One of the hardest-working men in the Bible was the Apostle Paul. He knew he didn’t deserve his calling. He was grateful and wanted to prove to God that the privilege of being His minister hadn’t been given in vain. So what did he do?
He worked his tail off.
“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
He considered his work his duty before God (1 Corinthians 9:16). He felt a real weight on him, in a sense, and looked for every possible means to do his job better (verses 19-22).
Think of your responsibilities this way. Look for ways to be more efficient and effective. You can’t afford to plateau. Always drive yourself toward perfection (Matthew 5:48). “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain,” Paul continued (1 Corinthians 9:24). Don’t just run—run to win! Run as if everything depended on your crossing that line first. Paul isn’t talking about being competitive, trying to beat out others—but about applying the same effort, determination and drive that a champion does.
That is what Paul did: He drove and prodded himself to ensure he’d cross the finish line as a spiritual success (verses 25-27).
Paul was acutely aware of how much fruit he was producing in his life. He viewed his efforts in terms of the number of people reached, the number of lives saved, and the amount of spiritual growth God was effecting in him personally.
In Hebrews 6:7-8, Paul likens God to a farmer, watering and tending the land to produce fruit. If the work He invests gets no results, then, as any farmer would say, “it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned” (verse 8; rsv).
God has put a lot of work into you, and He expects a good crop. Now, you need to truly yield to Him so you can grow and produce fruit. In your job, your marriage, your parenting, your congregation, your study and prayer, your thoughts, work hard to be as fruitful as possible. You can be sure that as you do, God will reward that (verse 10). He notices. He is pleased with effort. He will respond by answering fervent prayers. If you really have a mind to work, He will open doors of opportunity for you.
This hard-working apostle’s advice continues: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful …” (verses 11-12). Be diligent. Keep driving yourself to the end. You have done well today—now show that same diligence tomorrow and the next day. If you start to run out of energy, ask God for more—because you will only inherit God’s Kingdom if you work for it!
Paul assures us that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). If you are not seeking God diligently, you need to start. If you think it’s too hard, evaluate your life and start cutting out whatever is getting in your way. Read Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 6:6-11. Don’t let this world’s distractions pull you off course, he says. You don’t need that stuff—it’s all dust. Take radical action:Flee those things—and pursue the things of God! This takes dynamic, purposeful, driving work.
If you are being chased by a grizzly bear, you won’t flee halfheartedly, you’ll run like an Olympian! If you’re trying to overtake the runner ahead of you to win a million-dollar prize, you won’t give 90 percent, you will run with everything you have!
“Fight the good fight of faith,” Paul concludes, “lay hold on eternal life …” (verse 12). Eternal life is a gift, but it won’t be handed to you—you must lay hold on it! And you have to do it again every day, day after day. That is a fight. But it’s a good fight.
Follow Paul’s example, driving yourself in all God gives you to do. In the end you’ll be able to say, like he said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness ….”