…Will Work for Jesus (Reflections on our Work as Ministry)

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surveys reveal that 65% of American workers are unhappy with their jobs. Many of them go to work simply because they have no other choice.  They would probably tell you that they are unhappy with what they do because it is the same old routine day after day, & their life seems to be a meaningless merry-go-round with no real purpose to it.

One of our problems in life is that we divide everything into secular & sacred categories. We say that over here is the secular, and over there is the sacred. And we spend the best hours of every day in the secular world. We say, “We’d really like to serve God, but we have to spend so much time on our secular job.”  So we give God a few hours on Sunday morning.

You can see that sacred & secular pattern in the Old Testament., but not in the New Testament. The Old Testament says, “Over here is the sacred with its temple & priests, & everything else is secular.” But the New Testament teaches that we’re all priests, our body is a temple, that God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, and  every day is holy.

The New Testament tells us that we can take God with us wherever we go and that He can be a part of everything we do.

Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life in the little town of Nazareth helping his earthly father out in the carpenter shop. Why? Because work is important. Because people need houses. Because people need yokes for their oxen. Because people need chairs on which to sit and tables on which to serve their food.

We can serve God in the way we work and where we work every day!

You say, “You don’t know where I work. You don’t know my boss. You don’t know the kind of people I have to work with. You don’t know the power struggles that go on, the flirtations, the cursing.

Let me share a scripture with you. In Ephesians 6, beginning in vs. 5, is a passage that I think is very appropriate today. It is addressed to slaves, but the closest thing to them today are workers like you & me. So let’s substitute the word, “worker,” for “slave” & listen to what God has to say.

“Workers, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” (Ephesians 6:5-6)

Now that’s interesting. He’s saying, “Even though your boss is a two-legged monster who is about as pagan as anyone you’ve ever seen, do your work for him as though you are doing it for Christ.”

I want to take you back to the Old Testament for a moment and remind you of Daniel. You’ve heard about him ever since you were children in Sunday School. Daniel was carried away captive to Babylon, taken from Jerusalem where he was surrounded by people who believed what he believed, who believed in one God.

But now he is in a totally pagan environment in Babylon. As time passed, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed him a government official. But as Daniel worked in his office, sitting behind his desk, doing all his duties, he was able to serve God. And King Nebuchadnezzar respected his faithfulness to God as Daniel rose higher and higher among the leaders of the country.

But when King Nebuchadnezzar died, the Babylonian Empire began to disintegrate, and finally it was conquered by King Darius. Once again Daniel’s outstanding qualities were recognized, and he was soon appointed one of the highest officials in all the land.

But there came a time when pressures were put on him to do things that were against God. So Daniel said, “That’s enough. That’s as far as I can go.” And King Darius, who had become his friend, was forced to have Daniel thrown into the lion’s den.

You know the story. God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was unharmed. The next morning, Darius came rushing to the lion’s den, expecting to find the mangled bones of Daniel.  Listen to what Darius says in vs. 20 of the 6th chapter of Daniel. It says, “When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, `Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’”

Isn’t that interesting? Daniel worked in a pagan environment. He worked in a pagan office. He worked for a pagan king. And yet, the one thing that that pagan king knew about Daniel was that Daniel served God continually.

Do the people you work with know that? Do you try to serve God continually in the environment of your work? Have you seen yourself as a walking temple of God? Have you been able to put God first where you work, so that your fellow workers know that you are trying to serve God?

Now the third thing I want you to see is that all of us are ministers, no matter who or where we are. The Bible teaches that all of us are ministers no matter what our job description or workplace might be. If you’re a Christian, you’re a minister of God. Your ministry is now, wherever you are, that’s your sphere of ministry.

Let me ask you, “Why was Daniel in Babylon?” And of course, the answer is that the Babylonian army took him to Babylon. But notice, in Jeremiah 29:7 God says, “I have carried you into exile.” “I have carried you from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

Here is Daniel in a pagan place, surrounded by pagan people, but the Bible says that that is exactly where God wanted him to be.  It’s a God-given opportunity to influence that person for good.

That person whom you work with every day, whose eyes you look into, whose voice you hear, who’s shared hopes and dreams with you, who’s told you about the new car they’ve bought and about their kids and family, doesn’t it make sense that that person is the one God would like to see you leading to the Lord?  When you go to work and see that place and those people as your God-given opportunity for service.

Back in that 29th chapter of Jeremiah, God gave instructions to the children of Israel as to how they should behave in a pagan environment when they were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. He said, “Now here is how I want you to live as my children.” Listen to these very plain and practical words beginning in vs. 5.

He said, I want you to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Those are very practical instructions, and very up to date as Jeremiah passed on the thoughts of God to a people in exile. I think we’re in exile. “This world is not my home. I’m just a’passing through.” Jesus is building a real home for me, and I’m anxiously awaiting that home.

But in the meantime, I’m here. And while I’m here, God says, “Settle down. Build a house. Plant a garden. Get married and have children. Find wives for your sons, and marry off your daughters. They too will have children. Go out and work and prosper, because as the city prospers you, too, will prosper.”

You see, He is saying, “You be God’s person. Be different, and yet blend into society. Don’t give in to their way of doing things. ”

You carry it in your heart this morning. So carry it to the workplace next Tuesday. Someone desperately needs to hear that message. I hope that in some way you can see your workplace as a sacred place, where you can serve the Lord, where you can witness your faith with those who don’t know Jesus.

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