Life is hard work. It’s messy, and surviving it is difficult enough without trying to thrive in it. And that’s if you aren’t a Christ-follower. Not trying to be contentious or dramatic here, but a life following Jesus isn’t easy. Sure, it’s totally worth it, but nobody ever said it would be easy to do.
The act of trusting Jesus for your salvation is easy. The daily choice to keep trusting Him is hard. We don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation, but “being saved” is a lifestyle. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for our sins, we’re washed clean, and we can start over. And whenever God looks at us, all He sees is His Son instead of our failures. That’s forever. There’s nothing we can do to change that.
You can’t earn your salvation. It’s a gift. And that also means you can’t lose it. But that doesn’t automatically give you permission to sit back on your heels and avoid doing God’s work.
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Paul worked hard. He was probably one of the hardest-working Christ-followers in the history of Christ-followers. The man was like the Energizer Bunny. He never stopped moving. Even when he was in prison, he was still working for the Lord.
And that wasn’t to earn his salvation. Paul was already saved. Paul worked because he had been put in a position of leadership and authority. God had given him a job to do, and Paul wanted to do it right.
Do you know Christians who work too hard? Christ-followers can be workaholics too. I’m afraid I’m one of them. That’s one of the things I struggle with—this performance-based mentality I have that only working myself to death will please God. That’s just lies, folks. God is pleased by faith.
Yes, it’s true, He asks us to work for Him, to do His work here, to sacrifice to follow Him. And I don’t know about you, but sacrificing never comes easily for me. Giving up something I want because God wants something else is hard for me to do. It’s not easy, and it usually means I have to work a whole heck of a lot harder to accomplish God’s purposes. But it always works out in the end. God always works the details together into something beautiful.
Paul worked for other Christians. He gave his life serving other Christ-followers. He wanted to help other Christians grow and be mature so that people would understand what it means to truly follow Jesus. Living for Christ is more than a single decision. It’s a series of decisions. It’s the life you choose to live after you choose to follow Him. You still have a choice. You can choose to live for Jesus, who saved you, or you can choose to live for yourself. Yes, you can still live for yourself even if you’ve trusted Jesus for your salvation.
But Paul didn’t trust his own work to make a difference in people’s lives. He didn’t rely on his own accomplishments. He did what God called him to do and trusted that God would make the difference. He relied on Christ’s power within him to do the things he couldn’t do, and that’s what we need to do too.
It’s not wrong to work hard for God. Pace yourself, of course. Don’t run yourself into the ground. But don’t be afraid of hard work either. Just don’t rely on your own work to make the difference in your life or in someone else’s life. God is the one who brings success and favor, regardless of how hard you work for it.