What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
I was recently reading Gospelbound by the editors of The Gospel Coalition when I came across these words from John Piper: “My job is faithfulness. God’s is fruitfulness.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have shared that quote in the past couple of months. It so beautifully encapsulates an idea I have written about many times before—namely that Christ-followers ought to have a unique relationship with the word “hustle.”
Let me explain.
The rise of the increasingly dominant “hustle culture” has been well documented for years now. The idea is that if you want things to happen in your career, you have to hustle and make them happen!
As we’ll see throughout this series, there are tons of passages of Scripture that command us to work hard—to hustle if you will. This is a point of commonality we can celebrate with our hustle-loving friends, Christian or not.
But here’s where Christ-followers ought to diverge significantly from the hustle culture masses. While we embrace the biblical command to work hard, we simultaneously recognize that it is God alone who produces results in our work. As Paul says in today’s passage, we can “plant” and “water” all we want, but at the end of the day it is “only God who makes things grow.”
The fourth chapter of Nehemiah offers us a concrete picture of what this looks like. Nehemiah’s opponents were gearing up for an attack to stop God’s people from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. What did Nehemiah and company do in response? Nehemiah says, “We prayed to our God AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:9). In other words, they trusted in God and hustled to work to protect themselves.
As Christians, we have a unique responsibility to embrace the tension between trusting in God to produce fruit through our work and faithfully hustling in accordance with his commands. How do we embrace that tension well? That’s the question we’ll explore over the next few weeks.