The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Glory in the Grind’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 6/18/2017, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.
Glory in the Grind
Work is important. Work should be satisfying. Work should be fun!
If you’re like me, you have to work for a living. You wake up early and head to the office. Some days you feel like it, but most days you probably don’t. Work can become a grind: doing the same thing, day after day, to pay your bills. My intent this morning is to entice you to move away from a model where you work because we have to, and realize that God wants you to work because you get to. The difference between loving your work and hating your job is finding glory in the grind.
We don’t have to work for salvation. Jesus already did the work on our behalf! Paul explained this in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.. – Eph 2:8-9
We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift: we couldn’t earn it if we tried! But salvation looks like something. So while our salvation is a gift we cannot earn – one which we cannot purchase with good works – the natural fruit of becoming grounded in Jesus Christ is good works:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Eph 2:10
God created us for good works. We are saved by grace; but genuine salvation means God’s love will work out of us.
But this is key: We don’t have to prepare the works! God has already prepared them for us. We don’t have to dream up things to do, or figure out what to do with our lives in order to be happy. All we have to do is ask God – “Lord, what do You want me to do?” – and listen for the answer.
The Importance of Work
Work is important. We should never keep busy for the sake of not sitting still; but we must realize there are things on this earth God put us here to do! Look at the example Paul, Silvanus & Timothy set for the church at Thessalonica:
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. – 2 Thess 3:7-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy didn’t have to work. They could have exercised their authority and taken up a love offering to meet their needs! But they wanted to work. They understood the importance of setting an example as leaders in the church. They refused to be a burden to anyone; so they worked!
The apostles were not just consumers; they were also producers. They received from God, and then went out and multiplied themselves in the early church. They went out and worked – not for their salvation, but from their salvation – and the Lord, “…added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Is Your Work Fun?
We don’t have to work; we get to work! But here’s the problem we all run into: work isn’t always fun, is it?
I know a lot of people who are working for the weekend. They view their job as a means to an end – something they have to get through every week so they can go out and have fun from Friday night through Sunday.
I know a lot of people who can’t wait for retirement. But the average retirement age is increasing – it keeps getting later and later every year! That means we risk spending our whole lives working towards a finish line that is a moving target. What’s more, only twenty five percent of retired people actually plan to stop working altogether.
Do you know what the Bible retirement plan is? There isn’t one! Abraham was one hundred years old – and Sarah was ninety – when they had Isaac. Imagine changing diapers at age 100. Picture running around after a toddler at age 102. Can you see yourself dealing with a pre-teenager’s attitude at age 112?!
Moses was eighty years old when God called him to lead the people of Israel up out of Egypt. He was, “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian…” (Ex 3:1), when the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to go demand freedom from Pharaoh. Moses didn’t respond to the burning bush by telling God, “Sorry Lord, I’m retired!” He knew the importance of being used by God; so he went to work!
I’ve had plenty of days when I haven’t wanted to go to work. I work at our church five – sometimes six – days per week. Recently, I started a volunteer internship at a non-profit in New York City on what used to be my one day off, counseling men who are recovering from homelessness and addiction. It’s a worthy endeavor, but it’s work!
This past Thursday, I was walking from the subway to my internship, and I remember praying to God, “Lord, how am I going to do this for another two years? Rest is important – so how am I going to get through this internship without a real day off every week?” But in the midst of my complaining, God responded. He asked me to remember what He put me here to do. My prayer for months had been, “Lord, use me. Pour me out as a drink offering over New York City.” The Lord had answered my prayer! So what right did I have to complain because I was busy doing the things God called me to do? I had to remember that it’s not about me; it’s about Him! The greatest joy any of us can ever experience comes from being used by God for His work!
Too many of us spend our entire lives going through the motions, and working to get to some undefined, amorphous finish line called “retirement.” We make ourselves miserable at work, looking forward to a time at the end of our lives when we can finally be free.
But what if God designed work to make you free?
God’s Will for Work
God’s will for us is to love our work; not to escape it! God designed you for something specific; and we find fulfillment and happiness – abundant joy! – when we walk out that purpose instead of running from it.
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, spent his life searching for fulfillment. The Bible calls him the wisest and wealthiest king to ever live (1 Kings 10:23). He was a man who had it all! After years of searching, here was his takeaway:
Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. – Eccl 5:18-20
It is good and fitting to enjoy the good of our labor! The reward we receive for doing the work God designed us to do is our inheritance – our heritage. Work is not a punishment from God; it is a gift; and when we go out and do what He has called us to do, God keeps us busy with joy!
How to Enjoy Your Work
So how do we step into the joy God longs for us to have in work? How can we make sure to enjoy our work, no matter what?
1) Know Your Boss
Who do you work for? Researchers agree that your supervisor is directly linked to job satisfaction. So, who is your boss? Are you working for a person? Or are you reporting directly to God?
Paul’s challenge to the Church at Colosse was, make God your boss:
Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. – Col 3:22-25
You might get a paycheck from a person at your company; but the real compensation comes from God. At the end of the day, you report to Him! When you make everything you do a form of worship to God – when you understand that everything you do at work is an act of service to Jesus – you will find joy in your work.
2) Know Your Co-Workers
Who do you work with? As a believer in Jesus who is filled with His Holy Spirit, you never have to work alone. Jesus is with you – not only in your prayer closet, but also in your office – every single day. His Holy Spirit empowers you to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Your prayer every morning before work can be so much more than, “Lord, what do You want me to do today?” It can be, “Lord, what are we going to do today?”
3) Know Your Purpose
Why do you work? Try something fun this week. When you meet someone new, ask them, “What do you do for a living?” Nine out of ten times, they will start their response with, “I am.” I am a teacher. I am a lawyer. I am an actor. I am a pastor.
When someone asks us what we do, we naturally respond by telling them who we are. We let our profession define us. But here’s the thing. You’re not a teacher; you’re a Christian who teaches. You’re not a lawyer, you’re a Christian who practices law. You’re not an actor; you’re a Christian with big-screen talent. You’re not a pastor; you’re a Christian who pastors people. First and foremost, you’re a Christian – a little Christ – and the rest is just details.
God put you where you are for a reason. He made you on purpose. No matter where you work – and what you do – your specialty is loving people. You are in your field – and in your office – to love people no one else can love, and to save souls no one else can reach.
© Michael D. White, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.