David Jeremiah - Muscular Faith
I don't know what your political view may be, but whatever it is, if you watched the televised funeral of George H.W. Bush, you probably wiped a tear from your eyes more than once. When George W. Bush gripped the pulpit, he bent over, choked in grief and he called his dad a "great and noble man, and the best father a son or a daughter could ever have". That poignant moment occurred near the end of Bush's eulogy of his father and, as I listened to the tribute, I was particularly struck by one statement. The younger Bush said of his father: "He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted. He played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf. He was a good golfer. Well, here's my conclusion. He played golf fast so they could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expend his enormous energy. He was born with just two settings: full throttle and then sleep".
I believe the Apostle Peter was a full-throttle guy, too. His adrenaline never seemed to run out, and he encouraged his readers to be fully engaged in their pursuit of Christ and the Christ-like life. Peter uses a word that is frequently found in the Bible. It's the word "diligence". That's a quality I keep bumping into whenever I read the biographies of productive, effective people. People of yesterday, people of today, one of the common denominators of people who seem to succeed is they're known for living a life of diligence.
One of my better-known heroes as a pastor is a man by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Back in 1850, Spurgeon in his mid teens decided to follow Jesus Christ and he started preaching the very next year and there's just no stopping him. At age 19 he became the pastor of the New Park Street Church in London and almost instantly no auditorium in London could hold the crowds that were coming to hear this man preach. With few or no notes, he stood in the pulpit and with great eloquence expounded the Word of God. Without question, he was a brilliant young man. So stenographers, this was before the recordings that we have available now. Stenographers would sit in the audience and they would record his sermon, that way and he would edit them immediately after the sermon and the next day on Monday his sermon that he preached in church on Sunday would be in the London newspaper in its entirety.
By the end of Spurgeon's life, the total volumes of his sermons represented the largest single set of Christian books by one author in the history of Christianity. How many words was that? Well, he had 3561 sermons bound in 63 volumes, filled with 20 million words, the equivalent of the 27 volumes of the, "Encyclopedia Britannica". And by the way, he died at the age of 57, and maybe there's a reason, the way he lived, you know? Spurgeon was an amazing person. He was a ravenous reader. His personal library was over 12,000 in number of volumes. He usually read six books a week. He devoured commentaries. He read works that were written by Puritan writers, and if you've ever tried that, that is not easy reading. He read newspapers and periodicals. His Bible was always open, his pen was always working. He answered correspondence, he started dozens of agencies, benevolent agencies. He published a magazine. The magazine was called, "The Sword and the Trowel". He established a college where he lectured. He wrote one book after another on many subjects and he often worked 18 hours a day. He preached ten times a week.
Now the problem with everybody who tried to figure him out was that he was like George H.W. Bush. He had two speeds: full throttle and then sleep. He once said, I love this statement. He said, "A man cannot be idle and yet have Christ's sweet company. Christ is a quick walker and when his people would talk with him, they must travel quickly, too, or else they will soon lose his company". One day, he said, "The sin of doing nothing is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves all of the other sins together. Horrible idleness, God save us from it".
So, there were two men: one was a president and one was a preacher. They both shared a common virtue: they were both men of diligence, and they both changed the world. Let's face it, men and women. We don't get very far if we idle through life. When your car is idling, it's not going anywhere and when you're idling you're wasting the one resource which is not recoverable: you're wasting your time, the very hours of your life. So, I wanna talk to myself today and talk to all of us about the importance of diligence. First, let's talk about understanding the heart of diligence.
According to the book of 2 Peter, diligence is an ingredient that we need to withstand the pressures of this world. We have to grab hold of the things that God has given us, those special great promises, that great power that he's made available to us, all of his provisions. But what do you do when you get a gift? You unwrap it and, hopefully, you use it. And God has given us such a gift and we need to do our part. If we're going to experience true transformation of character, we have to understand what diligence means.
Now, I wanna read this passage from 2 Peter 1:5, and I think you'll get where I'm headed. Peter writes: "For this very reason," and you have to stop and ask, "What reason"? Because we've been given all this from God. "For this very reason," he says, "giving all diligence". It's not just diligence, it's all diligence. You wanna ask God to help you, work diligently at your life and do the things that God has called you to do and grow in maturity and take the blessings that God has given you and unwrap them and utilize them in your life every day. Make that your purpose, make that your divine determination. The meaning of diligence.
Now, what is the motivation for diligence? Peter comes back and he says, "For this very reason". What is the reason? Because you have been blessed so much by God. "For this very reason, add to your faith diligence," and everything covers it all. It's not just your spiritual life. I think God wants us all to live diligently. That doesn't mean we have to be all, you know, energy bunnies. I know some people that they burn all their energy, but they don't go anywhere. They just sort of, you know, you know, they just move. But God wants us to do what we do with a purpose.
People ask me all the time, why I'm still doing what I'm doing at this stage of life, whatever stage that is. You heard about the lady who said she was 49 and holding? Her little grandson said, "Grandma, how old would you be if you let go"? Well, I don't know how old I would be if I let go. I love what one man said, you know, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were"? But age isn't anything. Age has nothing to do with where we are and how we live our lives. We may not always be able to do some of the things we used to do but I always think about Caleb. You know what it says about Caleb? He was as strong when he was 80, as he was when he was 40. That gives me great hope, amen? That ought to be a goal for all of us.
Let me just ask you this question. How do we incorporate diligence into our lives? Are we living a diligent life? Am I living a life of diligence? Do I take every day as a gift from God, realizing that he's given me all these great promises, all this great potential, and my goal is to max it out for his glory and give him everything I've got and leave nothing left to look back on that I wish I had done.
Let me show you how important diligence was to Peter. He devoted nine verses in this passage to the subject of living a godly life and, twice in this little passage, he talks about diligence. He says in verse 5: "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue". And then in verse 10 he says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure". God has given us everything we need through his great and precious promises so we can live a truly godly life and, for this reason, we should be diligent to take advantage of everything he's given to us.
Now, let's pause for a moment and acknowledge, this puts us right in the middle of kind of a hairy confrontation among Christians. And it probably goes something like this and you've maybe heard people teach this: "When you become a Christian, you rest in the Lord. You rest in the Lord," amen? I believe that. That means you trust him. And then other people say, "No, when you become a Christian you get up on your horse and you start galloping toward heaven". Some people say Christianity is, "Let go and let God," and they're very passive about their faith.
I've noticed as I've watched them that many of these people don't grow. They don't fall in love with the Lord more, they're not actively pursuing the Lord. They're not actively trying to serve the Lord. I would rather run the risk of being too energetic for God than not being energetic at all. I would rather say, "Lord, slow me down," than, "Lord, speed me up". And how many of you know, God has a calling for all of us? There's not any of us here that God has not given a gift to. Every one of us who's a Christian has a gift and there is not such a thing as a giftless Christian. We all have gifts and our responsibility is to take that spiritual gift that God has given us and develop it and make it the best it can be and use it for the glory of God. Make sure that we diligently follow God's plan for our life. So, that's the meaning of diligence and that's sort of the motivation for it.
When I was a young man, everybody else had a life verse, and so, I got some, too. I got these life verses from Colossians and I wanna just help you see how this works as it outlines what diligence is all about. Colossians 3:23-24. Here's what those verses say: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ". Now, this will help us understand what it means to develop the habits of diligence. So, we're gonna take these one at a time. I'm gonna ask you to look in some different directions. I want you to look around. Here's what the text says: "Whatever you do".
If you read the entire 3rd chapter of Colossians where these verses are found, you will discover that these verses are right in the section of a context of husbands, wives, children, fathers, bondservants. So impressive is that to me. Because that means that my diligence isn't just about when I go to church. It's the way I'm supposed to live my life all the time. Now, you can't live, you know, 100 miles an hour all the time. You burn out in a week or so. But you can live your life with this sense of urgency and diligence in all that you do. You can't just switch it on and switch it off. You can't say, "Oh, it's Sunday, it's time to be diligent," you know? No, you have to be diligent in the way you live. And once you do that, it becomes a part of who you are. We're to dive into all of our relationships and dive into them diligently.
"Challenges like," somebody wrote, "fixing a leaky faucet, changing diapers, paying bills, resolving conflicts, grocery shopping, job hunting, building your career, the word 'whatever' means whatever. It covers anything and everything we do, no matter who we are as followers of Christ". Whatever you do, do it heartily. Do it with diligence. And most of you know what I'm talking about. You have some project in your life that just seems overwhelming. You look at it and it's like a huge mountain and you say to yourself, "How am I ever gonna get over that mountain"? Let me tell you how you get over there. One step, one day, one determination, one bit of obedience to the Lord, one at a time. That's diligence.
We as believers, if we're not careful, we just sort of float along. We just sort of go along with what's happening and God has called us to a different way of life. You say, "Well, I'm the only one in my church". Well, be the best only one you can be. Make a difference, whoever sees you, amen? Well, so that's the first step. Look around. If you look around, you will see whatever you do. Here's the second step: look within. Paul wrote to the Colossians: "Whatever you do, do it heartily". Looking within means that you ask yourself, "What does my motivation look like? What does it mean to do something heartily"? Well, it means to do it with all your heart.
You know that in the New Testament there are three possible temperatures for your heart? First of all, there's the cold heart. Matthew 24:12 describes the people of the last days as those whose love shall wax cold. And then, in Revelation chapter 3 you read about the people who have a heart that's lukewarm. Writing to the church at Laodicea, the Lord described his disdain for a half-lived life. He said, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I'm gonna vomit you out of My mouth". Those are the words of God.
And then there's the burning heart. Luke 24 tells us that two disciples talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and they described their experience with him like this: "Did not our heart burn within us when he talked with us on the road, and while he opened the Scriptures to us"? A cold heart, a lukewarm heart, a burning heart. Which one describes you?
I read about this swimmer whose name is "Rowdy" Gaines. Rowdy Gaines tabulated how much practice it took to develop the stamina, the technique, the confidence, and the judgment to win an Olympic gold medal, and he did this during an eight-year period leading up to the 1984 Games. He swam in increments of 50-yard laps at least 20,000 miles. Of course, if you add in the years before and after, the odometer goes even higher. But I'll never forget the statement that he made. He said: "I swam around the world for a race that lasted 49 seconds".
And I wanna pose a question to all of us who are followers of Christ. If diligence would drive a man to swim around the world, what kind of diligence should we be striving for with eternity as our goal? I think I hear the Apostle Paul saying, "They do it to obtain a perishable crown but we for an imperishable crown". Look around, whatever you do. Look within. Do it heartily. And then look above, "as to the Lord". The real secret to developing diligence in your life is to realize that you don't serve people. You serve God. And you serve the Lord, not men.
This is reoccurring theme in Paul's letters if you read them carefully. He constantly is reminding of this, like in Romans 14: "For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we're the Lord's". Or Colossians 3:17: "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him". If we would just really comprehend the fact that when we go out to do our duty, to do our thing that God has called us to do, we're really doing it before an audience of one. We're not doing it before the audiences of people around us.
You know, some of them are gonna like it and some of 'em aren't. I found that a long time ago. If you're the pastor of a church the size I have and you're trying to please everybody, good luck. I get notes every week that are put in the offering bag and they aren't always saying, "Oh, we love you, Pastor. We love you". They're about how cold it is in the church, how loud the music is, couldn't find a place to park. You've got it all. But you know what? Sometimes I just back up and say, "God, you haven't called me to please all these people. Help me to remember my job is to please you. Let me please you," amen?
In his book, "Lyrics," songwriter and producer, Oscar Hammerstein II, tells of seeing a picture of the Statue of Liberty that was taken from a helicopter. The photo showed the top of the statue's head and Hammerstein was impressed with the detail and excellence the sculptor had taken to complete a portion of the statue that few eyes would ever see. "He was artist enough," wrote Hammerstein, "to finish off this part of the statue with as much care as he had devoted to her face and her arms and the torch and everything that people can see as they sail up the bay".
Whatever we do, we should be doing for God. Look around, whatever you do. Look within. Do it heartily. Look above, as to the Lord. And then, look ahead, you will receive the reward. That brings us to the best part: looking ahead. The same God who has given us everything we need for a life of goodness and godliness is gonna reward us for living our lives that way. My life verse ends by saying: "Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ".
This is the same reward Peter mentions as he wraps up his paragraph in 2 Peter 1. Peter commands believers to add one quality after another to their lives, and then, he makes this word. And he says, "If you do that, an entrance will be supplied abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". He wasn't saying you will get to heaven by doing all of these things, but he says you'll go to heaven like a lot of other people won't. You'll go to heaven with your hands up high. You'll go to heaven with a sense of victory because you've lived the way God has called you to live and I believe that's living with diligence.
Back when Elvis Presley was in his heyday, he hired a bodyguard named, "Sonny" West. Sonny West served with him all the days that Elvis was around and he gave him all the energy he could muster. Sonny broke into "The King's" inner circle and became part of what was known as the Memphis Mafia. Elvis was the best man at Sonny's wedding and the two were best friends. Sonny even appeared in a movie with Elvis Presley. But then, Elvis died, and Sonny's life began to spiral downwards. He and his wife battled cancer, faced foreclosure because of mounting medical bills. He eventually began selling all of his Elvis Presley memorabilia, including the jewelry Presley gave him.
He said, "I don't wanna leave my family behind. I just feel very depressed". "Inside Edition," which reported this story months before his death in 2017, said: "Sonny West once rode Elvis Presley's coattails to fame as his best friend and bodyguard, but decades later the glitz and the glamour has faded away". And this story provides a tremendous contrast for me and for you. Here was this man who served "The King" with all of his heart but the experience ended, and the glitz evaporated, and the glory faded. On the other side, I have a "King" I'm serving with all my heart, and you know what?
Let me tell you something. The best is yet to come. The best is yet to come. All of us who live full throttle for Jesus Christ, all of us who diligently advance from glory to glory, all of us who do whatever we do heartily to the Lord, will receive our reward from an eternal inheritance with God and there'll be no end to the hallelujahs and no end to the joy and no end to the fellowship with Jesus and no end to the days of our lives or the answers to our prayers. No end to our passion and purpose, for even in heaven his servants will serve him.