Proverbs 14:23 states, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.” I’ve been chewing on this idea today… the idea that hard work brings profit. As we climb higher and accumulate more, we’ll discover that it’s harder to let go of what we’ve worked for. That’s why so many of us climb partway up the mountain of our potential, and stop. We’re unwilling to give up what we have, in order to obtain the next thing. And as a result we stall – sometimes permanently!
You and I must be willing to make concessions, like trading:
(1) What’s acceptable for what’s excellent. People don’t pay for average. They’re not impressed by anything that’s merely acceptable. If it’s worth doing, give it your best or don’t do it at all. Solomon writes these words in Proverbs, because he knew that if you wanted to shine you just might have to burn the midnight oil. Sometimes, I’ve noticed, when people are doing something ‘for the Lord’,,, they don’t really give it their ‘all’. They’ll settle for minimum study and preparation when preparing to speak the Word of God to others. I realize that some people are more skilled at communicating than others, but there is no excuse for standing before others unprepared. We allow ourselves to simply ‘make-do’ with a half-hearted effort, when we’ve been entrusted with an incredible opportunity.
(2) The first half for the second half. In his book Halftime, Bob Buford says most people who are successful in the first half of their life often try to live the second half in the same way. And that’s a mistake. If you’re in the second half, you’ve probably spent much of your time paying the price for success. Don’t waste it. Move from success to significance. Do things that will live on after you are gone. Don’t just leave a will, leave a legacy. I see people just starting out in life and in ministry and they blow me away! I know one young guy who works a full time job, is married, and still manages to donate over 15 hours a week to the local church to serve and minister! I know many who are retired, yet serve at the local church over 40 hours a week! And I know full-time, paid people in ministry who do the bare-minimum, it would seem, to simply receive a weekly paycheck. I’m constantly reminded that I am where I am by the grace of God, and the education and experience I have in ministry has only led me to a place where I, hopefully, can leave a larger ‘mark’ on this world. I’ve worked hard for what I have, but all that work is not meant to be wasted in my latter years! I long to bear ten-times more fruit from this day forward, than all my previous days.
(3) Your work for God for your walk with God. No matter how much value your work has, it can’t compare to having a relationship with God. One of the great traps of ministry is working for God, but not spending enough time with Him. We must make sure that doesn’t happen to us. This is not only applicable to those who are paid in ministry, but to all of us who serve the Master in one way or another. We can be so busy organizing the ‘retreat’, that we forget to retreat ourselves and spend some quiet time with the Lover of our souls. We can be so caught up in going through a passage of Scripture, that we forget to allow that Scripture to go through us! We can be so preoccupied with learning the chords and the melodies that our hearts are actually far away from authentic worship and praise.
Are you stalled? Have you peaked? Ask yourself, ‘Why?’
I love this little verse in Ephesians 3:16, especially in the New Living Translation: “He will empower you with inner strength.” One of the most important things to remember in our quest to ‘work’ for God in the right way, is that our strength must come from Him. Regardless of your personal feelings for him, there is an incredible story that Dr. Robert Schuller writes about concerning his personal secretary that blows me away. For fifteen years Lois battled cancer, and for every one of them she served God faithfully. Schuller writes: “I don’t think I ever met anyone more courageous. Some days she was so ill… getting out of bed took all the strength had! She’d deliberately fall out of bed, walk on her hands and knees to the bathroom, reach for the sink and pull herself up. She’d force herself to get dressed, stumble into the kitchen, drink some water, eat a dry piece of toast, search for her purse, and walk to the door. Perspiration pouring off her forehead, she’d look at her husband and say, ‘Well, Ralph, I think I can make it now.’ Then she’d get into her car and drive to church. She was always there before me, and when I arrived with my usual greeting, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ she’d always smile and say, ‘Great!’ I never knew until after her funeral what she went through… Only God can give you that kind of courage.” The Bible says, From His…unlimited resources [God] will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.” I love how the old hymn, written by Annie Johnson Flint, puts it: “When we have exhausted our store of endurance; when our strength has failed ere the day is half-done; When we reach the end of our hoarded resources our Father’s full giving has only begun. His love has no limit… His grace has no measure… His power no boundary known unto men. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”
I need to constantly remind myself that everything I do, I do as ‘unto the Lord’. This means no messing around… no goofing off… no taking it for granted or approaching it half-heartedly. But as I am ‘burning the midnight oil’ and giving it my very best… I must also remember that it is not to be done solely in my own might and power… but by His precious Holy Spirit. This means, more time seeking Him, than representing Him.