There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. More, but never less. Some Christians, I am afraid, don’t try hard enough.
When Paul spoke of Christian living he spoke of striving and straining and boxing and running. These are all very active metaphors.
One of my favorite jump-ball questions is this: is Christian living active or passive? Is it trying hard or resting in the finished work of Christ? Is it working like crazy, or letting go and letting God?
I love this question because it is a little bit of both. Christian living is both trying hard and trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to do His work in me. It is both Faith is the Victory and I’m pressing on the upward way…
Some Christians don’t try very hard at all. They read a verse like this one:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV2011)
They wonder what Paul is talking about, “weary in doing good.” I think you ought to be tempted to get weary in doing good every now and then. I think you ought to push yourself to exhaustion every now and then. I think you ought to lie your head on your pillow dog-tired every now and then.
You shouldn’t stay there. Don’t be weary in doing good. The verbs in this verse are present tense verbs which suggest linear action. They suggest habit. Don’t make it a habit of getting weary. Don’t camp out at tired.
The Sabbath was given to man as gift to the tired. It was given to ensure that we never stay tired. But we ought to get tired occasionally. We ought to need the Sabbath.
One of the things the Lord commended the church in Ephesus for was their hard work. (Revelation 2.2) Jesus told the disciples they would be able to reap a harvest only because others had worked hard. (John 4.38) Paul didn’t take a salary and supported himself by his hard work. He taught us that if a man does not work, he should not eat. It is morally wrong to feed a man who could work but chooses not to. The Proverbs speaks often of the value of hard work and warns against the sin of laziness:
- Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4 (NIV2011)
- Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. Proverbs 12:24 (NIV2011)
- All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23 (NIV2011)
- The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5 (NIV2011)
We live in a country that longs for shorter work weeks, more days off and early retirement. We serve a God who says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” Exodus 20:9 (NIV2011) We think of the 4th command as a command to rest, but really it is a command to work and rest. If you think of it this way, there are really eleven commands—the command to work and the command to rest being two of them. The ratio is 6:1. Lots of work; a little bit of rest.
We live in a culture that values entertainment. We value leisure. We thank God it is Friday because Friday is the weekend and on the weekend we don’t have to work. We see work as a punishment to be avoided. The nation’s bestselling chair is a Lazy Boy, not a worker boy.
Christian living is hard work. There is no abundant living without hard work. It means setting an alarm when you would rather sleep in. It means going to church when you would rather stay home and do nothing. It means memorizing Scripture when you would rather watch TV. It means exercising your body when you would rather not. It means serving when you would rather be served. It means forgiving when you think it is impossible, then, forgiving again.
There is no transformation without hard work. There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. But, you will never lay hold of the abundant Christian life without trying hard to be good.
I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.
Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.
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