Outward, Inward, and Upward Diligence

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

– Romans 12:11

Keep in mind that Paul details the plan and workings of God’s grace in Romans 1-11, but from chapters 12 through 16 he shifts to how we as Born-Again Believers are to exercise grace in our daily living. These are practical guidelines for how to live a successful Christian life. We just looked at how Christians are to love. In this eleventh verse, we read how Christians are to be diligent. In every aspect of our spiritual walk, we should be diligent. We can’t just simply stop where we are in spiritual growth and expect our spiritual life to be fine. We MUST be pressing UPWARD. Otherwise, we are plunging downward. Be diligent – always.

OUTWARD Diligence

“Not slothful in business”

Many times the original meaning of words drifts away in our English language due to how our society has developed. To us, “business” usually refers to secular work. Originally, however, “business” meant the state of being busy or busy-ness. “Busy” meant to be occupied or diligent. When I first read this verse for the purpose of this study, I automatically assumed this implied we should make sure we are diligent in the workplace. But what is the context of this passage? Work in the church. We just learned about our responsibility to USE our spiritual gifts and to PRACTICE love. Of course we should be diligent in the workplace, but I believe we have in this verse an encouragement to be diligent in the work that takes place in the Body of Christ. Whatever your gift is, use it with all diligence. The Greek word behind this word, “business,” is the same word translated “diligence” in verse 8 (See the study on Giving, Ruling, and Showing Mercy for more on this). The idea is that we are to rush to our duty – to be eager in our work. RUSH to your calling!

INWARD Diligence

“fervent in spirit”

In classical Greek this word for “fervent” meant to boil over or bubble up. When a man’s zeal to work bubbled up and boiled over, you could say that man was fervent in his work. In Acts 18:24 we read of a man named Apollos. He was said to be “instructed in the way of the Lord.” He was also “fervent in spirit.” He didn’t know of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He was saved, trusting in Jesus as the promised Messiah, but all he knew was the preaching and baptism of John the Baptist. However, his fervency paid off. God sent a precious, spiritually-minded couple to minister to him – Aquila and Priscilla. After they had heard Apollos, they “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). Apollos was subsequently used greatly to spread the Gospel. Acts 18:28 says “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Why do I bring this story up? Apollos took what he knew of the Scriptures and his calling and was FERVENT in using it for the Lord. His knowledge was lacking some, yes, but when he fervently obeyed his calling, the Lord supplied for his lack of knowledge. We are told to be FERVENT in spirit. The very inner fountains of our spiritual life should BOIL OVER in desire to fulfill God’s will in our life. Are those inner fountains stopped up with CARNAL desires? Unplug them! Examine yourself. Drain out that which would be displeasing to our Lord and let the inner springs of the Spiritual Man boil over in fervency of spirit!

UPWARD Diligence

“Serving the Lord”

In all this work – from using our spiritual gifts to obeying these commands in our treatment of others in the church – we are serving the Lord. This is the absolute highest calling on earth. It will be much better off for a servant of the Lord than for a lost, earthly king or president! The inheritance of a servant of the Lord is far richer than the riches of the wealthiest man alive on earth right now! When we interact with other members of the Body of Christ and use our gifts to minister to them, we aren’t just serving them, we are serving the Lord. If you are a teacher, you aren’t just spending hours of time studying to teach your class, you are serving the Lord as well. If you are a preacher, and it seems as though the message falls upon deaf ears, you AREN’T just preaching to THEM, YOU ARE SERVING THE LORD! We should have this UPWARD diligence, serving the Lord in fervent commitment.

Brother, Sister, what is your spiritual gift? If you don’t yet know, be diligent INWARDLY as you seek God’s plan for your life. If you do know, be diligent UPWARDLY as you obey your calling and OUTWARDLY as you use your gift to edify the Body of Christ.

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