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Work - Rest & Service

Sun, Sep 20, 2020
Duration:23 mins 37 secs
We work because God first worked. Ourwork is also service. We work for God as much as for our employer. We rest because God rested but for the Christian, rest is rest with God.

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Message text

Genesis 2:1-3, 15-25; Colossians 3:22-4:1

I wonder what jobs you've had over your lifetime? I guess for many of us there's been a main vocation. But maybe you've had a change of direction along the way? And maybe you've had some interesting part time jobs along the way as well. Often it's those part time jobs we had as teenagers or young adults that were the most fascinating. I'd love to hear what have been your weirdest or most interesting jobs? Your most quirky jobs? Or which fast food restaurant you've worked for? Maccas anyone?

I've had a number of different jobs in my life. My two 'grown up' jobs have been as a lawyer and a minister.

But in terms of part time jobs, I worked at Myer in the jewellery and watch section. That was fun and pretty civilised as casual jobs go. I was a maths tutor for years. And I also worked in a bakery. I have to say it was the bakery that takes the cake for weird and wonderful stories. There were the times when the bakers pulled day old sponges out of the serving windows, scraped the cream off and re-creamed them before sending them out to be sold. There was also the day when we were told urgently to pull the lamingtons out of the window with no explanation. Until we got them out the back and the explanation was maggots. I learnt from working in this bakery to always point to the front item in a bakery display if I'm buying something. Dodgy bakeries serve from the back for a reason.

Today we're exploring God's perspective on work. We'll think about how work fits into God's design for our lives. And how the spiritual practices of rest and service help us to live God's way when it comes to work in our lives.

Work >  Service  >  Rest

So, what is God's perspective on work?

Today we're really going to start at the very beginning. We're not going to sing do-re-mi but we are going back to the first 5 words of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 - 'In the beginning God created ..' In the beginning God did something! He made something! In the beginning God worked!  And Genesis 2:2 describes what God did as work: 'By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing;'
In fact, Eugene Peterson describes Genesis 1 as 'a journal of work' (The Journey, 94). He says, 'The week of creation was a week of work … The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works' (94 - 95).

God worked at the beginning and he continues to work. In John 5:17, Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.'

God works. Jesus works.

And humans are also designed to work. We heard it this morning in our reading.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15).

Work is good! Work was created by God to be a good part of his good creation.

Work is good. But work was also cursed.

In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve disobeyed God for the first time. In response, God spoke out the consequences of their disobedience. And it's the third part of these consequences that impacts work.

Genesis 3:17-19

17 To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat from it,' 'Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food …

This curse is on work. Adam and Eve's work was the cultivation of the ground for food. But all work is impacted by their disobedience to God and its consequences. Our work is impacted by our disobedience to God and its consequences. One commentary puts it like this: 'it was the hardship and frustration that attended work that constitutes the curse' (Wenham, 82).

Hardship and frustration. Maybe that resonates with you as you think about your work experiences.

Work now is like an apple pie burnt in the oven. Perhaps still tasty, but not what it should be. There's a bitterness we can't avoid. And sometimes work is like a pie burnt to a crisp. There's just no joy left.

So where does that leave us? What is work like for you?

Let me clarify for a moment that when I'm talking about work today, it's not just paid work I'm referring to. Parents who take a break from paid work to look after their children are still working – working hard! Those who are retired still have work to do – shopping, cooking, housework, maintenance. There's this kind of work for all of us to do, just to live. Work includes what we do to earn a living, what we do vocationally and the 'stuff' we have to do to make life happen. 

So what is work like for you? What words would you use to describe your work experiences over the years?

My suspicion is that there's a kaleidoscope of emotions and experiences that describe what work is like for us. Both individually and collectively. Here are some that I've experienced in my working life: joy, satisfaction, fun, stress, pressure, grief, anxiety about money, boredom, dislike, helplessness, conflict.

All of this is now accentuated and intensified by covid. Some of us are working longer hours than ever. Some of us have lost our jobs and are looking for a new one in an economy that really isn't helping. Some have taken other jobs but not satisfying ones. For some, while we're thankful to have a job, much of the joy has leaked out of those jobs because of covid.

Here's a little snapshot of one parent's covid working experience – this is a text from someone at St Hils: 'I've also had to adjust to new distractions while working. I usually work in an open plan office, but my colleagues don't tend to ask me for bananas, for my Paypal password, or to help them find yellow paper for their dioramas representing the Venezuelan government.' You have to laugh right, otherwise you'd cry!

So given that work now is like a burnt apple pie, why do we, as followers of Jesus, work?

Do we work for pragmatic reasons – we need money to live? Well, yes! But thankfully there's more motivation than that.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, … to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Ephesians 4:28

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

God gives us a beautiful vision for our work, even after sin has messed it up. Work gives us a chance to win the respect of those outside the Christian faith. It enables us to be independent. It gives us something useful to do. And it helps us to share with others in need.

And even more, our work is a way of serving the Lord. 

Work  >  Service  >  Rest  

Colossians 3:22-24 is a mind-blowing passage:

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

So even a slave in the first century could have his or her life transformed by a Christian way of approaching their work. Even a slave was to work with all their heart, as if working for the Lord. Even a slave was to work with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Even as a slave, they were serving the Lord!

Imagine how validating this would be for Christian slaves to hear for the first time! And it's validating for us too. Brothers and sisters, whatever work you do, work with all your heart, as if working for the Lord. Work with sincerity of heart. With reverence for the Lord. For you are serving the Lord each day! As an electrician. As a lawyer. As a nurse. As a student. At Woolies. As a Mum. You are serving the Lord in your work.

So how do you remember each day that in your work, whatever it is, you are serving the Lord? One tiny discipline you could implement is to pray each day as you begin work. This can just take one minute. You can pray in your car. You can pray as you turn on your first zoom of the day. But it's a recognition that you go into your day as someone who belongs to Jesus. As someone who serves Jesus in your vocation.

So work remembering that you serve the Lord in your work.

Hold on to this vision as you do your work each day. Savour the pie when you can. But also expect some burnt bits.

I love being a minister, I really do. My work is a privilege and a joy. But I have to say that even working with lovely Christians in a Christian environment doesn't make my work perfect! My sin gets in the way. The sin of others gets in the way. There are burnt bits as well as delicious hot, cinnamony apple in my work pie.

Those burnt bits come for so many reasons. But one aspect of work going wrong is related to our own managing of our work.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way: 'Work goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don't work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work' (The Journey, 95).

Work  >  Service  >  Rest  

When it comes to work and rest in the Bible, what we see is a rhythm of work and rest. So my question for you today is what is your rhythm of work and rest? Do you have an intentional rhythm of work and rest? If you don't, how might such a rhythm look for you?

In the Bible, we see a rhythm of work and rest in God himself:

Genesis 2:2

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

And God gave a rhythm of work and rest to his people, the nation Israel:

Exodus 20:

8 'Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Here we see two aspects of the Sabbath for Israel. They are rest with God. And rest from work.

Of course, we're not national Israel with a command to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath. But as followers of Jesus, we're still called to a rhythm of work and rest. Our rest is also to be rest with God. And rest from work.

Rest with God is part of what Jesus offers us when we put our trust in him.
Matthew 11:

28 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'

Jesus offers us rest. Rest for our souls. Rest because he has dealt with our disobedience to God in Jesus' death and resurrection. Rest because he is our King who is in control of all things. Rest because he loves us. Rest because he offers us life with him now and life with him forever. If you haven't put your trust in Jesus, let me encourage you to check him out. Keep coming to church each week. Send us an email and I'd be happy to talk to you. Join us for our post-church zoom chat. Please don't miss out on this rest Jesus offers.

And if you do trust in Jesus, are you making room for resting with him in your life? How do you rest with God? Do you read the Bible and pray regularly? Do you listen to Christian music while you walk? Whatever it is for you, rest with God takes time. When is your time to rest with God? Is it rhythmic? Or is it haphazard? What a tragedy it is to miss out on resting with the God of the universe!

And what about the other aspect of rest? When and how do you rest from work?

We see in Mark 6 that Jesus encouraged the apostles to rest:

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'

We need rest. Physical rest. So how and when do you rest? In fact, do you rest?

I find this very challenging. Some of you may be familiar with the type A/type B personality distinction. I'm a type A. I read this summary of type A personalities, which is a little mortifying: 'People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving 'workaholics'.'

That's my challenge. I can work and work and work. But I need to take seriously God's call on me to rest. Rest is a recognition of my physical limitations. My body and soul need rest. Rest is a recognition that I am not in control. God is in control.

Whether you're a type A or B personality, God calls us to a rhythm of work and rest.
I read once that we should make time to rest each day. To rest each week. And to rest each year. That's helpful I think. So how can you rest each day, each week and each year? Both with God. And from your physical work.

I want to add a couple of provisos in here. I know there are seasons of life for all of us. Maybe you're a young parent. Rest often seems incredibly elusive at that stage of life. Maybe your work is going crazy right now. And maybe covid has messed up any work/rest rhythm you had pre-2020. So this isn't meant to be a guilt session if you struggle with a rhythm of work and rest. Rather let today be an encouragement to find a rhythm that works for you. And perhaps you need a rhythm for now, during covid. And then to re-think a new rhythm for the time when your work and life moves to a different pattern. Your rhythm of work and rest will need to change as you go through different stages of life. But work and rest are part of who God made us to be.

This doesn't have to be big and dramatic either. At our Connect Group a couple of weeks ago, two of us shared that we often sit in the car for 5 minutes when we get home from work. It's a moment of rest. I find it incredibly helpful. It won't work if you have screaming kids in the car. But for me, this is a small way I can build a moment of rest into my day. That's not the sum total of how I rest, but it helps.

So what is your rhythm of work and rest?
How and when do your rest with God? And how and when do your rest from work?

Given that our work pie is burnt in this broken world, let me encourage you today to make the most of the good parts. Remember God has given us work as a good part of our lives. Remember that he's given us a vision of work – to serve him, to win the respect of outsiders, to be independent. And remember that each of us need a rhythm of work and rest to help us avoid as many burnt bits as possible.

Let's pray.