Do you see your work as just a way to ‘make a living’ or do you see it as a way to show the grace of Jesus? The Bible tells us “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) The Lord’s general purpose for each of us is that we are productive – whatever our skills or occupation. Laborer, homemaker, preacher, or poet – when we work with diligence, we honor Him. And, our work can be a place of joyfulness! “Jerry are you in touch with reality? Work and joy don’t belong in the same sentence.” Really?
Many allow themselves to slip into drudgery! What is that? Here’s how the dictionary defines it: dull, irksome, and fatiguing work. I take my takes responsibilities seriously and I have difficulty letting go. But, during Bev’s long illness, in those months when she needed much care, I learned the value of another kind of work- just being present, loving, waiting on her. Was it easy to change my focus from shepherding a congregation to being her care-giver? No. Often I felt conflicted – torn between my love for her and a sense that other ‘work’ was going undone. But, God and good friends counseled me through those long months, helping me to see that ‘work’ takes many forms, that my highest calling was to my wife in her time of greatest need. I began to find great joy in the menial work that was part of caring for her each day. I also began to understand the flexibility allowed to me by the church as a great gift. God used that time to do His work in me, too.
Are you in a time or place where you are struggling to find joy in your ‘work’? Do you feel that you have been sidelined? Do you wonder if what you do has any value, meaning, or purpose?
Drudgery is – first and foremost- a mindset! If we invite the Lord to go with us to ‘work,’ wherever and whatever that might be, His Presence will be a bright and joyful part of our life. Jesus talked of the vine and branches in a vineyard. He was pointing to the importance of keeping connected! The principle is clear: No connection, no life! “Remain intimately connected with Me,” He said, “and you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11, NLT) A Christian who is long-faced, miserable, and overwhelmed with his duties, is missing the point somewhere and is failing to honor the Lord in his work.
Jesus was a joyful man. Have you painted a mental picture of Jesus using only half of the truth about Him? Jesus was “a man acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows.” He did weep with those who were broken by disappointment, death, and disease. But . . . He also was a man who ate dinner with those they considered low-lifes and sinners. He attracted people to Him everywhere He went. I think we miss the humor buried in His words.
When He told the story of a camel going through the eye of a needle to illustrate the impossibility of a self-sufficient rich person coming into the Kingdom of God, I believe the hearers laughed, seeing the absurdity of the image. When He stopped to invite Himself to Zacchaeus’ home, the little man was eager to accept and I believe, in part, it was because Jesus was good company, enjoyable and pleasant. I’m sure He knew how to laugh and lift people who were sorrowful from their darkness. Don’t forget, His first public miracle was supplying wine for a wedding! Somehow, for most of us, the only picture of the face of Jesus is the tear-stained one He wore on the night of Gethsemane’s agony. Let us not forget that kids loved Him, that crowds were drawn to Him, and that He spent a lot of time with so-called ‘street people,’ – a clue that He had to be a joyful man, too.
So, how do we live in His joy?
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, NIV) If we live life, with our face to the ground, focusing only on the needs, the duties, the pressing responsibilities – we will be overcome with fatigue, if not outright depressed. Worship, offering up the sacrifice of praise, lifts our face to Heaven and allows us to regain a view of God’s glorious works. No wonder the Scripture urges us to “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NIV)
Stop, Jerry, didn’t you just say we need to step away from duty? Yes, I did, but if we give ourselves to vanity, to endless chasing of ‘fun,’ we will lose the joy of God’s approval! Jesus told a story about men who were entrusted with responsibility. Two of the three were diligent and obedient in their service. Note their commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV)
Accepting God’s grace for the road you will walk today is important. Nothing that happens to you today surprises Him. Those who are His beloved children can turn to Him and find help, strength, and resources. Sometimes He leads us through dark valleys, along ways we would not choose for ourselves. Even there, He will provide grace for the journey. In that grace, there is joy even in the trials of life.
Joy is a constant work of God’s Spirit in us, not something we drum up, create, or paste into place. If you are a Christian drudge, a joyless dutiful person slogging through each day, face to the ground, without joy, pray for grace to change your heart first, even before you seek a change of circumstances. Let the Vine pour the Life of the Spirit into your mind and heart. Let JOY grow where sorrow was sown. We bring our Lord great honor Him in simple contentment and an authentic smile.
The word from the Word says “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” (Philippians 4:4, The Message) “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:6-9, The Message)
All this pain-
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change,
All this earth-
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground,
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust!
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us!
Hope is springing up from this old ground!
Out of chaos life is being found,
You make me new, You are making me new.
You make me new, You are making me new.
Lisa Gungor | Michael Gungor
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