Summary: Hard work does not kill, it only refines
In my life, I sold ice cream, chilled water, eggs, banana and bread when I was a teenager. I worked in my dad’s Pharmacy for 8 years. I did National service after Advanced levels and after university and supported my aging parents sometimes. During my National service we had just planted a church in Kumasi but still worked part time in Pharmacy shop. During my postgraduate studies (MSc and PhD) I worked as a cleaner in various high street shops and also actively pastoring as an associate pastor.
Whilst looking for a job after my PhD I worked in super market whole sale distribution centres, sometimes at low temperatures between 0-4°C. If I did not do this, my kids who are my primary ministry and responsibility would suffer. I turned up to preach and lead services on Sunday mornings after my night shift at the warehouse from an overnight shift without any complaining. The most difficult work I did was in a fish house and the smell of raw fish nearly suffocated me but I endured it for six hours. With this background, lets note this statement which I learnt as a youth from one of my church elders:
STATEMENT: “Hard work does not kill, it only refines”
Do you ever feel guilty when working on your job or doing your assignment as a student because you were not winning souls or quoting scripture as you do in church? Paul was a balanced guy who excelled as a preacher but also in the market place as a tent maker. In fact at some point he moved to live with another tent maker so he could be more effective in ministry by being close to his target audience. He did not always do ministry in the synagogue but in the public places which includes work.
A well known church pastor of a mega church was asked the question: What’s your comment to people who think that real Christian work is in churches and Christian organizations? Then he responded;
“Recently, my 24 year-old son became terribly ill. The doctor who nursed him through the heart attack didn't claim to be in ministry—but to my wife and me, and even to my son, his use of his gift was a ministry. The hospital was not a church, and the physician quoted no scriptures, but his skill ministered to us all. Whether you are a physician or a beautician, if you, as a Christian, do your work well, it is a ministry and a calling. My advice to each of you is to find that thing you feel like you were created to do—in the pulpit or the factory, it is a ministry if you do it well. Pray over it, serve with tenacity, and watch Jesus anoint you to do what you do. He was a carpenter’s son who called physicians, tax collectors, and fishermen to serve Him. He must love people who work, or He wouldn't have called them. Thank God there are so many vitally important people who find a calling beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Because they do what they do, we (pastors) can do what we do, and the world is better because there are different administrations, callings, and ministries . . . all committed to serving their generation in ways different but profound”.
SO WHY IS WORK IMPORTANT (Scriptures)
(1). Ephesians 4:28 – One evidence of our glorious calling which we’ve studied from chapters 1-3 is how serious we take our work. In one church which I attended for two years, they take reference from peoples employers before they confirm them as elders. That is a really high standard. The idea of separating so called secular employment and church ministry is so unbiblical it’s no wonder the church is not taken seriously. Without work you cannot be a blessing to others because God does not expect us to live on the lottery but to labour. America is the biggest donor of aid and the most hardworking country in the world.
(2). 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10: This does not apply to those who cannot work but those who refuse to work even when they can (He who WILL NOT WORK). It does not apply to you if you are actively looking for a job or studying in order to work or if you suffer from an ailment that prevents you from working. It applies to those who are strong but through an act of will refuse to work because it’s an easier option.
(3). 1 Timothy 5:8 – We have a responsibility to feed and cater for our immediate and wider family so indirectly the church has freedom to care for the poor and helpless.
(4). Proverbs 31:10-23 – It is a mark of true virtue
We need to resist the false spirituality that says our so called secular work is just an inconvenience to our spiritual ministry such as prayer and church meetings. The early church had houses which were sold to be given to those who had need. I don’t think they had housing benefits at the time. They were hard working people so they could be a blessing to the poor.