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The Relationship of Dependence and Diligence

October 16, 2012

One day a master craftsman instructed his young son to carve for him a sculpture. The father’s expectation was way beyond the boys strength and ability, but in obedience to his father he begins to seek out a piece of wood that he may carve. As he searched, his dad came alongside him and guided him to select the perfect piece. The father carried the wood into the workshop and placed it on the stand. Turning to the small child he told him, “Tomorrow morning at 9, I want you to come in here and begin carving.”

Dutifully, the son came into the shop at 9. His father, already hard at work, put down his tools and begins to guide his son in the selection of the proper chisel and hammer.
“But it’s too heavy for me,” the little boy complained.
“That’s alright, son, I’ll help you.” his dad assured him.
Then, for the rest of the morning the father loving guided the hands of his son, directing each blow, holding up his hands so that he could hold the heavy tools and lifting him into the air that he could reach every spot. After a long morning of work, the father put the tools away and told his son to come back again at 9 the next morning. For many months, father and son worked together. The son dutifully arrived on time each day, grasping the too large tools in his too small hands as his fathers skilled hands guided and supported him. At last the task was completed. Father and son stepped back to admire the beautiful masterpiece they had made.

The last several weeks at church I have been preaching through Psalm 119. As anyone who has studied this Psalm knows, it is loaded with very personal and practical instruction and help in living the Christian life. David’s passion for the Word permeates every verse. In my studies, something else has jumped out at me, the relationship of David’s total dependence on God to produce in him obedience and his unwavering commitment to diligent, energetic application of the Word to his life. In Psalm 119 David models a life of all out effort that is joined with absolute dependence.

Two verses will suffice to show David’s total dependence and diligent application. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” (v. 32) “Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.”  (v. 176) The entire fifth section of Psalm 119, the He section, is a display of this God dependent effort. Throughout Psalm 119 David maintains an absolute dependence on God that is joined with an unshakeable commitment to diligent and disciplined effort. This is identical with the concepts expressed in Philippians 2:12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Dependence on God and diligent effort are not incompatible, but rather are both necessary for the believer to grow in Christ.

Dependence on God.
As in salvation, dependence on God is a must for ongoing sanctification. Genuine growth in the believers life will never happen apart from Divine intervention. What David models in Psalm 119 is the recognition that one cannot possibly live in genuine obedience to the Word apart from God’s working in the heart. David’s statement, “I will run the way of thy commandments” is an unshakeable commitment to obedience but it is contingent upon God’s giving him the strength to do so. Verse 35 drives home the absoluteness of this as David prays, “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments.” David is relinquishing all of his will, determining that it is God that must turn him from his path of sin to place him the path of obedience. This is nothing less than a plea to God to make David obey His Word.

Diligent, disciplined effort.
David’s dependence was not lazy, it was radically invested in laborious effort. Throughout this Psalm David makes practical commitments to obedience. He commits to memorizing the Word, meditating on the Word, proclaiming the Word, pursuing the Word, obeying the law, making his friends those who love the Word and forsaking every evil way. This is clearly not the statement of a man who is expecting God to do all the work in him apart from his own actions and will. David submits his will and his behavior to the working of God. David commits his will and his behavior to follow the revelation of God. David is saying that he will labor to know the Word as thoroughly as possible and will strive to keep the word as completely as possible. His religion is filled with devotion, duty, discipline and diligence. He does not divorce his effort from his walk with God, but commits his effort to ensure he is walking with God.

Some may respond that this is Old Testament, David is talking about the keeping of the law under a completely different system than we are under in the church age. Some will argue that David’s talking about keeping the law as part of the Mosaic requirements and we now can disregard the keeping of any law because the Mosaic law has been done away with. That is simply not true. Our position in Christ and dependence on God must absolutely be coupled with diligent effort to obey. The New Testament never teaches that our obedience is to somehow be separated from personal effort. James’ argument in James 2:17, “Faith without works is dead.”, is one example of how this dependence on Christ demands a diligent application of the life. To borrow his argument, what good does it do for you to say you are depending on God to make you more like Christ when you will not apply yourself to obedience? Does your faith alone make you Christlike? No, I tell you that faith without obedience is dead, so that a man is sanctified by his faith and his works. Works without faith is moralism, and is unable to please God. Faith without works is presumption, and is unable to please God. Faith with works is sanctification which pleases God and exalts Christ. We cannot justify lazy Christianity and we must not excuse self dependent Christianity. We must labor diligently always recognizing that we will never desire to labor and will never have the ability to labor apart from God giving us the desire and the ability. The Father has commanded us to do that which is impossible for us to do. Yet, we must give ourselves willingly to the task, placing our feeble hands in His and relying on Him to move us in such a way that He accomplishes in us His will.


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