Constancy of Character-3

     It is one thing to think about having constancy of character in general terms. It is another thing to think of this principle in specific terms. As we continue to consider this subject from Paul’s point of view in Romans 12 we can be thankful that he provided specific directions for us as we seek to be “transformed by the renewing” of our minds.

     Romans 12:11 in the NKJV has “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” The KJV has perhaps the more memorable rendering of the first part of the verse: “Not slothful in business.” The word translated “diligence” or “business” has in it the idea of eagerness derived from an energetic perspective. It is the idea of a person in a bit of a hurry to do what is good and right. In this context the good and right thing is to be serving the Lord.

     This idea is communicated well in the old translation’s word “slothful.” The “not lagging” of the NKJV is correct but not nearly as colorful or, in my view, as effective. If we have not seen a sloth “in person” we have certainly seen one on television. They are creatures definitely not in a hurry it seems to get anywhere or do anything. There are times when we all need to be a little slothful, but not in serving the Lord.

     An old preacher friend was working on an alliterative lesson out of Romans 12 and he wanted all the points to begin with the letter “S.” As he shared the sermon with a group of fellow gospel preachers he came to this verse to which he had attached the word “Sedulous” which describes someone who works hard and makes steady forward progress. The group laughed a bit at his use of a word not normally found in day to day southern (or anywhere) vocabulary. But none of us forgot it.

     Romans 12:11 surely teaches us something important about the constant character of a Christian. When it comes to serving the Lord we are to have a sense of fervency about it. Paul is not directing Christians to be rushing in a careless, “do something even if it is wrong” type of behavior. He is instead encouraging us to keep moving forward in our faithful service to God. We cannot move like the sloth. We must move with steady progress to the goal of doing God’s will (Romans 12:2).

     The question naturally arises as to what it means to serve the Lord. The context of this passage will define this for us. Consider some of the specific categories of life and character that follow verse 11. Paul mentions hope, patience, prayer (12:12), and helping others (12:13).

     He then turns to an area of thought that relates directly to one’s Christian character. The ideas in Romans 12:14-21 are connected to character in the area of a person’s attitude toward others. One of the hardest things to do is to maintain constancy of attitude. Maintaining a Christ-like attitude is a challenge as we pursue the activities of life. The mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11) can slip away from us in the rough and tumble reality of daily living.

     But this is what we must try to do. As Paul says here, we are to be a blessing to those who cause us trouble (12:14), we are to rejoice and weep with others (12:15), we must never be conceited (12:16), and we are to be good to all, even those who are mean to us and treat us despicably (12:17-20).

     None of this is easy, nor was it intended to be. That is why Paul uses the words diligence, fervent, and serving (12:11). Remember that we are not alone in this. We have each other and we have God’s Word and we can pray (Ephesians 6:10-17). Christian character is a blessing to us and to those around us. It is not a thing to be done in a moment. It is to be constant (1 Corinthians 15:58).