Hard Work: The Reason We Get Out of Bed
September 4, 1994
“Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 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.” Proverbs 6:6
“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” Proverbs 10:4
“As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.” Proverbs 10:26
“He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.” Proverbs 12:11
“From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things, as surely the work of his hands rewards him.” Proverbs 12:14
“Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.” Proverbs 12:24
“The lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.” Proverbs 12:27
That’s a picture of the man who goes out hunting and he captures his prey, but because he is lazy, he doesn’t even bother to roast it. He just lets it sit there and rot. It is just a game to him. He’s not even taking care of the things he has, whereas a diligent man prizes everything that he has because he had to work to earn it.
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23
That is a warning to those of us who make our living speaking.
“The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” Proverbs 15:19
“The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” Proverbs 16:26
“A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.” Proverbs 17:2
That means that if you are a servant and you work hard, you will some day be promoted over a son who is legally due the inheritance. You will be honored because of your hard work.
“One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” Proverbs 18:9
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish. He will not even bring it back to his mouth.” Proverbs 19:24
It’s the picture of the man who is so lazy that the food is put in front of him and he just dips his hand in the soup or in the dish and is too lazy to bring it to his mouth. He wants somebody to spoonfeed him.
“A sluggard does not plow in season, so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” Proverbs 20:4
“Do not love sleep or you will grow poor. Stay awake and you will have food to spare.” Proverbs 20:13
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5
“He who loves pleasure will become poor. Whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.” Proverbs 21:17
“The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.” Proverbs 21:25
“The sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion outside’ or ‘I’ll be murdered in the streets’” Proverbs 22:13
This is the man who makes silly excuses for not going to work.
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings. He will not serve before obscure men.”Proverbs 22:29
This is an important verse for children and young adults, because we are told over and over again that it is not what you know, it’s who you know. There is some truth to that. But a more fundamental truth is this: the key to success in life is finding out what it is that you like to do, what it is that is the passion of your life, and then become very good at it. Be skilled in what excites you in life, because once you have determined what it is that God has gifted you to do, if you will become skilled at it, you will not serve before obscure men. You will rise until you serve before kings. That is the word of God.
“Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready. After that, build your house.” Proverbs 24:27
Interpreted, this means, take care of business first, then take care of your personal affairs.
“I went past the field of the sluggard and past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgement. Thorns had come up everywhere. The ground was covered with weeds and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 24:30
“As the door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”Proverbs 26:14
He just rolls over and puts the pillow over his head and doesn’t get up in the morning. He just sleeps his life away.
“A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.” Proverbs 26:16
“He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit and he who looks after his master will be honored.” Proverbs 27:18
That is to say, when you watch out for your own affairs, and then when you take care of the business that you are employed in, you will be honored.
“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks. Give careful attention to your herds. For riches do not endure forever and the crown is not secure for all generations.” Proverbs 27:23
Hard work yesterday does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. Hard work yesterday has to be followed up with hard work today to guarantee tomorrow’s prosperity.
“When the hay is removed and new growth appeared and the grass from the hills is gathered in, what will happen when the harvest does come in? The lambs will provide you will clothing and goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goat’s milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.” Proverbs 27:25-27
I am struck with how much Proverbs has to say about hard work. I did not read every single verse that addresses this subject. There are other verses in there that apply to the whole topic of hard work. I am impressed and amazed with how much God’s Word has to say about it.
This is Labor Day Weekend, the weekend when everybody who can go somewhere goes somewhere so they can play for one last weekend because the real hard work of the last part of the year starts on Tuesday morning.
Every day you face a choice of going one of two ways – you can go the easy way or the hard way.
In all of life, every day you face a choice of going one of two ways. You can go the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is the way of procrastination. It is the way of staying in bed. It is the way of saying it doesn’t matter whether I work today or not, it doesn’t matter what time I show up at work, it doesn’t matter if I check out of here a few minutes early. The easy way is the way of saying the boss isn’t around, nobody is seeing me, it is good enough for government work. The easy way is saying take it easy, slow down, back off, don’t have a heart attack. It is saying tomorrow. It is the way of no plans, no forethought, no enthusiasm, no diligence. That is the easy way. It is the soft and cuddly way. It is the pleasurable and luxurious way. It’s the way of laziness, the way of the sluggard.
Understand something. All of us are born on the easy way. What does the Bible say? “Foolishness is born in the heart of a child.” Proverbs 22:15. We’re born wanting to go the easy way. That’s what the sin nature does. It says, “Take a short cut. Cheat if you have to. Cut some corners. Pull some strings. Take it easy. Don’t work too hard. “Where’s the fire? Slow down, man.” That’s the way our society is going today. Our number one concern now is not what is the work, but how much vacation time do we get? It’s not what job do you want me to do, but how many benefits can I get? How much time off? How many days and weekends off? That’s American society today.
Here’s the hard way. It is the way of getting up early and staying up late. It is the way of working with your hands. It is preparation, long-range planning, goal setting, future orientation, diligence, forethought, preparation, showing up for work on time, giving eight hours of work for eight hours pay, doing what you’re told and then doing what needs to be done even if you’re not told.
God is not with the couch potatoes.
God is over on the hard road. He is not with the couch potatoes. That’s where we are. The hard road looks difficult and daunting. All of us would rather be on the easy road. God is calling all of us to the hard road.
Do you want to know the ironic thing between the easy road and the hard road? The easy road looks easy but once you get on it, it turns into the hard road. And the hard road looks hard but once you do the hard thing in life, it turns out to be the easy thing. The easy road is deceptive. It is the way of destruction, poverty, starvation and desperation. It is the way of total financial collapse, the way to wasted days, wasted weeks, wasted months, wasted lives. The hard road which appears to be so difficult is ultimately the road of prosperity, the road of wealth and blessing, the road of fulfillment, happiness, and personal satisfaction. It is the road that leads you to the top. The easy road takes you down to the bottom. The only road that goes to the top is the hard road. It is tough, but it is the only one that goes where you want to go with your life.
We were on vacation a few weeks ago. Let the records show I am in favor of vacations. We went down to Mississippi and saw my brother, then went to Memphis, to Graceland (that’s another story), to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the biggest tourist trap east of the Mississippi River, and were meandering our way back up toward Chicago. We came through Knoxville and got on I-75 heading toward Lexington and Cincinnati. We weren’t in any hurry, and soon it was past lunch time. Sounds began to come from the back seat indicating that an imminent stop would be well advised. We stopped in a little town called Corbin, Kentucky. We drove through that little town, looking for a fast food place.
The original Kentucky Fried Chicken didn’t come easy.
There was a sign up that said, “Visit the original Kentucky Fried Chicken.” We went there and found out that it was a regular KFC, but besides being a restaurant, it was also a museum. Back in 1940 a man named Harlan Sanders was in Corbin, KY and he bought this old dilapidated restaurant and built a motel which was very advanced for that day. There was one in Asheville, NC and one in Corbin, KY. The number one recipe in the restaurant at the motel was the best fried chicken in all the state of Kentucky, made from 11 herbs and spices.
In 1956, 16 years later, he was successful, but he was not known. He was just successful locally. He was now 66 years old, the time when most men retire. Calamity struck, I-75 was being built, and would bypass the town of Corbin, KY, meaning nobody would stop at the motel or eat at his restaurant. If he was going to survive, he had to do something else. So he sold his restaurant and the motel and went into the chicken spice business. supplying to restaurants. Out of that little business, at the age of 66, came the idea to start a restaurant where people would come in and buy nothing but fried chicken which used his 11 herbs and spices, and he decided to call it Kentucky Fried Chicken. The rest is history.
If you go to Corbin, KY and if you visit that museum at the restaurant, there is a sign that I took pictures of. It is the credo of Colonel Harlan Sanders. It is called “The Hard Way.” “It is comparatively easy to prosper by trickery, the violation of confidence, oppression of the weak, sharp practices, cutting corners, all those methods we are so prone to pileate and condone as business shrewdness. It is difficult to prosper by the keeping of promises, the deliverance of value and goods and services and deeds and denouncing the so-called shrewdness with sound merit and good ethics. The easy way is efficacious and speedy, the hard way arduous and long. But as the clock ticks away, the easy way becomes harder, and the hard way becomes easier. As the calendar records the years, it becomes increasingly evident that the easy way rests upon a hazardous foundation of shifting sands, whereas the hard way builds solidly a foundation of confidence that cannot be swept away. Thus we build it.”
The next time you go to Kentucky Fried Chicken, remember that those thousands of restaurants all over America and now all over the world were started by a man who at the age of 66 decided that he was not going to go the easy way. He, by the way, was a born again Christian. He decided that at the age of retirement he was going to go the hard way and every one of those restaurants is a testimony to the fact that when you take the easy way, it turns out hard but when you take the hard way of hard work and diligence, it always ultimately turns out to be the only easy way there it.
I close this sermon with several conclusions.
1. Hard work is a Christian virtue. It is a sign of increasing godliness. Somebody said to me, “Well, what about the work-aholics?” I answered, “One sermon at a time, please. I am preaching about the value of hard work. We’ll come to the other later.” I am not talking about the number of hours that you work. I am not calling on you to work 70 or 80 or 90 or100 hours a week. I am calling on you not to let life pass you by. The call to hard work is a call to truly purposeful living. It is a call not to waste your life but to get up and get out and do something with the opportunities that God has placed before you. Don’t just sit there, don’t just roll over, don’t be a couch potato. Get up and in the name of God do something Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Use your power, your intelligence, your vision, your gifts and all that God gave you, to do something. So many Christians just while away the hours, looking at the flowers, consulting with the rain. All the while the game of life is being played all around us and we are sitting on the bench, sound asleep.
2. Though your work will differ from my work and from everybody else’s work, the qualities of success are always the same: planning, forethought, diligence, enthusiasm and full commitment to whatever God has called you to do.
3. Rest and relaxation are good. They too are a gift from God, but they are meant to be a reward for hard work and preparation for more hard work.
4. Hard work is God’s work when you are doing what God wants you to do.
5. God honors hard workers by crowning them with his personal blessing.
There is a world out there. Get in it. There is something going on out there. Don’t sit on the sidelines. God gave you two hands. Use them. God gave you a voice. Speak up. God gave you two feet. Go on a journey. Do something with the life that God gave you Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Here is the application. What is it that you know you need to do this week that is undone in your life? It will take you less than three seconds to answer that question. I already know what it is in my life. Now that you know what it is, name it. Plan it. Schedule it. Do it. This week. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might because in the grave where you are going there is no planing, no foresight, no work. You want to rest? You will have time later. Go out to the cemetery. There is not much work out there.
An old gospel song says it this way:
Oh land of rest, for thee I sigh
When will the moment come
When I can lay my burden down
And dwell in peace at home?
We’ll work ’til Jesus comes
We’ll work ’til Jesus comes
We’ll work ’til Jesus comes
Then we’ll be gathered home.
May God help us to let our light shine this week by going from this place and doing hard work for the glory of god. Amen.