Chapter 4 - Discipline to Work

Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg

The last week of my seven years of football was one of the most focused and disciplined weeks I experienced. The practices were long and intense. Just think for a moment what the team had to do in just five days! All season most guys played either offense or defense, not both. This approach gave us a chance to catch our breath during the games. But, there were several of us that played both offense and defense this last game and we were on the field nearly every minute. We were in peak shape as we entered the final week of the season, but this game would be more demanding than any we had yet experienced. Not only did we have to be in peak shape, many of us also had to learn new positions that we had not played before.

Our quarterback learned to play defensive safety that week. I had started the entire season at offensive guard, but that week I learned to play outside linebacker. This list could go on and on. We were facing our toughest competition of the year on that Saturday and we knew it. Our backs were against the wall and we had much work to do. Those practices went on for hours each day. Our discipline to work was put to the test.

I must ask any coaches reading this: Could you imagine blowing your whistle and telling your team to hit the showers after a long grueling practice, and the players asking to stay longer because they felt they needed it? Because they felt they were not yet where they needed to be? That was exactly the atmosphere within the Western Warriors that week. The most effective discipline is the kind that comes from within and from a desire to attain a goal. It is a beautiful and rewarding experience.

The discipline to work is not just about working hard. It is about working smart, too! We needed to spend more time learning new skills than we did doing pushups. Yes, we had to be in shape physically. We had to hustle the entire game, but it had to be "smart" hustle. Sometimes in business we confuse activity with productivity, while in reality you can have plenty of unproductive activity! Let me illustrate. All you football coaches pay attention to this one.

The Western Warriors used a "human wall" strategy for kickoff returns. Most of the players would run to one side of the field and form a "human wall" of blockers parallel to the sideline while the defenders were pursuing the kickoff. A lane was formed between the sideline and this wall. The ball carrier would run down this lane protected by these blockers. I played back by the ball carrier and my job was to lead the ball carrier down the lane and block any defender that broke through the wall. Open field blocking was my specialty and hustle was my game. I would sprint down the field throwing cross-body blocks on those big guys' ankles, get up and go get another one. The only problem was that the first guy I knocked down often made the tackle. It did not dawn on me until years later why that was happening. I was focused on the wrong goal! I was focused on knocking down as many guys as possible. I was Mr. Hustle so I went at the task like I was killing snakes. I should have been focused on protecting the ball carrier instead. Getting him across the goal line was the important thing. When I led the ball carrier down the lane, I went off and left him! Then, I would knock a defender down before the ball carrier was close enough. When I knocked 'em down, I didn't kill 'em or lie on them. The defender would get back up and make the tackle, while I was off to get the next guy. My hustle was working against my timing and I was not doing what was best for the team. We need to be very careful of this in other areas of our life too. Hustle is good when it is timed properly. We must keep our real purpose in mind and develop the discipline to work hard and smart, with our eyes on the team goal! Have you ever seen a department in a large corporation so focused on themselves that they lost sight of the corporate goal of bottom line profit? If they are not careful, they may even unknowingly work against the corporate goals!

It sometimes appears that some people think w-o-r-k is a dirty "four letter word" and that it should be avoided. Some folks just hate going to work and rejoice in getting off work. They think it is great to "goof off" and get paid for it! One man was once asked how long he had worked for his company. He replied, "Ever since they threatened to fire me." This seems to reflect how much of the working world must feel. I feel that work is honorable, healthy and essential, especially when things don't look good.

Whoever first said, "There ain't no free lunch," whether he was Republican or Democrat, was absolutely right. There has never been a "free lunch," there is not any such thing as a "free lunch" now, and there will never be a "free lunch." Someone always pays for lunch. Maybe sooner, maybe later, in one way or another, someone will pay for lunch. And sometimes the cost may be excessive. Just think what a continual flow of "free lunch" might cost a person.

Many people receive money due to someone else's efforts. They may be born into money, marry into it, or end up on some form of welfare. People who live in a world where everything is always provided by someone else's work, may learn to be very dependent on that source of income because they may lose or never develop the ability to make it on their own. They literally may become a financial cripple and think they must be provided for to "make it." I imagine we could find this mindset in some welfare recipients and in some rich folks' children. Yes, I might put them both in the same category. Total dependence on someone else's work can be crippling whether it is your own family or your rich Uncle Sam. Just imagine what that can do to one's security and self esteem. If I pull my own weight in this world and earn what I get, and I lose it all, I can handle it. I know that God and I did it before and we can do it again. But if I am a non-producing recipient of what I have, and I lose it all, I must depend on someone else to get me going again. I become a needy person who must be "taken care of." I become fearful of losing what I have accumulated. I don't want to take risks and be vulnerable. And I may feel rather bad about myself in the long run.

Hard work feels good when it has purpose that is tied to your vision. I can remember many times when I worked long hours and stayed up all night working on computer software problems and it felt good. Yes, I was tired when it was over, but it was a "good tired." It was a "victorious" tired. When I finish mowing and grooming my yard in the summer, I am hot and tired. When the job is done and I look at the results, it is indeed a "good" tired. If we get our minds right about our work, it can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience. I believe a reality of life is this:

Anything worth doing is going to require a discipline for hard, smart work!

Making a marriage successful is work. Raising children is work. Keeping up a home is work. Having a successful career is work. Running your own business is work. Truly living a Christian life is work. Winning a championship is work. All these things demand a discipline that feels so good when the task is completed. I think Zig Ziglar was 100% right when he said, "You do not pay the price for success. You pay the price for failure. You enjoy the price of success." I have seen and felt the truth in his words many times. Haven't you?

I never was an exceptionally smart person in school. I had to read things a few times to comprehend them. Also, I was a slow reader. There were many other people who had superior brain power. I graduated from high school with a 3.976 grade point average (GPA). I made a B in English literature and I have never cared much for Shakespeare ever since. I made A's in everything else. I remember that GPA because it was .001 of a point away from Julie Webster's 3.977 that made her the valedictorian of our class of 640 students. I was salutatorian. (She had one more class and one more A than I did.) My point is this: I did not get a 3.976 GPA based on brains! I earned it through hard work. I studied long and hard, did all assignments, and turned in all papers on time. I know many people with superior brain power who did not do nearly so well, because they would not work at it! This is still so true today. Success is not based on how much you have between your ears. It is based on what you do with what you have. Grades are based on test scores and homework scores. Period. Grades are awarded based on how well you have produced something with whatever intelligence you have. It is not based on your potential, or what you could have done. Results are a product of work. Always have been. Always will be.

The discipline to work is a choice. There are times when we either choose it or reject it. We are free to choose. If you went away to college, you quickly found out if you had the self discipline to work. With no parents there to provide discipline, you decided for yourself. If your pre-college success depended on your parents providing all the discipline and you had developed none on your own, you were in for a rude awakening. No one can make you work hard but you! Others may flunk you or fire you, but working is your choice. It is your life! And we all must live with the consequences of our choices.

I have read many personal development and motivational books in my life. I have noticed some authors describe sound Biblical concepts but never mention the source. The reader may think it is original material. Sometimes the author may acknowledge the scriptural source and sometimes they don't. I believe the Bible is God's word, written by men inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. I believe that God is the foremost authority on personal development and motivation. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, or whether you think it has application outside the church building or not, is not the question. If you look around closely, the principles are at work anyway! Please open your mind and let's look at what the Bible says about work and see if it makes sense.

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
(NIV) Colossians 3:22-24

If you were to develop this mindset, don't you see the effect it would have on your attitude about your work, no matter what that work was? What if we all had this attitude, employers and employees alike? Have you ever worked with someone who worked with "all their heart"? What kind of effect did they have on the workplace? What kind of energy and enthusiasm did they generate? I have seen this, firsthand, in others and in myself. It is fantastic! No matter what the job was! Imagine what kind of employee that someone with this mindset would make. They would work with "all their heart," not only when you were watching them, but always. Who would you want to promote and reward?

I think it is very important that we enjoy our work. We spend so much of our lives doing it. I certainly enjoy mine. When I am presenting this live seminar, I point out that public speaking may seem like work to some, but I am having a blast! There are many career fields in which I would have to summon much discipline to enjoy myself. Our career selection is a vitally important choice we make, and it is a choice. Some people choose to not choose and "let come what may." Then they are stuck with "whatever the wind blew in." It does not have to be that way. You can choose. You can choose wisely. You can love and enjoy your work.

Next scripture:

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
(NIV) II Thessalonians 3:6-13

Ouch! Does that say "If a man will not work, he shall not eat"? Yes, it does. (Anyone fond of eating should pay attention to this.) If you choose to not work, you should not expect to eat. It's that simple. But it does not say, if a man can't work, neither let him eat! There are plenty of legitimate reasons why someone can't work. We must accept that. Those folks need help. But, if a person is hiding behind a contrived reason or affliction or they are merely taking advantage of another person or system and they don't work out of choice, I believe the Bible is teaching a weight loss program.

Those that do not pull their weight in this life become dependent on those that do and, in essence, become their slave. They choose to give up some freedoms of choice if they remain dependent on others in this way. This can have a negative effect on their self esteem and their happiness in life.

I believe we should teach our children to work very early in life. A strong work ethic will serve them well and help them lead healthy and independent lives as adults. It is not harsh or cruel. Letting them enter adulthood without a "discipline to work" is harsh and cruel.

I don't feel that parents should foot the entire bill for their children's college education. I have seen too many examples of the "paid way" backfiring and being a waste of money and, worse than the money, being a very difficult thing for the kid to get over. I think if young adults won't or can't come up with part of the finances to go to college, then they have no business being there. They often will not have the commitment, desire, and grit to make it worthwhile.

Let's press on to the next scripture:

"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, aseach part does its work."
(NIV) Ephesians 4:16

We are all part of something bigger than ourselves. We may be part of an earthly family, a company, an organization, a team, or a body of believers. We each have a function in that "greater whole." When we don't do our part, often someone else has to do it or the "greater whole" suffers. Each person has unique talents and gifts. We all can contribute in different ways, and each of us is obligated to contribute where we can. When we don't, we fail to help the "greater whole" grow and be healthy.

A Biblical truth that is vividly seen today is:

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
(NIV) Matthew 9:37-38

It has long been true that a majority of the work is done by a minority of the people! Just look around groups you are a part of. Have you ever seen this phenomenon? I sure have! I have heard many reasons why someone was not getting involved or contributing where they could. Each of us will answer for our own decisions.

My family experienced Hurricane Hugo in September, 1989 when we lived in South Carolina. The recovery effort after the storm was a real character builder. Our church congregation opened a relief distribution center in our building in Summerville, South Carolina. Trucks kept coming in from all over the country bringing relief supplies. We unloaded the goods into our church building, made deliveries to outlying areas and had a food line for those who could come in. The work went on from early morning to late night, seven days a week. The workers were few. At times, we often had more people from out of town helping than members of our own congregation.

We noticed many people taking advantage of "free food." There were controls and limits, but some people would scatter their kids through the line so each family member would get an allocation for an entire family. Some people were going around the circuit of all the churches and relief agencies and filling up their pantries. Some of us began to feel taken advantage of.

One hot afternoon, I went out back to a pile of empty boxes, drenched in my own perspiration and flopped back in the trash pile. Exhausted and disgusted, I lay there wishing I was somewhere else. "Are we really doing the right thing, Lord?" I prayed, "or are we just letting a bunch of moochers haul off stuff that the whole country has donated out of their hearts and factories? And how come there aren't more folks here doing this backbreaking work. I'm just a white collar computer guy. I'm not used to this kind of labor." Oh boy, was I whining to the Lord. As I lay there about to drift off, one of the supervisors brought a lady to me. "Get up, Wayne," he said, "Would you please help this lady get some food and take it to her car?" I got up and took her to the warehouse, grumbling to myself.

This poor woman felt very badly about coming in for free food, but she didn't know what else to do. Her home and all her possessions had been destroyed by the storm. She and her child were sleeping on a neighbor's floor. She was in a borrowed car, needing to come up with food for their next meal. When we got to her car, her trunk was empty. Her need was real. Her heart was pure. She thanked me and praised God for the blessing she had just received. She cried. I cried. We hugged. She drove off. I went back to work, singing, full of life, purpose and enthusiasm.

When the Lord healed the ten lepers, only one came back to say thanks. Why should we expect any different from that? If we are going to serve Jesus, we will have to wade through many ungrateful, uncaring people to do so. We may have to carry on as a minority. But let me tell you this: It is worth it! I say to "the few" out there doing all the work. Hold fast to the work at hand. Do what you can do, to the best of your ability. Let God take care of the rest. Let nothing stop you. It will be worth it.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."
(NIV) Hebrews 6:10

"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work."
(NIV) John 9:4

The time to work is now! None of us is assured of tomorrow. Today may be our last day. The Lord may come tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year. Who knows what the future holds? But we do know who holds the future! We are instructed to "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Are you one of the majority that the Lord wishes to send out, but you have not heeded His call? Please pray about this, open your heart and mind to God's leading, and see what happens, before night comes. Perhaps He is calling you right now!

I close this chapter with this encouragement to choose and develop a strong work ethic. Choose to work hard and smart. Teach and model this for your children. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, and not just when someone is watching. Do your part in whatever you are a part of. Pull your own weight. Contribute in every way you can. Expect to be among the "few" who will work, and press on anyway. It will be worth it to you many times over in the grand scheme of things. You will reap what you sow. You will reap after you sow. You will reap more than you sow. And the time to work is now.

In the famous words of western film hero, John Wayne:

"Head'em up. Move'em out! We're burning daylight, pilgrims!"

Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg

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