How Hard Should I Work For the Lord?
How hard should I work for the Lord? There are no cookie-cutter answers for that question any more than God has made humans with a cookie cutter. Our capacities vary with our talents and opportunities. But there are some principles in the Bible that can help each of us arrived at a differentiated answer that fits our circumstance.
The Extreme: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" Revelation 2: 10. And Rev 14:13 "And I heard the voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them. " We would all like to think that if the firing squad troops were lining church people up against the wall to shoot any who confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, that we would die with the Good Confession on our lips. I think most if not all of us would. Those 7.62 caliber rounds would be our quick ticket home with the Father. I don't think we would renounce our Lord. I think we would pass that test.
In the U. S. as we know it, Christians are not facing that scenario. So here we are once again trying to make decisions on a daily basis about how much to do for the Lord.
The Lower Limit: Faith without works is dead and cannot save, as James 2: 10-26 repeats in so many ways. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," said Jesus in John 14: 15. "Why call ye me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not the things which I say?" He said in Luke 6: 46. In 2Th 1:8 "rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: " Clearly, zero works will not be the correct answer.
The Upper Limit: No one in the Old or New Testament was ever specifically condemned for doing too much for the Lord. But working in anticipation of being able to pay for salvation "in fee simple" is not right either (Ephesians 2: 8, 9). That doesn't mean to give up and do nothing. The very next verse says that we were created to work for God (Eph 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. ")
So much for the familiar continuum from grace to works; we've all been there. Now let's use the scriptures to try to find what's in between. What kind of pace do we keep in our everyday lives?
Our giving of our works and our means begins first of all with us giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8: 5). When we have given ourselves to the Lord, making decisions about our time and our money to do the Lord's work become easier. We should work hard enough for the Lord that we are "living sacrifices" to Him (Romans 12: 1). We should do enough that the world sees us as salt and light (Matthew 5: 13-16). "and let our brethren maintain good works for necessary purposes, that they be not unfruitful" (Titus 3: 14, RSV)--so our good works should be those that we can maintain, keep up, be consistent with. The work we do for the Lord should be work that we can do without feeling bitter about giving up the time or money--we should be cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9: 7) We should not give or do work out of necessity (2 Corinthians 9: 7). We should work enough at it that the Lord will think we are good stewards (1 Cor. 4: 2). The Lord expects us to take care of what is at home before we take care of what is abroad (1Ti 5:8 "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ") The work we do for the Lord should be with vigor and enthusiasm (work in giving, 2Cor. 8: 3; also the widow's mite, Mark 12: 41-44), but He does not expect us to give beyond our means (I Cor. 16:2) but rather as we are prospered. 2Co 8:12 "For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have" is the principle of limitations that shows that the Lord knows what each of us can and cannot do. The exhortation to vigor continues with 2Co 9:6 "But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. "
So what is the composite picture? Is there a modern-day metaphor that gives us a picture of how hard we should work in the Lord? A good life of working in the Lord's vineyard is like a person fast-walking on a track or on a treadmill. His pace is fast enough to get his heart rate up into his target range (which may or may not be anyone else's target range) but it is not so fast that he will wear out very quickly and thus become ineffective. Our Lord, when he was on the earth, withdrew from His preaching from time to time to be alone or with a select few so he would have chances to rejuvenate. He laid down a good pace, but he made time for rest also. When it was time to give up his life, He did so, but He did not work himself to death in His ministry the first year.
In our congregation, I have seen most of us looking for that "sweet spot" of involvement in the Lord's work. We have gradually added to our work for the Lord steadily over the past several years. Some, perhaps many, have found it--they have found a combination of works in evangelism, edification, and benevolence that is beneficial in the Kingdom and which they can maintain for awhile. Their involvement is enough that they can feel the "fire in the bones" (Jeremiah 20: 9) of serving God with a high level of energy. Much good is going on. Gal 6:9 "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. "
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