For me, putting effort into something is hard work! It is a lot easier to skip along on one's merry way down the path of least resistance. However, hard work is important.
These are dreaded words for many a person. Life should be easy, our culture tells us: take a break, you're worth it; relax—you only live once and you wouldn't want to ruin your health, wealth or mental vitality, would you?
Our nature whole-heartedly concurs, needing little excuse to follow the advice to ease off. But, I wonder at the logic of doing so. When something requires effort, perhaps even continuous, relentless activity, is it really automatically bad for us?
The answer to this question has to be no, surely. Things that require effort are not automatically bad for us despite what our inbuilt aversion to knuckling down tells us. So, what kind of hard work is important?
Working hard, physically
Firstly, working hard physically is important. This does not mean working out at the gym everyday but, rather, it means being diligent to make use of the abilities, resources and time we have. It means being responsible enough at work and at home to complete our tasks well.
The book of Proverbs instructs us to look to the ant as an example of such hard work. Despite having no ruler or officer the ant still gathers her food in season, finishing her tasks in due time.
Proverbs also warns us that if we forgo hard work we will crave, have nothing and end up begging. The author describes the person who is slack in their work as a brother to him who destroys (Proverbs, chapter 18, verse 9).
Physically speaking, a body can only take so much. This is true. We wear out, have limitations and sometimes just can't. Busyness for busyness' sake is destructive too. It leaves us drained, breaking and lacking in perspective. However, habitual laziness, though encouraged by our culture and natural self, is sinful. It leads to a lifestyle of excuse-making, irresponsibility and under-achievement.
Working hard, thoughtfully
Secondly, working hard mentally is important. It is vital to always be thoughtful. Thoughtfulness means taking personal responsibility for our minds. It means pondering, musing and being attentive because what we think shapes the way we see the world. This determines our perception of reality and affects the way we live.
Paul exhorts us in the letter to the Romans, chapter 12, to not conform to the world but instead be transformed by the renewal of our minds. How important this is! We must found our thinking upon God's truth—a revealed, objective truth based on His perfect, immutable characteristics. We cannot afford to be lazy. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: His word, the Bible, is true, inerrant, reliable and infallible.
Analysing, cross-analysing and agonising lead to no mental peace but this does not negate the importance of mentally working out every day. It is especially important because our culture is saturated by entertainment and trivial frivolity—the maxim of the day is "that's true for you but not for me".
Working hard, spiritually—the most important
Thirdly, and most importantly, we must work hard spiritually. To work hard spiritually is to lay hold of the Kingdom of God—in deed, thought and faith. Our faith and salvation are of utmost importance because life as it is will soon end. Then, our fate will either be to suffer the second death and enter the lake of fire or to rest in the presence of God Himself, eternally.
It is important here to clarify that what we do—our works (spiritual or otherwise)—cannot save us! It is Christ alone who brings freedom from God's wrath when we repent and believe in Him. He alone justifies.
Nevertheless, we will be called to account for our lives. The Bible is full of exhortation to believe, repent, run, fight, prepare and stand—these are actions of faith. Peter urges us to "be all the more diligent to confirm" our calling and election (1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 10). Jesus warns that a person who puts their hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Therefore we must exercise our faith and cling to Christ.
Always work hard—for the right things
Working hard is hard work. I know this profoundly in my own life. It requires clenched fists and dug in heels all too often. Yet, I can't make sense of the logic that says ease and laxity is better. The stakes are high!
In light of this, I thank God that He is gracious to save and to strengthen! He has offered me the sweetest comfort and steeled my soul amidst difficulty. The same is for all those who turn to Him. Why would we desire anything else?
Irenie How is young yet, by the grace of God, was saved while she was running away from and fighting against Him. God showed her that He is the Lord and she wants you to know this too. After becoming a Christian she finished studying to become a graphic designer and as this she currently works full-time in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Irenie How's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/irenie-how.html