Saturday, March 5, 2016

Work, A Divine Calling (The Word “Study,” Part Nine)

Last March as our family sat around the kitchen table on Dad’s birthday, we talked about why we were thankful for our father.   Everyone chimed in with something sweet, and many of our remarks centered on one concept:  work.

From cows and chickens, to pigs and sheep, to ducks and turkeys—my parents have raised just about every farm animal imaginable.  And planted a garden—one that stretched endlessly to the eyes of a seven-year-old weeding it.  Summer days included some time for play, but found us mostly at work—watering trees, baling hay, picking raspberries and corn, or completing any number of other tasks.

Work was always a way of life for us, and it’s important to God, as well.  In fact, when God set Adam and Eve in the garden, He commanded them to keep it—to work tending it.  First Thessalonians reminds us that we are to study—to labor, to strive, to vie—to “work with [our] own hands.”

Once a missionary visited my parents’ home for close to a week.  We children marveled at his work ethic, for he seemed never to stop applying his hand to some endeavor.  At the dinner table, he explained his secret:  “I find it relaxing to work at different tasks,” he told us.  “When I have exhausted myself splitting wood outside, for example,” he explained, “I’ll go in and study my Hebrew Bible.”  Thus he found himself continually employed in labor but simultaneously refreshed.

I’ve often thought of that missionary’s words.  Relaxation isn’t necessarily the absence of work; it may be a different task, but it may still be work.

As believers, we ought to carefully apply ourselves to working with our hands.  According to commentator David Guzik, “Manual labor was despised by ancient Greek culture. They thought that the better a man was, the less he should work. In contrast, God gave us a carpenter King, fisherman apostles, and tent-making missionaries.

As in Thessalonica, modern Americans often despise work.  Many spend hours on video games, social media, and the like, foregoing important responsibilities and forgetting work that needs completion.  As Christian women, working with our own hands should be part of our daily reality. 

The right hand is often pictured throughout the Scriptures as a source of strength.  I am right-handed and love to consider the words of Psalm 121:5— “the LORD is [my] . . . shade upon [my] right hand.”  As I complete my many tasks, God is there.  His shade provides perfect rest that can soothe and cool me in the heat of the day, in the midst of the conflicts of life.  And yet how easy it is to go at our tasks alone, unaware of this abiding presence of our God.  How wonderful to realize that we can bask in the shade of His goodness and strength as we complete the work He has ordained!

But sometimes those tasks seem confusing.  At what responsibilities should we most endeavor?  Which are more important?  Less important?  Not important?  What of the duties that others seem to throw upon us?  First Corinthians 11:3 alludes to the simplicity that is present in Christ.  When we find ourselves overwhelmed with the complexity of life's work, we may have missed that clarifying simplicity.   

Christ’s simplicity is reflected in the words of Matthew 4:19, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Understanding that following Jesus results in our being fishers of men will help other jobs find perspective. 

Evangelist Mark Cahill explains it this way: “Life is very simple.  The world complicates it.”  In a sermon entitled “Watchmen on the Wall,” Cahill says, “I stand at the front door before I walk out [each day] and I say, ‘God the Father, I’m all Yours today.  Order my steps.  Move me …how you want to move me…”  And He asks God to use him.  Mark has countless stories of amazing spiritual conversations he’s had with people about Jesus.  People he’s met as he’s gone about his daily work—in hotels, on airplanes, at restaurants.

Early this January, I realized that even though I might consider myself a hard worker in the physical and academic sense of the word, I’d failed to embrace the call of “fisher of men” upon my life.  While I didn’t waste time at many things, I’d failed to completely embrace the reality that every day I could do something to win lost souls for Jesus. 

So I decided that, by God’s grace, I was going to go into the world each day looking for someone with whom I could share Christ.  I determined, by God’s grace, to seek to have a spiritual conversation with at least one individual each day.  This decision has had a remarkable influence upon me in the past few months.  I have found that understanding this one purpose has marked my daily Bible reading with passion, for I crave God’s influence upon me and His power through me.  Surrendering my all to Him has helped me be aware of others and brought me to a more regular habit of praying in the Spirit, for without Him I can do nothing.  And I am finding that living with the reality that lost souls are all around me is bringing incredible clarity concerning the labor of my hands. 

Shopping has become an opportunity to look for lost souls and to demonstrate the compassion of Christ.  Work, which is good and ordained of God, can be properly placed so that it does not consume me to the point that I lack time to remind others of eternity.  In fact, my every endeavor can be filtered through the lens that every person will meet an eternal destiny.  Laboring with other believers offers moments to edify.  Working alongside the unsaved provides opportunities to see them reached for Christ. 

Psalm 90:17 expresses beautifully a prayer we can offer to God concerning our every endeavor:  “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”  We can work, but only God can establish everything we do. How amazing to realize that as we labor daily, God’s beauty can be upon us!  That beauty of Christ is so necessary in winning a lost world to Him! The world and other believers can see Jesus reflected through us as we perceive that following Christ means fishing for men.  In all we do, in every task at which we work, let us labor, understanding our call to the work of our blessed Master! 

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