familiar with the Samuel Johnson’s old adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” by which he meant that it was not enough to mean well one had to follow through and do well also. Jesus says more or less the same thing in the following teaching:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the steams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had this foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
The contrast is simple, two people hear the Word of God, one acts upon It and the other does not. In another place Jesus was speaking about the manner in which people respond to God’s Word by teaching:
The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4:14-20
Good intentions! Some people receive the Word with JOY but last only a short time. The reason why people last only a short time is obvious. Other outside forces enter into their lives whether it is trouble or persecution because of the Word of God or worries about this short temporal life, the false god of mammon or simply the desire for other things apart from what God provides in His Word enter into life and suddenly all our spiritual “good intentions” fly out the window.
How can we avoid these pitfalls? How can we keep our resolutions of faithfulness to our Lord? First of all, we have to admit that in and of ourselves we cannot. This is why we fail in our New Year’s resolutions; we try to accomplish them by our own will power. We run into the problem that the apostle Paul stated when he said:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this boy of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! Roman 7:21-25
On our own we will not fulfill our best intentions. Our will at its best is still tainted by sin and in the end it will always fall short of the glory of God. What then is the answer? Thanks be to God we can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). Apart from our Master we can do nothing (John 15:5) but since we have been born-again we are now one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) and by His enabling grace we can do those things which please Him.
Remember that God has ordained us unto good works and He expects us to walk in (Eph. 2:10) them. Certainly to have a more earnest prayer life, consistent Bible study and faithful church attendance and giving are part of the good works that God will gladly bless as we seek His grace to walk in them.
Some practical ideas regarding keeping your spiritual commitments is simply begin to do them. If you need to get up earlier in order to begin your day with prayer, then ask the Lord for the ability and desire to not hit the “snooze” button and take that extra 10 minutes I have always been taught that it takes around 30+ days to produce a habit. If you will begin and be faithful at it then before you know it your body will respond to getting up a bit earlier and spending time in prayer. Not only that God Himself will reward you for your diligence (Matthew 6:6). The same is true for Bible study. There are many good plans available for reading through the Bible in a year. Again, this does not take a large portion of your day, actually probably less than half an our. Simply set the time apart from your devotional study and keep that time as “sacred space” in your life. Another spiritual practice anyone can engage in is using your time driving to listen to the Bible on cassette or cd, Bible teachings, godly music or anything that elevates your soul towards heaven (all of the aforementioned beats listening to the “top 40” countdown!). Making use of your time in the car is a great way to fulfill what the following text says in Ephesians:
Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Church attendance is mandatory in the sense that we need one another. There are no “Lone Ranger” saints and those few I’ve run into have ended up spiritually shipwrecked. God ordained the church and He places each one of us in the Body of Christ where it pleases Him (1 Cor. 12:8)— note that the Holy Spirit did not say “where it pleases us.” Paul told Timothy to be diligent to the reading of scripture and teaching of the Word, which is good advice for us too. Some people complain that there are no good churches in their area, which today is sometimes the case. However, I know if people had to drive 45 minutes or more to their job 5 days a week they would do it and be on time! How much more valuable and necessary is it for us to receive our spiritual feeding as well as be available to be a blessing to others in that local body? Yet most of us can find a solid Bible-based congregation in our area and I suggest that once you have found it become involved in the life of that body. If you already have a church home perhaps now is a good time to examine your involvement. Are you using your god-given gifts and talents there; are you making the most out of every opportunity to grow?
In closing let me exhort all of us to dig deeper this year and make sure of our spiritual foundation in Christ. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I believe the church is going to face some hard times this coming year and some serious pruning is going to be done by the Husbandman of the Vineyard. Personally I do not mind the hard times because I know that historically that is when the true believers shine the brightest…in the darkest times. So let’s all be more diligent to make the most of the given allotted to us that when we appear before Him we shall not be ashamed. ♦
Copyright © 2009 Robert S. Liichow