Hard work

I grew up learning that hard work was the solution for just about everything. So, I intentionally developed good work habits and prided myself on being a hard worker. One summer while I was in college, I worked in a “labor gang.” The foreman told me that if he had 2 more guys like me, he could get rid of the rest of his crew. His comments motivated me to work harder.

Following college, I entered the military. The unofficial motto of the aviation officer training command was “work hard and play hard.” Again, right down my alley. After my stint in the military, I entered graduate school to train as a pastor. I devoted myself full-time to studying Greek, Hebrew, church history, etc. while working full-time to support my young and growing family.

Next, I was appointed as pastor to a small, fractured group in the heartland of Ohio. It was there that I relearned a lesson that I really knew all along. As I said, I was no stranger to hard work, and I threw myself into developing and organizing these folks into a loving congregation of the Lord’s people. Seeing little growth after several months, I became aware of the “nasty reputation” within the community of a couple of leading families. Any change would come slowly – if at all.

Facing this long-haul challenge with a growing family was daunting, but my wife and I had committed ourselves to serve the Lord in his church. Dwindling finances and increased family needs motivated us to plant a large garden. Our house was situated in farmland. A gracious widow down the street offered us a small section of her soybean field, which she had rented to a local farmer. He did not mind us putting in the garden there and even agreed to plow the patch for us!

We planted a few rows of sweet corn, several hills of zucchini and summer squash, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and sugar snap peas – even potatoes! The tasks of tilling, planting, weeding, drove us to conclude that even after all that hard work, we had nothing to show for it. We must wait for the Lord to provide the sunshine, rain, and growth. Unless he blesses the earth, our hard work was futile.

Several weeks later, we were blessed with a “bumper crop.” I was surprised by the worthwhile feeling of eating a meal totally from our garden! I didn’t even miss the meat. Sugar snap peas were a delicious treat while working in the garden. They rarely made it to our table. The entire family loved them.

Suddenly, one night a severe thunderstorm with high winds and heavy rain threatened our Midsummer feasting. Most of the plants seemed to have survived, but the sweetcorn, just about three weeks from harvest, was completely down – leveled. What a sight to see. The preacher, his wife, and three very young girls on their hands and knees in the mud, attempting to replant the corn stalks. Each plant had to be stood upright and its roots packed in the soft mud in hopes they would survive. After a morning of hard work, we prayed for the Lord’s blessing upon our corn. Our gracious God answered our prayers and blessed us with sufficient corn to fill our freezer!

While I am certain that King Solomon did not have my garden experience in mind, the story does illustrate the wise lesson he taught in writing Psalm 127. Highlighting three areas of human activity and anxiety: house, city, and family, he demonstrates our complete dependence on God for success. Verses 1 and 2 may seem to suggest that we should “let go and let God…” But the remainder of the Psalm indicates otherwise. In the Scriptures, the opposite of rest is restlessness, not work. Work is a part of God’s good creation and not his curse upon the earth. Restlessness is toil and labor without regard for God. Verses 3 – 5 demonstrate that human productivity in raising children is a gift from the Lord rather than merely the efforts of a man and a woman.

Have a read for yourself. Psalm 127 (ESV) A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF SOLOMON.
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Here are some takeaways I learned and recommend that you ponder.
1. Rewards are never the result of personal effort alone.
2. God alone is the source of every reward.
3. God often rewards human efforts, but not always.

We must live our lives to the full – giving thanks for every joy and performing each of our duties as we rely on the One who controls all of life – joyful activity and toilsome labor, yet full of untroubled rest!

4 thoughts on “Hard work

  1. I Can Testify, After Working With Kip At His Full Time Job, During His Seminary Training, He Could & Did Work With The Best Of Our Crew! The Only Thing I’ve Seen Kip Being Slack At, Was & Is, In (Complaining)!

  2. Kip, What a joy it was to read this “testimony”! It was especially poignant for me because my husband also grew up knowing how to WORK. In our fifties, we bought a 40-acre hay farm; we rented out the haymaking, but Dwight spent the next 22 years gardening, growing enough of what you named to feed our extended family and many more. In the fall, I used to take grocery bags of collards and turnips to church to give away! (like Arden and Scott do with their produce) And he enjoyed keeping our three-acre yard in pristine condition. He would have enjoyed this blog as much as I did – thanks so much for sharing!
    (This note just for you to read, and your family, also, if they would like.)

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