A Comparison of Efforts
Persistence, diligence, loyalty, passion, devotion are all characteristics, along with many others, that describe effort and receive almost universal praise. But the virtue of such characteristics depends entirely on the direction in which they are aimed. God finds many cases of such character to be disturbing. In Isaiah 57 God speaks much of the idolatry that Israel has been involved in. Then in verse 10 he points to the great effort they put forth in pursuing wickedness. “You were tired out by the length of your road, Yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, Therefore you did not faint.” Again, through Malachi He compares the effort of the people in pleasing the governor to their efforts in pleasing God. “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 1:8).
We often see someone who lacks devotion, diligence, passion, etc. for God and think that such a person lacks those qualities altogether. This is not always the case. In many cases we find people who are very successful in other facets of their lives and yet failures in their service to God. As we see in the examples above, it is clear that Israel knew how to push through difficulty to achieve their desires and to give of their best, what they lacked was the proper aim for their effort.
What about you? Have you pursued success in your professional career and through great effort achieved a success that will rust, decay, and be burned up? Put the same effort into pursuit of treasure that can never be destroyed (Matt. 6:19-20). Have you pursued athletic skills which have some profit but at their highest level can only reward you with a perishable crown? Put that same devotion into exercising your faith which will lead to an eternal crown (1 Tim. 4:8; 1 Cor. 9:25). Have you been a good friend and opened your heart up to people of the world even as they draw you away from the greatest Friend we have in Christ? Use your personal skills to develop relationships with God’s people and thereby be drawn toward Him and not away (2 Cor. 6:12-7:2).
There is surely a time and place for building up character where it is lacking. But sometimes we need to simply take what we have and point it in the right direction. The one talent man didn’t need more talents to make him a good steward. What he needed to do was use his one talent well. Then more talents would have followed (Matt. 25:14-30). Are you using your qualities (whatever they are) in the pursuit of the only thing that will eternally matter? Will you give your greatest effort to God or squander it elsewhere?