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In life it is often tempting to think far ahead into the future about things that we could be doing or about goals we want to achieve. Thinking long-term is not inherently a bad thing and we should consider planning for the future and having goals to achieve. But, I’ve been thinking recently about what is near, close, and those things that are not in the distance but right in front of me. We are comfortable working hard for distant things but we should be equally comfortable working hard on the tasks and relationships that are right in front of us.
Much of this thought comes from a passage I recently read in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon is providing his reflection on life and what ultimately matters versus what is meaningless. Then, in chapter 9 he says this:
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” Ecc. 9:10
There are people, tasks, and opportunities all around us in which we can work hard with all our might to serve and make an impact. One of my faith heroes, C.H. Spurgeon sums this up well in his sermon on this passage when he says:
“Here we will observe, first, that this refers us to the works that are near at hand. You are not called upon to-day, the most of you, to do works which your eye sees far away in Hindostan or China. The most of you are called especially to do the work which is near at hand. People are always desiring to be doing something miles off. If they could but be somewhere else what wonders they would accomplish! Many a young man thinks if he could stand up under a banyan tree, and discourse to the black faces in India, how eloquent he might be. My dear fellow, why don't you try the streets of London first, and see whether you are eloquent there. Many a lady imagines that if she could move in a high circle she would no doubt become another Lady Huntingdon, and do wonders. But why cannot you do wonders in the circle in which God has placed you? He does not call you to do that which is leagues away, and which is beyond your power; it is that which your hand findeth to do. I am persuaded that our home duties, —the duties which come near to us in our own streets, in our own lanes and alleys, —are the duties in which we ought most of us mainly to glorify Christ. Why will you be stretching out your hands to that which you cannot reach? Do that which is near, —which is at your hand.”
Think about your life. Think about where you work. I think you will be able to begin to identify so many areas in which you can work with all your might. There are so many tangible things to do that are near. Now, this is not to neglect those distant things in which you may be called but it is to say, especially in this post-COVID environment to pray and search out the close opportunities. What might some of these things be? This is not an exhaustive list but here are four categories I’ve been thinking about.
Work Hard in your Relationship with God. This may seem obvious but it is certainly something that is near at hand and something that we should work at with all our might. We should want to commune with God more, study his word more, know him more and more. As we do that we will begin to become more holy and more Christ-like. And truthfully, in our fallen nature, our tendency is to become complacent and lazy. There are times when it is easy to commune with God but there are also times when we have to work so consider that this is a glorious task at your fingertips.
Work Hard in your Marriage and Family. I think we all understand for those of us that are married and have children that cultivating those relationships are incredibly important. The health of our marriages and our families speak volumes to a lost and hopeless world. We want to work hard to be a great spouse and parent. And to do so might require assessing our work/life balance and taking some time to rest like we talked about last week.
Work Hard Investing in your Colleagues and Patients. We spend so much time with our co-workers and our patients that there are sure to be areas of ministry right in front of us. Our patients and colleagues are experiencing the ebb and flow of life’s hardships just as we do and we have an incredible opportunity right in front of us to minister and share God’s love and reconciliation. And if you are wondering about practical tips to minister to patients and co-workers then I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Rehab the World.
Work Hard in your Community. I think it is important to be involved in the community in which you live by serving in different capacities to make a difference. I am reminded of the Lord’s admonition through Jeremiah to the Israelites when they were in captivity, in this regard. The Lord tells them to build homes, plant gardens and eat the produce and then to build families. Then the Lord commands the Isrealites to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jer. 29:7 The community in which we live is certainly near at hand and we will benefit from seeking it’s welfare.
Why does all this matter? Why should we work diligently in the work that is near at hand? Solomon gives the answer. It is because our days are fleeting. Our time is running out as each of us is one day closer to our death. And when that time comes, we will no longer have the opportunity to work with all of our might. Listen again to Spurgeon:
“Let us pause a moment, and think that in a short time we must die. The hour is not to be staved off. I may preach to you to-day and exhort you to flee from the wrath to come; but when this tongue is sealed in silence, I can no more warn you. Mother, you can pray for your children, now; but when death shall have sealed your eyes in darkness, there can be no more prayers lifted up for ever. You may now, O Sunday school teacher, instruct those children, and God blessing you, you may be their spiritual father and bring them to Christ; but it shall one day be whispered in your class, "teacher is dead;" and there is the end of your labor. When once death shall have come you cannot devise liberal things; your brain cannot form new devices for the spread of your Master's kingdom, neither can your heart, then, bend and weep over sinners perishing, or your tongue address them with earnest exhortation. Think, dear friends, that all we can do for our fellows we must do, now.”
I write this as a reflection and a challenge in my own life; obviously not wishing quick death on anyone, nor dwelling on death to the point of obsession, but I think we need to be reminded that we are not guaranteed tomorrow in order to be more effective believers today. So, let’s work with all our might in what is near at hand with a sense of hopeful urgency.
***Check out the new book "Rehab the World" written for Physical Therapists to encourage us in our workplace and prepare us to serve those around us. If you like, please leave a review and spread the word!!***
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The Gospel at Work