Monday, May 23, 2016

Hard Work – Or Heart Work?

“Nothing worth having comes easy.” “Hard work does not guarantee success but no success is possible without hard work.” “All roads that lead to success have to pass through Hard Work Boulevard at some point.” “There is no substitute for hard work” (Thomas Edison).

These are just a handful of hundreds of salient quotations about the necessity of hard work for achieving meaningful goals and objectives. They apply to any endeavor, whether it’s gaining a useful education, forging a rewarding career, mastering a musical instrument, honing skills in a specific craft or hobby, building a family, excelling in athletic pursuits, writing a book, or even losing weight. The easy way, on the other hand, is usually the surest path to failure.

As Proverbs 6:10-11 points out, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." Another verse, Proverbs 14:23, adds, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

But sometimes, hard work frankly isn’t worth it. For instance, for people lacking certain innate skills, no matter how hard they work, it’s unlikely they’ll approach success. For instance, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), my singing skills would probably rate a .5, so I’m not going to exert any effort trying to become vocal soloist with the local symphony. My mechanical aptitude isn’t much better, so I have no intention of trying to refurbish an old car or build a house – or even a birdhouse – any time soon.

However, writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember. In fact, even though I’ve spent countless hours doing it and believe time and practice have helped to hone my literary skills, it’s more “heart work” than hard work. As someone once said – and many have repeated – if you love your work, you’ll never really work another day in your life.

That doesn’t mean if you’re not passionate something, like about cutting grass, washing the dishes or taking out the trash, you’re excused from doing it when necessary. Daily chores and some assignments in the workplace have to be done even if we don’t love having to do them. But heart work definitely makes hard work easier. So given that we all are limited to 24 hours a day and seven days in a week, doesn’t it make sense to devote much of that time to pursuits we’re passionate about, ones we also happen to be skilled or gifted at doing?

And when that passion is linked to a sense of calling or mission, we won’t find it necessary to pick ourselves up by the scruff of the neck to get going. As author and motivational speaker Steve Pavlina wrote, “When you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.”

For followers of Jesus Christ, our passion for Him – and His love for us – should provide more than enough motivation to be involved somehow in the work of His eternal kingdom. The apostle Paul wrote unapologetically, “if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died…. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:13-20).

Without question, fulfilling the calling God had given Paul was hard work, agonizingly so. He encountered great adversity, persecution, physical hardship, imprisonment, and moments when he was at the brink of death. But having become convinced that nothing could ever separate any of God’s children from His divine love (Romans 8:38-39), Paul’s heart work enabled him to endure the hard work.

What’s your heart work, that thing (or those things) capable of turning the necessary hard work into a pleasure and a privilege, rather than a bother and a burden?

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