Every Christian hopes for the good finish to his or her life on earth. The apostle Paul claimed he had fought the good fight and finished the race (2 Tim 4:7). The weather in Michigan, growing up, taught me about changing seasons and variable conditions. Some days there are blissfully calm, and others are blustery with blistering cold. One must be dressed and ready for whatever the weather presents to him.
The Christian life is like the weather. Some days offer good providence and other days are filled with bad providence. Providence is the God ordained conditions we must face, as God works His perfect plan. My objective here is to present a few things we must be diligent with on good providence days and a few things we must be resilient with on bad providence days. Diligence presses on, while resilience bounces back.
We begin with diligence during good providence. Good providence is feeling the wind in your sails, or the descent from the crest of the hill. Tasks are effortlessly accomplished. On days like these, you boast, “If God is for us, who can be against us!” We must go on the offensive, however, against the gates of hell. Redeem this time, especially. The enemy has deployed his limited resources somewhere else and resistance is minimal. The plans of the diligent surely lead to advantage (Prv 21:5). We must take as much ground as possible. Let us be diligent in these things.
First, God has made promises that should make us diligent, not sluggish (Heb 6:11). What could be better than, “I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me (Prv 8:17).” God has promised to reward those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6), and this can only be done by faith in Him (Heb 11:1). Faith is a gift of God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9), but it must be exercised with all diligence (2 Pet 1:5). Love the Lord your God is the first commandment.
Diligence is a treasured possession (Prv 12:27), especially for those who work for, love, and minister to the saints, in Christ’s name (Heb 6:10). Love one another in the household of faith, along with your neighbor and your enemy. Having worked with senior saints, who often wished they had been more zealous with sharing the treasure in their earthen vessel, I am conscious of loving while there is strength to love. In addition, we love with what has been given to us (Rom 5:5; 1 Jn 3:16–17; 4:19).
By ministering the riches of His grace, we discover God’s infinite supply (2 Cor 9:8). While others hoard and cling to the riches of this world (Lk 12), we freely give the wealth of heaven to anyone who would receive it from us. Each of us must spend the life given to us, and there is no limitation because there is no scarcity with what we offer to God and give to others.
Second, God has instructed His people to watch their hearts with all diligence (Prv 4:23). Hearts plus minds equal souls. Thus, the Lord also commands, “Keep your souls diligently (Dt 4:9).” The heart and the mind are filled with what is granted access. We must be diligent to clean what is deemed wicked and deceitful and futile. Purification of the heart and mind is called, “sanctification” in the Bible. The clean-up crew is the Spirit and the Word (Jn 17:17). We demonstrate our approval of the work order by employing the means of grace: Bible study; prayer; sacraments; worship; and the Lord’s Day. These observances cleanse us, and then maintain our holiness.
When Israel wandered away from Yahweh, and He punished them, they returned and searched diligently for God (Ps 78:34). This was true when the wicked encroached, too (Ps 119:95). This was not true for the reprobate, however. Our souls are prone to wander away from God, but we have the advantage of the indwelling Spirit extending grace unto repentance (Acts 5:31; Rom 8:9, 11). A vigilant course of incessant re-alignment teaches us the narrow way (Mt 7:13). It is the devil who entices us to drift. If Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph 3:17), then it is the peace of Christ that will guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:7). Therefore, we must pursue peace with all diligence, and He Himself is our peace (Eph 2:14). So, put on Christ.
Third, the apostle Paul spurred the members of the church at Rome to not lag behind in diligence (Rom 12:11). As we diligently observe His commands (Dt 6:17), we should also diligently teach them to our children (Dt 6:7). This diligent discipline demonstrates true love for our children (Prv 13:24). If obedience demonstrates our love for God, then we should always take diligent heed to love Him (Josh 23:11). Our children and others will know us by the fervent nature of our love for God and for one another.
Our reputation should be, “the brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things (2 Cor 8:22).” One key labor is being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
This is why we should submit to and support our pastors, who diligently labor among us (1 Thess 5:12), and who diligently present themselves approved to God, as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling he word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Men of God should lead with diligence (Rom 12:8), and we should follow the example of those who rule with diligence (Prv 12:24). Are you lagging in these matters?
Fourth, the heathen kings, Cyrus and Darius, were moved to decree the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem with all diligence (Ezra 6:12). In the world, the diligent hand makes one rich (Prv 10:4), so we must be careful to diligently seek good, not evil (Prv 11:27).
If the principle of diligence applies to the world and to the church, then we must be sure of what we are being diligent about. Jesus Christ is building His church (Mt 16:18), the Temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:20–22), and as living stones, filled with His Spirit, we must find ourselves in a more favored place than even Cyrus or Darius. God has prepared good works for us to walk in (Eph 2:10), so should we not walk in a manner of diligence? Work out your salvation (Phil 2:12) and be diligent doers of the Word (Jas 1:22).
Now we turn to our need for resilience during bad providence. Bad providence is the path filled with obstacles, which hinder our progress. We must be clear; God works all things for our good in seasons of bad providence (Rom 8:28). Bad providence is only bad from our perspective.
With negative repetitions in weightlifting, the muscle is stretched even torn with micro-tears. This tearing allows the muscle to grow. Christians grow when we are in the territory of negative reps. It is painful and exhausting, but we will come through this season much stronger than before.
What is required of us is resilience. Let us consider some things requiring resilience when things in our Christian life are not going so well.
First, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). The goal is Christ-likeness. The prize is an eternal weight of glory. The upward call is to holiness before the One who has called us (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22). We must be resilient in the face of resistance. Resist the devil, and then resist him again (Jas 4:7).
Moses was a resilient leader. Born into an era of Egyptian infanticide, he began his journey to the Promised Land. Moses’ survival led to a worldly upbringing and education. Later, raw patriotism led to an impassioned murder by him, which caused a forty-year exile in obscurity at Midian.
God’s call was met with reluctance. Moses’ appointment as leader also led to the peoples’ reluctance to follow him. His cause was resisted over and over again by Pharaoh. Moses was resilient as the situation got worse for the Israelites, who grumbled and murmured against him. How will we escape the Egyptians? I am thirsty! I am hungry! Are we there yet? I am not going in there! Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle was Moses’ life story. You must press on through endless obstacles, too. God crafted Moses in this manner, and His is crafting you, too.
Second, suffer for the sake of righteousness, in the will of God, as a Christian (1 Peter). The way of Christ is the road marked with suffering. Suffer well on your journey of faith.
Job met with stunning resistance to his forward progress of faith. Satan had set a myriad of obstacles against him. One of Job’s errors was to engage his critical friends in debate. His penchant for self-vindication was not helpful toward the resolution. Only God could release him, and Job needed a good theology lesson before he was silent before the Lord. God is in heaven and we are on earth, so let us use few words in assessing our status in His providence. Remember, a gentle and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God (1 Pet 3:4). Job was a resilient man of faith in the worst of providences. Your situation may be bad, but Job’s was worse. Relief is coming.
Third, put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:10). Resilient Christians understand spiritual warfare. Each piece of armor is resilient. Fiery darts of the devil, sometimes hurled at us as cutting words, are deflected by faith. Accusation of guilt from the accuser of the brethren can attack the heart or the mind.
Our conscience must be protected from guilt (Heb 9:14). Righteousness protects the heart, and salvation the mind. Our right standing with God is Christ’s righteousness, not our own. Satan tells the mind that salvation is lost, but the helmet guards the mind and reminds us that salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). The devil wants to steal, kill, and destroy, but the resilient overcome his every design by faith (1 Jn 5:4).
David was a man after God’s own heart, and God has the heart of an oft shunned lover. David was a resilient lover of God and the flock of Israel. David’s life as a warrior king was a rollercoaster. His anointing won the wrath of his brothers. His defeat of Goliath won the wrath of King Saul. His outlasting Saul won him the disdain of the northern tribes. Success can bring its own suffering, and David suffered for his many successes. You must be resilient under attack and diligent when you have secured peace in the places of your spiritual warfare.
Fourth, in season and out of season we must preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2). We have a Gospel to proclaim, and we must be found faithful at all times. Woe to us if we do not.
Paul was a resilient messenger. His three missionary journeys into Asia Minor and into Europe were fraught with resistance. Paul was stoned, but he got back up. Paul was jailed again and again, but he got out. He redeemed his time in jail by preaching and writing letters. He discipled others to carry on his legacy as a missionary preacher and church planter. Paul did not stop until he reached the end of the race. He did not stop until the final bell of the final round of the fight had sounded.
To be found faithful, Christian, you must be diligent on days of ease, and you must be resilient on the dark days of incessant resistance. Never, never, never give up (Churchill), for we shall overcome (Apostle John). All of your days have been ordained by God, and He is working His providence through it all. Keep the faith, and put on Christ, who is always leading you in His triumph (2 Cor 2:14). It is now time to either bounce back or get on with it. Go.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 5, 2021