What we work for

Finding joy in what we do – what we work for
Small group, MBC, May 11, 2014
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF BUDGETING?
Most of us were taught at a young age about the virtue of saving money. During uncertain economic times, this notion moves from being more than a virtue – it is a necessity. The virtuous nature of saving, though, dissipates when we hold on to our money and assets at the expense of others. WE DO NOT EARN MONEY JUST TO HAVE MONEY; WE EARN MONEY TO MEET OUR NEEDS AND THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.
Why people work.
1. To serve upwardly
Most people—again, I said “most”—tend to believe that we are each made. I sure do. I also believe we were not made so that we can feel entitled, be taken care of from cradle to grave, or lay on the couch watching TV not contributing to this world. Only when we work do we create, and only when we create—build stuff, fix things, solve problems, imagine, invent, and implement—do we honor the One who made us. To do anything less just isn’t right. Anyone disagree?
2. To serve outwardly
Whether it’s assisting a grandmother in finding just the right toy for her grandson, a doctor or nurse helping a patient to heal, or a highway worker fixing that bad pothole so you and I can have a smooth ride, each is engaging in an “act of service.” And when we serve others by helping them reach their goals and adding value to their life, we’re using our mind and body in a meaningful way. Only by working can we do all that.
3. To serve inwardly
It’s when I work that I avoid boredom, discover my purpose, and gain recognition from others. (And, honestly, who doesn’t like a little praise now and then?)
In other words, when I work, I add value to my life—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“When I play victim, feeling the world owes me, who am I serving?” Then, before anyone can respond, I warn them, “Be careful with your answer!” I add that because if I don’t, someone will say, “Me!”
Nope.
When I play victim, there’s no way I am sharpening my skills, acquiring new capabilities, honing my talents, and experiencing those wonderful intangibles that make life good.
It’s true …
Plus, it’s hard to “take pride in our work” when we haven’t done any!
So, in summary, we work to serve our Creator, people, and ourselves. But lest anyone think I am crazy, And it’s great to get paid, too. It’s just not one of the first three reasons we work.
In our passage today, the churches in Macedonia had been collecting an offering to help with the needs of the poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem. The church at Corinth was to participate in this offering, but Paul needed to encourage them to follow through with their gift. He used the example of the Macedonian churches, who gave out of poverty, to challenge the Corinthians to excel in the grace of giving.
God has entrusted us with money resources. Let’s examine why.
READ 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 GENEROSITY COMES FROM INSIDE US.
The Macedonians were known for generosity, not because they had limitless resources, but because they had the grace of God.
DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS VERY GENEROUS? WHY ARE THEY THAT WAY?
Grace was a theme in chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians. Grace is most fully seen in Jesus’s sacrifice for us, but it is also seen by hearing God’s Word – through which God seeks to reconcile us to Himself. But this grace is the sacrificial, spontaneous generosity demonstrated by the Macedonians (a region which included the Philippians, Thessalonians and Bereans)– even despite their deep poverty (some were literally beggers). Paul contrasted their economic situation to the wealth of their giving (lavish or abundant). It wasn’t money – it was spiritual blessings (since they had no money). Material wealth can and often does mask spiritual poverty and it works the other way around. The Macedonians showed they understood where their treasure was:
READ Matthew 6:20-21
WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE?
SHOW A $5 BILL. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO USE THIS SMALL AMOUNT OF MONEY TO SHOW GOD’S LOVE TO SOMEONE?
TAKE A $5 BILL THIS WEEK AND SHOW GENEROSITY SOME WAY THIS WEEK.
READ 2 Corinthians 8:3-7
IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN GIVING OUR HEARTS TO GOD AND GIVING TO HELP PEOPLE?
The churches of Macedonia were not defined by their affliction, but how they responded to it. They did not see themselves as victims of their poverty – rather, they were victors who saw what others might have seen as an disadvantage as opportunity. The Macedonians serve as an example of how to give generously when the economy or economic situations are grim. HOW CAN WE DO THE SAME TODAY?
The Macedonians begged insistently to give an offering to those who needed it. Consider these factors to HOW TO BE GENEROUS:
1. They gave over and above their ability.
2. Their giving was from the heart and not compulsory. They saw it as a privilege. The word diligence can be translated as eagerness, earnestness, zeal or devotion.
3. They gave with the right attitude – they sought the need and met it.
4. They gave themselves to the Lord first.
To follow Christ is to be a part of the entire body of Christ. If the church is universal, and one part is suffering, we are all suffering. That is why the Macedonians wanted to be a part of what was needed – the Corinthians had yet to learn that. Paul never actually mentions money directly – he was communicating a greater concept – ministering to the needs of others. Paul wanted the Corinthians – and us – to learn this practice.
READ 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 GENEROSITY IS OUR RESPONSE TO GOD’S LOVE TO US
Paul gives us his theological rationale for giving. He was not issuing a command like he had done in his first letter to the Corinthians. WHY NOT?
Instead, he was appealing to the spiritual interests of his readers to give. And he was giving them an ability to test the authenticity of their faith. Testing = approved, examined, found worthy. He was testing their diligence and their genuineness. And then he hit them with the ultimate…
Jesus is the highest example of giving. He gave up the riches of Heaven so that you and I could become rich in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.
The Corinthian church was faced with the same theological question we are faced with – how can we shut our eyes to the needs around us?
(Page 34) What ministries motivate you to give? Evangelism, student ministry, ministry to the needy, children’s ministry, supplies, adult ministry, discipleship, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, singles, etc.?
What now?
1. Acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe. Selfishness and pride are the issues that keep us from being generous.
2. Re-prioritize your spending. Decide on what you really need and what you can do to be generous this month.
3. Tithe on Sunday.

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Who we work for – finding joy in what you do series

Finding joy in what we do – Who we work for
MBC, Small group, May 4, 2014
WHAT DID YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR FIRST JOB?
IS JESUS YOUR LEADER OR YOUR BOSS? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEADER AND A BOSS?
FIST – represents the attitude of people toward someone in authority OR the kind of treatment some bosses give to their employees
OPEN HAND – turning from clenched fist resentment and heavy-fisted treatment of others to an attitude of service
Some studies show employees admit to wasting as much as three hours a day! One study emphasized that most employees do just enough to get by. Would you be satisfied to find out that is true of the people you work with or work for you? More importantly, is God pleased?
READ Ephesians 6:5
Scripture does not promote slavery – Paul simply gives us a theme = keep on being obedient in what you are doing – your work is an offering to the Lord. Paul even gave a reminder that slavery was a temporary thing (according to the flesh).
SHOULD PAUL USE HIS PULPIT TO CALL FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY? Paul believed in the power of the gospel to change lives. The change of the heart by the Holy Spirit would have more of a cultural transformation starting in Greece and then all the way to the western world.
Slaves were expected and obligated to obey their masters – this was not altered by their being a believer. In fact, it was reinforced by Paul. It demonstrates our ability to be obedient to our Heavenly master.
HOW WERE SERVANTS TO APPROACH THEIR WORK?
Fear and trembling – uniquely relating to those who seek wholeheartedly after Jesus. It is related to sincerity of heart. We (the weaker party in the relationship) are to obey our earthly masters (employer, owner, bosses, supervisors, etc.) with respect for their position while at the same time maintaining a singleness of purpose, dedicating our heart to whatever we do. Not so much intimidation, but a healthy fear and a desire to do what is pleasing and give one’s best.
READ Philippians 2:12 – same combination of words for salvation indicating a need to be devoted and faithful to the work – “as unto Christ”
The way we do our work is a reflection of our attitude, spiritual disposition and relationship with Jesus.
READ Ephesians 6:6-8
WHAT NEGATIVE MOTIVATION FOR WORKING DILIGENTLY DID PAUL ADDRESS? WHAT POSITIVE MOTIVATIONS SHOULD DRIVE US?
We are not to work to please men – yet that is what many do. There are two commands for us here – the negative = work with integrity all the time (definition of integrity is who you are when nobody else is looking). The positive is to work for God instead of earthly employers – can only be done when using an inward motivation. (Colossians 3:23)
Good attitude – how’s your attitude about your work? This cannot be forced or coerced in any way by anyone. Do you have an attitude of eagerness or zealousness for God?
Reward – reaping what we sow (Galatians 6:7) – God rewards those who serve wholeheartedly (Luke 6:35 and Revelation 22:12). From the heart = center of your being or all that is within you (soul or psyche not kardia used in verse 5 which means the seat of the intellect, emotion or will) It is when we work for God and not a paycheck or a boss that we fully understand verse 8 – taking joy in our work regardless of what we do or where we are.
READ Ephesians 6:9
Same attitude must be for employers/supervisors. Same desire to please God. No favoritism. Do unto others… (Luke 6:31) We all have the same Master and Lord. We (as supervisors or bosses) need to show the same respect for those we oversee. Could replace the word “teacher” with “boss” in James 3:1.
READ James 3:1
WHAT DO WE HAVE TO GAIN BY FOLLOWING PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS?
The Value of Work
What is it that gives our work value to God? Is it simply that when we work we earn money so that we can give a tithe to support the ministry of the Word? Is that alone what gives our work value? No. It is true that we are called to support the ministry of the Word; Scripture says so quite clearly. But that is not what ultimately gives our work value.
Is it that in our work-places we have the opportunity to be sort of mini-missionaries, to share the Gospel with the people we work alongside? Is that what gives our work value? NO. While we do pray that God will give opportunities to share His truth because people need to hear it, that is not what primarily gives our work our value.
Is it simply that we have to work to earn money to support ourselves so that we can get on with the “real work” of being active in our churches—that what we do in our workplaces is not very important, but what we really do that’s important is when we are a deacon in the church, when we teach Sunday school, or when we lead a Bible study? Is that what gives our work value? That is not true either.
What is it, then, that gives our work value? It is simply that God Himself declares it to be important, that God desires our service in the whole of our lives, and that we are to present everything to Him in order to serve Him. Paul says this so strongly in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men…” “Whatever you do,” Paul tells us that it is the Lord Christ you are serving. God has declared our work to have value. It doesn’t need some other means outside itself. God’s word gives it value.
Secondly, our work has value because we are to offer it to the Lord. Your work and my work is to be holy. That means we are to set it apart so that we may honor God in what we do.
Now that’s just as true for you if you are running a business as it is for me teaching right now. It is not the job itself that is holy; it is offering it to God as service. I may teach in a way that is totally unholy, and you may be a person engaged in business in a way that is completely holy. It is a question of whether you dedicated you work to God and whether you serve God righteously in what you do that makes your work holy.
Integrity in the Workplace
Regarding integrity, Scripture calls us to such a high standard in the workplace because we are working for the Lord. When I go to my place of work, my first thought should not be, “What does my boss think of me?”— though I should certainly desire to please my boss. My first thought should be that I am called to work, serving God with integrity. It is important that we please those for whom we work, but we are going to have much more important accounting to give one day. Christ Himself will ask us how we worked. Were you faithful? Did you work hard? Are you someone who just worked to please other people or did you work with genuine righteousness? That is the challenge to all of us in our work, and in every area of our lives.
Full Worship of God
We need to get God’s mind about matters in the workplace. Often times on Sunday people feel like everything they have done during the week really does not matter (Sexual atheists). The Bible says we are to worship God in everything, and what we do on Sunday morning when we come to praise Him with our lips is simply bringing the whole of our week to declare His praises together as His people. There should be a seamless robe, if you like, between our workweek and our Sunday service—all of it is the worship of God, and all of it is to be holy. We need to honor that conviction in the way we pray for people in our churches and in the way we commend people. We should praise God for people in business who are righteous in what they do and who serve God in their places of work, or praise God for lawyers who are for widows and orphans. May we really learn to offer our work to God and to honor those who do so.
That is the challenge of God’s word to us. As we consider that our work is to be done as unto the Lord, let us be shining lights of integrity, dedication, humility, service and love.
What action will you take now?
1. Change your focus – Make “working for Jesus” your #1 priority this week
2. Choose a godly attitude – no matter what your circumstance, you can choose to react in a godly manner to your work, boss or coworkers
3. Start over – seek forgiveness for poor attitudes or performance.

Good work – finding joy in what you do series

Finding Joy in what we do – Good work
Small group, MBC, April 27, 2014
Ask – Is work a curse or a gift? HOW MANY OF YOU SEE IT AS A CURSE? HOW MANY AS A GIFT?
The Bible tells us that work is a good thing and that we should see our work as a holy calling and as joy.
READ Genesis 1:28
WHAT COMMANDS DO YOU SEE IN VERSE 28? Reproduce, bring order and rule (procreation and dominion).
God created the first human life and He wants us to do the same – a unique connection and relationship between us and the Creator.
Secondly, God gave us dominion over nature. Subduing, bringing into submission or subjugating. This is the task of stewardship of every living creature and thing. We were given the divine prerogative to rule, tame or subordinate the earth on behalf of the Creator – not harshly, but with love and commitment, just like the Creator did (imitation).
God placed Adam and Even in a specific location. God also caused the land to flourish.
READ Genesis , 2:8-9, 2:15
HAVE YOU EVER PLANTED A GARDEN? WHAT RESULTS DID YOU GET?
WHO PLANTED THIS GARDEN? The Lord did! This one was an oasis – a place of contentment and joy (Eden = bliss or happy land in the Hebrew). God planted this garden not just for the sake of planting (sometimes us), but to provide for humanity – sustenance.
When God plants something, it is the top of the line = beautiful and good for eating. DO ALL OF YOUR FOOD FROM THE GARDEN LOOK AND TASTE LIKE THIS?
Two trees in the garden – Life – which would allow them to live forever (fountain of youth?) and Knowledge of Good and Evil – divine wisdom (what Satan promised?, no, just a type)
For us today, we note verse 15 – Adam was there to work and care for the garden – the first job. HOW DID ADAM CONSIDER HIS JOB? HOW DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR JOB?
Read Ephesians 6:7 “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for The Lord rather than for people.”
You will spend over 100,000 hours of your life working. This is more than anything else you’ll do except sleep. What is the meaning or purpose of our working? Do we work because we have to, or because it is a “High Calling”?
Just what makes work sacred? What is a high calling?
For some, the work we do five or six days a week is the means, the necessary evil, we must endure to enjoy one or two days of leisure, and “to put food on the table,” we say. Do you ever work obsessively or feel like a slave to your work? Or, are you able to take time off for rest and renewal that enables you to put your energies back into the other five or six days? Do you say TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) or TGIM (Thank God It’s Monday)? Does God ordain and call us to our work?
The word “call” comes from vocare. We get the word vocation (a “call” or “summons”) from it. Biblically it is used primarily for our being “called” to live in Christ, in relationship with God through Jesus. We belong to Christ, and our work is to believe, to glorify and enjoy God. It is our “high calling,” our highest calling. Our daily work, whatever that is, is also a high calling. It is to be directed toward fulfilling God’s purposes.
WORK COMES FROM GOD
Work was God’s loving idea from the beginning, in and through creation. After reporting the creation of male and female on the sixth day, the writer of Genesis quotes God as saying,”. . . your descendants will live over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals. . . . Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and guard it” (Gen. 1:28, 2:15).
The first glimpse we have of the human person in Scripture shows someone working as a farmer and manager of the rest of creation—joyously, purposefully tilling the ground and exercising respectful stewardship over all the earth.
The Bible portrays work as part of God’s very nature. “If God is the worker,” Elton Trueblood wrote in his book Your Other Vocation, “. . . then men and women, in order to fulfill their potentialities, must be workers too. They are sharing in creation when they develop a farm, paint a picture, build a home, or polish a floor.” We are exercising our dignity as creatures made in God’s likeness when we work. Our work is the dual task of continuing God’s creative process and taking good care of what God has entrusted to us.
There is hardly a human occupation that does not in some way involve being a coworker, a co-creator with God. We are sharing in God’s work. We are expressing God’s image in our work.
WORK IS TO BE DIRECTED TO THE WELL-BEING OF SOCIETY
Our destiny as “made in the image of God” includes participation in God’s work of developing, maintaining, and enhancing community. Our work is to benefit the civil society in which we live and work. In addition, we’re called to be creative. What is the creative element of your work? What is the common benefit of your work? “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet,” Frederick Buechner wrote.
In the biblical understanding of work (for all of life for that matter), there is no separation between that which is sacred or secular. The sacred-secular distinction comes from Plato and Greek dualism. The Bible knows nothing of that distinction. All work is sacred since God created and uses that work to sustain God’s creation and participate in God’s purposes.
WORK IS A PRIMARY WAY IN WHICH WE HONOR AND WORSHIP GOD
Avodah is a Hebrew word that means both worship and work. Paul encourages the Colossians, “And whatever you do, . . . do it all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God . . . whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:17, 23 – will read that later). It is a high calling!
Perhaps the most powerful expression of our giving thanks to God comes through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Here we see bread and wine on the Lord’s table. These elements, the products of many hands and minds, come to the table, are blessed by God, and become for us the body and blood of our Lord. When in that process did worship begin or cease? “Here is the perfect symbol of the unity of work and worship,” wrote Alan Richardson, “the strange unbreakable link that exists between the bread that is won in the sweat of man’s face and the bread of life.”
Passing a construction site, a pedestrian asked three bricklayers what they were doing. The first said that he was earning a living to feed and clothe his family. The second said, “I’m throwing these bricks together to build a wall.” The third responded, “I am helping to build a cathedral for the glory and worship of God.” What a difference your perspective makes in giving meaning to your work!
What is your work? Is it a High Calling? You bet it is, every creative and caring and beneficial aspect of it. May we work hard and well and enjoy it more each day. Then we will be able to say, “Thank God it’s Monday—and Friday—and Sunday!”
Many of us work too much – on the workaholic side of life. Others barely make an effort. Both groups need balance.
Many of us make more than we personally need. Others struggle to get by. Both need balance.
Adam struggled to find balance, even though God gave him clear boundaries.
READ Genesis 2:16-17
WHAT WERE THE CHOICES ADAM HAD? WHAT CHOICES DO WE HAVE? HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO OUR WORK BEING A GIFT OR A CURSE?
Our enemy is not our job or the people at our job. Our enemy is the one who wants to rob us of our joy every day at our job, our home, our church, our community…
Let us embrace work as a good thing – as a gift from God. He wants us to approach work with responsibility and joy – so that we will become content with what He has provided. Does this mean jobs that are downright difficult will suddenly become joyful? Not necessarily. But if we see our labor as a God-ordained gift, then our outlook will be tempered by not what we do but for whom we do it! Matthew 25 reminds us that our work is noticed. And Colossians reminds us how to see our work.
READ Colossians 3:23
What now?
1. Guard against discontentment – when you feel dissatisfied at work, mentally list at least three ways God has blessed you in your job.
2. Encourage a co-worker – Find tangible way to encourage someone in their work. For example, leave a thank you note for the custodial crew. Give words of appreciation to the supervisor who led an excellent meeting.
3. Thank a work mentor – write a note to someone to express gratitude for teaching you how to work. Share one or two things that person modeled for you.