When I was a Houston Fire Fighter a saying would be used quite frequently by firemen working the scene of a fire: "Work smarter, not harder." This phrase would be used if someone was using his or her hands to do something instead of using a tool which would have made the job easier. Other times it would be used when someone was using his back to lift something heavy rather than using his legs. It would also be used if someone was holding the fire hose or nozzle incorrectly causing him or her to exert too much energy.
However, more often than not, it was used as an excuse to be lazy. Often firemen would whisper it to one another as they watched someone else doing the work. Let's face it, if you had the choice between getting up, walking across the room and scanning channels during the commercial break of the football game or using a remote, who in their right mind would get up when that wonderful device is within arm's reach? We even take it a step further sometimes. Why get up and reach for the remote when you could ask someone else to bring it to you?
Let's face it, we'd all like life to be easy. We mask this desire with phrases like "work smarter, not harder," but at our core we want things our way, we want it now and we want it at the cheapest price possible. That's why we freak out and get frustrated when the person taking our order at McDonald's takes too long or is too distracted and we have to do the unthinkable: repeat our order. "Just take my order, and listen to me when I order it so I don't have to waste my time repeating the order, and give me what I want, right now. And it better be on the Dollar menu."
Unfortunately, the "work smarter, not harder" mindset invades our walk with Christ. When it comes to doing our work for Christ, we should work smarter. It has been my experience that "working smarter" means "having great faith." Faith is simply taking God at His word, so working smarter means:
1. Do only the work God calls you to do.
For Nehemiah, God's vision was clear: rebuild the wall (Neh. 2:5, 17). God did not call Nehemiah to build the temple, build a cistern, build an aqueduct, dig a well, or build a road. God called him to build a wall. So Nehemiah led the people to build a wall (Neh. 2:18, 4:1, 4:6). It is always smarter to only do the work God calls you to do.
2. Trust in God as you do the work.
When opposition arose as Nehemiah and the people strengthened their hands for the work of rebuilding the wall (Neh. 2:18), His faith in God rose to the challenge: "Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" (Neh. 2:20). Nehemiah's confidence was not in his ability, rather in God's calling.
Now to the second part of the phrase: "not harder." When it comes to working for God, the phrase should be: "Work smarter and harder." Nehemiah 4:6 is a great verse which illustrates this principle: "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." Two important words are used in this verse: "mind" and "work."
The Hebrew word for "mind" is used 593 times in the Old Testament. It refers to the inner man, the mind, the heart, the seat of appetites, emotions, passions and the will. It is the real you at your deepest inner point. It is your core. Working hard means doing a work that is birthed in the depths of your heart, in the secret, quiet places of your soul where only you and God enter.
The word "work" in the Hebrew language is used 2,633 times in the Old Testament. That's a pretty staggering number. Over half of the times it is used (1,333) it is translated "do." God wants you to do something. Great faith doesn't mean just standing around doing nothing. It means stepping out in obedience and working hard.
James said it this way: "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22). Hearing the word is not enough. Application is everything. Application means doing. Your part in rebuilding requires great faith and hard work. When we hear the word, we believe it (great faith). Then, stepping out with courage, we do the work.
Today, commit to no longer standing around and watching others do the work. If your marriage is falling apart, get God's vision of what should be and do the work He calls you to do. Take your wife on a date. Treat your husband to a special dinner. Communicate better. Arise and build. If your relationship with your son or daughter is broken, stop waiting on someone else to do the work necessary to rebuild. Get God's vision of what should be and step out in courage and faith to do the work of rebuilding. Write a letter of apology. Make a phone call. Make a trip. Send flowers. Arise and build with great faith and hard work. If your neighbor's life is broken, get God's vision for your neighbor (just look at the cross for that vision) and do the work: share the gospel, pray with your neighbor, bake some cookies. Stop waiting for someone else to rebuild. You arise and do what God has called you to do. If your church is hurting, get God's vision of what should be (just look at the cross for that vision as well), then do your part to rebuild. Your part in rebuilding requires great faith and hard work. So believe in God, His word and His calling on your life with all of your heart and work with all of your might.