Sluggishness Vs. Patience

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

-Hebrews 6:11-12

How to Differentiate One from the Other

[Read: Hebrews 6]

There is a difference presented here between sluggishness and patience. Sluggishness is idleness, an excuse to not labor for our Lord; patience, on the other hand, is an active, anticipatory laboring for the Lord. The first is the fruit of unbelief, while the second is the fruit of faith. The theme of laboring for the Lord is one that He Himself uses on different occasions,[1] especially with respect to His return. A striking narrative parallel, I believe, to the apostle’s contrast of sluggishness and patience, can be found in Matthew 24:45-51, where the servant who begins to get drunk and beat the other servants is called “the wicked servant,”[2] indicating that he was never truly a servant of Christ. Those who labor patiently for the Lord are the elect of God. God’s elect stand in stark opposition to the lazy/sluggish men whom Paul rebukes in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Our exhortation, therefore, from the Holy Spirit is: Work! Labor until Christ returns!

Of what does this labor consist? How can we avoid being sluggish and exhibit patience? By preaching the Gospel and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ through the Gospel (i.e. evangelism and sanctification), we are not being sluggish but exhibiting anticipatory patience, desiring the return of our Lord Jesus; however, there is another sense in which we exhibit patience through labor, and Paul speaks of this in his two letters to the Thessalonians, whom he commanded to “admonish the idle,”[3] going on to say that “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”[4] God commands His people to work with their hands, in much the same way that Paul did, in order to earn a living for themselves and contribute to the Body of Christ.[5] God, furthermore, commends those who work with their hands and He commands us to commend them as well.[6] Therefore, this labor is not some detached, aloof, monasterial lifestyle consisting of only prayer, being inundated with theological studies, and self-affliction. Rather, this labor, because it is truly spiritual, effects all aspects of the believer’s life and is clearly evidenced in one’s willingness to love one’s neighbor through (i.)serving one’s neighbor via evangelism and service, and (ii.)sanctification, growth in the knowledge and grace of God which, consequently, turns us outward to show love for our neighbor through the aforementioned means.

-h.


[1] Cf. Matt 20:1-18, 21:28-32 & 33-43, 25:14-30; Luke 10:1-3, 17:7-10; and John 4:35-38

[2] Cf. Matt 24:48-49

[3] Cf. 1 Thess 5:14a

[4] Cf. 2 Thess 3:6-10

[5] Cf. 1 Thess 2:9 & 4:9-12; 2 Thess 3:6-10

[6] Cf. 1 Thess 5:12-14

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