daily Broadcast

How to Stop Wasting Your Life

From the series Answering the Call

What if every minute of every work day was an opportunity for you to worship and to acknowledge God’s goodness and provision in your life? In this message Chip shows you how God made you to make a difference. He uniquely gifted you to accomplish something that no one else can accomplish. You can work for God no matter where you’re employed.

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Message Transcript

Well, we’re going to talk about “How to Stop Wasting Your Life.”

If you looked at work as just a necessary thing, just to get over with, and can’t wait until it’s done, and not know that it’s about this thing of getting a call from God, you can see how a lot of people could waste sixty to eighty percent of their waking hours, just trying to get something over with.

And so, I did a little thinking, and I thought about, what’s in a job, anyway? How do people look at a job? And part of this – you’ll have to bear with me. This is one of those things – it might be really cute, and helpful, or it might be a bomb. Okay?

But I thought of five, oh, you’ve got to tell people, so that, if it’s a bomb, at least you can groan with me. But I came up with five paradigms of how I observe people look at a job. And maybe there are ten, maybe there are seven, I don’t know, but there are five that really seem to me that in all the places I’ve worked, or people that I’ve known, there are these different views.

And paradigm number one is work is evil and the goal is avoid it. Just put it real simple – work is evil. It’s cursed. It’s not the ground that’s cursed. Work is evil.

And so, I would introduce to you Freddie and Francis Freeloader. That’s paradigm number one. They cut every corner. They want as much as possible. They do as little as possible. They try hard not to get caught, and when they do get caught, they blame someone else. That’s one paradigm of work. We’ve all worked with a Francis or Freddie Freeloader. It’s like, every time you turn around, they’re on break. And they come in late; they leave early.

The second paradigm, the truth would be, work is everything. Work is everything. And so, they embrace it.

And my little title for this one would be William or Wilma Workaholic. Instead of going in late, they go in early. They stay late. They pay any price. They want to climb to the top.

For some, it’s not about that, is they just want to be successful. They want to make a difference. They want to prove their value. They remind the family that they’re doing it for you. They’re doing it for a better life for you, for the good life.

They constantly tell people who love them, “It’s only for a season. As soon as we get this big project done, as soon as this deal goes through. It’s just going to be a part…” Then, when everything slows down, Wilma the workaholic, or William the workaholic, is going to have this balanced life that they talk about. Work is everything, and so they embrace it.

The third paradigm is work is an obligation. Work is an obligation. And so, they endure it.

And, here, I have Ted and Terri TGIF-erson. Like I said, it could be cute, could be a bomb – you be the judge.

But what they do is, they work hard. They do a good job. They don’t like it, most of the time, but it’s a living. It pays the bills. They can’t wait for Friday, because when Friday comes, they can get home, and they can coach the kid’s team sport. They can hang out with friends. They even teach a Bible study at church, and play golf, now and then, whenever possible.

And so, they’re good people. They do a good job. They don’t like their job; they want to get their job over with. They’re engaged with their family. They’re doing good things on the weekend. But life really is, How do I get through these yicky five days, that are a pain in the rear, in order to live for these two days, when I can do the good stuff? That is Ted and Terri TGIF-erson.

The fourth paradigm is, work is strategic. Work is strategic. And so, you exploit it. This is Evan and Elsie Evangelizer. And this is interesting – and please don’t think too badly of them. Evan and Elsie – for them, work is a platform for evangelism and ministry. They don’t really like their work very well, but they will themselves, and simply choose to do a great job, so they can have a good testimony.

So, they turn things in on time. They’re bored. They’re dissatisfied in their work. But they are good workers, and good employees. They do it for the sake of Christ. But after that, they are very careful to give tracts to people at work. They keep their Bible on their desk. Because they don’t like their work, they rarely pursue career advancement. They let people know that they use their vacation time to go on short-term mission trips. And they stay in unfulfilling jobs because, often, they’re very financially lucrative, and it allows them to give more money to the Church, and the ministries they care about.

And there are a lot of people that that’s their life. They don’t like their job. But it’s strategic. It’s strategic. I make good money. I’m sharing my faith. And so, I’m just going to exploit it.

It’s a kind of martyr complex. It’s: God has called me to go to this boring job that I don’t like, and I’m not good at, and Jesus had to suffer, and He had a cross to bear, and this is mine. But I’m using it for the Lord.

And by the way, that one’s probably a lot better than a lot of the others. I’d much rather have – if I’m the boss, I want this person, instead of Freddy or Francis Freeloader.

The number five paradigm is, work is a calling, and so you steward it. Work is a calling, and so you steward the work that God’s given you. And this is Kent and/or Carrie Calling. I couldn’t come up with anything any better.

For them, work is their primary ministry. They love what they do. They can’t believe they get paid to do what they do. They share their faith, first and foremost, by the quality of the work that they do, and their zeal for the actual work itself – the way it benefits people, the values of the company, and the great relationships that they have.

They take opportunities to build in-depth, deep relationships with fellow employees, not simply for evangelism, but they just like them. When they undergo difficult times, they’re the ones that take initiative to get employees together, and get food to people, love people, and have even opened up a low-key Bible study, that whoever would want to explore what it means to be a Christian might check it out. They share Christ out of relationship. They’ve been voted “best employee” multiple times over the last twenty years, and the board and the CEO wish they could have a hundred of them in the company.

Those are at least five, I think, general paradigms that we all tend, in some way or another, to fit into.

Notice some of the research. Eighty-three percent of Americans are dissatisfied with their job. I quoted, earlier, seventy-five percent are in a wrong job fit. Eighty-three percent are dissatisfied. Hal Stewins wrote, “Your work should be a challenge, not a chore, a blessing, and not a bore.”

Patrick Morley writes, “Ninety-five percent of us will never be in occupational ministry, but that does not mean we are not ministers.” And then, Larry Burkett wrote, “For Christians who view their work as a chore, they don’t have much of a witness on or off the job.” That’s pretty good. And then, finally, Dennis Bakke wrote, “Worship can be something we do every minute of every workday, as we acknowledge God’s guidance and purpose in our lives.”

The question I want to raise, and hope to ask and begin to answer, is, how do you do that? How can work be a moment of worship, every minute of every day? How can it really happen, and I would suggest, especially in kind of a dead-end job? We’re talking in a little bit idealistic terms.

There are some people sitting here, and probably more than some, who will maybe hear this and they’ll say, “I can’t change jobs. I’m locked in. I’m in a situation” – for whatever reason – “it would take maybe years, or – I can’t get out of what I’m doing,” for maybe some reasons we wouldn’t understand.

In fact, the passage we’re going to look at is given to a group of people that didn’t have the option to say, “You know, I don’t think this is according to my gifting and calling. I don’t think this is exactly what God would choose for me to do.” They were slaves. There were sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire. And, like wildfire, they were coming to Christ.

And the apostle Paul is going to write to people who have terrible jobs, who their masters can kill them when they want to. Now, because they were valuable, that rarely happened, so they just were beaten on a regular basis, and mistreated on a regular basis. And so, what I want you to get is sort of the a priori logic, if you will, is if God is going to provide a way for a slave, who has no options, about how to work for God wherever He’s working, 24/7, I wonder what that opportunity is for us. Do you get the idea?

And so, what I want to look at with you is how you can work for God, wherever you work, and I want to give you four principles, from Ephesians 6, verses 5 through 9.

Principle number one: Christians are to obey and honor their supervisors, as an act of worship to Christ. Can you imagine reading this for the first time, as a word from God? I mean, being a slave, getting beaten up, no rights – you’re just a piece of property. And someone says, “We’ve got one of those letters! God’s speaking!” And someone pulls out a scroll. And people are huddled together.

And it says, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.” “What? Read that again.” “Okay.” “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Is he saying being a slave, and doing it right, is the will of God, from the heart?

“With good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” Is he actually saying that how I respond to my master, my boss that I can’t get out of – this is God’s will, and I’m supposed to treat this boss like Christ was my boss? “…knowing that whatever good anyone does” – verse 8 – “he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And, by the way, masters, do the same thing to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” Christians are to obey, and honor, their supervisors, as an act of worship to Christ.

We have, over here, a little box, if you will, first century, addressed to slaves. The topic is “work.” Okay? We’re going to have specific admonitions to them. Over here, we come, about twenty-one centuries later, and we have a little box, and we have “work,” and we’re not slaves. But what ties them together is an overarching principle about: how do you respond to those in the workplace that have authority over you?

And so, I think the timeless principle is we obey and honor our supervisors. And then, you say, “Well, how?” Notice the three phrases.

First is “with fear and trembling.” Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the break room, or near the water cooler, or out to lunch with some fellow employees, all who have a very, very bad boss, a very, very bad supervisor, or a very dysfunctional company. Have you ever been there? What’s the dialogue go like? Right?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in enough Starbucks, where you’re over here, and these three people are over here, and they’re on a lunch break, and it’s like, “Can you believe him? Ethel, I just don’t believe – I just can’t believe what they’re doing! What they do, they are just…this is the most ridiculous thing. That is so unfair.”

And they just go on and on. I wonder, all over the world, how many people in break rooms, and at lunches, and at supper tables, after they go home from work, do nothing but rip their bosses and their supervisors for what they don’t do, and what they’re not, and how unfair they are, and…

And the apostle Paul says to a group of people who – I mean, I don’t know how bad your boss has been, and I don’t know how dysfunctional your company is, but I’ve just not been to a lot of places where, “Okay, 10:30 break – everybody out here! Let’s get in the main forum. Okay, Judy, you’ve been a little late, lately. Can you give me that whip?” Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! “Okay, Bobby, I think you were late on that report. Come on in here.” Bang! Bang! You know? I’ve never seen anybody get beaten, have you? I haven’t.

And the apostle Paul is saying to those people, who are beaten, “With fear and trembling.” The idea is, with a sense of respect, with a sense of treating them with a sense of reverential awe for, not how they treat you, or the kind of person they are, but the role they’re sovereignly given. Sixty million slaves deciding to treat their masters in a way that they don’t deserve.

And then, not only just – You can do that, right? You could do that, externally. “Sure, boss, whatever you say. I’ll go do that.” But notice, it says “with sincerity, with singleness of heart.” He’s not saying just your external behavior honors your boss, or your supervisor. He’s saying your external behavior, along with your internal attitude, is going to be treating a person, especially who doesn’t deserve to be treated, with respect and honor. You do it that way.

And then, he gives you the why: “As done for Christ.” You might jot in your notes – we looked at it earlier, but you might not immediately apply it here – Colossians 3:23: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do it heartily, as unto the Lord.” Whatever you do. So, even in a difficult job situation, let alone a good job situation, do it as unto the Lord, with all your heart.

This actually landed me a job once. Remember I told you about the bricklayer? And by the way, you learn more, not from what people say. It’s how they act. I mean, here I am, and I can still, in my mind, see those work boots, kicking down two days of work, and me whining, going, “Are you nuts?” But the indelible example of modeling is that excellence. I’m going to do this well, and I’m going to do this for the right reason. I work as an act of worship.

It’s worshipping God, by trembling, respect, sincerity, and doing your work as though Jesus were your boss.
The second principle is, Christians are to make pleasing God their goal, not impressing people at work. Notice verses 6 and 7. It says, “Not with eye-service,” pleasing men, “but as bondservants of Christ” – get this – “doing the will of God from the heart. With good will doing service” – just in case you missed it – “as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

Quality control for the follower of Christ is not in the eye of the boss, it’s in the eye of the Lord. When the boss leaves at three thirty, followers of Christ don’t leave at a quarter of five. They leave at five. When the boss isn’t around, and it’s Friday, and everyone’s making these excuses, and the parking lot gets empty, followers of Christ are there until their job gets done.

And they stay, and they fulfill what they’re going to do, because whether the boss is there, or not there, followers of Christ do their job unto Him. Notice, “as slaves to Christ,” doing your very best, not as though, but because Jesus really is your Boss. He’s your Supervisor. He examines your work.

You can work for God, full-time, wherever you work, first, if you obey and honor your supervisor – an act of worship – and, second, if you make pleasing God your goal, not impressing people.

The third principle is, Christians can endure and excel, even in difficult work situations, because of the certainty of their reward. Did you pick that up in verse 8? This is hard.

I would not have wanted to be a slave, going to church the morning that this passage got read for the first time. I’d have been whining in the chariot all the way home. Or, probably, if I was a slave, I’d be pulling the chariot – “Hey, boss!” I mean, “Is he serious? Paul must have been hallucinating. This can’t be God’s Word! Maybe he’s had a stroke. Maybe he’s on drugs. He doesn’t know my boss.”

And then, well, actually, when Paul wrote this, he was in prison, and getting beaten. Oh, I guess he does understand. How is this possible? It’s possible because you get grace.

The Christian life is not hard; it’s impossible. Only Christ can live the Christian life. He has taken up residence in your body, and my body, if, at some point in time, you have recognized that you are a sinner, and that you fall short, and you don’t have it together, and you need Him, and you’re willing to humble yourself, and bow your knee and your will, and say, “God, I need You. I’ve messed up. I have lied. I have stolen. I’m not the man, the husband, the woman that You want me to be. I need Your help. Will You please forgive me? I turn from my self-dependency, and my self-will, and I ask for Your forgiveness. And I believe that You dying on the cross, in my place, paid for my sin, and that when You rose from the dead, in space/time, history, and actually, for forty days, had five hundred eyewitnesses. So, this isn’t some dream. It’s not some religion. It’s historical. I’m trusting in what You’ve done.”

When you do that, and believe, and receive Him, the Spirit of God comes inside of you, and you are taken from that kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light. And the only Person that can live the Christian life is Jesus. He now lives in you, by means of the Holy Spirit.

And so, your job is not to try hard to be a good person, and be religious, and go to church, and earn some merit with God. You have His favor. Your job is to abide, and surrender, and allow Christ to have His way, and take the Word of God, in the context of biblical community, and allow Him, progressively, to change you, so He can do the impossible through you.

And that’s what happened in the first century. And, by the way, it’s happening all around the world. But the great joys of being in places in China, and India, and in the Middle East, where people’s lives are on the line, I meet people, on a regular basis, that look into my eyes, and they tell me.

I was with a pastor who came out of China to meet us, and we met in Hong Kong. And they’re doing some work with us, in terms of getting God’s Word out to people. And just in casual conversation, I asked him how it was going.

He said, “It was very difficult.” While he was gone, his wife, the police came – and they had a home church, and they move it all over the place, but the last couple of times it had been at his house. She convinced them that she was the pastor, that her husband was away working, and she had recruited all the people. They took her down to the police station and beat her to a pulp. And he came back from an evangelistic trip, and his wife is all beaten up.

And in my mind, I’m thinking, Now, how would I respond, if that was Theresa? And I’ve just got to tell you, my immediate reaction was, I’d want to find out where those police live.

And then, I asked him, I said, “Well, how are you doing with that?” And I’m expecting him, thinking, Well, I’m dealing with my anger pretty well, and – and in all sincerity – he’s sitting here, and I’m sitting here – he just looks me in the eye, he says, “I just had no idea what a privilege it would be to suffer for the sake of Jesus, and to, in some way, participate in His suffering for the sake of His bride.”

And I just thought, No human being can do that. That’s the Spirit of God, and the life of Christ, in a normal, regular, ordinary man, who has gotten perspective. And when he reads his Bible, he doesn’t skip 1 Peter, like American Christians. He doesn’t skip 2 Timothy 3, where it promises persecution. He doesn’t think it’s surprising that these things would happen. When he heard Jesus say, “In the world you’ll have tribulation,” he goes, “Yep, I understand that one.” “But be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.”

Now, what I want you to know is, this response is what was at the heart of transforming the world. And that’s what God wants to do today, through normal people like you, and me. We can endure, and even excel, in our difficult work situations, because of the certainty of God’s reward – verse 8 – “knowing that whatever good anyone does…”

That Chinese man’s response was a good response. His wife’s response, to protect him, was a good response. It was painful, but it was good. These slaves’ positive response, even after being beaten, is a good response.

How do you hang in there? You hang in there because of what? Knowing with certainty God will reward His children for whatever good we do. And you trust God’s promise of reciprocity. So, if you endure this, and do it good here, God promises, “I’m going to bless and reward you, over here.” Most of our problem is, we tend to think that life is a little string of now, called “time.” But a biblical worldview is, no, life is eternity.

And, actually, the Bible, what you really have is, you have eternity, and then you have Genesis 1 and 2, and then you have a parenthesis. And it was a perfect environment. God created us. And this parenthesis, then you have sin enter the world, and the parenthesis goes all the way to Revelation chapter, right about 20. And then, you have another parenthesis.

And here’s this little thing called “time” that you live in and I live in. And then Jesus comes back – new heaven, new earth, and it goes on forever and ever and ever and ever. And what happens in that little parentheses determines, and has impact on, what happens forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

So, when Jesus talks about money, His economy is about the forever economy. So, instead of sacrifice, He says, “Let’s see, would it be smarter to lay up treasure just for now, in the little parentheses, and then when you get here, you can’t spend it” – it’s like Confederate money, and the war is over. It doesn’t work anymore – “or would it be better,” – notice this phrase – “store up treasure for others”? Is that what it says? “Store up treasure for yourself, where moth can’t eat and robbers can’t steal.”

His point was, “My economy is eternal, and when I look at it, I want what’s best for you. So, when this parenthesis ends, and I come back, and there’s a new heaven and a new earth, and it’s forever and ever and ever, I’d like you to have some resources. I’d like you to have some blessing. I’d like you to have some reward.”

And you can endure anything, if you have hope.

Back then, and now, as, hand-in-hand, they went into the Coliseum singing? Nero would actually put them on poles, and wrap them with tar, and he would have cocktail parties, and then he would light them. Church historians say, as they were burning, they would be singing hymns of praise to God, being counted worthy to suffer for His sake. That’s a little bit different brand of Christianity than we’re selling around here, isn’t it?

Notice what he says – Peter writes to these slaves. He says, “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”

He’s just saying the same thing. “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing what’s wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable” – or finds favor – “in God’s sight. Because you were” – are you ready for this word? – “For you were called to this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:18 through about 21. Sometimes the work of your hands isn’t related to money.

I have a friend – in fact, he’s the chairman of the board, a previous chairman of the board, stepped down a couple of years ago because of his situation. His wife had a stroke. And in some strokes it causes the same symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and she has gone from being able to talk, and know who he is, to, she can’t dress herself, to, he can hardly travel. He can have no meaningful conversations. And the only thing she can remember, and has any joy in, is watching old black-and-white movies.

And he will tell her, “I’m going to go out of town for a day, and I’ll be back,” and, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” He can walk in one room and tell her that he’s going to go get something, and come back, and she can’t remember, “Where have you been? Have you been out of town?” She gets upset. It’s been unimaginable.

And I said, “Paul, how do you handle it?” Because the guy has an amazing – I’m sure he has bad days – he’s got an amazing attitude.

And he says, “Well, you know” – that’s how he talks – “Well, you know, I got to thinking about it, and Marilyn and I have had over fifty years together, and she’s treated me so well. She’s been a gift from God. You know, eternity’s a long time. It’s a really long time. I’ll get to spend it with her. But I think maybe how good it is might have something to do with how good I treat her now, when she doesn’t have anything to give me. So, I’m just treating her the way I think Christ would want me to. So, I want to love her, but I’m doing it for Him. But I just, every day, get up and think how long eternity is.” See, an eternal perspective transforms your motivation.

The final principle here is, Christian bosses and employers must treat employees with concern, respect, and fairness, as they will be held accountable by God. And you get this sweeping statement in verse 9. And it says, “You masters, do the same things to them.” In other words, all the attitudes, all the respect, all the kinds of ways – you want to treat them as though – why? You need to remember that God is your boss. And then, he addresses the most grievous issue: “Giving up threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”

And you say, “Well, stop threatening, intimidating?” Roman masters had the authority to kill. They rarely did it, but they beat on a regular basis. And you say, “But this is written to Christians. This is in the Church.”

You know, the culture, when you are in a world where this is normal, sometimes our faith gets over here, and our culture is over here, and we can’t make the connection. And so, I’m sure there were Christian masters that were beating their slaves. Just like I bet there are Christian supervisors who lie about their employees, who don’t give all benefits to their employees, who don’t pay time and a half when the law requires it, who get multiple people on part-time so they don’t have to pay benefits, who figure out ways to get loopholes that benefit them, but hurt their employees, and never make the connection, because everybody in the industry does it, right? And they’re a deacon or an elder in their church. It’s a blind spot.

And so, he addresses this directly. He says, “You’d better stop threatening.” He says, “You’d better treat them right. And you’d better realize that Christ is your Lord.”

And the key word here is relationship. See, if you’re a boss, if you’re an employer, if you’re an owner, it’s not – is there a bottom line? Do you have to stay in business? Yeah, but you’d better run your business out of a context of relationship and caring about these people, really caring about them.

And so, I’d just ask, if you’re a boss, or an owner, or an employer to really think about, not what other companies do, not what the corporate standard is. And maybe the corporate standard’s okay – but to say relationship. If the board meeting was just me and Jesus, and we were looking through the employees, and what they need, and where things are at, how would we treat them? What would we do?

And then, you do that. And I will tell you, there are some amazing companies that have been run like this, like Chick-fil-A, and many others, who do things for their employees that you think, How could anyone afford to do this?

A group up in Michigan, I toured a plant where a company, they actually started to – a very, very large company, they built all the insides, put all the interiors of cars, and grew and grew and grew. And they found themselves with more and more single moms with small kids. And they began, then they provided healthcare. And then, when you got pregnant, you would come in – because they couldn’t afford it – and they would check all the women, and make sure they all got care. They later put in a medical clinic for all their employees. And then they put in a cafeteria. Then they put in a recreation area. And I said, “How do you afford all this?”

He goes, “Here’s what’s really funny.” He said, “It’s twenty years, and people ask that.” He said, “I found out what it costs to hire, fire, retrain people, sick leave, all the rest. And there’s a company over here that has five or six thousand employees, like us. There’s another one over here, another one over there. You add up all the people they lose, all the people they have to retrain, all the people that are out sick. I figure we’re probably saving, oh, eight hundred thousand dollars a year.” And he said, “We recruit the top, and the best. They come, ‘You do this for our family, you do this, you do this?’”

He said, “You know what? And we do. We have three shifts. It used to be, you could never get anybody to do the middle shift. No one wanted to do it.” He said, “You come in here at two o’clock in the morning, and after the shift, after they’ve eaten pizza, they’re playing volleyball.” And he said, “You never go wrong treating people great.”