In Lewis Drummond’s Biography, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon tells the story of a Puritan that arose at five o’clock for his morning time of prayer. But as the Puritan entered his study, he heard the hammer of the local blacksmith in the distant background. This sound caused the man to immediately fall to his knees and pray:
“O God, have mercy upon me! Does this man get up to serve his master before I rise to serve mine?”
Spurgeon ended his story with words that have rung in my ears ever since I first read them years ago: “Our days are so few that we must make them long ones and take time by the forelock.”
The idea of making our days long may seem repulsive to our modern sensibilities, but Spurgeon was absolutely saying that we should work longer hours to be faithful to what God has called us to do. And although in the immediate context of the quote he was talking to preachers, his advice is needed for us all today. There is no shortcut around it. Ministry is work. And to be good ministers (vocationally or not) we need a work ethic that rivals any other unbelieving worker.
As Christians we often bemoan the evils of the age, but how many of us are up before dawn praying about these issues? We have conferences about the importance of discipleship, but how many of us are willing to meet with another brother and sister at 5:00 am (or after the kids are in bed) for coffee? It seems we as Christians want the benefit of other people’s extraordinary work ethic (Spurgeon, Calvin, Octavius Booth, etc.) and yet offer very little of our own.
This exhortation to make the day long may seem out of place if we take a cursory look at our culture today. With the rate of pastoral burnout, church member fallout, and innate tendency to work for the approval of men and even God, why would I be calling for more work? But if we take a closer look, we see burnout not because people are doing too much, but because they are doing too little of the right things.
Spurgeon often worked 18 hours a day. Missionary David Livingstone once asked him “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten that there are two of us.”
You see, as much as Spurgeon preached, wrote, and visited; he also spent precious hours in prayer and devotion. Spurgeon knew what we seemed to have forgotten. He knew that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is living within every Christian! (Ephesians 1:19-20) He drew from the Spirit’s power; not from guilt, obligation, or his own skill or ability to accomplish what God called him to accomplish.
There are good works prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) and we are given but a brief time to be effective in the service of our God (John 9:4). And yet, even in our weaknesses and inconsistencies, God delights in our participation with Him to accomplish his purposes in this world. So dear Christian brothers and sisters let us strip off every weight, fix our eyes on Jesus, and run! (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Let us make our days long so that they may be filled with joyful service to our God.
(Part 2 of this piece will focus on how joy and satisfaction fuel our work)