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About this series
Answering the Call
How to Discover and Fulfill God's Purpose for Your Life
God created you to work. And He created your work to be more than just "what you do for a living," but a place to fulfill God's calling in your life. According to Scripture, work is the platform where you can experience joy, ministry, and personal fulfillment like never before. If you long to experience that kind of job satisfaction, this series will help you get there. Whether it's finding a new job, starting a new career, or just gaining a new perspective on your current employment, "Answering the Call" will encourage and inspire you to see work as a gift from God.More from this series
Well, we’re going to talk about “How to Stop Wasting Your Life.” And you can see, from the last couple sessions, 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 60 to 80 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? 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 to avoid it. Just put it real simple – work is evil. It’s cursed. It’s not the ground that’s cursed. Work is evil.
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.
The second paradigm: The truth would be, work is everything. Work is everything. And so, they embrace it.
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, it’s that they just want to be successful. They want to make a difference. They want to prove their value.
The third paradigm is, work is an obligation. And so, they endure it.
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.
They’re good people. They do a good job. They don’t like their job; they want to get their job over with.
The fourth paradigm is, work is strategic. Work is strategic. And so, you exploit it.
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.
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.
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. 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. 83 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. I quoted, earlier, 75 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.”
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, 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 60 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: 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. I think that’s how we can learn to do exactly what we’ve said. We can stop wasting our lives, if we can follow the same principles that God gave these slaves, and then, later, their masters.
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 you go to church, maybe in the catacombs, maybe a secret meeting, 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.” We’re going to have specific admonitions to them. Over here, we come, about 21 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?
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 this way, 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.
And so, somehow, between a few Bible studies with him, and his example, I caught that. And I went in for a job – it was, actually, my first teaching job, and it was a teaching and coaching job. And I learned, later, that they had an inside guy, they already had it done. They decided he was going to get the job, but you had to go through a perfunctory interview with five people, and – I can’t believe that ever happens anywhere, but, apparently, that was the way it was supposed to happen.
So, I had my resume, and I had the interview, with the superintendent of schools, and the principal, and I think some other person was in there. We were going through this interview, and they looked at my resume, and where I’d been, and what I’d done, and, “Oh, I see that you played basketball throughout South America, and the Orient.” I said, “Yes, sir. Well, it was a Christian team.” “Oh, you’re a Christian?” So, “Yeah,” and I get to share my faith.
And then, it was kind of like, “Good. (We’re going to get this guy out of here because he’s going to have a Christian tint. So, would you see your Christian faith interfering with your job here, at the high school?” I said, “Oh, no, sir, not at all.” “Well, how would you govern it?” I said, “Well, according to Romans chapter 13, I need to obey you, the way I would obey Christ.” “What?” “Yeah, you would be the divine authority that God would place over me, and I may not always agree with you, but it would be an act of worship. I’m absolutely committed that I need to do – I mean, if it doesn’t cross a moral bound, I need to be the best employee you would ever have. But I really wouldn’t be working for you. I would do it out of my commitment to what God has said.”
And he said, “Are you kidding me, man?” I said, “Look, I don’t have any choice on this. This is just what the Bible says.” I said, “Would I like to see people – my students, and especially my players – have a relationship with Christ? But I just need to demonstrate that by my lifestyle. But I can’t do anything here that would violate the authority over me, and that would be you, wouldn’t it - the principal?” And he had a big smile, “Yeah.” And so, these two guys go in the back room, and they call me back about 24 hours later and say, “You’re our new basketball coach.”
You know why? Because Christians are to obey, and honor, their supervisors, as an act of worship to Christ. And we will have, probably, far more impact by how we live, and respond to our bosses, than we will with all the tracts that we pass out, and all the times we invite people to church, or hear this person, or come to this event.
And, actually, you build a platform when you’re that kind of an employee. Then, when you begin to share about what’s going on in your life, and your relationship, now you’ve got leverage and credibility.
The key word here – write in worship. Sounds kind of crazy, but I want you to begin to see your work, and especially if you’re in an authority relationship – it’s an act of worship. It’s how you honor God. It’s worshiping 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.
If your Boss is Jesus, you don’t turn in junk. If your Boss is Jesus, you do the best research. If your Boss is Jesus, you do the very best job, with the money that you have, to say, “This is our gift to You. And when people see it, it ought to reflect Your excellence.”
I mean, when I look at Creation, I don’t see where God goes, “Beautiful, wonderful, excellent, beautiful… eh… Eh, there’s a tree. It’s half droopy. About every 34 days, we have a sunset – part of it’s over here, and part of it’s over here, and… Holes in the ocean…”
Even in a fallen world, when you see what God makes… Read the Psalms! His wonderful acts, His matchless deeds … “The Creation pours forth speech, night after night.” “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.” The Creation is testimony of His excellence and beauty, and when they talked about Jesus, in Mark 7, what did they say? “He did all things well.”
That’s what they ought to say about believers and followers of Christ: You do all things well. Perfect? No – you do them well. 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 was 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 be… he doesn’t know my boss.”
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 40 days, had 500 eyewitnesses – So, this isn’t some dream. It’s not some religion. It’s historical. I’m trusting 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. They’re doing some work with us, in terms of getting God’s Word out to people. And just in casual conversation, I was asking how it was going.
He said, “It was very difficult.” While he was gone, the police came – and they have a home church, and they move it all over the place, but the last couple of times it had been at his house. His wife 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 – 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 well 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, 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 entered the world, and the parenthesis goes all the way to right about Revelation chapter 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 to” – notice His 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 parentheses 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. If you know it’s only going to last for a season, you can endure anything. And in all of Church history, the Church has transformed the world in the blood of the martyrs. It is when we’ve been most attacked, and we endure… And it’s not just enduring by gritting our teeth and going, “We’re going to do whatever God –”
Have you ever read the Church history, 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. And they would provide light for his cocktail parties, as they burned alive.
And 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? But it’s transformational.
And you know what? They weren’t superstars. You know what kinds of people they were? Just like the people next to you, just regular, ordinary Christians… But in that moment, in that time, they chose to obey, and God gave them the grace to do that. And that’s all that it’s saying here! You know with certainty. You’re trusting – The key word here is motivation, motivation. The motivation to treat people the way they don’t deserve to be treated, when they’re your boss… The motivation to do your work unto the Lord, and not just to men, where you get the immediate strokes… The motivation is an eternal perspective.
Notice what 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’s 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.” First 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 a previous chairman of the board, stepped down because of a personal situation. His wife had a stroke. And some strokes cause 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!” 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 50 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. 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?
I toured a plant up in Michigan where a company actually started to – a very, very large company, they built all the insides, all the interiors of cars, and they grew and grew and grew. And they found themselves with more and more single moms with small kids. And so 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. 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 20 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, $800,000 a year.” And he said, “We recruit the top, and the best. You do this for our family, you do this, you do this…”
He said, “You know what? And we have three shifts. 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 2:00 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.”