POINTS TO PONDER

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I realize that the language on the streets, in schools, and now on social media changes with each new generation. It seems as though new words are added to the dictionary all the time. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if some teenagers today would not understand the honored English term of “diligence.”

The dictionary defines diligence as vigilant activity, attentiveness, or care. From the slightest momentary thought to the most vigilant anxiety. Attentive and persistent in doing a thing; steadily applied; active; zealous; laborious; incessant; untiring. The attention and care required of a person in a given situation. Diligence is the opposite of negligence.

Psychologists have complained about the lack of diligence in making sure that published articles have the experiential backing of practice. Researchers occupied with diligence are those who engage in practices — such as additional analyses or even experiments — designed to evaluate the strength of their results, whether or not these practices make it into print. They might, for example, analyze their data with different exclusion criteria — not to choose the criterion that makes some effect most dramatic but to make sure that any claims in the paper don’t depend on potentially arbitrary decisions. They might analyze the data using two statistical methods — not to choose the single one that yields a significant result but to make sure that they both do.

Over the years, there have been several dietary and physical claims that turned out hard to replicate. For instance, by putting your hands on your hips, widening your stance makes you feel bolder. Another was, smiling will make you feel happier. One of the most influential psychological theories is that willpower is similar to fuel in your car’s gas tank. The more you use in one situation, the less you have remaining in the tank for other demands. And one that is hard to believe for even non-psychology students is that by reading articles on aging, it will make you walk slower.

Listen to this one, called the “Stanford Prison Experiment.” The study took paid participants and assigned them to be “inmates” or “guards” in a mock prison at Stanford University. Soon after the experiment began, the “guards” began mistreating the “prisoners,” implying evil is brought out by circumstance. The authors, in their conclusions, suggested innocent people, thrown into a situation where they have power over others, will begin to abuse that power. And people who are put into a situation where they are powerless will be driven to submission, even madness. When tried by other universities, it turned out to be completely false.

That’s why many of the classic show-stopping experiments in psychology have lately turned out to be wrong, fraudulent, or outdated. And in recent years, social scientists have begun to reckon with the truth that their old work needs a redo, getting back to sound repeated clinical trials that prove the results of the theory are constantly proven to be right. But there’s been a lag — in the popular consciousness – and in how psychology is taught by teachers and textbooks. It’s time to catch up.

The same goes for nonbiblical theories on Christian living. While I was growing up, I heard some of these unproven concepts. I was told that if you get on your knees to pray, your prayer will be more effective. Also, you must pray for an hour each day to get results. We were also informed that we must read our Bibles and memorize scriptures to show how spiritual we are. Not only that, but no matter how spiritually strong a believer you are, making one mistake will send you back to the beginning, and you will need to get saved and start all over again. None of these things pertained to diligence. They were warnings on negligence. Perhaps that’s why we learn all about the things we were not to do and very little about what to do.

But what does the Bible say about diligence? King Solomon advised us to guard our hearts with all diligence (mishmar in Hebrew), for it determines the course of our lives.[1] He also went on to say that those who diligently see what’s good, will find it, but those who look for trouble, trouble will come to them.[2] And later, King Solomon warned that the soul of a lazy person has many desires, and ends up with nothing; But the soul of the diligent person will prosper.[3]

The Apostle Paul also advocated diligence (spoudē in Greek) for those who inspire others, be encouraging; in giving, be generous; the one in leadership, lead with diligence.[4] Paul also offered this advice: Since you are so good in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in the gracious act of giving.[5] In the letter to the Hebrews, we read: We want each one of you to keep on being diligent to the end. Then what you hope for will happen.[6]

And the Apostle Peter states that because of the promises God has given us we should be very diligent in supplementing our faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only that, but be diligent in confirming your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.[7]

That means we need not strive to be spiritual superstars, to attempt things beyond our faith and ability. God is more impressed with our diligence in doing what we can to be the best we can. When that happens, He will see to it that we become more efficient and available for Him to help us learn greater things for His honor, praise, and glory. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Proverbs 4:23

[2] Ibid. 11:27

[3] Ibid. 13:4

[4] Romans 12:8

[5] 2 Corinthians 8:7

[6] Hebrews 6:11

[7] 1 Peter 1:4-8, 10

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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