Friday, June 1, 2018

Called to Work.

I hope it's no surprise to you that you are Called to Work. The idea that working hard at something came as a result of the fall used to be more commonplace than it is now, but we still live in that world a little bit. We still think hard work is a negative. We assume that we have it made if we have to work less, or if our work is not too challenging.

Difficult work comes in many forms. There is work that is physically hard and work that is mentally hard. Some jobs take a severe emotional toll on a person and others insight an ungodly amount of stress. And while all jobs probably have some aspect to them that is hard, most jobs still have a root of goodness in them. And most of the jobs you readers likely have can be used to glorify God.

Working was something God ordained, after all. He gave Adam dominion and authority over all the animals on the earth and commanded him and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. That phrase "to subdue it" in Hebrew means to bring into subjection, or to bring into bondage. The earth was theirs to control, to maintain, and can you imagine what a job that would be? Genesis 2:15 says that after God created Adam He put him in the garden to work it and keep it. The first job in history!

It's easy to get caught up in thinking about which specific job we are called to and which jobs have a more honorable, holy calling. That is not only a false way to segregate work, but it is a dangerous route and often leads to procrastination, inaction, and judgement between believers. I've mentioned a few times during this series my goal of encouraging people to take their eyes off big life choices like where to live, what job to take, who to marry, etc., and instead focus on what the bible specifically calls us to. And working is just another one of those things.

It is true that some jobs are simply necessary, and not usually very glamorous, but they just need to be done. Pumping gas, doing laundry, cleaning toilets, cooking food: they have the likelihood of being simple, boring, easy, and monotonous. But what happens when no one does them? These types of jobs bless others in pivotal ways even though they are not highly-esteemed or sought-after positions. However, as a Christian, we can choose to do these jobs and infuse them with the joy of the Lord, which makes an incalculable difference in the lives of others.

Let's look at what the bible says about work. Here are a few verses that give us some good information...

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

"But if anyone does not provide for this relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8

"But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need." Ephesians 4:28

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven." Matthew 5:16

Some of these verses talk about working as in earning an income, or having a job. Others speak to actions that seem unassociated with money, like acts of kindness or service. I assure you, they all fall under the same umbrella. Why? Because money should not change the way we act toward others. It shouldn't change our disposition, our eagerness to do well, or our willingness to work without complaining. Money is simply a tool to use but it is the actual work we do that has a purpose.

What is that purpose? I see two things popping out from these scriptures, but the second idea supports the first.

1- to glorify God and show His goodness to others

2- to provide for the needs of others

When we work with happy hearts, as unto Christ, we demonstrate the goodness of God to unbelievers. They see us doing good for others and can see the reality of God! Without these works, we are just another person spouting off what we think is true or right. But with these works, people actually experience God. Genuine faith in God requires that we take action, as James talks about in James 2:14-26. Not only does our action show God to others, it reveals what we truly believe in our hearts.

Providing for the needs of others is the other main point of working that I see in all these verses. James also talks about this in the same passage referenced above, primarily that if we are only saying nice things to those who are suffering and simply offering prayer for others without any actual action, our faith is not real. He basically says that if we believe in God's gift of Jesus Christ, it will move us to action, to doing good works unto others. Paul emphasizes this in several of his epistles too. The thief ought to work not just so he won't steal, but so that he can give. The husband or leader of the home works to provide for those in his care, and in Titus 3:8 he says that the people in the church ought to devote themselves to good works for the benefit of other people.

It's really easy to look at our jobs (if you have one) and see how it benefits your family. But it's a lot harder to look at your entire day, week, year, or life and wonder if you are truly committing yourself to the kind of work God would have you do. Not in your career necessarily, but in your day-to-day actions. How devoted are you to working on behalf of your unbelieving neighbor? How committed are you to making life easier or better for your spouse or children? How likely are you to work with or without pay so that the unbelieving around you would see God in your sacrifice?

These are direct, pointed questions, and you should expect them to make you wiggle a bit in your chair (don't worry, they make me squirm too). I tend to be stingy with my time and my kids are rather demanding with much of my time, so every day I feel like I am constantly evaluating and navigating this type of question and response routine. It's hard to give so much of yourself, with or without pay. It's hard to make all of your work about something other that you!

But really, our entire existence is about far more than ourselves. When we deny it, we are living a lie. When we think our work is for us, for our personal gratification or benefit, we are trying to grasp and hang on to what God meant to be given to others. Don't get me wrong, there is often deep personal satisfaction in doing our job well and feeling like we were made for it, but we were made for God's work, not our own. When our work is glorifying to God, and for the benefit of others, and when we are happy to have it be so, we gain a peace that cannot be compromised. Don't you want that? I know I do! A peace that interruptions, disappointment, sorrow, and pain cannot take away... that's what Jesus offers. And when our work is centered on Jesus' work, on the goodness it does for others and the testimony it is for God, our work becomes fulfilling and life-giving.

So, what does that mean for my habits and routines this month? I'm not totally sure yet (what's new)! I am going to be participating in a blog-hop series with some writer friends revolving around the word Calm next week, so be looking for that. I hope to post some more though-provoking questions in the 12 Months of Called Facebook group I've set up and I hope that will bless your thought-life, your intentions, and your actual work. I have a lot of other books to catch up on so I think I will just work through those and see what comes from all of it.

The one thing I know I will do is fight discouragement with these two purposes in my work. If I know it helps others and I know it can glorify God, I will tell myself it matters and will fight to do it with joy. I'm sure this will put a target on my back, but I feel like I am at a turning point in my life where I need to combat the lies that make me feel fruitless and wasteful in what I do. I think we can all stand to question what we are pursuing and ask God whether it is glorifying to Him and others-minded. If it is, we can take a firm stand in knowing that our selfless living is more than worth it. Are you going to stand with me? Are you willing to give, to work, to sacrifice and strive for God and others?

Let's be renewed every day in this choice we are making. Be sure to join the Facebook group to get your free phone wallpaper to remind you of this beautiful, challenging, important endeavor. God is with you, and so am I.

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