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To What Benefit?

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“What benefit is there to hard work?” and “How will this help me in the future?” are two questions asked frequently across the face of our planet. They are valid questions, but only so long as our focus remains on ourselves. As children, we live for ourselves. Mom and Dad take care of us, so we grow up believing that the world revolves around us and our wants and whims.

Somewhere in the midst of our teenage years, we begin to suspect that life, indeed, does not revolve around us. However, being unable to bear this thought, we rebel against the world in general and our parents in particular. We rebel because we cannot bear the burden of responsibility that would be placed on our shoulders were we to admit that the world was not ours to command; we rebel because we would be terrified and lost in a world that wasn’t all about us, and we rebel because, all of a sudden, the future is uncertain — youth grows old; living things die, and one day no one will be here to care for us, and we’ll be on our own in a world that could care less whether we were in it or not.

Somewhere in our college-bound years — although sometimes before that if maturity comes sooner rather than later — we grasp and come to terms with these facts. We turn our faces to the cold, harsh winds of reality and bravely seek our purpose and calling … Or, we never come out of our rebellion, fighting and clawing our way back to the imagined safety of our childhood, as we’re forcibly dragged toward an open grave and a date with every man’s destiny.

The path you trod, which way you choose as you come to the fork in life’s road, determines more than the course of your life. It determines the course of the lives of many, many others.

Consider the life of Jonathan Edwards, as gleaned from Bill Federer’s American Minute:

Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703, and entered Yale College at age 13, graduating with honors.

He became a pastor, and his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” started The Great Awakening, a revival which swept America, uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution. (And that’s pretty important. After working hard at school, he worked hard at college. He then allowed God to use him in the very hard work of revival — a revival that prepared the hearts of a nation for a war that would liberate them from the oppression of English rule.)

Jonathan Edwards married Sarah Pierrepont and later became president of Princeton College, resolving, “Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”

Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ Godly training of their children “had a ripple effect.” According to A.E. Winship’s A Study in Education and Heredity (1900), the Edwards’ descendants include:

1 U.S. Vice-President

3 U.S. Senators

3 governors

3 mayors

13 college presidents

30 judges

65 professors

80 public office holders

100 lawyers

100 missionaries

Winship’s study also touches on the “Jukes” family, and gives the account of one Richard Dugdale, who visited New York prisons in 1877 and encountered 42 inmates, all with different last names. Each was a descendant of a Dutchman named “Max,” who was, according to Winship, an idle, irreverent, uneducated drunkard.

Max’s descendants, who reportedly cost the state more than $1,250,000, included:

7 murderers

60 thieves

50 women of debauchery

130 other convicts

310 paupers, who spent a combined 2,300 years in poorhouses

400 descendants physically wrecked by indulgent living

The domino effect your decisions have will carry on throughout history, long after you’re gone. However, you have control over which way your domino falls and in which direction you will send your descendants.

Will you choose to work hard and nourish your progeny with a strong current of righteous good, or will you play hard and inflict your wanton children on the rest of society like a plague of destructively hungry locust?

The choice is yours, but I urge you to choose wisely and let your voice echo throughout the ages, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:15