When we think about the life of Christ, we are often drawn to the crowning achievements and culminating moments of what he did. And don’t get me wrong, those are amazing points to focus on. After all, the entire blessed hope we believe in and the entire gospel message itself is because of what he did for us. However, in addition to the crowning moments, it probably makes sense for us to look at the work and effort—and even the menial tasks—that probably occurred without praise for years at a time.
The reason for this is to remind us of the work that has to take place in order for the culminating moment to occur. After all, if you don’t put in the basic work, how can you be prepared for what comes next? If you aren’t doing your “job” to earn money to take care of your basic needs, how can you ever pay your bills, let alone focus on serving the Lord? If you can’t continue your skills, how will you ever be able to maintain job security, let alone provide those additional skills to your local church? And if you aren’t able to set the time aside to make it through the bible once, how can you ever hope to pull on this knowledge when you desperately need it most?
Proof That Work Isn’t Beneath Any Of Us
Putting in the work isn’t a thing that should be below us, and in fact, it’s something we have a number of examples to point towards. Just choose your preferred archetype:
- We have David being chosen by the Lord, but at one point he was still tending to sheep.
- We could point towards Paul making his mark as an up-and-coming Pharisee. And not only needing to know the law, but spending the time to “put in the time” as a Pharisee before leaving the order altogether during his conversion.
- Gideon hid in a winepress, and it probably wasn’t the first time he did so, before being called to lead the army of the Lord.
- Joseph was a servant and a slave before rising up to rule as Egypt’s second-in-command.
The point is that time after time, example after example, we have the blueprint for putting in the work for years. And we may even question along the way why things are happening the way that they are, or how much longer we need to endure. But most certainly, we have seen literal textbook examples of how the culminating moments will follow prolonged periods, and possibly even a lifetime, of work.
Bezos and Gates
The common day expressions can be viewed in other ways. We can look from a historical point of view at the original pictures of Bill Gates in a Silicon Valley garage thinking he was onto something, or a picture of Jeff Bezos with his new Amazon office as others laughed at him for trying to sell books online.
We could look at more examples found in pop culture. Such as seeing someone spend years in a sport through their high school, college, and professional career just to have a defining Super Bowl moment. Or we could even try to understand those who have spent years and decades at the grindstone, just to have a retirement party and see the culmination of their work. We understand the celebration of being able to work with a centralized focus for possible minor successes along the way, but when the ultimate goal is still what is in front of us, then that is what we should be working towards and focusing on.
And Jesus Himself?
To be fair, I don’t fully know the answer to this question. Not a lot is known, of course, about the years before Jesus’ ministry began, so we don’t have all the evidence of what took place in those first few decades of His life. We are given some glimpses, however, including Luke 2:41-52 where we see Jesus engaged in ministry, even at a young age. Whether you want to make the claim that he was learning from a young age and was actively engaging with adults and priests from a spiritual maturity not seen by most, or you want to suggest he had divine understanding and was helping to pull others along—in both scenarios he was putting in the work of studying while sharing knowledge years and decades before it would ever seem to pay off!
Another argument may be that he was able to see some “success stories” along the way in who he healed, or seeing the fruit of his labor spread as others became followers. That much is true. But ultimately his purpose, and the entire motivation for why he was here, was a single moment, a single deciding event, and a single Passover weekend that mattered.
How are you preparing?
As we reflect upon the season of Easter where we celebrated the work done on the cross, we must remember that the work done ON the cross was the culminating work that had been referred to over a much longer period of time. Jesus had obviously been preparing for that moment for his entire life, and God himself pointed towards it for thousands of years through evidence of the prophets.
Likewise, it may be hard to realize that some of your payoffs may not happen for years, decades, or even in this life. The groundwork you are laying might be part of an arduous path, and to be quite honest with you, you may not ever receive the thanks you actually deserve. If you have a long-lasting legacy, the beneficiaries of your work may not even meet you in this lifetime. Yet, we look to the model of Christ in knowing that he spent years of his life (what was an entire lifetime in some ways) preparing to accomplish his mission.
So the call to action here is simple.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your job title or the stresses you are facing while trying to be a follower of Christ. I don’t know your struggles while you’re trying to be in this world without being OF the world. I don’t know of the stress and the quarrels you may be having, or the bills adding up as fast as inflation is rising. I also don’t know what your mission and calling are. But I do know that you need to keep your eyes on them.
Someday you will hit your culminating moment. You will be able to look back and say, “It was all worth it.” But in order to get there, to have the “highlight reel,” to have everyone applaud you, to be told, “Well done, faithful servant,” we need to remember there are things to be done, and what may be years or even decades of work.
It will be worth it.