For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8)
The apostle Paul worked incredibly hard. He was a brilliant scholar, a Pharisee from the school of Gamaliel, but he also had a trade that he used at times to earn money while he was serving the church.
Sometimes there was money to support Paul, sometimes not. When there was no money, here’s what Paul did—he made tents and sold them, and then gave himself to the work of ministry.
Especially when he was in Thessalonica, Paul was bi-vocational. He gave himself to two jobs, which is why he says that he “worked night and day” (3:8). That is extraordinarily difficult to do, but Paul was ready to do whatever it would take to make the gospel run.
Here is the great irony: To not be a burden on other believers, Paul is working two jobs. At the same time, there are Christians who refuse to do any work, and they’ve become a burden to other believers!
The Bible says, “Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). Paul says that this is a command of the Lord. So, as an apostle, Paul had the right to financial support from the church. But look at what he says:
[This work night and day] was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)
Do you see what Paul is saying? Being an example to others is more important than having what is mine by right. This is so important, especially in the workplace.
Being a Christian Employee
As a Christian employee, my example matters more than my rights. When you find yourself in conflict and you say, “What are my rights?” make sure you also ask, “What is my example?” Never ask, “What are my rights?” without asking, “What is my example?”.
Here are some questions to keep in mind:
- What would happen if everyone did what I’m doing?
- What is my example to my children? Or, what is my example to unbelieving colleagues who see my life?
- What is my example to the church and to angels and to demons, who scorn the work of God?
- How does what I am saying and doing look in the eyes of God, who gave his Son to die on the cross for me?
How to Persevere Through Discouragement
With work, some of us tire more easily than others, but all of us struggle at some point. There are times when we easily become discouraged and tire of doing what is right. Here’s how we can persevere:
Look back to what Christ has accomplished.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3)
Think about the trouble that came to Jesus as he went about doing good. They called him “Beelzebub” and hung him on a cross. Think about how little he was thanked. Ten lepers healed—a miracle! Only one came back to say thank you. Did healing from leprosy mean nothing to them? Think about the slow progress of the disciples under his teaching, “Do you still have no faith? Do you still not understand?”
When I look at my own sins, the way I take God’s many gifts for granted and my slow progress in the Christian life, it’s amazing to me that Christ would not throw up his hands and say, “I’m done with him. He’s not worth it.” Don’t you feel that? Our Savior never tires of doing us good!
Consider all that Christ has endured and it will put strength into you and help you to press forward.
Look around at what Christ’s people endure.
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:9)
We all have times when we feel sorry for ourselves. When I feel sorry for myself and I start thinking that I’m carrying a heavy burden, I find it really helpful to look at the burdens of others. It helps me. It strengthens me.
The apostle Peter says that the suffering of other Christians will help you to resist Satan and carry your own burdens. When I feel sorry for myself, the best thing I can do is go visit someone else in need. When I see the burdens they are carrying, I ask myself, “Why did I ever complain?”
Look forward to what Christ has promised.
They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31)
I enjoy tennis and my tennis hero is Jimmy Connors. He wasn’t the most gifted of players. What I liked about him was his sheer determination.
One year at Wimbledon he was playing a guy by the name of Mikael Pernfors. Connors lost the first two sets 6-1 and 6-1, and he was down 4-1 in the third set. He was nursing a leg injury that required the help of the doctor, but incredibly he came back to win the match.
Afterwards, an interviewer said to him, “You are 34 years old and you are carrying a leg injury. You are 2 sets down and 4 games to 1 behind, and you’ve already won all this stuff. Don’t you ever think to yourself, ‘Is this really worth it?’” To which Connors said, “It is always worth it!”
Never tire of doing what is right. It is always worth it. Jesus said that even a cup of cold water, the smallest act done in his name, will have its reward. One day you will stand in the presence of Jesus, and on that day, every act that honored Christ, every decision to do what is right, every sacrifice you ever made in the Christian life will be of infinite value.
You will never regret one good deed you have done. You will never regret one sacrifice you have made for Christ. And, you will never regret one costly decision to do what is right when you are in the presence of Jesus. So, look at what is ahead of you, look at what he promises and press on!