Monday, March 21, 2011

Who do you work for?

Below is the message I shared yesterday at Good Shepherd as we are in the midst of a Lenten series focused on submitting our lives to God.  This message is focused on submitting our work to God.  

Colossians 3:22 - 25 (The Message)
 22-25Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work.

John 6:27-33 (The Message)

 27"Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last."  28To that they said, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?"   29Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works."   30-31They waffled: "Why don't you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what's going on? When we see what's up, we'll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  32-33Jesus responded, "The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world."
This week we are continuing to look at submitting our lives to God in thanks for what God in Christ has done for us. 
As we do that, our focus today is on submitting our work to God.    Not all of us have a job – but all of us have work.
All of us do something – a job, school, parenting, chores, etc.  When you think about it, most of us – if not all of us – do a lot more than one thing.  All of us have and do work. 
The question I want us to think about this morning is why?  Why are we working?  Not why do we have to work, but why are we working.  Maybe a better way ask the question is like this: who or what are you doing your work for?
This is a question that might seem to have a million different answers:  We do our jobs for our bosses – and maybe for ourselves.  We do chores and the work of parenting for our families.  We do our schoolwork for ourselves maybe, but definitely our parents.  Etc.
These answers are all probably ‘correct’ or true, and they point, I think, to the fragmented nature of much of our lives – we have a different person or reason for doing each piece or kind of work before us.
But this fragmented, piecemeal life of multiple and sometimes conflicting motivations is not the life that Christ calls and invites us to.
Submitting our work to God means beginning to let God really work in and through your life. 
It means, almost by default, that you are opening yourself up to not just little changes, but true transformation
This transformation begins by recognizing that there is – or really should be – only one answer to the question of why or who we are working for. 
One translation of verse 23 of our passage from Colossians says it this way: whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.
Understanding the work before us this way doesn’t allow us to compartmentalize our lives. 
Instead, when we begin to see that all that we do – from the most mundane act (taking out the garbage, for instance) to the most important act of service (providing food or clothing for a family in need, maybe) is all to be done as if it was done for God and to God. 
When we look at our lives and our work that way everything matters. 
When we look at the work before us – and the stuff that fills up our daily lives, our schedules begin to take on eternal meaning and significance.
When we understand that everything we do, we are to do with our whole hearts and to do as if we are doing it for the Lord, that means that there is nothing that ‘doesn’t matter’ and that there is no ‘little’ or ‘small’ thing. 
That can be an intimidating prospect – what I am doing matters. 
But what an exciting opportunity – to be able to say that something – anything (everything?) that I am doing, the work that is before me, matters. 
The work we have before us: the daily routines of our jobs, the unrewarding tasks of maintaining a healthy marriage or family, the work of our hands – all of it matters. 
All of it matters, not just to you or to me, but to God.  That is crazy.  And it is an amazing truth that points to the wonderful privilege that we are given to participate with Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit to bring the Kingdom of God near to our world. 
But it means changing the way we view our lives and the things we do with them. 
It means that submitting our work to God isn’t about what we do on Sunday mornings or ‘just’ when we are doing service or mission work. 
It is, instead about what we do – and why we do – everything.
I was first exposed to this reality in a conversation with my mother when I was a teenager
As many of you know I grew up heavily involved in service and mission projects. 
For as long as I can remember mission work, whether local mission projects that take a few hours every couple of weeks or concentrated work that took place on mission trips, has been an important part of my life. 
One Sunday night after a weekend spent with my youth group doing a few different mission projects, I was feeling pretty good about myself and the work that we had done. 
My mom, however, had a list of questions for me: Was my homework done?  Why wasn’t my room clean?  Was I planning on doing any of the chores that were my responsibility around the house? 
I was expecting to be able to relax and maybe even be pampered a little bit – I mean I had just spent the weekend doing ‘important’ work FOR GOD!
Instead I was greeted with those questions and one more piercing one: why was it so easy for me to serve others and be a great worker everywhere else but so hard for me at home? 
As you might have already figured out, my mom doesn’t really pull any punches – but she wasn’t trying to be mean or make me feel guilty. 
She was asking me to consider what my real witness was and why I was or wasn’t doing something.
Now, I am very much a work in progress and Traci will tell you it still isn’t always easy to get me to work on the chores that need done around the house
But I have never forgotten that question my mother asked me and I believe it is one that we all need to keep in mind  
If we understand, as I think we should, that all the work that is put before us – from explicit service and mission work, to writing reports or memorizing facts for work or school, to taking out the garbage and cleaning our rooms
If we understand all of it to be work that is to be done for God and to the glory of God then, at least in my life, it has to radically change the way that I go about my everyday life and my everyday work. 
If we begin to respond to God’s call to do all things for God and for the glory of God, not only will be begin to be transformed, but we will begin to transform the lives around us, the community around us and even the world around us – bringing the kingdom of God near to all that see and experience the work of our hands and minds. 
When we begin to see the value, meaning and importance of even the little or seemingly insignificant things we do – it allows others to see the meaning, significance and value in their lives. 
This is an amazing gift that can’t be overstated and this is a grace – a saving grace - that comes from God to those around us through the way we work at what is put before us. 
This change doesn’t usually happen overnight, so begin with whatever you consider to be your primary work: your job, school, parental responsibilities, whatever. 
Begin viewing each task that comes with that work as a job to be done for God and to God’s glory. 
When we submit the work of our hands and minds to God, it transforms us and in that transformation invites others into relationship with God. 
In all and whatever we do, then, let us do it with our whole hearts, as working for the Lord.

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