A short sharing with the servants of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church of Washington, DC.
Diligence in the Service
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen. I'll be very quick. Reading Chapter 1, 2, 3 in Genesis through Revelation I'll just show you something very small. I know there's another part of the meeting today so I don't want to take up too much time, but I want to share something very small. It's something that I've been examining with myself, so I'll share with all of you. I think this, for the most part, is the servant group - the service - so I'll speak under the terms that everyone here is focussed on - service.
As you know in the service, as we serve God there's different characters that we need to have in order to serve God. For example, you can't have the character of anger and be expected to be used by God to serve. If all of us are servants and we're angry at people, there's no way that the service of God will flourish. So, there's certain characteristics or character traits that we must have in order to be good servants of the Lord. There's many of them but since we have a short amount of time we'll touch on one. The character trait that I want to talk about is 'diligence'. Do you know what diligence means? Diligence – a big word. Thoroughness, very careful. To understand let's open up our bibles to Romans Ch.12 v.10-13. By the end of the day I want all of us to understand about this character trait of diligence, what it means and what it means as a servant to have it. And there's many things in these verses that we, as servants, need to have. Verse 10: 'Be kindly, affectionate to one another with brotherly love; in honour giving preference to one-another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.'. In these verses we see as a servant what we need to have. But one thing that's always skipped quickly is 'not lagging in diligence'. So we know that it's important. We always like the v.10 – we have to have love for one another – and that's important. As a servant of the Lord, love for one another and kindly affectionate to one another, very important. But, not lagging in diligence is also important for those of us who are serving the Lord.
As we know in the parable in Matthew Ch.25v.18 it talks about the parable of the Talents. What did God say in the parable of the Talents? For the person who had the one talent he said, "You wicked and lazy servant". The Lord is showing us here that there might be a problem in our character as servants, and the character problem might be like a little trace of laziness which is the opposite of diligence. So today we want to figure out how to be diligent and not lazy in our service with God. Everybody's thinking to themselves today, 'there's no way I am lazy!'. Everyone here thoroughly works very hard in the service and is doing many things in the service, and wise Abouna is standing up here talking about me being lazy or me not being diligent! So I started to examine myself to understand what it really mean to be diligent and not lazy. So let's look closely here – let's do it this way. To understand better, all of us today are business owners – we own a business. The business you own is a lemonade stand. All of you today are owners of a brand new lemonade stand. We're going to put it out here outside St. Mark's Church, and of course you're going to have to get permission from Abouna Bishoy, but every one of you will be owning a lemonade stand to sell lemonade. Are you with me so far? We're all owners of the lemonade stand. Are you happy? It's a big money-maker, we're going to raise a lot of money for the church. So if I were to ask you what kind of people you want to put on your team to run your lemonade stand, what would you say? Tell me details – what kind of person? Now, we want the church to profit and we want your business to be good and everything. What kind of person will you put in charge of your lemonade stand? Give me some ideas. Honest people, diligent, hard-working, loyal, happy – so we can attract some people – what else? Tell me, what kind of people don't you want on your team? Would you want someone to call you up at the beginning of the day saying 'Look, I can't make it today, something came up today and I can't make it because I have to go.., and my dog.., and my friend.., and.. '. Do you want that person every day? Do you want that kind of person on your team to be the one that's always saying that I have an excuse, and I have..? No, of course. You will say 'I can't take that kind of person. I need someone who's gonna be very active', right? Also, at the same time, if you own a lemonade stand you want the one who's putting his feet up and just sitting there, and customers are coming in, and the person's feet are up and the people need lemonade. Do you want that kind of person? Of course not. You want a person who's going to be active. You want a person that's in there squeezing the lemons. Imagine you have all these lemons and you just squeeze them and throw them away, but there's more lemon to be squeezed. Do you want the kind that's not squeezing all the lemon? I know this is sounding funny right now. I know this sharing is not what you expect, but think about it for a second. If you have a lemon you need to squeeze every drop out of it and put it in there because this is important. You have to be very honest and diligent and faithful, in whatever is given to you. As servants we can't be like - take the lemon, schh (squeeze), throw it away – we can't be lazy, we can't be careless. And it's very important in the service of God that we treat this even more than a lemonade stand, a lemonade stand that we want to make sure that we take care of every drop of lemon, or everything the right way. But we as servants, we need to be careful that we're not being careless in what God is giving us. We have to be very diligent.
We talked about lemonade stands today and business and things like that, but when we talk about the service it's not a joke. It's very important that we take care of everything that's given to us. The only reason I'm bringing this up is because I feel that, even in me, there are small traces of laziness. There's a translation in the Greek word 'argos' (I'm giving you some knowledge here), what the word slothful or lazy means - it means 'not running'. So slothfulness or laziness means not running. So diligence means what? Running. Now what kind of person do you want to be on the team of service of God? If you're thinking about it from God's point of view – you're business owners of a lemonade stand and you don't want people who are not diligent, what about God? What kind of servant does God want to run his business of saving lives? What would you say? What kind of person does God want? God wants someone who's active. God wants someone who is running. God wants someone who is not waiting for someone to tell them what to do. God wants active people. Just like when you have a business you want someone active to run it, right? So God is the same way. But this is even more important, this is the business of saving people's lives. As servants we need to be running. We need to be active. This is what it means to be diligent. Diligence means seeking things to do in the service. I'm going to say that again, dilience means seeking things to do. I remember when I used to work in a company called Excentia (and hopefully they won't hear this very much but it's private between us) but when I was first coming up, and before I was a manager in the company, I would wait for my boss to come and tell me a new project to do. But I would never go and see him and say, 'do you have anything for me to do today?'. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, right. Those of you who are working, you're not going to your boss every day, 'do you have more work for me to do?'. No, I never did that. I'm sure most of you may be not like that either. It's funny when we're talking about the working field, but in the service field we can't be like that. We can't wait for someone to come and tell me what to do. We can't wait for someone to say, 'Ok, please do this.. go visit this person who is lost.'. No. Diligence is seeking things out on your own. As a servant, examine yourself - are you seeking to go and do something, or are you waiting for someone to tell you what to do? So we need to have diligence. We don't need the trace of laziness in our character. Some Fathers say, if you're not diligent you are lazy. This is very hard for us to accept because most of us here don't think of us as lazy. And honestly, when I'm looking at all of you, the ones I know, I don't think you're lazy. But if we examine closely, am I seeking or am I waiting? Am I active and running or am I not running, am I idle? Which one am I? In the service of God we need to be active. We need to be seeking out.
The famous verse in Luke Ch.19 says that the Lord came to seek and save the lost. He came to seek. He didn't come to wait for people to come to him, he went to seek. So what do we need to do? We need to go and seek. We need to go and be active. We need to be running. We need to be, 'ok what do I do now?'. With St. Paul and St. Peter, were they lazy, were they waiting for something? No, they were always seeking, they were always running, always checking, and that's the way we need to be. It's ok, by the way, to exert yourself in the service. It's ok to break a sweat in the service, it's not a crime. That's the kind of people that we need. That's the kind of people God needs. We just said earlier that's the kind of person that you want on your team. When you have a business and you have something, that's the kind of person that you want. So that's the kind of person that God wants. We need us to be more active. All of you are great. I'm not here to say that you're lazy and I'm very diligent – I'm not here to say that because I have laziness in my character also. I have times when I'm in Africa, 'please, I don' t want to see anyone right now, please go away, I don't want to do anything right now.'. I have that a lot. So what I'm trying to say is, let's be careful. I know everyone here is working very hard in the service, and I know Abouna Bishoy and Abouna Anthony always tell me all the things that you are doing, and I think this is great. But let's try to just be having the heart of seeking, and having the heart to be active, and having the heart of being willing to do anything, and to always be diligent.
I was reading something, it was a book I was reading and it was talking about that we should always pretend we have 30 days to live. We should always pretend we have 30 days to live. If you have 30 days to live what is your service going to be like? You have 30 days left. If I were to tell you God told me a vision, he said all of you have 30 days to live, how are you going to serve now? What's your final 30 days going to look like? Is it going to be taking your time and.. no. You're going to be active, you're going to be trying this, and I gotta do this, and I gotta see that person, and I gotta.. and there's so much to do, and I forgot this, and I have to... . We need to be like that now. We should always be like there's 30 days to live. There's always a few days left for me. If you have that mentality always be active. But we always think we have many years to go and we have much time and we can do 'I don't need to do anything now.'. This is not a servant of God. St. Paul was never like that. Jesus was never like that. When Jesus saved this person, then He went to save that one. He went to help this person, and that's how St. Paul was so that's how we should be. Why should we be any different? So I pray that we can start to build this character of diligence in our life. And I'm not saying any of you are lazy – don't get me wrong. I'm not coming here to come down on you or anything. I'm just saying that maybe, if you look back at the word of what 'laziness' means, it means 'not running'. So, are we running or not running? Are we seeking or are we waiting for someone to come and tell me what to do? Am I being active or inactive? And I think that at the end of John Ch.4 we see that the Lord is saying, the harvest is ready now. At the end of John Ch.4 we know that there's the story of the Samaritan woman, but at the end it's talking about the harvest, and it's saying the harvest is ready now, go and get it. And you didn't work for it but go and get it. God is telling us now, just go and get it. Go and do something. Don't wait any longer. Be active, go. So, our service of God will have a great great honour to help and to seek and save the lost, and to serve the Lord. We have a great honour, let's be active in it. Let's not be idle. Let's not wait for someone to come. Let's not treat it like our jobs at work where we're just hiding from our boss and we're hoping our boss doesn't come and see us. And maybe when he comes and sees us we're on our computer doing this and we're not really doing anything. Let's be really active in the service. God is looking for that. God is looking for us, and looking for active people to serve him. And I'm sure you're active, but what I say today, just maybe examine for any trace of slothfulness or laziness or not running or not seeking things inside your personality or your character. There are many characters of a soldier of Christ. Of course, love and encouragement and unity and all these things are great characters, but there's also being diligent and being active that are great charactistics that we need to have.
So I pray that we can have these things, and that God will grant us that. And I'm sure if we examined that character trait in us, and I'm sure if we are more active and more running, I'm sure God will do more through us. You know, I'll be honest with you, the more you're active in your service with God the more He will bring more fruits to you. The more you're inactive and you're just idle the more God will take away your opportunity to serve. You have an opportunity to serve. Your servants of the Lord are a great honour. I can't think of anything better that I'd rather be doing – I'm sure you feel the same. But the more active the more God will give you, the more fruits will come through you. But the more you don't do, the more you're not active, the more he'll take away. Just like the Talent, He said, 'you wicked and lazy servant.'. This is very harsh words, but I know you're not wicked and lazy. I know all of you are diligent, and I know all of you are active, and I know all of you have a lot to offer, and I'm sure God is going to do many great things through you.
So God bless you, I'm praying for all of you. Pray for me, but let's examine ourselves, and examine this trace of laziness and see what we need to do to be more active and more diligent in our life with God. It's a great honour to serve Him – let's take advantage of it. Let's be active for Him. We don't have many days to live – who knows when our last days are – but always be on your toes and always be ready and be active in your life with Him. Glory be to God forever. Amen.