Faith & Work Series: The Ministry of Vocational Work
My purpose today:
ü Remind you of our two focuses as Christ followers.
ü Show you the value and work of vocational work in the Kingdom of God.
What would you compare the Church of God to? What is it like?
Doug Spada gives us an analogy of the church that I think is pertinent for us. Often we think of the church as a cruise ship—once we are on board life should be good—that God wants us to be relaxed, or even physically rich. Reading Acts and other scripture, I think it is clear that is never what God intended for the church. Rather a better analogy is seeing the Church more like an aircraft carrier. On an aircraft carrier, they have one collective purpose. Everyone on the ship has a purpose, or else they wouldn’t be there! They recognize they are far from home and have a job to do.
As God’s Church, we are far more like an aircraft carrier. We have a collective purpose to work towards God’s kingdom. We are not home yet, but we all have a job to do. Everyone has a purpose that they have been called to.
We need to have a renewed view of vocational lay work in the eyes of God. Last week we talked about how the daily work of our hands has value in the eyes of God. Even when it is not directly kingdom building, God honors our efforts done with His glory in mind.
Eric Liddell, the man the movie “Chariots of Fire” was written about, was a British runner in the twenties, and a rather successful one. He once said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” In other words, He knows God loves it when Eric simply used his ability to run. It is the idea that God smiles on us when we use our gifts, especially with his honor in mind. And God smiles on us when we find simple joy through our gifts and abilities.
But we also need to know that our personal work HAS a part to play in this big picture kingdom work. We often struggle integrating work and faith, as if they are something that don’t naturally integrate—as if they are opposites. But we see that is not true when we look back at what God called us to.
Called to Two Purposes
Throughout history God has given man a task to do. Adam was given the work in the Garden, and then the work of the ground. Think of all the other people of the Bible—they were giving a task to do, from Abraham to the Prophets, from Jesus to the disciples.
God gave the disciples a distinct task to do.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
We are also called to grow the kingdom! In one of the many opportunities Jesus had to speak to the crowed, he taught them a very simple and important concept.
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Jesus puts it quite simply. We are to seek his “kingdom” and his “righteousness.”
We are to seek His “Kingdom”
We as followers of Christ are called to seek His Kingdom, first in our acceptance of Christ. But it means more than that. Seeking His kingdom is not just becoming a believer, but to grow His kingdom by helping others to do the same. God has called us to join a great team and endeavor!
We are ALSO to seek His “Righteousness”
We are to focus our lives on Him and living righteously.
Psalm 25:8-14 NIV
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. 10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. 11 For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. 12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. 13 He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. 14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Above we see a Part we play, and a part God plays. Those who believe in the Lord and fear Him (who recognize His authority), will follow His commands. Because God is good and upright, so also we need to follow in an upright way.
His part includes teaching us daily to trust him and live in Him! God will make himself known and honor what we do.
2 Peter 1:3-11 NIV
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If we are not living righteous lives, we are “near-sighted and blind.” We are letting our past sins and sinful nature control us. Now we need to choose to live righteously. The by-product of living righteously is your serving effort to build His kingdom spiritually. When we live righteously, we will love people, tell them about Christ, and inevitably build the kingdom
Again from Paul
These two concepts are reflected in 2 Timothy chapter 2.
2 Timothy 2:15 & 20-21 NIV
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth….
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
We are to live in a way in which we would not be ashamed–to live righteously. And then God will give us noble purposes in His Kingdom work.
Righteous Living = Kingdom Building = Righteous Living = Kingdom Building…
Have you caught the above repeated concepts? Our righteous living will lead to Kingdom building, and as we build God’s kingdom, we are then living righteously! It is a never ending circle. They work together more than we probably know.
Now, how does this correlate to our jobs? Well, let’s ask:
What does a righteous person look like in our Community?
This person has a right relationship ‘UP’ to God by their humility. They have a fear and respect of God, and know all that they have is because of Him. They have this right relationship by their kingdom perspective in their work—they see God at work in them in their daily relationships. Thirdly, they have this right relationship by finding fulfillment in working for God. They find fulfillment in Christ and living for Him in all they do, and not in idolizing their work.
This person also has a righteousness ‘IN’ their heart. They have a purity of heart in mind and in action. They are constantly “putting off the old self” in order to follow their Lord. And they care about what God cares about and has compassion for others.
Finally, this person has a right relationship “OUT” to those they work with, and for whom their efforts currently and eventually affect. They honor God by building healthy relationships with others. They make sure they are being only a righteous influence to others in their daily behavior. And they regularly consider the physical and spiritual needs of others, and effect change to show their value.
Do we look like this in our daily life and community? Which part are we missing—or weakest on?
The above is also a warning that some tend to make their lives work-based and don’t see God using them elsewhere. Some see the difficulty of the task as impossible and refuse work as a mission field for building the Kingdom. These people are missing an extremely important part of their relationship with God and their rule in His kingdom!
So how does our Faith and Work Naturally Integrate?
David Miller suggests four pathways in which people integrate faith and work. These four ‘quadrants’ are commonly used, so let’s talk about each.
To Experience work as itself having intrinsic value in the kingdom of God.
This is what we talked about last week. This is similar to the “UP” relationship we have with God. We see work as from God and being blessed by God. It helps us to find a fulfillment from our work, and keeps us from seeing our work as an enemy or waste of time. (See last week’s message to elaborate on this concept).
Bring Ethics to the workplace in the decisions you make
This is the “IN”—letting our faith affect the heart of who we are in all walks of life. What behavior decisions do you have to make at your Job? What could you choose to do right or wrong at your work place?
R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung give us a powerful chart in their work “Taking Your Soul to Work.” They talk through the 9 Deadly Sins, and quite effetely relates them to our work life. (Often the church has talked about the 7 deadly sins that are popular in catholic traditional teaching, however I agree that there are really 9 categories that sin can be divided into.)
These are sins that we need to first recognize and then be careful to avoid in order to continue our growth in the Lord. These essentially are the virtues that God calls us to. They are NOT vague or “grey-areas” as some might suggest.
Pride - Being imprisoned within yourself as No. 1
Greed - Inflaming the passion to possess more than you have
Lust - Imagining how people can be used for self-interest
Gluttony - Looking for satisfaction through excessive consumption
Anger - Using passion to manipulate and control people and circumstances
Sloth - Doing minimal or the least important work and loving ease
Envy - Feeling pain because of someone else’s advancement or possessions
Restlessness - Thinking and feeling that there’s always something better somewhere else
Boredom - Having insufficient passion or interest to give yourself heartily to work and life
Often we see people get so caught up in their secular vocation, that they are drawn away from their relationship with God and living righteously. But it is not the secular work in and of itself, but rather it is the individual succumbing to the above sins. I want you to be warned and aware of ways the devil, and our sinful nature, keeps us nominal in kingdom work. Then I want to give you ‘tools’ to protect yourself.
We are going to actually talk about EACH of these areas in coming messages this fall. We want to see how these sins pop up in our lives, especially the work place. However, ask yourself, just after reviewing the above list, which do you see as your most difficult area?
Cultivate friendships with coworkers towards the effort to Evangelize
This is the “OUT” of our relationships with others. How is evangelism possible in the work-place? There are three areas that I have identified.
- By Example
- Righteous behavior and decisions—causes others to wonder the differences
- Joyful spirit—causes others to desire the outcome
- By Loving Relationships
- Serving Them
- Taking interest in the pains of others
- Taking interest in the joys of others
- Showing Mercy and Forgiveness
- By Direct Communication
- Tell them why you believe what you do
- Tell them the simple gospel message
- We will talk about this in a coming message
Gain spiritual transformation through Enrichment
David Miller gives this as the final pathway for ‘Faith and Work.’ This has implications both for the “IN” and “OUT” relationships. This is to lean on faith to make decisions and grow more spiritually. As we come up against conflict, we turn to our faith to make the decisions. This is more than just avoiding sin, this is allowing God to give wisdom to our world. Much of the ‘business wisdom’ out there that works, is actually concepts introduced in scripture thousands of years ago.
Could you see yourself doing some of these things? I encourage you to commit to doing something. In your small daily efforts with the help if the Spirit, you could greatly see the kingdom of God growing right in your work place!