Once upon a time, I would take great offence when I read quotes like “Suffering doesn’t mean you’ll make it, lol”
Now when I see “One day the sleepless nights will all be worth it and your hard work will pay off,” I find myself saying, “Really now?”
Struggle, suffering and strife do not ALWAYS mean success is around the corner. Blood, sweat and tears are not always precursors of a favourable outcome. This is especially true in our Christian walk. Hold onto your hats. I am reminded of Paul in
“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air”1 Corinthians 9:6
We could have been running, we could be very exhausted, but there is a possibility that we were running aimlessly and beating the air.
Strength is useless without strategy. Drive without direction is a waste. In the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30, we see that there are dire consequences for being idle and not rising to the occasion and working. However, we need to understand that working, walking and building anyway and anyhow will not profit us.
Matthew 7 is, by a mile, one of the most hard-to-swallow chapters in the Bible for me. Conviction left right and centre.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matthew 7:22-23
What kind of workers are we? Clearly it is not enough to just be a worker. It is quite a sobering thought: that one can toil, do many mighty works and it all comes to ruin. The next section of the chapter is about building houses: one was built on the sand, the other on the rock. Work was put into building both houses but one ended up being destroyed.
I found this piece of scripture quite enlightening too:
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.1 Corinthians 3:11-15
It is not about how much you worked up a sweat, it is about the sort of work that was been done. Merely working does not make one immune from suffering loss.
This verse also jumped at me:
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules2 Timothy 2:5 ESV
If we want success or growth in any aspect, we need to compete according to the rules. One rule is that hard work pays off but we need to be conscious of the other principles.
Let me illustrate this point using prayer. We are familiar with verses that say if we ask, we’ll receive, if we seek, we’ll find and anything we ask in Jesus’ name will be granted. Apostle Michael Orokpo’s sermon, “Offsprings of Travail”, really opened my eyes. Someone may be travailing in prayer, day in, day out. Excellent! The word says to pray without ceasing, however, they may find that their prayers aren’t getting answered. They worked hard! Where’s the promise?
There are rules, no athlete is crowned unless they compete according to the rules.
Some of the “rules” (this is nowhere near exhaustive) in this example regarding prayer are:
- We must not be holding anything against anyone when we go before God. In Matthew 5:23-24 we are advised to first sort out issues with the offenders or offended.
- James 4:3 advises us that if our motives are wrong, we cannot receive from God.
This is one of many examples.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.Ephesians 5:16-17
Foolishness is choosing to press on, disregarding God’s counsel. One sure-fire way of making sure our hard work doesn’t go to waste is to allow the Lord to order our steps. Suffering in the Christian walk is a given, it comes with the territory – but let’s not suffer pointlessly.
We were not left as orphans. (John 14:18) Let us yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit and not lean on our own understanding.