READ : Proverbs 16:3
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3, RSV
I want to talk with you today about your work.
You say you have no work? By that you mean perhaps that you are unemployed, or retired or somehow disabled. But work is not dependent on receiving a paycheck, or being in a certain age bracket or even on possessing health and skill. Work is what we do with our days, how we spend our time and devote our energies. In that sense, a little child works while he plays, just as an older athlete does in high school, college, or even professional sports. I know a man who after a long struggle with multiple sclerosis has become totally disabled. He cannot brush away a fly from his face or bring a sip of water to his lips. He’s totally dependent on others for those things, and yet he sees himself as having work — important work — to do.
There is such a thing as being idle, of course, such a thing as resting. All of us sleep. Our bodies need refreshment. Times of rest are divinely commanded. On one day out of seven we are to set aside our customary work so that God may work in us to restore us. But the first part of the charge is vital too: “Six days you shall labor” (Ex. 20:9).
We have a neighbor who is officially retired but who works tirelessly on the grounds around his house. He cares for shrubs and trees; he cultivates beautiful flowers. Gardening is now his life-work. And remember — that’s what the first man was created to do: “The Lord God put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen. 1:15). Our neighbor does what all of us were put here for: to care for the earth and its creatures.
My friend who is completely disabled carries on a labor of prayer. He bears up loved ones and friends before God. He pleads for the coming of God’s kingdom. For this he pours out the energies that remain to him, even as he battles against many infirmities. Who dares to say that Steve is not a prince among workers?
The Bible never exalts one kind of work as superior to another. The idea of “spiritual” work as more worthy than “secular” work is foreign to its pages. All work done for God’s glory, in reliance upon His strength, is “spiritual” work, and all of it is “secular,” too, in the sense that we carry it on here in this world, during this present age. All work is a gift of God. It makes up the normal, healthy routine of a genuinely human life. How good it is to have something to do!
But isn’t work part of the curse which sin has brought into the world? No. Some learned persons have taught that it is. Listen to Jacques Ellul, for example: “Work is the order of necessity given us as a means of survival, not a part of the order of grace … it is the human condition resulting from the rupture with God.” Don’t believe that. God Himself is the Creator, the Worker. He made us to be His fellow workers. In our creative action, we show ourselves to be made in His image.
Sin has certainly colored how we look at our work, twisted our motivations for it, and weakened our effectiveness. Because of our condition, we often find work burdensome. But work itself remains God’s priceless gift. He Himself goes on working, Jesus tells us. And He calls us to labor in this world, promising us a future with undreamed of responsibilities: “I will appoint you,” Jesus says, “over many cities” (Lk. 19:17).
Think now about your work, what your hand finds to do, your mind, your voice, your heart. What part of God’s creation are you caring for? Which of His human creatures? Whoever you are, whatever your situation, that is your work. That is your shining opportunity to love God and serve your generation.
For you, it may be giving care to one needy person, cleaning up a tiny apartment, staying in touch with a brokenhearted friend. It may be nothing more than fighting an illness or coping with a disability, but it’s yours, your work, the special calling God has given you right now.
COMMITTING IT TO GOD
His word to you today is this: commit that, that work of yours, to Him. How can you do so? What does it mean, as the proverb urges, “to commit your work to the Lord”? Let’s think about today’s activities, today’s agenda — or tomorrow’s, if you’re hearing this late in the day. How can we turn over our work to God?
We commit it to the Lord, first of all, when we offer our work to Him as an act of worship. The apostle Paul calls his fellow Christians to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to Him, which is their spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1-2). The presentation of our bodies takes in the offering of our entire lives. It includes all the work of our hands. Apart from Christ, neither we nor our works are acceptable, but through Jesus, crucified and risen for us, we, together with all our acts of service, become completely acceptable before God.
He is pleased when we offer to Him in gratitude and praise the work we are about to do. It’s a blessed thing if you can include in your prayers each day a specific time of commitment. Perhaps you will want to begin with praise, acknowledging God’s greatness and goodness, worshipping Him for who He is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You will surely want to spend some time in expressing your thanks to Him for all His good and perfect gifts. You will want to confess before Him your sins and also your faith in His saving mercy. You will affirm who you are as a child of God, as one who is joined to Christ by faith, who has died and been raised again with Him to a new life.
Then, as one alive out of the dead, you will want to present yourself and all the work of that day to the Lord. In that way, you get yourself, as it were, and your work “off your own hands” into His. In committing your work to God, in gratitude and trust, you acknowledge that He is the One for whom you do it. That’s the call of the Scriptures always:
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. . . Whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men . . . for you serve, whatever you do, the Lord Christ (Col. 3:17,23,24).
The grain offerings and meal offerings in the Old Testament expressed the commitment of work. We bring the fruit of our toil to God and offer it up to Him as an act of worship. That’s how you commit your work to God — offer it up to Him before you do it and as you do it, and after you do it. Let all of work be worship.
You commit your work to God also when you pray for His blessing upon it. King Jehoshaphat had a huge task before him. A vast army was coming against him from the other side of the sea. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. He expressed his need and appealed to God for help:
O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you (2 Chron. 20:12).
The godly king recognized that the challenge he faced was too big for him. He knew that without the blessing of God, he had no hope of success. He took seriously the word of the psalmist:
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain (Ps. 127:1).
Most of us are not facing huge armies or guarding endangered cities or even building houses, but the principle remains the same. We commit our work to God when we express our dependence upon Him in it, when we call upon Him to undertake for us.
Sometimes that doesn’t involve, as in Jehoshaphat’s case, an extended prayer meeting. Nehemiah the exile once saw a great task before him, that of restoring the city of Jerusalem. He had that upon his mind and heart when King Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan wondered why he was so sad. “What is it you want?” said the king to Nehemiah. Then, writes Nehemiah, “I prayed to the God of heaven. And I answered the king” (Neh. 2:4). That is, he lifted his heart in the moment toward God, praying for His direction and for blessing on what Nehemiah was about to undertake.
God’s Word to us is always this:
Trust in him at all times, you people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:8).
That’s a great way to begin your work, by pouring out your heart before the Lord. We pray as the psalmist did:
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands (Ps. 90:17).
We need God to do that – to establish what we do, to give it foundation and permanence, to breathe eternity into it, to make it matter and make it last. Knowing that without the Lord we can do nothing, we commit our work prayerfully to Him.
We commit our work to the Lord not only when we offer it to Him in worship and call upon Him in faith for His blessing upon it, but also as we seek to do it in a way that honors Him. The apostles of Jesus are always urging their fellow Christians to do their work, whatever it is, in a special way. Listen to what Paul says to believers about how they do their work as bondservants:
Be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same again from the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8).
Did you notice that? Do your work, urges Paul, with a spirit of reverence. Do it with a single heart. Do it as an act of obedience to God. Do it with good will toward those you serve. In another letter he counsels all who labor to do their work diligently, eagerly. This is contrasted sharply with working grudgingly, or simply for pay, or out of fear or because your employer happens to be watching.
When you offer your work to God in worship and prayerfully trust Him for His blessing, and when you seek to do it in a way that honors Him, God’s promise is, in this great proverb, “your plans will be established.” Often that means that the work will prosper. The project will succeed. Your work will bear evident fruit.
But sometimes the results seem quite different. Often the prophets who served God most faithfully in the Old Testament were hounded and martyred for their pains. When the Lord Himself had offered up a life-work of perfect obedience, He seemed to meet with total rejection and failure. Sometimes it happens that way with us.
If you, after committing your work to God, seem to fail and falter, to meet with disappointment or rejection, look for some deeper level at which it is being established, as God says it will be. Trust Him to be your vindicator, the One who establishes your work. Amid the death of some cherished enterprise, look for God’s resurrection power. Here’s a great word about that. It comes from the apostle Paul who was cheered throughout his life work by the glorious fact of the resurrection of Jesus:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
Nothing you do in work committed to God can ever be empty, can ever be for nought. Oh, believe that, friends, about your work, because the Lord whom you serve is gloriously alive.
PRAYER: Oh, God, help us to see today what our work is, the special way in which we are called to serve. Then help us to offer it to You in worship, in believing prayer, in eagerness to do it for Your glory. And then give us the ringing confidence in Christ our risen Lord that our plans will be established, that our work will never be for nought. In the name of Jesus. Amen.