Hard. Work. Two words with significance when they stand alone but even greater meaning when they're spoken together. There may be a slight flinch when used in relation to spiritual leaders. Our reliance on the gracious provision of our Father and the joys associated with serving Him often add a note of Sunday picnic in the park to the idea of this service. You know, angelic choirs heralding the glories of mission. In the same way, we're apt to equate the word "work" with a faith that is earned through doing good things. So, hard and work are often left behind when leaders are packing their spiritual character for the journey.
Jesus spoke often about the difficulty of spiritual leadership. On many occasions he gave the twelve doses of reality about their expectations in following him. For the sake of brevity, let me simply mention three. Remember, there are many more---
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as
serpents and innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16, ESV
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
Mark 13:13, ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 14:33, ESV
Factor in the dozens of other references to the difficulty of living this life, not to mention the rigors of spiritual leadership, and the conclusion that ministry is hard is a natural biblical truth.
Then, there's the thing about work. I'm not talking about working our way to God's favor or any kind a special dispensation of grace because of our efforts. As in the above references to "hard" there's plenty of Scriptural guidance about the "work" involved in following Christ and in the assignment of spiritual leaders. Jesus spoke just as often about doing the Father's work, the time that was coming when no one could work, the joy of finishing the work the Father had given him, and the expectation that his followers would be kingdom workers. Scroll through Acts and the epistles and make note of the "work" passages and the personal example of those writers whose lives were both difficult and laborious.
Draw them together and you have "hard work", diligence. it is the character trait of fulfilling our Kingdom assignment with persistent effort. Once again, it's God's desire from his people, especially his leaders, the discipline of diligence. Here we go---
If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is
right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I
will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord,
Exodus 15:26, ESV
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23, ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no
need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:25, ESV
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have
shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
Hebrews 6:10, ESV
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election,
for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
2 Peter 1:10, ESV
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him
without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2 Peter 3:14, ESV
Many believers, including a large percentage of spiritual leaders, are on cruise control today, maybe auto-pilot. The church seems to be adrift because the concept of diligence, hard work, has slipped to the margins of mission. The comfort zones have been extended and the work Jesus assigned his people lacks intention and purpose. Ancient wisdom, as that given by Solomon, references diligence, hard work, as a honorable life pursuit. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon gave us this---
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.
Ecclesiastes 9:10, ESV
It's diligence, a virtue for believers, a constant in the character of spiritual leaders. It should be in the overnight bag of every believer, especially those who are called to lead.