Be Diligent and Fervent
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 12:11a (Holman) Do not lack diligence;
Love is an affection and an evidence of humility (verse 10). It is an emotion, an act of the will, a resolve to do, and as verse 11 denotes, it produces energy.
“Diligence” refers to activity, to whatever occupies our strength. The sense of this phrase is the same as the Old Testament passage, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your strength” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
The Christian life is meant to be an active life. A Bible expositor once remarked that for every exhortation we have in the New Testament to pray, we have five commands to work or to give. A large portion of Scripture is devoted to urging practical Godliness.
Christianity addresses itself to real people in a real world. There is much work to be done here and now. Many people waste their lives by living in a world of daydreams. They lose themselves in a world of contemplation, imagining themselves to be solvers of unsolved problems while in reality they are solving nothing. Such people leave nothing behind but vanished dreams.
Doers are the ones who change the world. Active ones make the difference. It is the running water that remains fresh; air fanned by wind is the cleanest; metal in use does not rust. We are not to live as if we have nothing to do. There is plenty to do and little time to do it.
Whatever we find to do, we are not to do it slothfully. Laziness and half-heartedness have no place in Christian living. Whatever we do, put our shoulder to the task. Give it our mind, our heart, our strength. This is the key to success. John Eliot, fearless missionary to our American Indians, proclaimed as his motto, “Prayer and painstaking can accomplish everything.” Both were needed.
Romans 12:11b . . .be fervent in spirit;
“Do not lack diligence” denotes an outward reaction of life; “be fervent in spirit” reveals an inward motivation. The latter shows how we attain the former.
Our flesh is lethargic, chained by lusts and passions. It always needs a goad. Something from the inside has to motivate the outside.
“Fervent” points to a heat that produces a flame intense enough to bring liquid to a boil. The metaphor is very plain and straightforward. A person who has come into contact with the living God should have a raised spiritual temperature. As heat makes water boil, even so the Holy Spirit stirs something up within us.
A fervent person is one capable of boiling in spirit. Feelings can be roused within him or her to the point of overflowing. We need our emotions to be stirred to the point of bubbling over. We need an inner glow of spiritual enthusiasm that will move our heart strings, and motivate the body in its wake.
The Christian life is a battle, not a game or stroll. We need a zeal that will uplift us and raise us to the occasion. Some people crawl through life like snails. They travel sluggishly, as if some adhesive slime were clogging their movements. They never get excited, and do nothing with vim and vigor.
We desperately need a Divine spark lit within us. I myself sense a coldness in me I hate. We need a seething hot fire to be awakened and sustained inside us by God’s Spirit. He alone can set our spirits ablaze.
A Christian who is not on fire cannot kindle a flame in others. We cannot make others boil until we boil. It should not surprise us that the world is in a spiritual stupor. The Church herself is stumbling around in an emotionless stupor.
“The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I John 5:19b NASB). Humanity is asleep in the arms of the Devil. They are in a stupor, and one of the best ways to wake up anyone is to shine a bright light on them. We need for God to simmer us until we boil, boil us till we burn, and burn us till we glow. “Let your light shine before men.” Wake them up!
Our Master demonstrated in His own life what fervency of spirit meant. He was a man who teemed within until a flood burst forth in his weeping for Jerusalem and for Lazarus. He was a man who could seethe into an eruption and cleanse the temple. He was a man whose inner agony could be so intense that in Gethsemane “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
But now the fervent Nazarene is too often followed by lukewarm, indifferent people who substitute decorum for emotion, polish for feeling, good taste for the conscience, dull intellectualism for intensity, coldness for the fire of feeling, and a drowsy stupor for the tumult of revival.
Romans 12:11c . . . serve the Lord.
Our emotions and energies must be expended in the pursuit of some useful goal. Fervency is not to reveal itself only in manifestations of excitement, but also by humbly carrying out the mandates of God. In everything, the supreme principle must be our relationship to Jesus Christ. Serving the Lord requires devoting our whole lives and selves to Him. His service must be the focus of our energies.
We do not want our energy to flow through a useless wastepipe. As the heat builds up in us, we want steam to begin driving the wheels of life. We want our energies directed into a cylinder to lift a piston; we want to get useful work from it.
Lightning that shoots across the sky is pretty, but useless. The electricity that counts is what is harnessed, and comes into our houses to do what we need it to do.
Emotion that produces nothing profitable in life is like a fire burning out of control. It is useless. The best mother is not the one who kisses her baby most often, but the one who best takes care of her child. The truest friends are not those who hang on our neck, but rather those who minister to us in times of need.
Emotional energy is dangerous unless well aimed. It can become destructive. It is capable of going in the wrong direction or of exploding. Channel everything toward serving the Lord.
David revealed the secret for proper use of our energies; “I have set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8). When our hands begin to droop and the task begins to bore, freshen ourselves with this thought, “I am doing this for the Lord.”
This motive can be carried into every phase of life. Use it at home, at school, at work, at play, in the kitchen, wherever we go.
A remarkable trait of Christianity is; it can be practiced in every deed of every hour of every day. Physicians cannot perform surgery and practice basketball at the same time; lawyers cannot plead before a jury and dig ditches at the same time. Christians, though can exercise their Christianity in everything they do. We can approach every deed as a labor of love to God. We can do our best in everything we attempt.
Our faith is not so much the doing of religious acts as it is the doing of all acts from religious motives. All of life should be a grand experience of worship.
The familiar and the trite should be as “the bush aglow.” Write above everything, “For the sake of the Master.” Live every moment as if we should take our shoes off, for we sense we are standing on holy ground.
Spurgeon could not walk through a forest without having to kneel down and worship the Creator. One of the prophets foresaw a time when all of life would be counted so sacred that on the bells of the horses would be written, “Holiness to the Lord” and when every bowl in Jerusalem would be deemed as sacred as the vessels of the altar. This is true Christian service: to serve the Lord in everything.