God’s Pleasure In Our Work

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

A couple of weeks ago I asked a question about a fictitious job. Which job would you rather have: a job that’s (a) boring, not utilizing your skills, where you’re treated as a cog in the wheel, or (b) energizing, calling out your best talents, a place where you are making a difference? 

As a follow up I asked, “Which of those jobs are you more likely to be happy to go to? Which job is going to inspire you to give your best work ethic?” 

We all want that ideal job, but the reality is that in this fallen world there are no perfect jobs, so it’s very likely that we’re going to have the challenging jobs. Even when we have that kind of job, Christians are called to work with excellence and to find joy in that work (Colossians 3:23). 

Work originated with God. At the conclusion of every day of Creation, God looked at His magnificent handiwork and pronounced it good. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them instructions to work, and even after their sin, He repeated the call to work (Genesis 2:15, 3:17-19). 

Whether we are called to be gardeners or evangelists, plumbers or salespeople, teachers or doctors, we are to work well. William Tyndale wrote, “There is no work better than to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all are one; to wash dishes and to preach are all one, as touching the deed, to please God.” 

Let me give you two examples of good workers. 

The first is Joseph whom we meet in the first book of the Bible. Out of their jealousy of their father’s preferential treatment of Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt working for a man named Potiphar. I don’t think anyone would have blamed Joseph for grumbling about his condition and giving the least effort possible, but instead, Joseph so excelled in his work that Potiphar promoted him over all his household. 

After being framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph found himself in prison. Once again, this innocent man could have sulked and complained and shirked his work responsibility. But once again, Joseph did such excellent work that the warden promoted him to a trustee position over all the other prisoners. 

Eventually, Joseph was promoted to second in command in all of Egypt, where he continued to do excellent and innovative work. Joseph’s good attitude and impeccable work ethic allowed God to place him in a position where he could save his people from starvation (see Genesis 39-50). 

What about the example of Jesus? He was fully God, yet He gave up His divine prerogatives to work as a carpenter and to eventually perform the most important work of all: the willing sacrifice for the sins of all humankind. Paul describes the servanthood and willing attitude of Jesus in Philippians 2, adding an important “therefore” when he tells us that the excellent work of Jesus allowed God to place Him in a position where He could save His people from eternal separation from God (Philippians 2:6-11). 

But Paul also has an important word for us in the verse preceding this passage: “Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (v. 5 AMP). 

I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When I choose this attitude and live it out with an excellent work ethic, God is pleased. 

So allow me to give you four attitude-checking questions about your own work ethic:

  1. Do I feel like I have to go to work? I should so crave God’s glory and God’s rewards that I have a get to attitude about my work. 
  2. Do I complain about my work? The Bible makes it very clear that God disapproves of grumbling, and uses our good attitude to point others to Himself (Numbers 11:1; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15). 
  3. Am I “quiet quitting”? This should never, ever be said of Christians! Our work ethic should be as exemplary as Joseph’s and Christ’s (Ephesians 6:5-8).
  4. Am I living for T.G.I.F.? We shouldn’t be focused on just getting things done, but we should make the most of every day of work that we have been given. We should be living out T.G.I.T.—Thank God It’s Today (Psalm 90:12, 17)! 

Let me repeat an important principle: I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When you have this kind of attitude, you will experience the joy of a fulfilled craving that God has put in all of us—the desire to do meaningful and God-honoring work. This is the attitude and work ethic God delights to reward. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Craving, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Unburdened

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Let’s get on the same page with a few facts: 

  • Nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. 
  • Being anxious is not a sin but we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our First Source. Notice that David said, “When [not “if”] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). 

We’ve been looking at both the dictionary definitions and biblical definitions of anxiety. One definition is being disquieted, but we saw that coming close to Jesus Xs out the “dis-” and takes us to a place of quiet. A second definition is being insecure because we are so full of cares. Clinging to Jesus Xs out the “in-” and makes us secure when His strong arms are around us. 

A third definition of anxiety is found here: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). This word for cares or anxieties is the only time this Hebrew word is used in the Bible. The idea is a heavy burden, which the Amplified Bible captures like this: “Cast your burden on the Lord—releasing the weight of it—and He will sustain you….”

We can be burdened because we pick up and carry things on our own. But the word for cares or burdens in Psalm 55:22 can mean not only things we pick up, but things given to us by God or allowed by God. You might ask, “Why would God give me a burden?” 

  • Sometimes it’s allowed—God allowed satan to afflict Job within limits, and He allowed Joseph’s brothers to ambush him (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-7; Genesis 50:20).  
  • Sometimes it’s given—God gave Jesus a bitter cup to drink, and He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” (Matthew 26:39-42; 2 Corinthians 12:7). 
  • In every instance, the limits are perfectly measured to accomplish what God wants to do. The way we respond glorifies Him and keeps us dependent on Him (Job 1:20; 2:10; Genesis 50:20; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Hebrews 10:10). 

(Check out all of the above biblical passages by clicking here.)

Still in the middle of this, the burdens can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. That’s why God tells us what to do with these burdens: Cast them off! 

In Psalm 55:22, David gives us the word “cast” in the imperative mood, which means it’s a command. Literally, the word means to throw away or shed the burden. 

How often do we do this? David said he prayed “evening, morning, and noon” for God’s help (Psalm 55:16-17). 

What does God do when we cast off these burdens? He sustains and supports us—“He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

The apostle Peter quotes the opening words of this verse when he writes, “Cast all your anxiety on Him,” and then he tells us why we can do this: “Because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Just like David said he prayed for his burdens to be released “evening, morning, and noon,” the verb tense Peter uses implies the same thing. We don’t just release our burdens once, but we continue to do it again and again and again! 

The word Peter uses for “cast” is only used twice in all the New Testament. The word means not just to drop our burdens at our feet—where we may trip over them or be tempted to pick them up again—but to throw our burdens on someone else. The only other place this word is used is when on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem the disciples “threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35). 

Peter tells us that this casting off of our burdens requires us to humble ourselves before God. Pride makes us think we can handle it on our own, and that same pride robs God of the glory He would receive when He provides relief from our heavy load. We cast these burdens onto Jesus so that we can be alert to the enemy’s sneaky tactics, and help others who are also being attacked. And just as David said God supported and sustained him, Peter said the same thing (1 Peter 5:6-10). I especially like the wording from the King James Version—

But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 KJV) 

Jesus can X-out the instability that comes with carrying heavy burdens and make us stablished, strengthened, and settled in Him. 

Don’t try to carry these anxiety-inducing burdens on your own, but cast them on Jesus every evening, morning, and noon. Let Him carry those burdens so you can live in a way that glorifies Him every single day. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series X-ing Out Anxiety, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Solving The Unsolvable Dilemma

When Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, he said that “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” Just before the angel showed up Luke noted that Mary was “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David (Luke 1:27, 32).

At this time in history marriages were often arranged to preserve and strengthen family lines. Both Joseph and Mary could trace their family lineage through the royal line of Israel’s King David. 

Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was considered as strong as a marriage with the only exception being that the couple didn’t yet live together nor sleep together. Betrothal usually lasted a year and would require a divorce to cancel it. 

Mary tells Joseph what Gabriel said to her and then she leaves to visit Elizabeth for the next three months! Joseph is left alone to consider his options. 

The word Luke uses for “consider” is not even close to what’s happening in Joseph’s mind. The word means to revolve around and around in your mind, like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. 

Consider Joseph’s options. If he divorces Mary—which was apparently his first reaction—Mary would be publicly embarrassed. Not to mention that Joseph knew that God hated divorce. 

If Joseph decided to proceed with the marriage, he would either have to confess he was the father of her child—which could result in both of them being stoned—or admit that she was pregnant by another man—which would be a permanent disgrace for Mary’s family. 

In either case, both families would be shamed! 

While Joseph was still considering all these unsavory options an angel says to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid.” By calling him by that title he is really saying, “I know how important your family heritage is to you. I know how important Mary’s family heritage is to her. But do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because this all fits into God’s plan. 

Would it have been easier on Joseph and Mary and their families if God could have waited until after they were married? Of course! But then it wouldn’t fit into God’s miraculous plan, because 700 years earlier God promised that Jesus would be born of an unmarried virgin. 

Fearing what’s coming in the future means we have forgotten Who already knows the future. 

God knows YOUR future too! It’s a future He already saw as good and fruitful, if you will put your trust in Him (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 29:11; John 15:16).

If you seem paralyzed by a no-win dilemma like Joseph was, first DON’T do what Joseph did: pray! Then DO what Joseph did after hearing the angel: obey. 

Remember Who knows you and Who knows your future, and then take each step on your journey as God directs you. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Do Not Be Afraid, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

Get Up And Get Moving

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him… (Matthew 1:24). 

I was reading an article posted on WebMD about how much damage we can do to our hearts by spending more time in front of the TV or computer than we do exercising. You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh! isn’t that obvious?!” It should be, and yet all of us still have a natural tendency to just sit there.

One quote especially stood out to me —

“It’s not even about the exercise. It’s about not sitting,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I think that sort of points us in a little different direction. In order for you not to cause harm to yourself, you really need to focus on getting up and moving.”

This reminds me of Joseph (Mary’s husband) in the Bible. God spoke to him three times in dreams. After Joseph woke up, instead of just sitting there contemplating the vision, there’s a phrase that shows up after every single vision—“Joseph got up and did.” 

A mark of a godly leader is one who obeys God quickly.

I’m convinced that if Joseph had not obeyed the first God-given vision, he wouldn’t have been given anymore. 

Has God given you a vision for your life? If so, just sitting there may do damage to your heart and limit any other visions from God. So follow Joseph’s example and get up and get moving!

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Fight Or Flee?

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12). 

Psychologists tell us that when faced with certain situations our bodies instinctively prepared to fight or flight. Knowing which situations to fight and which to run from are crucial for living a long and productive life. 

It’s no different in the spiritual realm. 

Christian leaders must know which things are worth the fight, and which things they simply must flee. To flee from things we should fight shows a lack of courage. But to try to fight the things we should run from shows a lack of wisdom. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows what to fight and what to flee.

Three things you must FIGHT for…

  1. …the purity of the true faith (1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 1:3)
  2. …the disempowered (Proverbs 31:8-9; Matthew 21:12-13)
  3. …the devil (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11) 

Three things you must FLEE from…

  1. …idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14)
  2. …sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:12)
  3. …earthly riches (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Don’t try to fight the things you must flee from, and don’t run away from the things you must fight for. Pray for God’s wisdom to know which is which. 

This is part 29 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Blessing Of Quiet Humility

“When you’re full of yourself, God can’t fill you. But when you empty yourself, God has a useful vessel. Your Bible overflows with examples of those who did.

“In his gospel, Matthew mentions his own name only twice. Both times he calls himself a tax collector. In his list of apostles, he assigns himself the eighth spot.

John doesn’t even mention his name in his gospel. The twenty appearances of ‘John’ all refer to the Baptist. John the apostle simply calls himself ‘the other disciple’ or the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved.’

Luke wrote two of the most important books in the Bible but never once penned his own name.

Paul, the Bible’s most prolific author, referred to himself as ‘a fool’ (2 Corinthians 12:11).

King David wrote no psalm celebrating his victory over Goliath. But he wrote a public poem of penitence confessing his sin with Bathsheba (see Psalm 51).

“And then there is Joseph. The quiet father of Jesus. Rather than make a name for himself, he made a home for Christ. And because he did, a great reward came his way. ‘He called His name Jesus’ (Matthew 1:25).” —Max Lucado, in You!

Check out my book review of You! by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book here.

5 Lessons From 2 Mothers

If you’ve been reading my series of posts on God’s favor, I hope you are becoming more aware of how strongly I want you to know this: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. (If you want to read some of these previous posts, check out the link at the bottom of this post.) 

In writing his account of the birth of Jesus, Luke is captured with the idea of God’s favor. Luke uses the word favor more than any of the other gospel writers, and he uses the word quite frequently as he relates the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. During his narrative we meet two women—Elizabeth and Mary. Here are five lessons we can learn from these two mothers. 

(1) “Favor” is not the same thing as “favorite.” To say, “I am the one on whom God’s favor rests” is not the same as saying, “I am God’s favorite.” Elizabeth recognized God’s favor on both herself and on Mary (Luke 1:25 & 43), and Mary also recognized God’s favor on herself (Luke 1:28, 30, 48-49). But nowhere did these women think they were God’s favorites. God has no favorites, but instead He showers His abundant, never-ending favor on everyone! 

(2) “Favor” probably didn’t look like what they would have planned for themselves. Elizabeth didn’t get pregnant until the age when she should have been a grandmother, and Mary got pregnant before she was even married. I’m sure neither of them thought their lives would go this way! But God knew what He was doing all along (see Isaiah 45:7-9; Psalm 139:16). 

(3) They needed humility, obedience, and perseverance to remain in the place where they could recognize God’s favor. No one can stop God’s favor, but the devil would love to keep you from recognizing God’s favor. One way satan does this is by trying to get us to appeal to our pride (“I think I can do this better”) because then obedience to God and perseverance through the trying times is very difficult to maintain. 

(4) God’s favor is for God’s glory (not necessarily for our comfort). God is accomplishing HIS plan through us. His favor toward us places us where He needs us, when He needs us there, and with the talents we need to respond correctly when we get to that moment. Mary spoke the words that I’m sure were also in Elizabeth’s heart: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me just as you have said.” 

(5) God’s favor doesn’t necessarily answer all our questions. Even though God’s favor places us in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, we will still undoubtedly have questions about why God is doing what He’s doing. If you feel that way, you’re not alone—Hebrews 11 is full of people who felt the same way. But hang in there and keep trusting God: He knows what He’s doing! In the meantime remember this: God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you, that you, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may have an abundance for EVERY good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). 

Check out this video of the full message I shared on these lessons from the life of Elizabeth and Mary. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue looking at God’s favor. You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on God’s favor, check out: 

An Angel’s Story (book review)

an-angels-storyReader’s of my blog will know that I seldom read fiction books, but Max Lucado tricked me into reading this one! I read the introduction to An Angel’s Story and thought, “Wow, this is going to be an interesting take on the Christmas story,” and I began reading. But before I realized I was reading a fictional account, I was hooked and had to keep on reading.

I’m so glad I did! 

We often think of the night of Christ’s birth being—as the Christmas carols tell us—a silent night of wonder, a holy night of rejoicing, a festive night of an angel choir singing in the skies above Bethlehem. Indeed this is the picture we get in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

However, the book of Revelation tells a different story.

In Revelation, we see the lengths to which the devil and his hoard went to prevent the Advent of Jesus. And we also read about the angels who remain loyal to God battling against the dark forces in the heavens. Max Lucado imagines what this might of have looked like in the unseen spiritual world around Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

If you’ve ever read anything from Max Lucado, you know that he is a first-class storyteller, and An Angel’s Story is no exception. Believe me: this book will grab your attention, keep you riveted until the very end, and give you a perspective of the night of Christ’s birth like you’ve probably never seen before. 

I highly recommend this book to you!

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophecy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Carols Of Christmas, you can find the full list here.

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