(Editor’s note: The other blogs in this series, along with other resources to help Christians and those interested in spiritual growth, can be found HERE.)
Did you know that “heartily” means “from the soul” in this verse?
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV).
Moving from hearing or reading this to actually working heartily has been more of a challenge for me than I’d like to admit. While we know obedience brings blessings and disobedience curses, too many times I have not rejoiced in the growing pains. This is usually when I focus on the short-term discomfort instead of the long-term gain.
Is it unreasonable for God to ask me to be willing to let the Holy Spirit work through me even if that growth produces discomfort? Even if I am uncomfortable there for a very long time?
Don’t just give a church answer.
Count the cost of it for a moment – maybe even a little longer than that.
I’m not talking of the growth that may occur because of the natural consequences of being in a fallen world but of the growth that occurs because we are actively seeking to obey God. The former includes dealing with the evils of the day, the worries of the world, and more. God doesn’t waste the pain from these for those who are in Him.
The latter form of growth is actively seeking to yield to the Holy Spirit in our souls and efforts. It is seeking to be used as instruments fitting for His kingdom wherever we are. Those who do work heartily with God are fulfilling this verse:
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV).
This isn’t about the world’s idea of success, but God’s. "You are called to be faithful," said Don Wildmon, founder and first president of the American Family Association, "not successful." Wildmon expands on this idea HERE.
Do you have your answer to that question yet? Eventually, we need to quit counting the cost and move forward. No, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for God to ask me to be willing to let the Holy Spirit work through me even if that growth produces discomfort or more.
As I counted the cost, I began to realize resisting God in an area where He wants me to grow would be even more uncomfortable than following Him. Thanks, Jonah. Resisting could mean I would be traveling that road alone and/or setting myself up for God’s discipline because He loves me (See Hebrews 12:5-7).
Work ethic vs. work heartily
Work ethic and life accomplishments don’t mean someone is working from their soul for the Lord. Even if someone believes they are working for the Lord, they may be fooling themselves.
The terror of falling into the hands of the living God is apparent in His words where He says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” to those who’ve just asked Him, “Did we not…” prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and perform many miracles? See Matthew 7:21-23.
God discerns why we do what we do (1 Corinthians 4:5; Job 12:22; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26) and judges righteously and without partiality (Colossians 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
With that in mind, would it be unreasonable to ask God to help us see ourselves as He does? Even if we are uncomfortable? Doing so would help both with our spiritual growth and sanctification.
You can answer as you please, but I decided it wouldn’t be unreasonable at all. As I’ve done this, I realized this became a get the plank out of my own eye moment during some of these. Yes, it was uncomfortable.
Yet, other times were filled with rejoicing as God gave me evidence of how through Christ I have been and am more than a conqueror. Those become like the stones of remembrance where God helped me cross my Jordan River or gave me answers beyond my imagination to prayers.
Proceeding with prayer and work
On this faith journey, if you seek to explore Colossians 3:23-24 more, may I suggest you start with praying for wisdom to understand God’s Word as He wants it understood (James 1:5). Then pray that He would let it fall on good soil in your heart and life while protecting and nourishing it (Matthew 13:8). Then pray you not just hear His Word, but you work it too.
Some things to consider after doing the above:
- What is the context of this Scripture to the surrounding text, to the book itself, and to the Bible as a whole? What, if any, are surrounding cultural contexts?
- How has the culture I live in affected my current understanding of this Scripture? Is that understanding upheld or torn down by the actual context?
- Is the idea of working heartily the same as doing your best? Always? Is there ever a time to not do your best for God? How might this change if we also consider loving our neighbor as ourselves? How might this change if we compare doing our best for God versus the world’s idea of doing our best?
- Can someone who is not saved work from their soul? Even if they can, doesn’t Scripture show God will burn their work as unsuitable? If so, where? Hint: The answer to that one is mentioned above.
In the next part, God willing and me working, I’ll add more to consider. Until then, I’ll be doing what I suggested above so maybe the Lord will allow me to discover and share even more. May the Lord bless and keep you always.