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What Kind of Work Does God Appreciate?

Have you ever heard someone say that the only kind of work fully approved by God is “full-time Christian work,” you know, like pastor or missionary? The corollary to this idea is that your “secular” work matters, but it only matters as you give to the church, or to others who are doing full-time Christian work.  On our college tours last year with Elisabeth, we heard this idea loud and clear at a Christian college she decided not to attend. Basically, the administrator who was holding forth spoke of how some of their students would make their lives count by supporting others who were doing the “real work” in the world. Whenever you hear a Christian speak like this, you know that person has missed one of the most important teachings of the Reformation: the doctrine of vocation, which Gene Edward Veith defines

“When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And he does. The way he gives us our daily bread is through the vocations of farmers, millers, and bakers. We might add truck drivers, factory workers, bankers, warehouse attendants, and the lady at the checkout counter. Virtually every step of our whole economic system contributes to that piece of toast you had for breakfast. And when you thanked God for the food that he provided, you were right to do so.” 

In the same way, God protects us not by placing angels with flaming swords outside our homes, but with men and women who have the vocation of police. And though He can miraculously heal us, usually He does so with doctors and nurses, people who have a medical vocation. And how does He nurture us? Not by magically infusing knowledge into our heads and making us feel loved, but with people who answer His call to be parents…so being a mommy or a daddy is a vocation too, and vastly important in the eyes of God. In other words, there is no such thing as “secular” work. All work is God’s work. And oh, how we need to keep this in mind.

Shredding at Saputo

This summer, for instance, Elisabeth labored in the “shred” department at Saputo Cheese in Alto. It was third shift, from 11 p.m. – 7 a.m., and hard work. I would often drop her off, and a few times, before she headed into the factory, I would remind her that she was a part of making food (pizzas!) to feed the world, and that therefore her work was noble and important. She was in fact, part of the way that God was answering the prayers of His children, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In this way, her work was no less important than my work of studying God’s word and preparing a message for His people. Both the cheese, and the sermon, are necessary for the sustenance of life. So now we understand why Paul wrote to the Colossians…

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

So, today, if you are discouraged about your work as an accountant, or prison guard or landscaper, remember who you are serving. If wiping runny noses is wearing you out and getting you down, keep in mind not only that you are serving your unappreciative child, but that you are raising the next generation for Jesus…and therefore everything you do matters deeply to God.

For Thursday, August 13th: Colossians 4

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Turning Point In My Life, Conclusion

(This is part 3.)

What had I done wrong? What was my problem? Would I ever be able to go into ministry? And then, in a flash, the Spirit of God led me to 2 Corinthians 3:5…

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (NASB)

Now, I still had Jim’s word’s floating in my mind, “Prove yourself in the marketplace,” but in a moment I heard different words, not audibly, mind you, but real nonetheless…

“What are you trying to prove? What makes you think you can prove anything?”

In the future, I would look back on this moment as another precious time in my life when the clouds parted and I saw the sun, bright and clear and distinct. Suddenly I understood. In a flash, in a moment of time, everything was absolutely different in my life.

Of course – why hadn’t I seen this before? Undoubtedly, this idea planted in my brain that I should prove myself had some logic to it, a secular logic to be sure, but logic nonetheless. But logical thinking and biblical thinking are often, not always, miles apart. The idea of “proving myself” was actually full of pride, as if I was operating alone in life.

Just suppose that I had gone on to be a 6 figure salesman or regional rental manager. Operating under the premise I had adopted, I would have assumed that I had done it, that I was able, and I would have taken this convoluted thinking into ministry. That would have been a disaster.

Moses warned the people of Israel:

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” Deuteronomy 8:17-18a (ESV)

What makes you think you can prove anything?

For years I had labored to show myself “worthy” of ministry. Now, I understood that the only way I could ever be “worthy” would be under His power, whether that was the marketplace or ministry. I thought I needed to show myself adequate. But I had failed to remember that everything comes from Him.

2 Corinthians 3:5 was doing a work on my heart. I was not adequate, not to be a salesman or a manager, not to be a pastor, or to be a husband or a father…not to be anything. I was totally dependent on Him. And so, that day in Virginia I determined to make a change in the way I prayed. No longer would I ask God for “help”. “Help” was for bodybuilders who had done lots of repetitions but needed a friend to press the weight just one more time. “Help” was what the person asked for who was already doing 90% of the work, who just needed another 10% to get over the top. But I saw that I couldn’t even really muster 1%. I stopped asking Him to help me, and I started asking Him to enable me.

I walked that trail with a song in my heart and a glorious freedom that I hadn’t known for years. Never had I ever been more thrilled to find myself weak and unable. It was a sort of gospel déjà vu.

How so? In days to come, I would see that this Spirit-driven insight – I am unable – was simply another aspect of the gospel for day to day life. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” Colossians 2:6 (ESV) Inability was the one key insight I needed to come to faith – I am unable to live a righteous life. I am a sinner. Therefore, I am unable to please God…I need Jesus – His work on the cross and resurrection. But now I was beginning to understand that I was unable to do anything apart from Him. And just as the gospel freed me to rest in Christ’s righteousness, now this fresh view of the gospel freed me to rest in His power for everyday life.   Of course, I would still need to step out and work hard in whatever He called me to do, but now I had a fresh understanding that even this stepping out was driven by His power and grace, and certainly all the results were His as well.

The greatest blessing of that day? I saw that I no longer had anything to prove.

I began to think about how I should go into ministry.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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