Habitual diligence in any employment, physical or mental; steady attention to business; any productive activity; the opposite of slothfulness; laziness, or indolence"—thus we may define the word industry, an attribute essential to success in the ministry.
Success in any line of endeavor is impossible without an industrious and diligent spirit. The wise man said: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). "Issues" as here used mean the harvest, products, or results of life. One of the most eloquent and magnetic preachers of apostolic times was Apollos, who was declared to be "mighty in the scriptures," and "being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord" (Acts 18:24, 25). Yes, he was a great preacher and soul winner because he was an industrious student of the Scriptures.
Herrick Johnson said: "A loitering, lazy minister is one of the saddest of anomalies, and his wasted hours and opportunities will make a terrible arraignment when accounts come to be settled," and in his book, Pastoral Work, Dr. Andrew Blackwood says on page 32, "Sloth or laziness, seems to be the worst of ministerial sins. This evil spirit may brood over the hours of a man's study. Who but God knows how the pastor spends his time when alone with books?"* How true this is. He never has to punch a clock, he makes his own schedule, and no person has a better opportunity to shirk his duties. There are ministers whose lives are almost a continual vacation, and yet they imagine they are very busy, and they are, as far as going in circles is concerned.
Sloth is defined as "disinclination to action or labor; sluggishness; laziness; idleness; indolence." Slothfulness, the opposite of industry, is so serious that it is reckoned among the seven deadly sins. We read in Hebrews 6:12: "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." This indicates that the slothful will not only fail in their work, but will also lose their inheritance in the kingdom of glory.
The Bible contains many warnings against being slothful, sluggish, indolent. Here are a few of them: "The soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied" (Prov. 13:4, R.S.V.). "The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain" (Prov. 15:19). "Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Prov. 19:15). "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour" (Prov. 21:25). There is a saying that "the devil is never too busy to rock the cradle of a sleeping saint," and especially of a sleeping and lazy minister!
The wise man gave good counsel when he said: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:10). Life is short, the time to work is limited, and the amount to be done is great, therefore earnestness and diligence are demanded if we would make a success of life in any vocation. Archbishop Leighton once said: "To him that knowetla not the port to which he is bound, no wind can be favorable," and Dr. David Starr Jordan declared that "the whole world will stand by and let a man pass who knows where he is going."
Excellent advice to anyone, and especially the minister, is given in Proverbs 1: 25-27. It says, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right band nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil." This is the singleness of purpose that is essential to success in any line. The minister who has a true sense of mission will not engage in side lines that interfere with the work to which he has been divinely called and ordained. Canon Peter Green said: "If a man is wholly set on his work, and makes it the chief object and delight of his life, he will not be likely to give too much time to things not connected with it." He was speaking to ministers. Our ministry has been given timely warnings along this line.
In his book, His Word Through Preaching, Bishop Gerald Kennedy says, "The ministry is a full-time job from the moment one goes to his small rural church of forty members to the time when by the grace of God he may be called to the great cathedral with thousands of members and a large staff. There never was a church that did not demand more time than a man had to give it, or deserve more complete devotion than the best of us could muster. I never saw a man concerned with side issues who was worth his salt in the ministry."—Page 86. (Used by permission of Harper and Brothers.)
When pastor of the Riverside church in New York, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick had a schedule that required one hour of study for each minute of his sermon. Such a study program would soon fill the pews of any church. James Gordon Gilkey, a pastor of experience and the author of many books, said: "A parish minister must plan to work at least twelve hours a day. He must budget his time with utmost care, and he must ruthlessly eliminate from his life the numberless minor tasks which prevent him from doing his major work well."
The need of diligence and industry in the work of God is graphically stated in the following paragraphs by Ellen G. White, another well-known writer.
"God has no use for lazy men in His cause; He wants thoughtful, kind, affectionate, earnest workers. Active exertion will do our preachers good. Indolence is proof of depravity. Every faculty of the mind, every bone in the body, every muscle of the limbs, shows that God designed our faculties to be used, not to remain inactive. . . . Men who will unnecessarily take the hours of daylight for sleep, have no sense of the value of precious, golden moments. . . . Persons who have not acquired habits of close industry and economy of time, should have set rules to prompt them to regularity and dispatch. . . .
"Men of God must be diligent in study, earnest in the acquirement of knowledge, never wasting an hour. Through persevering exertion they may rise to almost any degree of eminence as Christians, as men of power and influence. But many will never attain superior rank in the pulpit or in business, because of their unfixedness of purpose, and the laxness of the habits contracted in their youth. Careless inattention is seen in everything they undertake.
"A sudden impulse now and then is not sufficient to accomplish a reformation in these ease-loving, indolent ones; this is a work which requires patient continuance in well-doing. Men of business can be truly successful only by having regular hours for rising, for prayer, for meals, and for retiring. If order and regularity are essential in worldly business, how much more so in the work of God!"—Gospel Workers, pp. 277, 278.