Diligence. It has a certain ring about it — and not always a pleasant one. Maybe that’s because it makes us think of responsibility? Or maybe because we know it equates to work? And yet diligence can offer us the world!
It would be good to ask your children what this word means, and then look it up together in the dictionary. The Oxford dictionary describes ‘diligent’ as being ‘careful and persevering in carrying out tasks or duties’. One of my worst classes during high school was Latin. I’m not quite sure why I took it for four years. I must say though, you can get a great understanding of some of our English words by looking at their Latin derivative. The word diligent actually comes from a Latin word ‘diligere’ which means ‘to value’. Now that puts a really good slant on it. We are only diligent about something if we value it. We are diligent about exercise and healthy eating if we value our health; we are diligent in music practice if we realise the value of being able to play an instrument; we are diligent in relationships if we realise how important friendships and family are. To be diligent in something we must value it.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is helping them develop diligence in their lives. We do this by ensuring they have responsibilities and chores, and by making sure they fulfil them. One of the foundational truths about diligence is that it is lived out in the small decisions, the little moments of each day. Just the other week, I was talking to an employer who made this comment. “I would rather employ someone who faithfully turns up to work each morning, than the top student from University. Nowadays, it’s hard to find someone that you can count on to come to work every day.”
However, diligence doesn’t just apply to physical work. We are encouraged to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12 NIV
We’ve probably all experienced the frustration of feeling that our children just aren’t listening properly during family devotions. Maybe we feel that although they are sitting there, the words are going in one ear and out the other.
One of the truths we need to somehow get across to them is that they are responsible for the state of their own hearts. Even very young children need to be taught this. Mum and Dad can teach and talk and be godly examples to them ad infinitum, but ultimately it will be their choice whether they walk with the Lord or not. We cannot make our children godly. We can only present them with truth and life, and pray that they will choose wisely.
Our children need to learn to be diligent in their spiritual life. The following passage of Scripture clearly illustrates that we all need to apply diligence to grow in the faith. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith goodness; and to your goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-10 NIV
There you have it. There’s no way around it. If we want to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and be used by Him, we need to be diligent. As my pastor used to say, “The whole world lies at the feet of a diligent man.”