Devotional Week 47 Monday
“Beloved; do not be amazed or bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something unusual were befalling you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s suffering, rejoice, so that when His glory is revealed, you may also rejoice exultantly with triumph.”
1 Peter 4: 12, 13
“Not more than I can bear I know
Thou, dearest Lord, wilt on me lay,
And I can learn of Thee to go
Unfearing on my way.”
Harriet McEwen Kimball
Today’s Study Text:
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.”
Matthew 25: 14
King James Version
“Diligence During Delay” Part 1
“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.”
What does it mean to be diligent in all I undertake?
“The leading rule for a woman or man of every calling is diligence; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
What task has been given to me which requires my diligence in performing?
“He (she) who labors diligently need never despair; for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.”
Menander of Athens
“She was inspired to be something which was not what the rest were and to be that something different and laborious for the sake of the rest.”
The famed English author Charles Dickens is most well-known for his holiday story, “The Christmas Carol.” This particular tale is played again and again every Christmas for who among us doesn’t love to see the selfish character Scrooge turned into a most generous man who becomes the disabled Tiny Tim’s benefactor by the end of the drama. While I have to view this favorite movie several times each Christmas (with my hankies close at hand), it is another of Dicken’s stories, “Little Dorrit”, that also tugs at my heartstrings just as much.
Set mainly in the Marshalsen debtors’ prison, a place incidentally where Charles Dicken’s own father had been confined, the story focuses mainly on the lives of the individuals in one family, the Dorrit’s who have lived in the prison for so many years that all three children in the family have grown up knowing nothing more than dark walls and meager means within the confinement of the prison.
However, the youngest child “optimistic Amy,” as I like to call her, decides she will not let the dreary circumstances of her life define her existence. So “little Dorrit” as she is called, lives by the qualities of diligence combined with trustworthiness in all she does. Thus, the statement above: “she was inspired to be something which was not what the rest were, and to be that something different and laborious for the sake of the rest.” To say that “Little Dorrit” lived by the Biblical counsel, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10, N.I.V.) would be an understatement.
Her diligent spirit exuded joy and inspiration through the prison as well as in all the lives she touches outside the locked confines of “her home.”
The reason I take time to share some of the details of this story is that I believe the reason Jesus used stories, what we call parables, to drive home spiritual lessons is because we as humans relate much easier to experiences which occur in our own practical day-to-day living. As I read about “Little Dorrit” faithfully taking up her duties of cleaning, embroidery, washing and cooking – her diligence reminded me that in Jesus’ teaching, faithfulness in small duties often led to the assignment of greater work.
But there’s also one other quality present in “Little Dorrit,” trustworthiness, that I’ve found included in the stories Jesus told and it takes center stage in the parable we will be studying for the next few days. This story is the “second feature” found in Matthew 25: 14-30 entitled “The Parable of the Talents.”
At the very beginning of this parable in Matthew 25: 14, we uncover these two descriptive phrases: “about to take a journey and entrusted them with his property.” Obviously, the owner of a large estate was getting ready to leave on a trip. In fact, the Bible tells us it was a “long” journey to a “far” country. Apparently, the trip was of such a distance that the owner could not be easily reached while he was away traveling. The King James Bible tells us, “the man called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.” Just so we can get the depth of understanding from this passage, I checked the Greek translation and here’s how this passage would read in the language of the time: “the kingdom of heaven is as (like) a man, going abroad to a foreign land and he surrendered and entrusted to his servants his possessions – all his substance.”
Just picture the scene in your mind. Pretend for a minute you owned a large estate and now you had to go to a foreign land. Maybe even a place you had never been before. You desired that all you owned would be well cared for while away. And so you trusted your servants, or as the Greek calls the individuals, your slaves, with your possessions and off you went.
To be honest, there are only two words which pop into my mind when I read this preamble to the parable of the talents: trustworthy and diligent. These characteristics would have to be present in the individuals you left all your possessions with.
While we’ve looked at the word “diligent,” now I want to delve deeper into the word “trustworthy” which means reliable and worthy of trust. In the Dicken’s tale about “Little Dorrit,” it didn’t matter if anyone supervised her work or looked at their watch repeatedly to see if she worked diligently until the evening bell range, signifying that the work hours were over, “Little Dorrit’s” effort in all she did was the same. Diligence and trustworthiness were evident no matter who was around.
Maybe the reason I like this story so much is that I have been a “boss” before. I happen to know what it was like to be on the road traveling to see clients and leaving the tasks at the office with trustworthy employees who diligently did their work even though I wasn’t “on site” to look over their shoulders and check on all they did. The knowledge that the employees left behind in the office were individuals who could be trusted gave me great confidence.
In his poem called, “The Talents,” Pastor Christopher Smith so beautifully conveys the thoughts portrayed by Jesus when He begins telling the “Parables of the Talents”:
“When Christ had shown how we should wait,
And watch for His return,
By having oil for every need,
And lamps that brightly burn,
He in this tale renewed the theme,
And showed that while we wait,
We ought to do good work for Him
Even if it be not great.”
Sadly, we often look at the work at hand, left by our Master for us to undertake, and if we perceive it just a small task, we deem that little effort is necessary. But as poet Smith points out, “We ought to do good work for Him, even if it be not great.” Whether, our work seems small or great, may we take up our daily duties as though we were doing our job “as unto Him.”
The noted 19th century author and poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, a member of the Fireside Poets, penned these thought-provoking words: “’Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by.’ Life is like that; one stitch at a time taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right like embroidery.”
For those of you who have ever undertaken the very fine art of creating a picture stitch-by-stitch, you’re well aware that the pattern doesn’t necessarily reveal itself in one sitting. Indeed, one stitch at a time, with a little ‘elbow grease’ as my mother would say, is how the eventual beauty of a picture is revealed. This is the same way our life develops. Diligent behavior with perseverance each day can truly form a beautiful design. Quite likely, something we could never imagine when we first began our work.
“Follow the tasks of your calling
carefully and diligently,
A) You will show that you are not sluggish
servants to your fleshly desires that are
fed by ease and idleness.
B) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind.
C) You will not lose precious time.
D) You will be in a way of obedience to God.
E) You may have more time to spend in holy
duties if you follow your occupation diligently.
F) You may expect God’s blessing and
comfortable provision for both yourself
and your families.”
“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”
II Peter 1: 10
“Why fear tomorrow, timid heart?
Why tread the future’s way?
We only need to do our part
Today, dear child, today.
The past is written! Close the book
On pages sad and gay;
Within the future do not look,
But live today – today.
‘Tis this one hour that God has given;
His Now we must obey;
And it will make our earth our heaven
To live today – today.”
Lydia Avery Coonley-Ward
“Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where God may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of time
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build today, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall tomorrow find its place.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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