~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~
• The One I Love, rated R
• Magic in the Moonlight, rated PG-13
If you are a Christian, and you refrain from committing adultery or using profanity or missing church, but you don’t do the hard work of thinking through how to do justice in every area of life – you are failing to live justly and righteously. -Tim Keller from Generous Justice
Steven Garber was the speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May. Tammy and I are reading his newest book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. Below are passages we highlighted from our reading for the first week of our book club:
• Percy describes the novelist as “a physician of the soul of society,” and in his essay “Another Message in a Bottle,” he argues, “Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition.” That insight has become foundational to me, and it is a rare day that I do not draw upon it in conversations.
• Why is it that we care? Why is it that we see ourselves implicated in the world, in the way the world is and isn’t—and in the way it ought to be? And why does it seem that some do not care? I have thought about those questions for most of my life, and they continue to run through my heart.
• But it is also true that whether our vocations are as butchers, bakers or candlestick makers—or people drawn into the worlds of business or law, agriculture or education, architecture or construction, journalism or international development, health care or the arts—in our own different ways we are responsible, for love’s sake, for the way the world is and ought to be. We are called to be common grace for the common good. That is the vision of the Washington Institute, which is my work. Our credo is that vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei, and we work that out in many different ways in our teaching and writing, courses and curriculum. This book is an effort within that larger work, inviting you in its own way to “come and see” that this vision of vocation is being lived into by men and women, younger and older, who are committed to a faith that shapes vocation that shapes culture.
• “Seek the well-being of the city” was Jeremiah’s prophetic word to the exiles in Babylon, for “when it flourishes, you will flourish” (Jeremiah 29:7 paraphrase). To learn to see—to see ourselves implicated in history, to see that we share a common vocation to care not only for our own flourishing, but for the flourishing of the world—is the vision that has brought this book into being.
Chapter 1 To Know the World and Still Love It?
• More often than not, people want to do the right thing. They want their lives to matter, their visions to shape the way the world works for the common good, at least as they understand the good. In a thousand different ways they want their ideas to have legs. That is what makes Washington, Washington. Who we are and how we live together is the stuff of this city. Laws are imagined, laws are debated, laws are legislated.
• After the lecture, I noticed some young men who were a bit older than the typical undergraduate. They were a group of musicians who called themselves Jars of Clay. I knew of them, but did not know them, and they had their own questions to ask. So we talked and a conversation began that continues to this day. Over the months, they asked about books and essays to read and I was increasingly impressed with their moral seriousness. One day we talked about Africa and their desire to put their creative energy behind an effort to address its complex need for clean blood and water. I told them that a week earlier I had been in Phoenix, Arizona, speaking at a conference called “The Faces of Justice,” and had met a young woman named Jena Lee from Whitworth College who had impressed me with her articulate passion for Africa. It is a long story, but when Jena graduated that spring, she moved to Nashville to work with the Jars of Clay guys to begin Blood:Water Mission. Years later there are more than a thousand different projects in Africa that have grown out of Blood:Water Mission’s work. Jena has done a remarkable job, taking the band’s life and hopes, connecting them to hers, and birthing an organization that is healthy and responsible. The board has grown, and one of its prized members has been Clydette, who is still at USAID doing her work on the global threat of tuberculosis. She has brought all that and more to bear for the sake of the vision and work of Blood:Water Mission, with gladness and singleness of heart marking her vocation.
• To know the world and still love it? There is not a more difficult task that human beings face.
• How do we see what is awful and still engage, still enter in? How can we have our eyes open to reality and understand that we are more implicated, for love’s sake, now that we see?
• As Clydette and Jena have been my teachers, so has Simone Weil. In the 1940s, on the last night of her life, Weil wrote, “The most important task of teaching is to teach what it means to know.” To teach what it means to know? Found in the journal at her bedside, these were the final words of Simone Weil, the French philosopher who died in the 1940s. While her social position would have allowed otherwise, her own passions and commitments led her to the decision that while others suffered during the war years, she would eat only that which was available to the ordinary people of France. And simply said, she starved herself to death. Where did this seriousness of heart come from? Why did she see the world as she did? Why did the weightiness of the world mean so much to her? And why would knowing become that which mattered most? The ideas of Marx and Lenin and Trotsky failed her and her country, was there an answer to be found anywhere? She discovered it finally in the God who cries, the God who has tears. Among many essays that she wrote, there is one that I have loved most, called “On the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.”
• Weil argues that it is in learning to pay attention that we begin to understand the meaning of life and of learning. What does she mean? To pay attention is to see what matters and what does not matter. It is to discern rightly, to choose well. Yes, it is to know as we ought to know, to know in a way that leads us to love. She calls this kind of study sacramental, as it is a kind of learning that is born of a love of God for the world—and in it a calling to love as God loves because we know as God knows. Her vision is formed by the story of the Good Samaritan, because in it she sees the primary issue as one of having learned, or not learned, to pay attention to things that matter.
• Two religious leaders, men much like the expert in the law, walk by and do not see a neighbor. They see a man, but do not see a neighbor—someone their law requires them to care for—and they pass by, having justified their indifference religiously, historically and sociologically. They had not learned to pay attention.
• In contrast, the Samaritan does see a neighbor and stops to care for him because he has learned to pay attention, to understand what he sees and why it matters. Weil also calls this kind of seeing sacramental, because it is a kind of learning that connects heaven to earth. Sacraments always do that—they give us the grace to understand that the universe is coherent, that things seen and unseen are equally real, equally true. And they allow us to understand that the most ordinary elements of life can be made holy—even our learning, even our labor, even our love.
• When we see all of life as sacramental, as the graceful twining together of heaven and earth, then we begin to understand the meaning of vocation, which in their very different ways are what the stories of Clydette, Jena and Simone Weil are each about. We can begin to see that all of life, the complexity of our relationships and responsibilities—of family and friendships, of neighbors near and far, of work and citizenship, from the most personal to the most public—indeed, everything is woven together into the callings that are ours, the callings that make us us.
• There is nothing we are asked to do that requires more of us than to know and to love at the same time. Mostly we choose otherwise. Mostly we choose to step away, now knowing as we do.
• Whether it is in the most familiar of relationships, as in marriage, or in the most far-reaching of responsibilities, as in the global AIDS crisis, when we begin to really know what someone is like or what something or someplace is like, the calculus of our hearts more often than not leads us to conclude that it will no longer be possible to love. How can we, after all? Now we know!
• One of my deepest commitments is to the “come and see pedagogy” of the Gospels.
• We learn the truest truths, the most important things, only when we look over the shoulder and through the heart, only when we can see that ideas have legs and that worldviews can become ways of life.
• So when I travel around the country and beyond, I talk about people I know who in their very different ways are connecting what they believe with the way that they live in and through their vocations.
• In fact, they are showing that it is possible to honestly know and to responsibly love as they take up the callings and careers that are theirs. And so time and again, I will say to those who have asked me to speak, “Come and see.” Yes, come and see that what I am saying is possible. People actually do live like this—and you can too.
• We do not have to play games with ourselves or with history, pretending that the world is a nicer place than it ever can be, that somehow really awful things do not happen, that horribly sad moments are not ours to live with and through.
• We do not have to decide that the only livable responses are the most perennial responses, the ones that human beings have made since the beginning of time, those of cynicism and stoicism. Both of course are ways of protecting our hearts from being hurt again, ways of “knowing” that do not ask us to love what we know.
• Rather they are ways of knowing that allow us to step away from history and from our responsibility for the way that history unfolds. They give us the ability to say no to the tragedies and heartaches of life, and to protect ourselves from being hurt by becoming too close to what will inevitably bring pain.
• We can choose to know what is going on in the world and still love the world. But we need good reasons to do so.
• And I began to wonder, Is there something that is more true than what I have believed? Is there an account of the universe that makes more sense of griefs like this?
• John does record, “Jesus wept,” but Warfield digs deeper and opens windows into the heart of God, incarnate in Jesus, who twice is said to have “groaned severely in his spirit.” He does what a good reader of the text will always do and asks about the meaning of John’s words. What he found surprised me. The very words that are used are the same ones that Greek poets used to describe a warhorse ready to enter battle, a stallion rearing on his hind legs, nostrils flaring, angry at what he sees and ready to enter the conflict as a warrior himself, even as he carries a warrior in armor on his back.
• There are moments when we can do nothing else than cry out against the wrongs of the world. It is just not the way it is supposed to be! Outrageous, it is outrageous! Tears matter, and sometimes they are very complex.
• We all cry—but what is important here is why we cry and when we cry and what our crying means for who we are and how we live.
• The tears of God are complex. They must be tears of sympathy, even empathy, as Aslan weeps for Digory’s mother and as Jesus weeps with his friends at the death of their brother. But sometimes they are also tears of anger at the unnaturalness of death, at the distortion of death, at the skewing of human hopes, as Jesus “groaned severely in his spirit” at the death of Lazarus.
• So, reader, come and see. In these next pages, you will meet my friends from near and far, men and women who incarnate the reality that we can know and still love the world, even in its wounds—perhaps especially in its wounds—whether they be in family or friendship, psychological or sociological, in economic life or political life, in the arts or in education, in small towns or on complex continents. As the poet Bob Dylan once sang, “Everything is broken.” Yes, everything, and so we must not be romantics. We cannot afford to be, just as we cannot be stoics or cynics either.
• But the story of sorrow is not the whole story of life either. There is also wonder and glory, joy and meaning, in the vocations that are ours. There is good work to be done by every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve all over the face of the earth. There are flowers to be grown, songs to be sung, bread to be baked, justice to be done, mercy to be shown, beauty to be created, good stories to be told, houses to be built, technologies to be developed, fields to farm, and children to educate.
• All day, every day, there are both wounds and wonders at the very heart of life, if we have eyes to see. And seeing—what Weil called learning to know, to pay attention—is where vocations begin.
Next week we’ll read chapter 2. Won’t you join us? To entice you, here are a few reviews of the book.
~ THIS AND THAT ~
IN THE NEWS ~
- In our weekly Mark Driscoll update a Mars Hill Church member offers this article on forgiving her pastor. Read it here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/august/forgiving-my-pastor-mark-driscoll.html?paging=off
- Gene Veith writes that “Fighting ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a worthy cause, worth dumping an ice bucket over your head. The main beneficiary of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is the ALS Association. The problem with that group, though, is that they use a stem cell line from an aborted child. There are, however, other ALS research organizations that honor the sanctity of life.” Read his article here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2014/08/better-places-to-send-your-ice-bucket-challenge-money/
- Peter Jones and my favorite blogger Tim Challies have been added to the lineup for the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. The conference theme is “After Darkness, Light” and will be held February 19-21 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. The conference features a strong lineup of speakers. In addition to Challies and Jones, speakers include R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Russell Moore, Stephen Nichols and more. You can find out more about the conference and register at: http://www.ligonier.org/events/2015-national-conference/
- Kevin DeYoung, who pastors a church on or near the campus of Michigan State University writes that “With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses.” Read his thoughts here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/08/26/christ-and-keg-stands/
- Recently the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board elected David Platt to serve as president. Platt will be leaving his position as lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama where he has served since 2006 to take on this new assignment. Read here why Russell Moore is radically happy about Platt assuming his new position.
- There sure is a lot going on of concern in our world these days – Russia/Ukraine, Ebola, Israel/Hamas, ISIS, Ferguson and you could add much more. I got a chuckle out of this cartoon from World Magazine.
- Darrin Patrick is a pastor in St. Louis. He recently addressed his congregation in light of the nearby unrest in Ferguson. You can read the text or watch his message in this article titled “Because the World is Watching”: http://thegospelcoalition.org//article/because-world-watching
- And one more post about Ferguson, here is an article from Dr. Mike Higgins, Dean of Students at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Higgins is an African American who grew up in St. Louis. He reflects on the shootings and violence in Ferguson: http://www.covenantseminary.edu/the-thistle/thoughts-on-ferguson-higgins/
- In 2008, Thabiti Anyabwile spoke on the theological problem of using “race” as a way to see our differences. Read the this article “Theology vs. Racism – A Primer”, and listen to Thabiti’s message here.
- I’ve heard for some time now that the next moral taboo to fall would be polygamy. It appears that may be coming quicker than expected. Did you hear about the judge in Utah who struck down part of that state’s law against polygamy? Read this article to find out more: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/28/343953743/federal-judge-strikes-down-part-of-utahs-polygamy-ban
- In this lengthy article “The Coming Collapse of ‘Marriage Equality’”. Aaron Vriesman writes about 4 warning signs that face the “unsinkable” LGBT equality movement. Read his article here: http://theaquilareport.com/the-coming-collapse-of-marriage-equality/
- Philip Humber pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox in 2012. Read about him in this profile from Kevin Trax.
TO MAKE YOU SMILE ~
- Did you see golfer Rory McElroy and Jimmy Fallon play “Facebreaker” recently on The Tonight Show? If not, check it out here: http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/#segments/10541
PROBING QUESTIONS ~
- Would you like to know how to turn big powerful thoughts into smaller, concise statements so they can be clearly communicated to others? Listen to this week’s Andy Andrew’s podcast here: http://www.andyandrews.com/episode-147/
- What does the doctrine of predestination mean for non-believers? Read Daniel Hyde’s article and the other articles in the series here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/predestination-what-does-mean-non-elect/
- “Are you tired of fighting futility? Evil and disorder relentlessly throw wrenches into the gears of your life. What’s the point? For God, the point is hope.” Read Jon Bloom’s entire article entitled “What’s the Point of All This Futility” here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-s-the-point-of-all-this-futility
- “In what sense are Christians worthy of God or of Christ or of their calling? And in what sense are we unworthy?” Read John Piper’s entire article here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/are-you-worthy-of-jesus
- Do you want to know how to Lay Aside the Weight of Self-Indulgence? “We are all self-indulgers. The whole lot of us. Let’s just admit it upfront and help each other fight.” Read Jon Bloom of Desiring God’s article here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/lay-aside-the-weight-of-self-indulgence
INTERESTING ARTICLES, VIDEOS AND MUCH NEEDED PRAYER ~
BIBLE STUDY ~
- Tullian Tchividjian recently completed a 23 message series on the book of Romans. You can watch all of the messages here: http://liberate.org/2014/01/29/romans-a-sermon-series-by-tullian-tchividjian/
- In this new Look at the Book video, John Piper models a method for studying verses like 2 Peter 1:3–4. He explains that with any passage in the Bible, we should be breaking down the paragraph into lines and studying how those lines relate to one another, paying special attention to the easily overlooked connecting words between lines. Watch it here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/god-s-precious-and-great-promises
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS ~
- I had two classes with Dan Doriani at Covenant Seminary. In this article about how to deal with a bad boss, Dr. Doriani writes that “When we honor flawed leaders, we follow Jesus, who honored many flawed authority figures, including his own parents, Joseph and Mary.” Read his entire article here: http://thegospelcoalition.org//article/how-to-deal-with-a-bad-boss
- In this “Tuesday Tip” Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes that we will at times be exposed to “…other people’s inappropriate remarks, anger, or hostility. Or you may have to work with or around someone whose behavior is unacceptable.” He provides a few tips on how to deal with these people. Read his article here: http://drzimmerman.com/tuesdaytip/?inf_contact_key=c1900ace0a7052fdaec98eb0cdec5dd74ff6e8274a499468d7c8c5addca87aab
- Matt Perman writes that the difference between autocratic and servant leadership lies in the way you view the scope of your authority. Read his article “Why Autocratic Leadership So Often Goes Unnoticed” here: http://whatsbestnext.com/2014/08/why-autocratic-leadership-so-often-goes-unnoticed/
- Here’s a wonderful prayer from Scotty Smith about being more teachable and less defensive. I’ll pray along with him for others, but I certainly don’t need that (Yeah, right!). Pray along with Scotty for me here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2014/08/25/a-prayer-for-becoming-more-teachable-and-less-defensive/
TIM KELLER ~
- Tim Keller recently predicted moderate growth of conservative evangelicalism even as the culture at large has grown more secular. Read Kevin Trax’ article “Tim Keller on the Disappearing Umbrella Over Conservative Christians” here.
- Check out this two-minute video from Tim Keller on how Jesus is the true and better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmnSnNC8UJk
- Here is The Gospel in Life website, which is the resource website for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Redeemer City to City and Tim Keller: http://www.gospelinlife.com/
- Here’s an update on faith-based movies that we can expect for the remainder of 2014 from the MEN of A.I.M.(Action, Integrity and Maturity): http://www.menofaim.org/movies/2014movies/
- And speaking of faith-based movies, Mom’s Night Out will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD this week. Read more here: http://momsnightoutmovie.com/buydvd
- This month’s free audiobook from Christianaudio is a good one. It is the classic How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. Read about how to download your copy here: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=FreeAudiobook
- Great news! Banner of Truth is now offering e-books! They have released their first ten, including the classic Valley of Vision. Check out their e-book page here.
- Not a Chance by R.C. Sproul and Dr. Keith Mathison, has been revised and expanded in light of recent scientific discoveries and ongoing attacks against God and reason, exposing the irrational claims of modern day science. Read about the new release and special pricing from Ligonier Ministries here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/not-chance-new-sproul-mathison/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=ligonierministriesblog
- Justin Taylor is starting a new series on novels that every Christian should consider reading. The first contributor to share their list is Kathy Keller. Read her suggested novels here.
- Francis Chan and his wife Lisa have written a book on marriage You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. Christianaudio is offering a special introductory rate of $7.49 for the audiobook. In addition, all other Francis Chan titles are now 50% off at Christianaudio.com. Read more here.
- UnPHILtered is the ultimate guide to everything Phil Robertson believes in. Balancing his sometimes off-the-wall comments with his strong focus on home and family life, it is sure to spark discussion, laughs, and a sincere appreciation for Phil’s unique approach to life. The book will be released this week.
- Last week I re-read Radical by David Platt. The book ends with “The Radical Experiment”. Read about that here: http://www.radicalexperiment.org/overview.html
- NoiseTrade is offering a free download of the new book from Plumb. “Need You Now: A Story of Hope” is the incredibly honest and hugely encouraging new book by recording artist, songwriter, and performer PLUMB aka Tiffany Lee. Both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving, it is the story of beautiful and embarrassing moments on stage, the joys and trials of motherhood and unbridled forgiveness”. To download here: http://books.noisetrade.com/plumb/need-you-now-a-story-of-hope
- Tim Challies takes a crack at the ten greatest hymns of all time here. Did he leave out any of your favorites?
- Christian rapper Shope has released a new EP. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/allofshope/sets/shope-ep
- Lecrae’s Anomaly will be released September 9. He has released four songs thus far for those who have pre-ordered the album. All four are charting in the top 44 on iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap chart, which on August 27 contained only 43 songs on the Top 200 not marked “Explicit” (of which 4 were Lecrae’s). He is truly making a difference in this genre. The latest song to be released “Say I Won’t” (featuring Andy Mineo) is also coming in at #10 at the overall iTunes top songs chart.
- Lecrae is on the cover of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine. Download it here: http://www.ccmmagazine.com/getcurrentissue/
- The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 from Bob Dylan and the Band will be released November 4. The Basement Tapes Complete brings together, for the first time ever, every salvageable recording from the tapes including recently discovered early gems recorded in the “Red Room” of Dylan’s home in upstate New York. Garth Hudson (of The Band), worked closely with Canadian music archivist and producer Jan Haust to restore the deteriorating tapes to pristine sound, with much of this music preserved digitally for the first time. The six disc collection compiled from the summer of 1967 recordings, will feature 138 tracks and cost $59.99 on iTunes. Read this article from USA Today about the new collection.
- Bruce Springsteen has written a children’s book Outlaw Pete, based on his 2009 song of the same name. Read about the book here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/08/28/bruce-springsteen-childrens-book-outlaw-pete/14728461/
- The hidden gem on 20, Jars of Clay’s 20th anniversary celebration album is “If You Love Her”, inspired by Blood: Water Mission (http://www.bloodwater.org/)
You go find water
You go find water
If you love her
If you love her
If you love her
If you love her
You can watch Jars of Clay singing this beautiful song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YlW0j47OSQ
Integrating Faith and Work: Connecting Sunday to Monday
- So is the job that you are in today the one that God wants you to be in? What is his will for your vocation? Read this short article “Are You Supposed to Know ‘God’s Will’ for Your Job?”
- If you are interested in seeing what Scripture has to say about integrating your faith and work, check out this article “5 Must-Study Books of the Bible for a Theology of Faith and Work: Lessons from Genesis.”
- Here is a message from Alistair Begg from Colossians 3:22-4:1 titled “The Christian at Work”. You can listen to it here: http://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/christian-at-work-the/
- Here is the latest article in the series “Faces of Faith at Work” about the Center for Neighborhood Enterprises (CNE) and Robert L. Woodson Jr. and how they impacted Milwaukee.
- Check out this article about a stay at home mom and work titled “Made for More: Home + Work” from Hannah R. Anderson: http://thegospelcoalition.org//article/made-for-more-home-work
- In this article titled “Are You a Thaddeus Leader”, Glenn Brooke writes that “He probably wasn’t especially handsome, intelligent, or talented — but Jesus hand-picked Thaddeus to be with him, to be a founding leader in the movement, after a night of prayer.” Read the rest of the article here.
- Matt Perman (author of What’s Best Next), writes about the five components of effective delegation here: https://catalystconference.com/read/the-five-components-of-effective-delegation/
- In this article about forgiveness at work, John Kyle writes that “We’re called to love and forgive our “enemies” in the workplace and to be tender hearted toward them.” Read the entire article, part 10 of the series “Love at Work”, here: http://blog.tifwe.org/forgiving-workplace-offenses/
- Tim Challies writes that “Dignified labor is labor done for the Lord.” Read his article “Protect the Dignity of Labor!” here: http://www.challies.com/christian-living/protect-the-dignity-of-labor
- In this article “Is Your Plate Too Full or Too Small?”, the author asks a few questions – Has your full plate kept you from following God’s leading?, Do you see how your full plate could simply be too small?, What would you do with a larger plate? Read the article here: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c239304c4950503f1fcb57050&id=5af5d6e608&e=2929c76725
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. Zondervan. 352 pages. 2014
We continue with our overview of this new book on productivity from a Christian perspective. I’ve highlighted a number of passages and would like to share some of them from chapter 11.
Don’t Waste Your Life at Work
Next to the Bible, this book has had the most impact on my life. I’ve tended to read the book each year since it was published in 2003. There are many things I would like to share below from “Chapter 8: Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5”.
• It would be a mistake to infer from the call to wartime living in the previous chapter that Christians should quit their jobs and go to “war”—say, to become missionaries or pastors or full-time relief workers. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the war is being fought.
• The war is not primarily spatial or physical—though its successes and failures have physical effects. Therefore, the secular vocations of Christians are a war zone. There are spiritual adversaries to be defeated (that is, evil spirits and sins, not people); and there is beautiful moral high ground to be gained for the glory of God. You don’t waste your life by where you work, but how and why.
• The call to be a Christian was not a call to leave your secular vocation. That’s the clear point of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?
• Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do.
• Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
• When the saints are at work in their secular employment, they are scattered. They are not together in church. So the command to “remain there with God” is a promise that you may know God’s fellowship personally and individually on the job.
• One way to enjoy God’s presence and fellowship is through thankful awareness that your ability to do any work at all, including this work, is owing to his grace.
• This is the way God speaks to you through the day. He encourages you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He reminds you that the challenges of the afternoon are not too hard for him to manage: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He tells you not to be anxious, but to ask him for whatever you need (Philippians 4:6), and says, “Cast all your anxieties on me, for I care for you” (paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7). And he promises to guide you through the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
• So if you go all the way back, before the origin of sin, there are no negative connotations about secular work. According to Genesis 2:2, God himself rested from his work of creation, implying that work is a good, God-like thing.
• To be sure, when God sends us forth to work as his image bearers, our ditches are to be dug straight, our pipe-fittings are not to leak, our cabinet corners should be flush, our surgical incisions should be clean, our word processing accurate and appealing, and our meals nutritious and attractive, because God is a God of order and beauty and competence. But cats are clean, and ants are industrious, and spiders produce orderly and beautiful works. And all of them are dependent on God. Therefore, the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power, and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence, and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.
• When you work like this—no matter what your vocation is—you can have a sweet sense of peace at the end of the day. It has not been wasted. God has not created us to be idle. Therefore, those who abandon creative productivity lose the joy of God-dependent, world-shaping, God-reflecting purposeful work.
• True personal piety feeds the purposeful work of secular vocations rather than undermining it. Idleness does not grow in the soil of fellowship with God. Therefore, people who spend their lives mainly in idleness or frivolous leisure are rarely as happy as those who work. Retired people who are truly happy have sought creative, useful, God-honoring ways to stay active and productive for the sake of man’s good and God’s glory.
• So the second way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry. God created us for work so that by consciously relying on his power and consciously shaping the world after his excellence, we might be satisfied in him, and he might be glorified in us. And when we remember that all this God-exalting creativity and all this joy is only possible for undeserving sinners like us because of the death of Christ, every hour of labor becomes a boasting in the cross.
3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.
• There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel.
• So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers. Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians.
• Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7).
• So the third way we make much of God in our secular work is by having such high standards of excellence and such integrity and such manifest goodwill that we put no obstacles in the way of the Gospel but rather call attention to the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. When we adorn the Gospel with our work, we are not wasting our lives. And when we call to mind that the adornment itself (our God-dependent, God-shaped, God-exalting work) was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and that the beauty we adorn is itself the Gospel of Christ’s death, then all our tender adornment becomes a boasting in the cross.
4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
• The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that, in our work, we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities and anxiety.
• Able-bodied people who choose to live in idleness and eat the fruit of another’s sweat are in rebellion against God’s design. If we can, we should earn our own living.
• How then do Christians make much of Christ in working “to earn their own living”?
• First, by conforming willingly to God’s design for this age. It is an act of obedience that honors his authority.
• Second, by removing stumbling blocks from unbelievers who would regard the lazy dependence of Christians on others as an evidence that our God is not worthy of following. “Work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We honor God by earning our living because this clears the way for non-Christians to see Christ for who he really is. Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. They waste their lives.
• Third, we make much of God by earning our own living when we focus not on financial profit but on the benefit our product or service brings to society.
• This is paradoxical. I am saying, yes, we should earn enough money to meet our needs. But, no, we should not make that the primary focus of why we work. In other words, don’t focus on mere material things in your work. Don’t labor merely with a view to the perishable things you can buy with your earnings. Work with an eye not mainly to your money, but your usefulness. Work with a view to benefiting people with what you make or do.
• So don’t labor for the food that perishes. Labor to love people and honor God. Think of new ways that your work can bless people. Stop thinking mainly of profitability, and think mainly of how helpful your product or service can become. You are not working for the food that perishes. Your goal is to enjoy Christ’s being exalted in the way you work.
• None of us in our vocations should aim mainly at the food that perishes—leave that to the Lord. We should aim instead to do the will of him who sent us. And his will is that we treasure him above all else and live like it.
• If we simply work to earn a living—if we labor for the bread that perishes—we will waste our lives. But if we labor with the sweet assurance that God will supply all our needs—that Christ died to purchase every undeserved blessing—then all our labor will be a labor of love and a boasting only in the cross.
5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
• So my point here is that, as we work, we should dream of how to use our excess money to make others glad in God. Of course, we should use all our money to make others glad in God, in the sense that our whole life has this aim. But the point here is that our secular work can become a great God-exalting blessing to the world if we aim to take the earnings we don’t need for ourselves (and we need far less than we think) and meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
• God clearly tells us that we should work to provide the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs.
6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
• But now I want to say that speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job. He has woven you into the fabric of others’ lives so that you will tell them the Gospel. Without this, all our adorning behavior may lack the one thing that could make it life-giving.
• Christians should seriously ask not only what their vocation is, but where it should be lived out. We should not assume that teachers and carpenters and computer programmers and managers and CPAs and doctors and pilots should do their work in America. That very vocation may be better used in a country that is otherwise hard to get into, or in a place where poverty makes access to the Gospel difficult. In this way the web of relationships created by our work is not only strategic but intentional.
• In conclusion, secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.