On Saturdays, I’m going to start writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Betsy Nichols’ sermon given at Irving Bible Church titled “The Purpose of Our Work.”
Early in my ministry to high schoolers, I was working in two very different on-campus environments. One school was a “magnet” school that gave students from the inner-city access to advanced classes & extracurricular opportunities. The other was a typical suburban high school that had all the advanced classes & extracurricular opportunities. Interestingly, those high schools were about five miles apart geographically…but a universe apart when it came to the overall culture.
This was reflected in my ministries, too. At the “magnet” school, I was welcomed with open arms, full-campus access (was even leading a Bible study to sports teams on the campus with the blessing of the principal) and publicly appreciated. The students were generally Christians, tended to be athletes and we attracted the popular kids. They were enthusiastic about any suggestion we had and loved the meetings and topics and lunchroom visits.
At the suburban high school, the principal told me that I was welcome on campus only if I’d “stay away from the popular kids” (as, he said, they already had all their youth pastors visiting weekly) and he gave me a list of 20 kids that were his more problematic students. They were anything but popular (although a couple were), many were known drug users and come to the meeting after my wife would go out on the porch and literally (and playfully) yell, “Okay, stoners, time to get started!” They didn’t want to play the games and really only wanted to talk about what the Bible said about Jesus rather than my lesson. The meetings were deep, man.
The accolades I tended to get came from the stories from the rougher-edged kids from the suburban high school. People loved hearing the stories of the questions they’d ask or how far a particular kid had “grown” from that first meeting or something crazy and offbeat they’d suggest we do as a small group. People seemed to really get into those stories…and those stories certainly played well when speaking at a church service or at the annual fundraising dinner.
And I had to learn that there was equal beauty in both groups. Sure, they were different…but in MY work, I tried my best to be faithful to both groups. I mean, I loved the kids at the magnet school and took those meetings very seriously and gave them my very best even though they tended to be “easier” and “more fun.” But the other students got my best, too. I tried to prepare just as diligently. I loved on those kids just as much. It was a good lesson for me to learn early in my career, too. Just be faithful to what God’s asking of me on that particular day.
Because, let’s be honest, shall we? It’s a lot harder to keep people listening or draw them in emotionally with a story that goes something like this: “A really morally good linebacker on the football team was in-between churches and started coming to the meetings, and he got involved in a small group of other popular kids and asked solid questions about avoiding spiritual complacency, and he’s been on a steady spiritual growth pace for about two years now.”
It’s kind of like how on the nightly news there are a bunch of stories about crime but nothing about the other 2 million people who went about their daily lives…or how the guy that hit the three run homer gets the highlight on ESPN but there isn’t much time to talk about the guys that drew a walk and ran out an infield single to set that up…or the urban orphan who rises above and graduates from Harvard…you get the idea.
We’re drawn to the spectacular in most areas of our lives.
Which is why we can often downplay our day-in, day-out work lives. I mean, most of us have trouble figuring out what’s so great about going to our jobs in the business world or in education or in civil service or raising children or whatever else. Most of our jobs aren’t flashy. They don’t seem to have much Kingdom significance, right?
But they do…and I’m glad Betsy reminded us of that. There is a purpose to our work…and in Colossians 3 we’re reminded of that very purpose: 3:23-25, “Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people, because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ. For the one who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there are no exceptions.”
Did you catch the purpose? God gave us work, and in whatever we happen to be doing, we are serving Him. In fact, if you understand eternal rewards correctly, how you approach your workaday world affects your inheritance in the Kingdom. When we perform our work, we are actually serving Christ. The purpose, therefore, is to glorify Christ by how you make the widgets. How you sell the widgets. How you sell insurance. Fight fires. Teach pre-K or change diapers. God gave us work in Genesis before the fall of man. You’ll also note we’ll have jobs in the Kingdom of Christ, too. The whole of our lives in worship or none of it is. Again, there’s no division between the secular and sacred.
That purpose is to give glory to Him in whatever it is that He’s provided for us to do at the moment we’re doing it in. Whether it’s hitting singles or being one of many students in the huge graduating class or just going to work.
Betsy said it best in this quote:
I want you to know that if you are sluggin’ it out day-in and day out, you are not invisible to God. Your work is seen. You will be rewarded. Good work is God’s work, and good work done well is an act of love.”
Because Good work is God’s work, no matter how others see it, and if you do it well, no matter who is watching, it’s an act of love…and none of us are invisible to God. He knows the numbers of the hairs on our heads.