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Work has been a part of God’s design for mankind since the very beginning. Even before the fall, Adam’s job was to take care of the earth and the animals, and Eve’s job was to help Adam. Sometimes we might think our “perfect world” would consist of relaxing in a king size bed, donut (or other snack) in-hand, while binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix. However, even the actual perfect world that God created was anything but lazy. In fact, God is working in the very first sentence of the very first book of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The Bible is full of wisdom regarding work. You can find this subject throughout both the Old and New Testaments; The Apostle Paul has some particularly insightful thoughts on the matter. In Ephesians 2, he writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Our very beings are the result of God’s work, and He made us to work hard for him. Even before we were born, He established good works for us to do in His name. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul says, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either.” He lays out a very practical guideline here. If you want to eat, you have to work; it’s very simple, but very profound. Talk about accountability! In Colossians 3, he admonishes, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Working hard isn’t just something we do at our jobs; we are called to work hard at everything we do because it is for God. Meeting new people, cleaning the locker room, cooking dinner, delivering the presentation, taking care of your garden, walking a mile – whatever you are doing, you ought to be doing it whole-heartedly for the Lord, not for yourself or anyone around you.
Our work ethic can be a witness to non-believers around us. Unfortunately, many of us do not put others’ interests above our own in their work, conduct ourselves in an honest fashion, or really put forth 100% effort. When we work in this manner, people will notice a difference and wonder what it is. We will find ourselves in situations that allow us to tell others about the reason we work so hard – Jesus!
Colossian 3:23, which says “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” was a favorite verse of our founder, Paul Anderson. Paul understood the transformational value of a strong work ethic. He promoted vocational education as a means to acquire skills necessary to engage in worthwhile occupations, giving a young man the opportunity to “work heartily” in our free enterprise society and reap the satisfaction of a job well done.
We know we are supposed to work hard, but our flesh pulls us toward mindlessness and complacency. Laying around and aimlessly scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed sounds so much more appealing than the discipline it takes to concentrate on a task and carry it through to completion. So how do we train ourselves to become hard workers? The experts at Christianity Today suggest the following tips:
- Work six days a week.
God set the example in Genesis; work six days, and rest on the seventh. Often, we find ourselves working toward rest when we should be resting toward work. In other words, instead of working all week for the reward of the weekend, we ought to think of our weekend rest as our preparation for the hard work we are to accomplish throughout the rest of the week. Rest is a gift from God, and should be used to energize our work for Him.
- Plan your work.
Sit down and schedule your work for the week first thing every Monday morning. Write it on your desk calendar, save it in the agenda on your phone, create a to-do list, etc. – whatever system works best for you. Stay organized and set reminders for yourself throughout the week. This will keep you focused and less likely to get distracted or lazy.
- Work in segments.
It’s okay to take small breaks during your work. Brief pauses can actually improve the quality of your work, and leave you feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally refreshed. Decide ahead of time when you will take your breaks, and set alarms so that you won’t be constantly watching the clock. Once the break is over, pick up where you left off.
- Keep a work log.
Keep track of both your current and completed tasks. You can write this down in a journal, type it up in an app or on your computer, or find some other means that allows you organize your tasks efficiently. Doing so will keep you on track and help identify distractions. Consider sharing your task list with someone else; knowing that another person is aware of what you are doing will hold you accountable and prevent laziness.
Practice these four tips and pray for a godlier work ethic and an eternal mindset. While there is no doubt that God values and commands our hard work, it is important to remember that He is a gracious God as well. We work hard as a form of obedience and worship, not to earn His love. No matter how much or how little hard work we put forth, God loves us the same. The truth of the matter is that even our best hard work isn’t good enough for Him, but He loves us just as deeply. We must never use grace as an excuse to not work hard because “God will love us anyway,” but we should also guard against legalism and falling into the trap of trying to earn His love. Instead, we should work hard out of an overflow of love and gratitude to God for His graciousness in our lives. In our performance-driven culture, this can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is of utmost importance, helping us to learn and relate to the character of God. As it says in 1 Peter 2, “Live in freedom, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” With the Lord’s help, you can (and should) do both!