Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge . . . – 2 Peter 1:5, NASB, emphasis mine
There are a number of critical, godly virtues which form the very hinge on which the door of moral excellence swings, for the Christian scholar today. The very first one, which Peter mentions here, is diligence.
In our rapidly changing, instant, fast-food, microwave culture, diligence is often perceived as a necessary evil. As Americans, we much prefer the shortcut to things. While we greatly enjoy our modern-day technology and inventive conveniences, they often tempt us to try and get by with far less effort than previous generations have had to expend. However, as outdated as it may sound, excellence in Christian scholarship requires diligence, or in old-fashioned terms, “just plain hard work.”
What is diligence?
Related English words give us some clues as to what diligence is, words such as: endurance, perseverance, persistence, or to be committed and tenacious. The Old Testament book of Proverbs contrasts “diligence” with the negative antonym, “laziness” (Proverbs 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4). In the New Testament, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the apostle straightforwardly advises him,
Do your best [be diligent] to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The work of the scholar today requires sweat: diligent, focused, sustained efforts in research, reflection, writing and teaching, energized by an all-consuming desire for excellence, no matter what the cost, ultimately in order to please the Lord God Himself, to whom we all are personally accountable.
Despite the fact some people think of scholars as go-getters, D.A. Carson observes,
On the other hand, biblical studies, strange to say, can become a field where lazy students hide. They never do stellar work, but often only enough to get by. If they become pastors, they may put in long hours, but they will be ineffective hours because they diddle away their time in lazy reading, endless visits to blogs, last-minute preparation, and sloppy work habits. A seminary education must never be viewed as a ticket to a job. It is the beginning of a lifetime of study and reflection, which requires concerted efforts at improving everything we do for the glory of God.
We must avoid diligence-killing time wasting gremlins such as: inordinate small talk, too much television, excessive video game playing and extensive recreational internet surfing. When our times of hanging out, shooting the breeze and joking around conflict for the priority of our divine callings, we not only waste precious time, which belongs to God, but we become a stumbling block to others. While these activities may be fine in moderation, we should carefully avoid overindulging. Do your best to continually seek to grow in and develop the virtue of diligence for your life as a scholar and Christ-follower.
Remember any successful athlete, musician, or scientist will testify to the necessity of diligence for achieving excellence. Diligence is a vital characteristic for us to cultivate throughout our lives and it involves consistent hard work, realistic planning, and faithful follow-through. It is the primary antidote to the vice of laziness, both in the life of the Christian and/or scholar today.
Father, may we exercise true diligence in our pursuit of excellence as scholars who bring great glory to You and Jesus, Your Son, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, Amen.
Further Reading Suggestions
Charles E. Hummel, Tyranny of the Urgent (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999).
D.A. Carson, “The Trials of Biblical Studies,” in The Trials of Theology: Becoming a Proven Worker in a Dangerous Business, ed. Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2010), 115-116.