The Spiritual Discipline of Work

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Preached in Spanish at Luncheon for the Soul, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, VA. February 27, 2019


Introduction

Good morning. Welcome to Luncheon for the Soul. My name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, Virginia and we have three grown children. I am a Christian author and volunteer pastor.
 
Today’s theme is the spiritual discipline of work

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Holy father. Draw us to yourself this morning. Open our hearts; illumine our minds; and strengthen our hands in your service. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture reading comes from Colossians 3:23-24. Hear the word of the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Story

What was your favorite job and what activity was totally horrible?

In my work as an economist, many times I have said that about one in three years were good. Two years in three were bad because of changes in management or conflicts among managers in the middle of a project. When priorities change in the middle of a project, it is impossible for the project to be a success from the perspective of leadership. It does not matter that the work was extraordinarily good because the office was constantly stressed out and promotion was nearly impossible over many years.

For this reason, today’s scripture reading is particularly meaningful to me. We work for the Lord and not for men.

What was your favorite job y what activity was totally horrible?

Lesson

Every time there is pain or stress in our lives, we have a decision: are we going to turn to God and give it over to Him or are we going to turn into the pain and we feel sorry for ourselves? This second alternative is sometimes known as idolatry.

The gravity of the sin of idolatry is obvious because our faith, time, energy, and money point to the things that we really worship (Giglio 2003, 113). The center of these activities may be in our work—in or out of the church; in or out of the home. Work can many times be a source of stress, fear, and anxiety.

Jesus understands (2X). At one point, he described a scene of lilies and kings. Afterwards, he advised:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”(Luke 12:29-31 ESV)

In other words, work is important, but the Kingdom of God is more important.

As God designed it, work has dignity. The Bible begins showing a God who works—he creates (Welchel 2012, 7). God’s only son worked with his hands as a carpenter. Thus, when we work with our hands work also has dignity. Remember that almost all of the disciples worked as fishermen—do you think that they return home smelling like lilies? One of the most radicals things that Jesus did was to eat and drink with working people (Mt 11:19).[1]

Paul’s attitude about work was significant for two reasons. First, our work for human bosses is also work for God (Col 3:23-24). Second, many times we work for brothers and sisters in Christ—the family of God. Would you want to disrespect your family? (Phlm 1:16 ESV)

One of the most influential writers of the church historically was a veteran who worked in a kitchen. He did not write very much, but he dedicated his work daily to God in prayer. Brother Lawrence (1982, 23) wrote:

“We should offer our work to Him before we begin and thank Him afterwards for the privilege of having done it for His sake.”

He simply applied the advice of Paul to “pray without ceasing”(1 Thess 5:17) and the spiritual giants of his day beat a path to his door.

One method for spotting prospective idolatry is to ask about your identity. When you are introduced to a new neighbor or maybe someone at a party, how does your spouse introduce you? Is it by your marital status, favorite sports team or profession?

What keeps you busy? (2X)

Prayer

Let’s close with a Word of prayer.

Loving father, we praise you for giving us useful work to do. We praise you for equipping us for work in your church. Thank you for giving us new eyes to see our work, our bosses, and our responsibilities. The harvest is ready. Prepare us to assist the laborers. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1]This citation comes from the parable of the brats, one of my favorites (Matt 11:16-19).

References

Giglio, Louie. 2003. The Air I Breathe.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Press.

Lawrence, Brother. 1982. The Practice of the Presence of God(Orig Pub 1691). New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

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