In the material world of things around us the farmer works the earth. So also in the spiritual world there are two elements to be considered. It is necessary for man to work the soil of his heart by a free deliberation and hard work. For God looks to man’s hard work and toil and labor. But if the heavenly clouds from above do not appear and the showers of grace, the farmer for all his labor avails nothing.
This is the sign of Christianity. However much man should do and how many justifying works he should perform, he should feel that he has accomplished nothing. And when he fasts, he should say, “I have not fasted.” When he prays, let him think, “I have not prayed.” Persevering in prayer he should say, “I have not persevered. I have only begun to practice asceticism and to labor.” And even if he is righteous before God he should say, “I am not righteous. I am not working, but I begin each day.” He ought every day to have the hope and joy and confidence in the future kingdom and in redemption and say, “If today I have not been delivered, tomorrow I will be.”
It is like the man who plants a vineyard. Before he ever begins work, he entertains hope and joy as he ponders in his mind the vineyards and counts up his profits, even though there is no wine yet. And in this way he puts himself to work. Hope and expectation make him toil enthusiastically and for some time even he undergoes great expenses, paid out of his pocket. It is like one who builds a house or cultivates a field. At first he undergoes expenses to himself, but in the hope of future profits. It is the same way in this matter. Unless a person keeps before his eyes joy and hope, namely, “I shall obtain salvation and life,” he cannot bear patiently afflictions or the burden or accept to travel along the narrow road. For it is the presence of hope and joy that allow him to labor and bear afflictions and the burden of traveling along the narrow path.
St. Macarius, Spiritual Homilies, 26.10 12