Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hard Work And The Soul

Do you know someone who is obviously well organised and highly productive? Chances are they work hard. These people tend to make "to do" lists. If we could see their lists we would see that the tasks they have listed for actioning reflect some clear goals they have. Over the past four months in particular I have watched several key people work very hard on two building projects. Each of these people have started their days early, proceeded through their days without wasting time and ended their days organising their next day's work. I have witnessed these amazing people combine two not-so-common activities: hard work and productivity. This contrasts with those who are busy and highly active yet not really productive.

First Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

In the "old days" hard work meant physical activity. These days, "hard work" means thinking plus acting. It involves thinking ahead, planning and organising necessary help before its needed. But this thinking also requires implementation. Knowing what to do does not make it happen. Planning for something to happen does not make it happen. Hard work involves doing something that has to be done - even though you may not want to do it - in order to achieve what you want.

While this is true in very practical matters, it is also true in spiritual matters. Paul the apostle could say that he worked hard for the Lord. He exerted himself in spiritual activity by grace. Paul knew that salvation was not a matter of hard work- but God's grace. But he also knew that this same grace enabled him to work hard for the Lord. Perhaps this meant that there were times for Paul when praying was hard, but the grace of God enabled him to sacrifice his time, energy and sleep in order to prayerfully conduct his ministry. Perhaps there were times when Paul was exhausted and didn't feel like writing another epistle or preaching another sermon or witnessing to another seeker- but something within him enabled him at those moments to work hard.
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
I believe, like the Reformers, that God is sovereign but I also understand what they meant when they described the Christian response to God's Sovereignty as the Protestant Work Ethic. These Reformers understood that God's grace enabled believers to work harder than they otherwise could. They regarded work as an act of worship to God. Work was a God-given means for man to find meaning for his existence. The Christian Work Ethic meant that believers in particular applied themselves more diligently to their contribution to a society's economy in the fields of enterprise, education and entertainment. Those believers who were employees should work hard for their employers by turning up earlier than required, staying longer than asked, and working consistently without the need for supervision.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
Ephesians 6:5-8 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
The generation of believers who came after the Reformers were known as the Puritans. They coined expressions extolling the spiritual benefits of hard work and decrying the spiritual affect of laziness. "Idle hands are the Devil's tools", "Labora Ut Requiescas" (Latin: Work hard so that ye will rest). A casual reading of the Book of Proverbs makes it clear that laziness, sloth, idleness, are bad for the soul. Hard work, that combination of well planned organisation and diligent implementation, is good for the soul. When a person is deprived of an opportunity to work (whether paid or unpaid) they can suffer all kinds of maladies, none the least: depression. Depression is the removal of hope's light to a soul. It discourages. It deceives. It consumes. The Bible prescribes an antidote: hard work. Geoffrey Norman once wrote, "A lot of what passes for depression these days is nothing more than a body saying that it needs work." "Employment", said Galen, "is nature's physician, and is essential to human happiness."

If you want to kill time, try working it to death. 
~ Sam Levonson
Work is good for the soul. Much of our modern economy is built upon a type of work that can be done without passion. The type of work that is good for the soul is the type of work that we can do "heartily" (Col. 3:23). Whether this is digging ditches, cleaning the house, weeding the garden, designing web pages, serving a customer, baking a cake, selling a house, servicing a car, or writing a report, work can be done with passion and enthusiasm. This type of work results in a positive, healthy pride-
Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
During times of dire need the believer often cries out to God for miraculous provision. The way God usually answers this cry for help is spelt: w-o-r-k. Consider how the poor were to be treated under the Old Covenant. Rather than just giving them charity, God commanded that farmers harvest their fields once and allow the poor to glean the rest. God's answer to the predicament of the poor was not just charity, but work. Naturally, those who ignore this principle of work and attempt to gain by theft are not only injuring others, but they are damaging their own souls.
Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
It therefore goes without saying that believers should work honestly without stealing either time, cash or property from their employers. Hard work from a believer is done for their employer as if they were working directly for the Lord (Col. 3:23). Perhaps for those believers who have an opinion of God's provision being only supernatural it might be time to consider that God normatively provides for His children by giving them work to do. Like me, you probably already have a lot of work to do. Some of this work, if not most of it, is maintenance- the type of work that needs to be done just to keep things normal. I have a small list of these jobs that need doing around my house. I have another list of jobs that I would like to do around my house. I then develop an action plan (how I will implement the completion of these jobs). In my pastoral duties I also work with lists. I recently bought some software (called "Things") which helps me to plan and organise these work items. This brings me back where I started. Hard work involves clear thinking and the effort of clear implementation. I'm not really interested in being "busy", but I am committed to working hard.
Father, thank You for Your saving grace. I pray that this saving grace will help me to work hard for Your glory. Lord, when I get an attack of the lazies, help me to overcome this with the kind of attitude that spurs me to reluctant motivation to what has to be done. Even when I am tired, help me to keep going knowing that working for You is my rest. Father, help me to plan, organise, and resource my life better so that I can be more productive in what You have assigned to me. In all my busyness may I not overlook people and their needs. May I feel Your heart for people and be filled with compassion to speak Your encouraging words and truth. May You use me to inspire those around me to have a "can do" spirit. In Jesus' Name, 

No comments:

Post a Comment