Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

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Where Do We Start?

I’m not the type of person to really watch or listen to the news but I do check in and skim headlines each day so I’m at least somewhat aware of what goes on in the world. There’s been a lot of hate in the news of late, and to an extent you can understand some of it: there are people around the world who suffer greatly and as a result of their suffering they believe that the only way to deal with it is to obliterate anyone in their path to showing the world who they are and making a statement about how hurt they are, even if they won’t admit it that that’s why they’re doing it. Too many people hide their pain behind bitterness, nastiness, brutality, humor and sarcasm, or just plain hide.

I can’t imagine how God felt after the Garden of Eden incident when He knew that there would be so much pain and suffering in the world; knowing that we would suffer so much as a result. The worst part was probably knowing that most of our suffering and pain to the degree that we experience it is because we’re too stubborn to get help, to be vulnerable and admit that we’re not perfect, that we have our failures and weaknesses, and because we can’t accept that it’s OK to fail or be imperfect.

In some ways it’s totally understandable that we don’t want to admit our vulnerabilities to others, that we don’t want to be honest about how we feel deep inside because we’ve been hurt or seen others experience the wrath, laughter, criticism and hate for not measuring up to other people’s expectations, unrealistic or not. It makes us question our relationships, question people’s motives, curb or go overboard in our thoughts, actions and reactions, and not choose to fulfill our potential.

There are lots of reasons to doubt and question other people, and we think that we’ve got some good reasons to question God as well. We think that because God hasn’t responded to our call immediately that He’s busy or doesn’t care, and when it’s been long enough we think that He’s forgotten about us or what we shared with Him about or that He doesn’t want us to have good things in our lives. But I think we’ve forgotten who God is.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says “But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.”

The thing about people and God and our lives after Eden is that we have to be willing to take chances if we really want to live. We have to take a chance in trusting God and opening up to other people and asking for help, not just complaining. We have to believe, and even more than that know, that God cares for us and that not only is God interested and cares about us, but He cares about other people too, and He wants us to as well. We need to take the chance that God really does have a plan for our lives and to be open to God’s creative purposes and plans for us, and not box ourselves up before we have a chance to explore the potential He placed inside of us. We need to accept God and the person He has created us to be, and the people He has created and placed around us. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and with each other. And we need to make sure that we honor each other with the respect and knowledge that God created each of us so each of us deserves to be treated as such.

A Contemplation of Life

This month we’re talking about a topic that we do and don’t think about: enjoying life.  When people think and talk about enjoying life they often feel guilty about it, as if we should be working hard and reaching goals and there’s no time for fun or life because you should be working for the future and the things that are enjoyable aren’t “Christian.”  But I see so many people who are stressed out, miserable, unhappy, depressed and freaked out about life and all that goes on that I think we forget that life isn’t here to torture us, but for us to enjoy and be fulfilled by and live through, not just survive.

As I was thinking about this topic I was reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes.  The book is a contemplation on life really, a debate of what’s good, what’s meaningless, what life is all about, the seasons of things and really is a pretty good representation of the things we go through mentally and emotionally in our lives.  There are times when we’re just thrown for a loop and have to work through some really bad stuff.  Every life works through high and low points and it’s up to us to choose how we’re going to get through the times of struggle in the attitude we have, the people we surround ourselves with and the resources we have to tap into.

But I don’t think it’s healthy to go through life just anticipating the problems that may come our way.  Yes, we should always have an eye out for them and do our best to be prepared for whatever will come our way throughout our lifetime, because it’s much easier and often quicker to get through problems if you’re prepared for things to happen.  But life is full of opportunities for joy, moments for celebration, people to laugh with and experiences to be thrilled by.  I believe that we’ll get along better as a world if we’re looking for the best in others and our experiences rather than the worst.   The good stuff also makes it easier to get through the tough stuff and gives you things to look forward to as well as reasons to keep going.

So this month I challenge you to find something awesome in each and every day.  Find a reason to celebrate every day.  Find something good in the people you interact with each day. And make sure to treat yourself to something special each day.  Maybe it’s a cookie or a walk or a bubble bath or 10 minutes of video games with your kids before bed or a beer on the back porch with your significant other, but be intentional about finding something in each and every day to enjoy about life.

Purpose in Life

In this world of turmoil, change, and challenge, you don’t have to go too far to hear people say things like what is shared in Ecclesiastes 1:2-11:

“”Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”   What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.  The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles.  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea.  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.  Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.  We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.”

It makes you want to throw your hands in the air just reading it, right?  I know I do!  11 chapters later this is the conclusion that is reached:  “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

I think the bottom line is a little bigger than this though.  I do think that when it all boils down what you get is God.  But God wouldn’t have made us the way He did if Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 was his only intended result.  God created us each with brains, with abilities, with smiles, with qualities that are unmatched in any other.  We may meet people who we click with, but no one is exactly us.  Which is probably why Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

God didn’t make little god-bots, he made humans, each unique in their own way.  Not the least of that uniqueness is the purpose He placed in each life, in each heart, in each soul.  Which brings us to two conclusions that are interconnected.  Through God we have a purpose, a meaning, in life that we do not have without Him.   It’s our choice whether to accept Him and our purpose, or not.

This week I challenge you to look beyond the feelings of meaninglessness that may be in your life.  If you’re so busy sticking your head in a hole and seeing the bad stuff, you’ll never get to the amazing stuff God’s got lined up for you specifically, and you’ll never know the satisfaction of doing a job well done for God.

The Guarantee of Right Now

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”  Oprah Winfrey

Life doesn’t make many guarantees for us anymore.  We could be hit by a crazy senior citizen driver, eat bad food or fly on an airplane.  There’s no way to guarantee life, and there never really has been.  We’ve never been given a guarantee of living here on earth.  We may have a guarantee of the next life from God, but there’s no guarantee on today or tomorrow, no matter how healthy we are or how hard we try to stay alive.

If you’ve read the book of Ecclesiastes you know the conclusion reached early on was that life is meaningless.  I beg to disagree: life is only meaningless if you don’t do anything with it and don’t live the life you’ve been given.  It may not be possible or smart to seize every moment and live each day to extremes, but most of us don’t do the most with our lives that we could.  Oprah also said:

“I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.”

Not everyone will be as successful as Oprah, but we certainly can be more successful than we are simply by being more responsible for our lives.  Being responsible includes taking big actions when called for, and knowing when taking a day off is the right thing to do.  If you aren’t responsible for yourself you will find out pretty quickly that no one else will be either.  I can’t make you be successful or happy if you don’t want to be and/or aren’t willing to put forward the effort.

What will you choose to do with today?

Being Successful

“So begin planting early in the morning, and don’t stop working until evening. You don’t know what might make you rich. Maybe everything you do will be successful.”  Ecclesiastes 11:6

As we head into the fall, a new school year and final quarter of 2013, many people are thinking about what the future holds and trying to make the best impact they can; I know I certainly am.  Although we may have great desire and work hard to be successful, it’s not always that easy.  If it were, the world would be a different place.

The words of Ecclesiastes 11 reveal the truth: anything you do could make you successful.  Sometimes it’s by luck or God’s will that it works out to be a success, other times it seems like hard work got you to success.  Most people don’t care or take the time to figure out why or how they’re successful, they’re thankful and live it up while they can.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 is both a challenge and an encouragement.  We are challenged to work hard for our success and encouraged that success is possible for anyone.  Sometimes it can seem like success is not coming, that it’s just not in the cards for us.  But that’s not the truth.  Success is possible for anyone willing to greet the opportunities they’re presented with and work to achieve them.

This week I encourage you to get out there and search for your success opportunities.  They may find you but usually you have to find them.  Work hard to make the most of the gifts you have been given each day and don’t give up.

Satisfied, Successful and Spiritual?

“There is no one who has tried to enjoy life more than I have. And this is what I learned: The best thing people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy the work they must do. I also saw that this comes from God.”
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Life isn’t easy, this I have learned.  But each lesson of life teaches me exactly what the writer of Ecclesiastes learned: life and God go hand in hand.  See it’s not about living your life the best you can, doing the grunt work you have to do each day to get by or just living life to it’s (party) fullest.  It’s not just about praying or reading your Bible.  It’s about both.

The most rewarding life is one where you live the purpose that God has given you and you enjoy the blessings he has poured out upon you on earth.  Why can’t you be satisfied, successful and spiritual?

God has blessed everyone, maybe we won’t all be millionaires or TV pastors, but we will be blessed.  It’s up to us to find those blessings, live our lives and love God.

Each day is filled with many opportunities to enjoy life, and many opportunities to connect with God.  I encourage you to look for all those opportunities in your life today.