Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
On Sunday, we discovered that we may be more acquainted with that arcane word sluggardliness than we’d care to admit. We shift our attention toward less important matters so effortlessly that we lose sight of what truly requires our care. Or sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have that we forget how our responsibilities constitute a privilege. For both reasons we find ourselves drifting toward the neglect of the sluggard’s way. So, we asked, what can be done to keep us from that drift?
It’s a matter of focus, of where you fix your gaze. Such is the testimony of both ancient and modern Christians.
John Chrysostom, the fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople, contended diligence derives from a look beyond the present moment. He said, “Is work at first difficult? Then look to its results. Is idleness sweet? Then consider what comes out of it in the end. So let us not look to the beginning of things, but let us also see where they end up” (Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon). Today’s demands can often overwhelm us and drain us of strength. But when we imagine where present practice may lead, we begin to understand the significance of our efforts. The plodding work may seem trivial in the moment, but its result produces a satisfaction that justifies the effort.
Not only does diligence come from having a look to the future?it comes from surveying our ultimate future.
Early in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Lucy visit their relatives’ home for the summer. In Lucy’s bedroom hangs an evocative picture of a ship, which reminds them of their previous adventures in Narnia. Wistful for a return to that magical country, Edmund asks while beholding the picture, “The question is whether it doesn’t make things worse looking at a Narnian ship when you can’t get there.” Lucy replies, “Even looking is better than nothing.”
Edmund understands the struggle of feasting his eyes on a reality to which he doesn’t have full access, but which he’s been promised to someday enjoy. So wouldn’t it be better, Edmund wonders, if we saw nothing of that magical country?
Lucy knows better though. To have even a glimpse of what is a joy still to come makes the lack more tolerable, not less. Having had a taste of that place, even just the sight of it keeps them hopeful about their return.
Fixing our heart’s gaze on Jesus’s glory and His return supplies a taste of what’s to come. In turn, it keeps us doing what must be done, including our attention to the sometimes tedious and frustrating demands of love and holiness. So when we’re tempted to quit, we have to turn our attention to Jesus. Then we’re motivated to diligence not only because of His loving example, but also because we recognize the destiny to which it’s ordered that makes diligence meaningful. That is, when we consider how diligence in love resonates with the glory we have yet to see when Christ returns, we realize our diligence doesn’t just matter to us?but to God.
As the apostle John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” (I John 3:2-3). Our gaze turned toward Christ and His return purifies us of negligence. The picture of the ship kept Edmund and Lucy in hope of their future voyage to that magical country. Our heart’s sight of Jesus keeps us in diligence on our present passage.
The neglect of anything stems from the neglect of one thing: our sense of the majesty and mercy of God. To have that sense rekindled, we must not only gaze upon Christ in the Word, and pray to Him in the Spirit, but we must also ask the Father to help us behold His glory in our hearts (Cf. Eph 3:14-19). So today, if you find yourself drifting toward negligence, ask, with whatever words you can find, that God would renew your diligence as you see His love for you.