Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
~ 2 Timothy 2:15 NASB
Welcome to mile marker 22 of the #encourage marathon! I can’t believe we are almost to the end! I hope you have thus far been uplifted. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)
Someone out there is discouraged. It might even be you.
When I was twelve, I was seized by a strong desire to be a medical doctor. I wanted to help people, write legible prescriptions, and treat nurses with the professional respect they deserved. I made it my goal to graduate at the top of my class with a impeccable grades. I wanted to my transcripts to be so irresistible that top schools would snap me up in an instant. I worked myself raw, often staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning to produce the best work I possibly could.
My fellow students thought I was so smart. The truth was (and is) that smarts had little to do with it. I am an abysmal test-taker and slow to grasp certain concepts. Before I even began high school, I took summer school Algebra so I could take Calculus by my senior year. My goal was fixed and I was going to do everything I could to get there. Even if I didn’t graduate top of my class, I wanted to be unashamed, knowing I had given it my very best.
As it turns out, I didn’t graduate at the top. I graduated second (salutatorian) and even that honor was shared, quite joyously, with two of my friends. Following high school, I attended California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo—not a “top” school per se, but one of the hardest California State Universities to gain admission to. My hard work paid off. I learned a great deal, majored in something I enjoyed, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication and minor in music. (The doctor thing kind of went out the window).
I would have told you then, and I will still tell you now, that I didn’t accomplish those things by sheer determination; the Lord helped me through it all. I gave it my best effort, and the Lord did the rest. I cried out to Him often in my exhaustion and moments of failure. I was never truly alone, even when I felt that way.
All that exertion achieved a piddly physical goal. Do we give our spiritual goal the same diligence?
Success doesn’t happen by accident. It demands diligence (and truckloads of grace).
As a Christian, what are we aiming for?
We are racing towards a far more precious finish line—eternal life!
Now, before you jump to the incorrect conclusion, I am not going to suggest that we are saved by works. Such an implication would contradict scripture. We are saved by grace through faith. That being said, there has to be some offering on our part to get there. We don’t get dunked in water and then sit on our hands waiting for Jesus to return. We want to present ourselves approved and unashamed before the Lord on the day of Judgement. We want to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Think of it this way: In your word processing software, there are four different alignment options: left-align, right-align, center-align and justified. Let’s say I want all my text to be perfectly square. I will select the “justified” option. In order to justify text, the spacing between the letters or between words may be expanded or contracted in order to make a square of text.
Now, consider each day’s work as a paragraph in the story of your life. At the end of every day, we offer up our work up to the Lord, presenting him our best based on our skills and abilities. His grace does the intricate task of bringing our text (work) into alignment. We can never accomplish perfect alignment; only Christ can justify us.
Now, in your word processing program, if you try to justify one word of text, it will likely refuse to do it. Unless the paragraph rectangle is very narrow, a single word will be left alone on it’s line. In other words, you have to give the software more words to work with in order to have a perfect square. One letter will not justify with a 15-word sentence. Zero letters will not justify with anything. There has to be something there to justify.
Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent—to give his best effort—to present himself approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed. The encouragement is for us as well. Why would diligence keep us from shame? If we are diligent, we will know that we have given every effort to serve Him, pushing ourselves to the limit of endurance, even to the point of appearing foolish to the world.
Another way to consider this is like a little 5-year-old child dressing himself for worship in his best clothes with the intent to please his mother. He does his very best to select clothes that will make her happy. His chubby fingers fumble with the buttons and he attempts to brush his crazy hair, but, being inexperienced in such things, there are a few mishaps. The buttons are not aligned with the corresponding button holes, several hairs still stick out in odd places, and his pants are on backwards. He presents himself to his mother with a huge grin, “Look mommy! I got myself dressed nicely for you!” Of course, the mother sees all the flaws, but she is overjoyed by his earnest, loving effort. She knows that he did his very best to present himself approved to his her. She will gently and lovingly teach him how to fix all those little flaws, but his diligent effort was accepted.
Our Heavenly Father looks at our diligent efforts in the same way that mother looks at her child. He is delighted by our joyous endeavor to serve Him. When our efforts have flaws, He will teach us to make them right if we are willing to be taught. As we grow, He expects us to improve. If we don’t improve in spite of knowledge, only then will the work become unacceptable. (Imagine your teenage or adult son coming out in backwards pants and mismatched buttons!)
We need to be diligent in our efforts, and comforted by grace.
Today, you may feel like nothing you ever do is up to scratch. In spite of your best efforts, it feels like you always fall short. You teach people about Christ, giving it your best effort, but they never accept the gospel. You write and discuss, hoping to make an impact, but nobody is reading or listening. Discouragement abounds.
Consider these passages:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
~ Romans 3.23-25, ESV
We all fall short, but Christ justifies us by grace. Keep on working!
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
~ Hebrews 6.9-12, NKJV
God does not forget our work and labor of love. Don’t get sluggish!
Be diligent and there will be no need to be ashamed. Keep working!
Please continue to join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.
Make some time to copy down these posts. Some of them are a bit long, but it only takes a few minutes. Ask your kids to do it with you. Don’t just be encouraged, but encourage others in the race!