Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
The Gospels were never written in order to log everything Jesus said. John confirms this at the end of his gospel when he says there were many other things that have not been written. Paul quotes one of these, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is this saying of Jesus that has driven Paul forward with the hard work that he has done amongst the Ephesian Church.
It wasn’t for a salary. It wasn’t to build a ministry in order to receive in some other way. Paul knows that he is the happiest when he is working hard for those who have become weakened in this life and it is indeed hard work.
As a young person I would often try and avoid work in order to play instead. Whatever it was whether homework or piano practice I would always try and cut a corner or do things as quick as possible so I could get out of the house and have fun. I have always enjoyed fun. I think at the centre of my being ‘fun’ is the driving force of my life.
One of my first jobs was in the Valuation office in Leeds as a clerical assistant. I worked ‘flexi’ hours which meant I had a card that I clocked on and pulled the card out when I finished work. There was an allotted time of hours I had to work in a month and I could do the work pretty much at any time so long as the hours were worked. Many of the staff members worked long hours in the first 3 weeks and then in the 4th week of the month they had done all their hours so managed to have a couple of extra days off. Not me! I did the reverse. Knowing that I only needed to work the minimum 6 hours a day, I ended up having to cram in as many hours as possible at the end of every month!
It would be my first Pastorate, in the Lake District, in farming country, where I would be introduced to having to work hard. The farmers in my church all rose early, even when it was still dark and they worked hard and long hours in all types of weather. In the early days I would leave the curtains open in the lounge so that in the morning when the farmers passed by they would see that their Pastor was awake, though I was still having dreams from God horizontally. But gradually I learnt the benefits of hard work. I learnt that to grow a church it takes hard work, to love others is hard work and more importantly I was created for this and work could be fun!
If you looked at my work today you wouldn’t believe how much I have changed. I work long hours, I am always up early and I give 100% into all that I do. I have learnt the importance of hard work.
The created order involved work and this had nothing to do with salary. It was God’s good intention that Adam should work. God worked the creation and then rested from that work. Today you will be perhaps a student or an employee or a full time parent or the one who stays to work at keeping the home, maybe you are a volunteer or a retired person helping others and you have 24 hours to do the most amazing thing and that is to work hard for the good of others. Like Adam you can take care of your domain, you can keep it together, you can make it a happy place and a healthy one for others. You can bring life but it will take hard work.
You will perhaps work with others who don’t want to be there! They will ask ‘Why am I here? What am I doing this for? Is there any point?’ Don’t let this rub off on to you. Be different. See things as God sees them. Your work matters to Him. You can add value. You can work as God would work. You can work for Him.
You may work with someone who is the opposite of work. But don’t become like them. Proverbs 18:9 says, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” Lazy people ruin but you are different, you are building something for someone. But it also builds into you the purpose for life, you were created to work, to give, to add and how intrinsically satisfying is it when that involves those who need your help?!
So today, work hard, give of your best, add value, but never lose the sense of fun! It is still there in my life. It is still the driving force. I find ways to make sure my work brings the enjoyment to me and to others.