Friday, November 3, 2017

A Theology of Work

Douglas Frank Photograph

A Theology of Work

Did you know that “work” appears more than 650 times in Scripture; retirement only once and that one time basically to say- no!  Wow, now that is a disruptive concept or principle isn’t it? In our culture it seems that most people say, “ I can’t wait until I can retire.” From what are you retiring- life? Or are you retiring into something you want to do. Perhaps the purpose of this “A Theology” chapter is to suggest that we might “retire” into God’s will for us to do; what He has prepared for us to do. The Apostle Paul brings us some real Reformation instruction in Ephesians 2:8-10 saying, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God wants us to keep on working for Him saying, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”  (Colossians 3:23). There is the key to work, God has prepared, empowered and gifted us to do good works that He has prepared and equipped us to do. This is not to gain salvation for He has already done all of that on the cross.

If we could really embrace that we are not working or doing “good works” for man or ourselves. We are doing it all for God by His power in our weakness. This should be empowering and freeing for us. We are free indeed to do everything through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. He directs and leads us on the path He wants us to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us that we must “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge (seek) Him and He will direct (make our paths straight) our paths.”

I have written an essay on retirement, which presents God’s will that we never retire. Only the Levites in the temple were allowed to retire as age 55 to become mentors for the younger Levites to grow in worship skills. So, is that depressing or uplifting to you? For me it has become a great blessing, because God has given us “His very great and precious promises, so that through them we might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4). He has given us everything we need through His 7,000 plus promises His will and empowerment for each of us.

He has gifted each of us to do the “Good Works” that He has prepared for us. He has gifted us through His Holy Spirit to do them. He has given every believer at least one spiritual gift of many that we can read about in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and elsewhere to exhort or serve in the body of Christ. For me these gifts were not very clear until about a decade ago. God was telling me through my work as a healthcare Chaplain that the Barnabas gifts of comfort and encouragement had been entrusted to me. That’s what I have been prayerfully expressing for patients, families and staff. This is not a religious thing, but spiritual or soul deep caring and helping. To these related gifts, God has been developing in me something I thought was anathema to me-teaching. I was brought up to think as George Bernard Shaw said: “People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.”  This modern proverb told me by my father and in the play Man and Superman, is a lie from the pit. Teaching is a great gift of God. It can be done in schools, in the home and place of work. It is spoken and written. For me writing two academic theses was more than travail; it was pure drudgery. But God has changed all of that. Yet, the joke or fear or sad expression was on me. God has taken me from the business of running hospitals, a monumental work, and led me into my true calling as a healthcare chaplain and Christian speaker and writer. He has been equipping me to write daily essays or sermons that go out into the world. Slowly, but surely He has brought joy and passion into my work, because He has called me to it. I have published several books and some 600 essays on my blog People from around the world read my Spirit led epistles. It is way beyond my expectations.

A friend reminded me of Author/Theologian Andrew Murray wisdom, “Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things.”  God is working in and through us by His Holy Spirit to accomplish His will for each of us. Pay attention to the still small voice and the urgings in your life by others through the Lord. God could be leading you into your gifted calling and work for His glory and purposes.

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