Making good work

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Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Dennis Acott

Reading

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 3:22-4:6

I must say it did seem rather ironic, at first, to discover that I had been asked to speak on the subject of work. After all, today is the first month anniversary of my move into full retirement! Looking around, in the 9am service anyway, I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be quite a few people here in the same situation as me!

On the other hand, I suppose it really depends on what we mean by &squo;work’. Thinking about it, would we really say that &squo;work’, for the Christian, always falls within the narrow definition of ‘paid employment’ for most of us all of the time?

I looked up the definition of &squo;work’ in a copy of the Chambers Dictionary and this is what I found.

The exertion of oneself in physical or mental effort made in order to achieve or make something; labour, study, research, etc; employment; a task or tasks to be done.

For those of us who are still in paid employment, working for an employer, we would be the 21st century equivalent of the ‘slave’ referred to in verse 22 of our reading.
Whatever our level in the company or business we work for, we have a duty to our employer to do our very best at all times, working with such integrity that our standards do not drop when the beady eyes of the boss are not upon us. Ultimately we are serving the Lord in the position in which He has placed us so we are encouraged to work as though He is our Boss.

On the other hand, if we are the boss, or if we are working at a level which means that we are in a position of responsibility for people reporting to us from ‘below’, in the hierarchy, then we are the equivalent to the ‘master’ referred to in verse 1 of chapter 4. We might be the owner, the manager, a foreman or supervisor. It is beholden upon us to treat our ‘subordinates’ fairly and honestly at all times, remembering that we are also serving a Master who is in Heaven.

Whatever our situation is regarding &squo;work’, whether we are in paid employment or volunteering in the church or community, it is important to uphold the highest possible standards, according to our gifts and abilities. And that means ‘excellence’ not ‘perfection’. Excellence means that we seek to do the very best of which we are capable. Seeking perfection puts a totally unnecessary strain upon us and, I would suggest, is not godly.

Bill Johnson says,

Perfectionism is like religion (form without power). Our job is to represent Jesus on earth and we are equipped by Holy Spirit to do that (with love, purity and power).

If we were to compare these with law and grace, then Excellence would be like living under grace, which is the position every Christian is in. Perfectionism, on the other hand, equates to living under law, under standards which none of us is able to attain, consistently if at all.

It is also very important to get our priorities right when it comes to work. It should not be the be all and end all of our lives. Too many men, in particular, have sacrificed family life on the altar of career advancement, attempting to justify their actions by claiming to be doing this to make a better life for the family. Well, the number one need of our families is for ‘quality time’ spent with us, as powerfully illustrated by the music/video of the song “American Dream”, by Casting Crowns, played in the 10.30am service.

So, what can you and I do? For a start, whatever job we find ourselves doing and under whatever circumstances, do it to the best of our ability, aiming for excellence, not perfection. Verses 2-4 encourage us to pray. It is vitally important that we pray for our church, its mission and its leaders. Everyone of us, regardless of our age or physical capabilities, can manage this.

Recently, we were asked to volunteer to pray for an hour each Monday during the period the Winter Shelter is operating in St. Luke’s. The whole ministry of the church is largely dependent upon volunteers and, let’s be honest, we are not going to win many prizes in this church for volunteering, are we? If we all think that someone else will do it then nobody will. Or, more likely, the same people who end up doing almost everything anyway will chip in and further exhaust themselves. So this is a plea for us all to be more aware of what we could do if we really put our minds to it and realized that, as a member of the Body, our contribution is not only important but essential.

Look also at verses 5 and 6 of our reading, seeing them in the context of witnessing and/or evangelism. We are not all called to be evangelists but we are all expected to be evangelistic. Paul is referring to everyday situations here, not huge crusades or foreign missionary trips. The one thing that we all have in common is that we will find ourselves in everyday situations every day! And so we will inevitably meet people, ‘outsiders’ (i.e. non-Christians).

As I quoted earlier, from Bill Johnson,

Our job is to represent Jesus on earth and we are equipped by Holy Spirit to do that.

Too many of us are caught in the trap of not stepping out to be Jesus in the lives of our ‘neighbours’ because we do not know what might happen, or we expect nothing to happen. Expecting nothing to happen is a self-fulfilling prophecy! Often, we only find out what God will do as we step out, trusting Him to be there and to back us up.

John 14: 11-12 says,

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

This is a promise of Jesus and He has never made a promise that He will not keep.

So then, however you seek to apply the words of this epistle from Paul to your life, remember that any kind ‘work’ you do is ultimately for the Lord and His Kingdom on earth.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Amen

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