The Book of Colossians #15

 

NOTE:  This message was originally preached as a part of a stewardship emphasis under the title, "Who's Your Real Boss?", and is also included in "The Road to Financial Freedom" series. It is included here to complete the series on the book of Colossians.
 
God's Grace in the Workplace
Colossians 3:22-4:1
 
Today we will bring this stewardship emphasis to a close. We are also giving you opportunity to continue with a more intensive 10-week study. You had information about that in Sunday School and an opportunity to sign up. You also have an insert in the bulletin today, and there is a sign-up sheet in the welcome center. 
 
I want to thank you for the many positive comments and responses that you’ve given. I always know those come from people who are interested in being obedient and faithful to God. Why in the world anybody would think the church shouldn’t deal with stewardship and finance is beyond me, unless they are just plain tight or uninformed about the Bible. 
 
So when you offer positive reaction I know God is at work in your life, and blessing you because you are faithful in giving or you are eager to get to that place in your walk with Him. 
 
So far we’ve looked at God being in control, and our responsibility to Him as stewards, not just for what we give, but everything we have. And we’ve explored a biblical perspective on debt and borrowing, and how our giving is actually investing in eternity. 
 
Today we are dealing with the subject of work. And as far as I can remember in twenty-five years of pastoring, I don’t remember ever preaching a message dedicated to that subject. I’ve alluded to it, and I’ve mentioned it, but not dealt with the subject.
That’s certainly not because the Bible doesn’t address it or it’s not important. So today, I’m praying God will burn it into your heart because, if you understand the message today, I can promise you that it will literally transform your life. 
 
I am afraid the devil has done a masterful job of convincing people that their jobs don’t matter, and that as a result of the fall, all work is drudgery and meaningless, and should be avoided at all costs.
 
So many people are sick and tired of what they do. I mean, they endure their work. They don't enjoy their work. They think their job is meaningless. They think that some people have happy jobs, some people have exciting work, some people have thrilling things to do, but not them. 
 
They draw their breath and draw their salary. They wake up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, eat a piece of toast, scald their throat because they're running a little late, drink their coffee too fast, then they run out and go to work. 
 
It's the same old thing day after day. Then they come home at night, take a couple of aspirin, sit down and watch the evening news, discuss things with the wife, maybe putter around in the yard a little bit, then go to bed. The next day the same old thing, nothing exciting, nothing meaningful, nothing thrilling, it just seems to be so humdrum, so meaningless.
 
Now for many who are in that grind, they love God and they serve God, but they have the idea that the only time they can serve God is when they're not working. 
They want to get off work so they can serve God, so they give their prime time to the employer and then they give the leftovers to God!  
 
They give the weekends to God.   They're serving God sort of half-time; it's not even really half-time because they give most of their prime hours and the best hours to the boss. They're trying to serve two masters and of course Jesus said no man can serve two masters. And I believe there are some of you who are sitting here listening to me today, perhaps most of you, are guilty of doing exactly that. 
 
So right off the bat, let me drive this into your heart today: You may be a very ordinary person. You may think there's nothing exciting about you, but you see, God loves ordinary people! He made most of that kind. Isn't that right? I mean, he must like them since he made so many of them, right? God makes ordinary people!  
 
They're the handiwork of God. Read First Corinthians chapter 1, verse 26 sometime: Here’s what you’ll discover: "For ye see your calling, brethren...not many mighty, not many noble, are called." 
 
You see, God uses ordinary people. But here's the secret: God takes ordinary people and he gives them extraordinary power! God infuses us with his Holy Spirit so we're no longer ordinary, because when we get saved we become extraordinary. 
 
But now, wait a minute. God takes ordinary people, God gives ordinary people extraordinary power, and then God puts those ordinary people (are you watching this?) in ordinary places.
And that’s not all: When God takes an ordinary person and gives him extraordinary power, then puts that ordinary person in an ordinary place with extraordinary power, He does extraordinary things through an ordinary person! 
 
Now if you'll learn this and get this into your heart, it's going to transform your life. You see, we neatly divide life up into the secular and the sacred. 
 
There are so many people who think if they are really going to do something for God, they’ve got to get out of their job, and serve God full-time. 
 
Boy, if I could just quit what I'm doing. Boy, it'd be so wonderful to be like you. It'd be so wonderful to be like Brother Jimmy. It'd be so wonderful if I could just get out of what I'm doing and serve God full-time! 
 
Well understand something: If you are a Christian, you are already responsible for serving God full-time. And your work is to be the temple of your service and it is to be the pulpit of your witness.
 
You see, we may divide life up into the secular and the sacred, but the New Testament never does that. 
 
In the Old Testament they did, but not in the New Testament. In the Old Testament they had priests and then the rest of the people. But in the New
Testament, we're all priests. 
In the Old Testament there was a temple that people went to, but Jesus said it's neither in this place, nor in that place, but everywhere... we worship God in spirit and in truth.
 
In the Old Testament, they divided foods up into the clean and the unclean. But in the New Testament, Jesus declared all meats clean. 
 
In the Old Testament, certain days were set aside. But in the New Testament, every day is a holy day, and every day is a sacred place, and every job has dignity, if it is an honorable work. 
 
Every Christian is a priest; therefore, every Christian is a minister and every Christian is doing full-time Christian service.
 
You may not be in an exciting job. I mean, your job may be in a factory screwing lids on tubes of toothpaste all day long. Maybe that's what you do all day long. Or you may be working in an office as a clerk. Or you may be pumping gasoline. You may be digging ditches. You may be building houses. You may be doing one of a myriad of a number of things. 
 
But I want to tell you, dear friend, if you learn what I have to tell you today from the word of God, it is going to turn that drudgery into delight! It's going to turn that monotony into magnificence. 
 
And you're going to find out that you are where God has placed you and you're there for a specific purpose. 
 
Three things I want you to see. 
 
Number one: I want you to see
 
1. The Sacredness of Everyday Work. 
Don't ever get the idea that to serve God you have to be a minister, or a missionary, on the staff of some Christian organization! Every job, if it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sacred job. Every one!
 
Let me chapter and verse that for you. 
 
Colossians 3:22-23. 
 
In modern terms that very simply means “Do what your told”.
 
Employees, be obedient to your boss--that's what he's saying--even though he is not a Christian. He is your master according to the flesh.
 
And by the way, do it “fearing God” and “as unto the Lord, because you don’t really work for men, you’re serving the Lord Christ.  
 
Simply put, that means you are to work for your boss as though he were Jesus. He may be a two-
legged devil, but you are to work for him as though he were Jesus Christ! Why? Because God owns the company that he thinks he owns! This is my father's world, and you are to serve the Lord Jesus.
Let me illustrate that through a man most all of us are familiar with named Daniel. 
 
You will remember that Daniel was taken as a captive from Israel and he was carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. And there in Babylon he had a secular job. Daniel's job was that he was a governmental bureaucrat. They trained him and they pressed him into the service of the government. 
 
As a governmental bureaucrat, he really served the Lord Jesus. Don't get the idea that Daniel was a pastor or that Daniel was a Priest. He was not. Daniel was what we would call today a businessman in ordinary work.
 
But I want you to notice what the king said when Daniel was in the lions' den. You remember Daniel refused to do certain things when he was in Babylon and they threw him in the lions' den as a sort of a punishment and the lions got lockjaw.
 
Daniel just relaxed and pulled up an old fluffy lion for a pillow and got out his Old Testament and began to read between the lions. He was just having a wonderful time there, doing his devotions. 
 
And the king looked in, Daniel chapter 6 and verse 20: "And when he came to the den," that is, the king, "he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel: the king spoke, saying to Daniel," now listen, here's what the King said to Daniel. 
 
Remember that Daniel was not a preacher, not a priest, in the classic sense of the word. 
"Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom ye serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?" 
 
Now, notice what the king said. He said, Daniel, you're a servant of the living God. Has that God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?   And, of course, God had been able to deliver him.
 
Listen: Here was a man who had a secular job and yet even his enemies and the unsaved people of this world had to admit that his secular job was really a sacred job, that he was really serving God. 
 
That is the sacredness of what we call secular work. If you do it in the name of Jesus, as to Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you will receive the same reward for doing that job that I receive for doing this job.
 
You may not believe it. You may not think it is so. You may think that your job is not an important job at all, nobody cares about me, nobody knows about me. Friend, God knows about you even if you don't get to lead in silent prayer in the children's department. God knows about you and God has his eye upon you and the Bible says those of you who are in secular work are serving the Lord Christ. 
 
Every Christian, therefore, is in full-time Christian work.
 
Now the second thing I want you to learn--not only the sacredness of everyday work,
 
2. The Sphere of Everyday Work. 
 
Where are you called to do this everyday work?   You say, Well, if I'm gonna do it, I sure would like to be in a Christian company. I sure would like to be surrounded by Christians. Boy, you just don't know, you just don't know the people that I work with. 
 
I just don't believe God wants me in this place. Boy, I mean, it must be nice for you to be around all those people in the church, you know? They're always smiling, always preaching, and always praising God. 
The only time I hear God's name mentioned where I work is when people are cursing.
 
And preacher, you just cannot believe the filthy jokes and vulgar language and ungodly behavior and the way people dress, and the way they talk, and the greed, and the dog eat dog, and the ambition, and the throat-cutting, and all of the materialism and the gossip that goes on!
 
Man if God would only get me out of this place so I could serve him!   Friend, God put you in that place so you could serve him.   You may not believe that, but I want to tell you, God put Daniel in Babylon.
 
Now many don’t see their workplace as a “calling”. In fact, they really believe they are just a victim of circumstances or their job was the only job they could find. 
 
Listen: isn’t it just possible that God may have placed you where you are and you'd not know anything about it and you didn't have any sense of call at all? 
 
In fact, if God had asked you about it, you probably would have said “no”, and yet where you are is exactly where God wants you to be, and it is His “calling” on your life for you to serve there.  
 
Let me ask you a question. Was Daniel a servant of God? Indeed, he was. Did he serve God? Indeed, he did. Was he where God wanted him? Indeed, He was! How did he get there? By circumstances beyond his control, at least what he thought were beyond his control. 
 
He was picked up by King Nebuchadnezzar and he was brought as an exile to the land of Babylon, that place of wickedness. But let me tell you something. How did he really get there?
 
According to Jeremiah 29:4, it was God who caused those captives to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 
 
And if you don’t get anything else, get this: Your
Job is the place where God has placed you to let your light shine. And, if God has placed you there, that is the place where God wants you. That is the sphere of your ministry, and it is a full-time ministry.
 
So many times we just say, Oh, God, I want to get out of Babylon. God, I want to get out of Babylon. Lord, I just want to do something for you! I want to get away from this worldly influence! 
 
Well, friend, God's plan for you is not to flee from the world. God's plan for you is to confront the world and to overcome the world and to witness to the world!  
 
God put Daniel in Babylon; God put you in Babylon! God has placed you there, and the work that you do there--as Daniel served the Lord God, you're to serve the Lord God. 
 
I have tried through this series to be very practical, so let me give you four rules in regarding to letting your light shine in the workplace:
 
Number one: Don't Brag. 
 
 
The Bible says let your light shine. Don't make it shine. It's to glow, not glare.   They're to see the light, not the candle. What I mean is, if you go in there with a super load of self-righteousness, bragging about yourself, and bragging about your church, and bragging about your righteousness, and bragging about your doctrines, you're gonna make them want to vomit. They're gonna be sick of it!
Don't brag.
 
Second thing: don't nag. 
 
If you're always thumping a Bible, handing out a tract, always getting on to somebody when he gambles, or somebody when he smokes, or somebody when he curses, or somebody when he throws out a filthy story, if you're nagging those people, you may think that you're doing a good job, but I want to tell you, you're not gonna win them to Jesus Christ. You're not gonna win an unsaved man that way. 
 
That is not his problem. You'd be just like that man if you didn't know the Lord Jesus Christ. His sin is not his problem. 
 
He needs Jesus Christ, and those are the only things he gets his kicks out of, he gets his bangs out of. He doesn't have the joy that you have. And you're not going to nag him to the Lord Jesus Christ! As a matter of fact, listen to Colossians 4 verses 5 and 6, "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside." 
 
Oh, if we could only teach our people this! "Walk in wisdom toward those who're outside, redeeming the time. 
 
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how you ought to answer each one." 
 
Oh, if you could only say, God, salt my speech, Lord. Season my speech with grace. I don't want to nag these people! 
 
Don't brag, don't nag, and,
 
Thirdly, don't lag. 
 
Do your part of the job. If you're a lazy Christian, if you're not getting there on time, if you're not doing your work that you ought to do, you're a disgrace to grace. It's a sin for a Christian to do less than his best. 
 
Listen again to Colossians 3:22-24
 
You are to work at that job; I don't care how dull, how boring, it may seem. It's not dull, it's not boring if you're doing it for Jesus. And don't you lag!  Listen: if you’re doing it as unto the Lord, that'll put a dignity in it. Whatever it is: you're running a machine; you're greasing automobiles; you're typing letters; you're carrying mail; you're painting houses; you're digging ditches; you're cutting yards—
Jesus, I'm doing it for you!   And I'll do it with my
might! 
 
Many never realize that the way you do your job reflects on your relationship to the Lord.
 
He is saying you don’t do your work as a men pleaser. Don’t do it with eye service. That means working only when the boss’s eyes are on you. 
I heard an amusing story. Supposedly a true story about a missionary in Africa who was supervising some workers there. Some of the workers were rather lazy and didn’t work too good unless he was right there and had his eyes on them all the time. As it turned out this missionary had a glass eye.   He had some irritation in his glass eye and he took his eye out. He put it on a stump. He found out that when he left, even when he was gone, if that eye was there they would work because they saw his eye. He had a pretty good deal going until one of the workers slipped up behind that glass eye with a hat and put the hat on it and then they did as they pleased.
 
If you are a Christian the boss ought not to have his eyes on you because you have another boss whose eyes are on you all the time. The eyes of the Lord are on you all the time. You can’t go anywhere that the Lord’s eyes aren’t there. The Bible says that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro on the earth to show himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him. The Lord’s eyes are on you all the time.
 
That means the Lord knows what time you show up for work, and how long you take for lunch, and whether you leave early, and how you do your work while you are on the job. 
 
Did you ever think about the fact the if you are supposed to be at work at 8:00 it doesn’t mean 8:15. It means you are to be there at 8:00. It means if you are to work until 4:00, it doesn’t mean 3:30. It means you are to give an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay. 
 
 
Did you ever realize that if you show up for work 15 minutes late and leave 15 minutes early, and you make $10 p/hour, that in a five-day-work week you are stealing $1,300 per year?
 
Don’t be a slackard that somebody else has to cover for you and do your work and make up for you. What a terrible testimony to be a thief of time and money. 
 
Do it as unto the Lord!
 
You may be flipping hamburgers tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what you do. Anything you do if it’s honorable and honest it doesn’t matter what you do. But if you are flipping hamburgers on your job, do it for Jesus’ sake. “Lord Jesus, I’m flipping that burger for your honor and your glory.”
 
If you are working on the computer tomorrow, every key you touch say, “Dear Jesus, I’m doing this for you today. I’m putting my whole heart in this because I love you and I want to be a good testimony for you.”
 
I really believe that this world is so desperate to find people who are honest and sincere that if Christians will work heartily at whatever they are doing as unto the Lord, your chances of advancement on your job are probably better than they’ve ever been in our society.
 
One day, while scrubbing the steps of a large New York City office building, a lady by the name of Sophie, the cleaning lady, was asked by one who worked in the office:
 
"I understand that you are a child of God?"
"Since you're a child of the king, wouldn't that make you a princess?""If God is your father, you're a princess, and a child of the King, isn't it beneath your level to be scrubbing the steps of this building?"
 
Sophie, very calmly replied, "No sir, it's not humiliating at all. For I do not scrub these steps for Mr. Brown, my boss, I scrub them for Jesus, my Savior!
 
Do it as unto the Lord! Boy, I'll tell you, that'll put a spring in your step. That'll put a zest in it. And that,
you'll say, I'm as much serving God this morning, as
Terry Tolbert was when he was standing in that pulpit! I'm serving God as much as Gary Word was when he's leading that choir! I am serving God as much as any missionary on the face of this earth! And whatever my hand finds to do, I will do it with my might! And I’ll do is as unto the Lord!
 
Don't brag, don't nag, don't lag, and
 
4. Don't Sag! 
 
Don't let down. Don't let down. Don't lapse back into the ways of this world. Don't begin to complain. 
Don't get unhappy. Stay happy! Stay full of joy! The only way to stay full of joy is to stay full of Jesus! 
And that means you're gonna have to have a quiet time before you ever go to work and get loaded up with the grace of God and bathe yourself in the presence of Jesus. 
 
When everybody else is griping, and complaining, and bellyaching, and morose, you can be there with the light of the Lord God upon your face!
I want to tell you something about those people that you work with:  Most of them are not all that interested in going to heaven or hell, they want to know how to hack it on Monday. 
 
And when they see you come in the office without a hangover and with the joy of the Lord Jesus on your face, they're gonna say after a while, Hey, buddy, what makes you function? You know what the Bible says in First Peter chapter 3 verse 15? "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for the reason of the hope that is in you." 
 
You're not going to have to take him by the buttonholes, and say, Buddy, are you ready to meet God? He's gonna come to you! And he's gonna say, Hey, what makes you tick? What is the secret of the life that you live? Where are you getting that joy? Because the joy of Jesus is real, you've sanctified the Lord God in your heart. You're going to be able to share the Lord Jesus with him.
 
That's the sphere of everyday work. Right there in Babylon. God put Daniel in Babylon. He didn't have any special call from God. It was circumstances that put him there, but God was overruling. And that became his temple of devotion. And that became his platform for witness. Daniel touched a whole nation for God just by being God's man where God placed him.
 
I've talked to you about the sacredness of everyday work. I've talked to you about the sphere of everyday work in Babylon. 
 
 
Now let me talk to you about
 
3. The Service of Everyday Work. 
 
You say, I can see that how I do my job should please God, but I’m not around anybody. 
I spend all day plowing. I spend all day painting houses. I spend all day scraping something down. I work in a kitchen. There's no way really even that I can witness where I am! Is it meaningful still? Absolutely. Absolutely.
 
Does it have eternal significance? You know what Daniel's job was, a secular job, an ordinary job. He was a government bureaucrat, according to Daniel chapter 8 verse 27. I'm sure that Daniel, as he's handling taxation and administration and public relations and law enforcement and building projects and meetings and diplomacy, he said, What does this have to do with serving God? But yet he
served God continually.
 
Let me ask you a question.
 
Who was the first farmer? Think about it. Many of you will say Adam was the first farmer, but you're wrong. Let me tell you who the first farmer was. You can find it out if you want to turn to Genesis chapter 2 verse 8. 
 
"The Lord God planted a garden eastward in
Eden," -the first farmer was God. 
 
Now that tells me that farming is an honorable occupation, if God was a farmer. God planted the first garden and then he turned it over to Adam. 
 
In Genesis chapter 2 verse 15, "And the Lord God took the man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend it and to keep it. 
 
Don't get the idea that work is the punishment for sin. Listen, God gave Adam work to do before he ever sinned--he made him caretaker of this world. 
 
Why a garden?
 
Because people have to eat!   The home of Jesus was the cottage of a working man, and Jesus, whether he was mending plows or mending souls, was doing the work of God, because people also have to have houses to live in, and furniture to sit on, and food to eat, and clothes to wear, and the ability to communicate. 
 
And when we're doing those things, friend, we are participating with God and cooperating with God as much as Adam was when He was taking care of the Garden of Eden, a garden that God has planted.
 
Don't get the idea that the material world is wrong or out of whack with God. God made these things, friend, and God knows they have to operate. We could not have humanity, we could not have Life. 
 
Listen, all of these things are as to the Lord. 
 
Listen to Colossians 3:23-24
 
He was talking to people in secular jobs. And he was saying that when you're doing that secular Job, it's service to the Lord. And Jesus will reward you. Isn't that beautiful?
 
I tell you that puts dignity in your job. I don't care what it is. When you go to work tomorrow, I want
you to go to work tomorrow with a song in your heart, and a smile on your face, and a spring in your step! 
 
And if you're putting those caps on tubes of toothpaste, say, This one is for you, Jesus. Hallelujah! Praise God! Another one for God!   There
they go! Nobody else knows about it; God knows about it! One last thing, and I'll be finished. 
 
Colossians 3:25-4:1
 
If you are a supervisor, remember that you have a supervisor also. If you are a Christian and folks are working for you, I’ve got news for you. You have a supervisor also. Look at the rest of the verse. “Knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” 
You check in every day too. Somebody is in charge of you too. 
You cannot have those under your authority unless you are under authority yourself. You can’t exercise authority unless you are under authority.
       
Let’s cut quickly to the bottom line. Go back to chapter 3 and look at the last part of verse 25. Here’s the bottom line that ties all of this together. It says, “and there is no respect of persons.” 
 
That means that God shows no partiality. Nobody is any better than anybody else to the Lord. We all have different responsibilities and we’ll all give an answer for how we did what we did. 
 
But it all begins with our relationship to God. 
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