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Sam Ewing once said, “Hard work spotlights the character of people. Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”

God created us to work. Even Adam had work to do in the Garden of Eden — he had to tend and keep it. We are fulfilled by faithfully applying ourselves to worthwhile work. God has promised that the accomplishment of work will be one of the blessings in the days to come, when the wolf and lamb will graze together, for Isaiah tells us, “like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”

Work became an exhausting requirement for survival when man sinned and God decreed, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” Paul admonishes the Thessalonians, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Work is required for spiritual survival as well, as Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Now it is a paradox that we won’t be saved by our work but that also we won’t be saved without our work. Salvation is the gift of God, and nothing we do is ever enough to earn it; but on the other hand, if we do not work the works of righteousness, we will not receive His gift of eternal life. The Psalmist says, “Lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, For You recompense a man according to his work.” James explains: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

So it is important that we turn up for work, and do not turn up our noses at work. We need to train ourselves and our children to work. Solomon tells us that “even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” Solomon also tells us that there is a time and place for all things, including work. Jesus needed to work, for he said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

Benjamin Franklin must have been familiar with the words of the Lord, for he is quoted as having said, “Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you will be hindered tomorrow. One day is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” Our time to serve is limited. We sing in one of our hymns, “Life is the time to serve the Lord,” which finishes with these words:

“Then what your thoughts design to do,
Let willing hands with zeal pursue;
Since no device, nor work is found,
Nor faith, nor hope, beneath the ground.”

Now is the time for us to be working out our salvation, for there is a time coming for each of us when, as Jesus said, “no man can work.”

We may retire from the work we did to make a living, but we never retire from doing the Lord’s work as long as we live. David said, “While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” As long as we are able, then, let us be up and doing, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. As we grow older the kind of work we do may change, but as long as we are still alive, let us do what we can with what we have right where we are. We need to remember Ben Franklin’s wise advice: never leave to tomorrow that which we can do today. As Solomon so aptly sums it up, “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

Robert J. Lloyd

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