Category Archives: Work

“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow” by Alexander Maclaren

“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant.

Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us.

Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God.

If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”

–Alexander Maclaren, as quoted in Record of Christian Work, Volume 29 (East Northfield, MA: W.R. Moody, 1910), 29: 338.

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“Read, study, reflect, and write” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Many—probably most—of these chapters were written in the context of busy pastoral ministry, either in Scotland or in the United States—preaching, teaching, pastoral visiting, personal meetings, crises in the lives of individuals and sometimes the whole church, administrative responsibilities, and the wide and wonderful variety of activities that make up the average ministers life.

And since virtually all the essays were written by request, their writing has been squeezed into, or out of, an occasional hiatus in the sheer busy-ness of ministry life and the constant preparation involved in preaching anywhere between three and six times in the week.

So, at some point in the writing of almost all these chapters I have heard an inner voice ask, ‘Whatever possessed you to agree to do this?’ Yet, however far short these various pieces fall, in each case the preparation of them did me good, enlarged my understanding a little, and fed into the day-to-day work of pastoral ministry.

I hope, therefore, that these pages will encourage other ministers to allow themselves to be stretched a little beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation. There is no doubt that the wider reflection, reading, study and stretching involved can only strengthen and enrich long-term ministry.

Such stretching produces growth. Sometimes ministers can ‘waste’ the privileged time they have by studying only in relation to their next sermon. This does produce some growth, of course; but perhaps not growth that is constantly putting down deeper roots and producing richer fruit.

Preachers need to be reading and studying more widely, and reflecting theologically if that is to be the case. For only then will our ongoing ministry be deepened and enriched.

Thus, in one sense at least, the undergirding message of these diverse chapters is: if you are a preacher, accept invitations or create opportunities to study, speak, or write on subjects outside of your usual diet of preparation.

Yes, you may find yourself under a little pressure; but pressure can produce diamonds! You will grow personally as a result, and, God-willing, Paul’s exhortation will be fulfilled in your ministry:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have… Practise these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

It can be an unnerving question to ask oneself, ‘Has anyone in the congregation ever thought, far less said, about me, ‘He is making progress’?”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), xii-xiii.

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“The way to do a great deal” by Charles Spurgeon

“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Luminous Words,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 43 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1897), 43: 618.

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“His whole library was swept away from him” by William Symington

“To a person of these studious habits it may easily be conceived what distress it must have occasioned to have his library swept away from him. In that dreadful misfortune which befell the metropolis in 1666, ever since known as ‘the fire of London,’ the whole of Charnock’s books were destroyed.

The amount of calamity involved in such an occurrence can be estimated aright only by those who know from experience the strength and sacredness of that endearment with which the real student regards those silent but instructive friends which he has drawn around him by slow degrees, with which he has cultivated a long and intimate acquaintance, which are ever at hand with their valuable assistance, counsel and consolation, when these are needed, which, unlike some less judicious companions, never intrude upon him against his will, and with whose very looks and positions, as they repose in their places around him, he has become so familiarized, that it is no difficult thing for him to call up their appearance when absent, or to go directly to them in the dark without the risk of a mistake.

Some may be disposed to smile at this love of books. But where is the scholar who will do so? Where is the man of letters who, for a single moment, would place the stately mansions and large estates of the ‘sons of earth’ in comparison with his own well-loaded shelves?

Where is the student who, on looking round upon the walls of his study, is not conscious of a satisfaction greater and better far than landed proprietor ever felt on surveying his fields and lawns—a satisfaction which almost unconsciously seeks vent in the exclamation, ‘My library! A dukedom large enough!’

Such, and such only, can judge what must have been Charnock’s feelings, when he found that his much cherished volumes had become a heap of smouldering ashes.

The sympathetic regret is only rendered the more intense, when it is thought that, in all probability, much valuable manuscript perished in the conflagration.”

–William Symington, as quoted in Stephen Charnock, “Life and Character of Charnock” in The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol.1 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 14.

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“The gospel at work” by Charles Spurgeon

“Brother, are you serving God? Do you live to win souls? Is it your grand object to be the instrument in God’s hand of accomplishing His purposes of grace to the fallen sons of men?

Do you know that God has put you where you are, and called you to do the work to which your life is dedicated? Then go on in God’s name, for, as surely as He called you to His work, you may be sure that to you also He says, as indeed to all His servants, ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’

But I hear some of you say, ‘We are not engaged in work of such a kind that we could precisely call it work for God.’

Well, brethren, but are you engaged in a work which you endeavour to perform to God’s glory? Is your ordinary and common trade one which is lawful—one concerning which you have no doubt as to its honest propriety; and in carrying it on do you follow right principles only?

Do you endeavour to glorify God in the shop? Do you make the bells on the horses holiness to the Lord? It would not be possible for all of us to be preachers, for where would be the hearers?

Many a man would be very much out place if he were to leave his ordinary calling, and devote himself to what is so unscripturally called ‘the ministry.’

The fact is, the truest religious life is that in which a man follows the ordinary calling of life in the spirit of a Christian.

Now, are you so doing? If so, you are as much ministering before God in measuring out yards of calico, or weighing pounds of tea, as Joshua was in slaying Hivites, and Jebusites, and Hittites.

You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.

And you may take this promise for yourself, for the path of duty is the path where this promise is to be enjoyed. ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Strengthening Medicine for God’s Servants” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 21; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1875), 52–53. This sermon on Joshua 1:5 was preached in 1875.

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“Don’t be like a block of wood” by John Calvin

“It was very suitable for Solomon, who was endued with the spirit of wisdom in the affairs of government, to discourse of things which he knew and had experience about. In affirming that God governs the world and the life of man, he does so for two reasons.

First, whatever prosperous event may fall out to men, their ingratitude is instantly manifested by their ascribing it wholly to themselves. And thus God is defrauded of the honor which is His due.

Solomon, to correct such a perverse error, declares, that nothing happens prosperously to us except in so far as God blesses our proceedings.

Secondly, his purpose was to beat down the foolish presumption of men, who, setting God aside, are not afraid to undertake to do anything, whatever it may be, in exclusive reliance upon their own wisdom and strength.

Stripping them, therefore, of that which they groundlessly arrogate to themselves, he exhorts them to modesty and the invocation of God. He does not, however, reject either the labor, the enterprises, or the counsels of men. For it is a praiseworthy virtue diligently to discharge the duties of our office.

It is not the will of the Lord that we should be like blocks of wood, or that we should keep our arms folded without doing anything, but that we should apply to use all the talents and advantages which he has conferred upon us.

It is indeed true that the greatest part of our labors proceeds from the curse of God. And yet although men had still retained the integrity of their primitive state, God would have had us to be employed, even as we see how Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to dress it. (Genesis 2:15.)

Solomon, therefore, does not condemn watchfulness, a thing which God approves. He does not codemn men’s labor, by which when they undertake it willingly, according to the commandment of God, they offer to Him all acceptable sacrifice.

But lest, blinded by presumption, they should forcibly appropriate to themselves that which belongs to God, he admonishes them that their being busily occupied will profit them nothing, except in so far as God blesses their exertions.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 5 in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 104-105. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 127:1.

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“The general blowing up of windbags” by Charles Spurgeon

“We should constantly preserve the holy activity of our minds. Woe unto the minister who dares to waste an hour. Read John Foster’s ‘Essay On the Improvement of Time’ and resolve never to lose a second of it.

A man who goes up and down from Monday morning till Saturday night, and indolently dreams that he is to have his text sent down by an angelic messenger in the last hour or two of the week, tempts God, and deserves to stand speechless on the Sabbath.

We have no leisure as ministers; we are never off duty, but are on our watchtowers day and night. Students, I tell you solemnly nothing will excuse you from the most rigid economy of time. It is at your peril that you trifle with it.

The leaf of your ministry will soon wither unless, like the blessed man in the first Psalm, you meditate in the law of the Lord both day and night. I am most anxious that you should not throw away time in religious dissipation, or in gossiping and frivolous talk.

Beware of running about from this meeting to that listening to mere twaddle and contributing your share to the general blowing up of windbags. A man great at tea drinkings, evening parties, and Sunday-school excursions is generally little everywhere else.

Your pulpit preparations are your first business and if you neglect these you will bring no credit upon yourself or your office. Bees are making honey from morning till night and we should be always gathering stores for our people. I have no belief in that ministry which ignores laborious preparation.”

–Charles Spurgeon, “On the Choice of a Text,” in Lectures to My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1875/2008), 103-104.

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