The word of the day is “diligence.” Time erodes zeal. As the days go by, our original dedication to a cause tends to diminish. This observation is true of our spiritual intensity. We have passed the mid-point of Great Lent. Have your steps slowed on your Lenten journey to the house of our Heavenly Father? That is likely unless you have found a way to overcome natural spiritual inertia.
If we have become sluggish in our observance of Lent, we need the word of our reading of Hebrews 6:9-12. The apostle speaks to all of us, saying, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (vs. 11). Today our study is meant to motivate and teach us how to “finish the course of the fast” with earnest determination and renewed vigor.
Do Not Lag in Diligence
Knowing how easy it is to lose our initial enthusiasm for the faith, the writers of the New Testament frequently urge us not to “lag in diligence” but to be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12 11). The apostle Peter lists the qualities that make a productive spiritual life: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness (NKJV 2 Peter 1:5-7). But to acquire these virtues, one must be diligent (NKJV 2 Peter 1:5). What good is trying to add these spiritual traits to our character if we practice them half-heartedly? No, as water and fertilizer make plants grow more vigorously, so diligence causes these attributes of the godly life to abound and to bear fruit.
King Darius Commands Diligence
But what is diligence? When the Jewish exiles from Babylon began rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, the local inhabitants complained. They persuaded the emperor to stop the restoration of the temple. When work finally started again, the issue came to the attention of King Darius of Babylon. He asked who authorized the project. A search of the royal archives found that the great King Cyrus had approved the venture. Accordingly, King Darius ordered that the work should proceed with all “diligence. Thus, the temple was soon completed (Ezra Chapters 5 and 6).
Dispatch, Earnestness, and Carefulness
The basis of the Greek word “diligence” is the thought of speed. The term builds on this sense of haste to mean “dispatch,” “earnestness,” and “carefulness” (Strong’s #4710, 232). For instance, King Darius commanded that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt with haste. Darius saw to it that nothing should hinder nor divert the work until it was complete.
Likewise, the writers of the Scriptures suggest that the work of the Lord should be carried out with the same drive and intensity as the restoration of the temple. The New Testament urges leaders to lead their flocks with zeal (NKJV Romans 12:8). It presses the faithful to contend for the faith delivered to the saints with earnestness (NKJV Jude 3). And it entreats the members of the Body of Christ to have genuine care for one another (NKJV 2 Cor. 8:16). All the underlined words in this paragraph are translations of the term “diligence.”
But what about our observance of the Great Fast? In today’s study, we have found that diligence is a prerequisite for our spiritual labors during this season of repentance. The transformation of the heart and mind that we seek requires the grace of God. But it also demands our dedicated and persistent efforts in synergy with God’s work in us.
Three Ways to Renew Our Diligence
But how are our spiritual disciplines sustained over the weeks of the Fast? The Church provides the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified for this very purpose. The Body and Blood of Christ are our refreshment and sustenance as we follow Christ to the Cross.
Then too, to continue to make energetic progress, we must keep our goal in mind. That is, we must look ahead to our hope. The apostle writes that each of us should “show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end” (OAB 6:11). That thought suggests that if we keep the end of our journey before us at all times, that hope will quicken our steps toward it.
Finally, we should break our journey into stages. If we dwell on the entire journey, it will seem long and wearing. But if we divide our walk with the Lord into shorter trips, we will find that it will not seem so daunting. For example, this weekend, we will observe the Lenten Sunday of St. John Climacus (+649 AD). St. John wrote the well-known work on the spiritual struggle, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Climacus 1959). In this manual of how the spirit can rise from “earth to Eternal glory in Heaven,” the ascetic does not talk about everything at once. But he divides the climb of the ascetic virtues into thirty steps on a ladder. By concentrating on these spiritual qualities one at a time, the reader makes progress upward.
Today’s word comes at the right time. Just when weariness would slow the pace of our journey to the Cross, we hear the divine call for diligence. Let us use all the resources that the Church provides to renew ourselves in our determination to reach the end of the Fast, a resolve that comes from the attitude of dispatch, earnestness, and carefulness, that is, diligence.
Climacus, John. 1959. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. New York Harper and Brothers.
Kontakion Tone 1: For St. John Climacus),