God and Your Job

David Stockton
April 7, 2019
Series: The Other Hours

Genesis 1:1. We’re going through The Other Hours sermon series. God doesn’t want to make you good at church. He wants to make you good at life. The Other Hours. All the other hours of life that you’re not in church. Because, if all Christians do is get good at church, it stinks. We’re horrible. We’re worthless. We’re no good. We need to be good at life. The Lord needs us to be good at all the other aspects of life. The other hours of life.

And we’ve broken those other hours as best we can into five different segments that we’re going to be doing the sermon series on, but we are also having classes and online curriculum on these things. The first one is relationships. We did a bunch of teachings on relationships. It’s a big part of life. And we have a book that we recommend and we have a study guide and all that stuff on livingstreams.online if you want to go check that out.

Today we’re going to be starting our second segment, called “Work.” Work. Work. Work. It’s the weekend, we’re not supposed to talk about work, because it’s coming tomorrow like a big monster to consume me. Some of you, put your phones down. I’m just kidding. I don’t know. I’m just saying it.

But we’re talking about work because that’s a big part of our lives. Whether it’s work you get paid for or it’s just that you’ve got to work to keep the house in order. You have kids. You have a dog, you have a cat. I don’t know what you do. If you ever have any of those. But there’s a lot of work in life and it makes up a huge part of our life. 

I didn’t say this first service, but there was a lady that came and spoke at our Financial Forum last Wednesday and she was talking about the future of work. There’s all this interesting stuff happening. One of the things she said was that there’s research that’s been done that’s basically studying the recovery process for people who have come through different traumas, whether it be sexual abuse, divorce, or… it just kind of went into these things that happen in society—the time frame and the intensity of the recovery to get people back to a place where they’re whole and healthy from these things. 

And they said they’ve done all these things, but there’s one trauma that they have not yet been able to do any research and find any conclusion as to how a person can recover from that, because the intensity is so intense and the duration seems to be so long, they’ve never had a research for that. And its long term unemployment. Which is wild, huh? Long term unemployment is so traumatic on the soul of the human being, that they’r trying to figure out how to find someone who’s been able to get right after it.

Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any out there. And you might be like, “I’m one of them.” And people are like, “I don’t know how ‘right’ you are!” But that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion. You guys can deal with that on your own.

But it just goes to the core of work is very important. We need to feel like we are contributing to something. Just like we need water. Just like we need food for our bodies. Our souls. We need to feel like we are a contribution in some way. And if we don’t, and if the enemy starts to play on that and we start to believe lies, real damage can happen.

So we’re going to talk about work. We’re going to talk about it for a few weeks. I’m going to try to set some things up today to get us to start the discussion. And what I want to do is share some visions. 

The other day, we were praying, as our Direction Team. We were talking about our society. We were talking about some of the challenges we have. Right now, you know, there are a lot of weeds happening, because, for some reason, Arizona thought it was supposed to rain all winter long. I go in my back yard and then I go back inside. Because there are weeds as big as me. And it’s funny because they just started flowering. So I’m kind of like, “Well, it’s kind of pretty. It’s not too bad, right? No too bad.” And she’s like, “It’s horrible!” So, I dno’t know. There’s a lot of weeds.

But we all see in our society, you know, those of us who are paying any attention, there are a lot of weeds growing up. There are a lot of challenges. There are people who have said the cities of America have become post-Christian. And I can see it, you know. I think some cities may be a little further along than other cities, but you know, it makes sense that we’re on a trajectory to be post-Christian. 

One of the people on our Executive Team, she was praying that we wouldn’t become post-Christian in Phoenix. And it was funny, because the ship had already sailed as far as I was concerned. I was like, “Wait a second.” And it just kind of struck as, “This is OUR city. This is our city and the church is strong. There are so many awesome churches around here.” Don’t tell them I told you, because you should come to this church. But there are! If you go to another church, that’s cool, too.

But there are so many great churches, and great believers in all different aspects. And I thought, “You know what? We shouldn’t be giving this thing up.” It doesn’t matter where we are, there can be revival. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from he dead dwells in each one of us who have made him the Lord of our life. 

We obviously need to adapt and kind of change, depending on what’s going on we have to figure out how the gospel can take root. There is all of those things, but we can also just pray that the Lord says, “That’s enough,” and just makes a total a revival, and puts a passion in our hearts for this city; and we stand in the gap; and we see the decline start to change and turn around and go into a different direction; and this place actually becomes a city known for its Christian influence and community.  

So that was little challenge to me. There’s this thing I came across. It’s this Anglican priest in 1925 who was remarking on his culture and his society. He came up with these seven social evils. See don’t have time to go into this. This could be a whole sermon series in itself. What I want to share with you is something to kind of prick your hearts and help you see society a little differently.

1. Wealth without work creates all kinds of evil.

2. Pleasure without conscience. 

These first things in themselves are not bad, but when they’re not coupled correctly, they become evil. 

3. Knowledge without character.

4. Commerce without morality.

5. Science without humanity.

6. Religion without sacrifice.

7. Politics without principle. 

That’s basically stuff that we can see. He was getting to the root of some of these things. And that’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing our society—I mean, none of us are proud of what’s going on and we’re a little confused. It seems like things are just so bad. But this is our chance to stand in the gap. To war against these things and the work that God has called us to do is to do that. We’ll get into that more and more.

Tim Keller. He’s a Protestant pastor in New York. He’s spent his life trying to build God’s kingdom there in New York City, which has got all kinds of issues. I just listened to a podcast. He has a desire, a vision, a passion from the Lord for. He says he wants to see churches working together to see the gospel transform lives, producing radical philanthropy, profound racial reconciliation, and real social justice. 

I love this because we want to see God move in our church services, right? We want to feel his presence and we want to hear his word, but if you had a choice, and God said, “I’ll either show up for you at church this Sunday and really minister to you and all the people there, or I’m going to show up for you at your workplace and minister to all the people there,” which would you choose? You’d choose the work every single time, right? Yes! 

God wants to move in the lives of people who don’t know him, who don’t experience him, who haven’t tasted and seen of his goodness. An so the cry of my heart, the cry of Tim Keller’s heart is that God would move in the church. Yes, we want that. But, more importantly, the movement wouldn’t get stuck here and bounce off the walls. But the movement would flow right out of this place, and that God would start to move, and God would start to cause change. That God’s power and love would be known outside of the churches. That’s what transformation is. That’s what we’re hoping for.

I would add to radical philanthropy, profound racial reconciliation, and real social justice—this just kind of simple prayer that everyone in our city, our society, would just know the love and power of our risen Savior. That’s a passion. That’s a vision. That’s a hope. That somehow we would carry the love and power of God into every pocket of this city. 

Whether or not people respond and we get to see anything grand or awesome, I mean I pray for that and hope for that, but I would love it if just everyone got a taste of who our Jesus is; and the true love and the true power that is in him and in his Spirit.

I had a vision this weekend as we were doing a worship time at this conference. This is what I saw: I saw the sky getting cleared over Phoenix (and over Belize, but never mind that. That’s my own business). And what was causing this sky to be cleared was the praises of God’s people. As we met and gathered—not just our church, but all the churches in Phoenix—it was like the sky was being cleared. And as the sky was being cleared, it kind of opened up this portal of some sort, and I saw this city coming down. I immediately went to Revelation 21 where it says that John was looking and an angel showed him and there was this city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. And it was beautiful. And it looked just like a bride dressed for the wedding day. And we know in the Scriptures that that’s a picture of the Church. 

And somehow, as we, the church, cleared the air, it’s like the true picture of God’s kingdom and his beauty can come down and everyone can see it and feel it and know it. And I just started praying for our city. And I was praying for Belize the churches there that I’ve worked with; that we would take up our position. That we would see that what we’re doing is not just kind of a routine. It’s not just something we’re just checking off boxes. 

When we gather and we call on the name of the Lord and the churches all over Phoenix, as they cry out to the Lord  and they sing these praises, the praises arise and they clear the air over this city for the blessing and beauty of God to come. 

You have a very important role. God didn’t save you so that you could just hang out. He saved you  so that you could become a mighty warrior and do the work he’s called you to do. 

So with all that said, we’re going to go to the book of Genesis and we’re going to get the vision of the writers of the Bible, inspired but he Holy Spirit and see what kind of vision they had for work—the biblical perspective on work. 

Genesis 1:26

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals…”

I love ruling over the fish. Every once in a while I get to rule over one as it bit my line and I’m reeling it in. It’s one of my favorite moments of all time, especially if it’s a big one. But anyway. You know, rule. God made mankind to rule. Please catch that word. That word in Hebrew is a powerful rule. It’s kingly. God made you and me to rule. And we’ll get more language like that as we keep going. 

27 

So God created mankind in his own image,

    in the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.

Just in case anyone was thinking that God made man to rule and Eve was part of what he was supposed to rule, the writers clear that up real quickly and say, no. God made man and woman both as mankind to rule over the rest of creation. 

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

So there God says to them, “Not only have I made you to rule over the creation,” but the command goes further: “I want you to be fruitful, increase, and fill the whole earth and subdue the earth.” 

Now, again, this language is intense. Rule over the earth. Subdue the earth. Another place God gave him dominion over the earth. Those are very particular words—a particular message. 

And part of what they’re supposed to do is to have this authority to rule, to have dominion, to subdue the earth. And they were supposed to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the whole earth. That’s what we’re being taught here. That was God’s plan. The work that man and woman, mankind, was supposed to do, they were supposed to rule over the entire earth, filling the entire earth, subduing the entire earth, having dominion over the entire earth. That’s what God created them for—created you and me for.

And the word there in Hebrew can kind of go both ways. It can be rule and subdue and have dominos in order to create flourishing for everyone involved kind of good. Or it can be ruling, subduing, having dominion over so you can make sure you flourish and you have good at the expense of everybody else. But that’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to work in a way that we subdue, we conquer, we have dominion. But God’s wanting us to do it so that it feels like a garden for everybody instead of feeling like a slave camp for everybody. Get the point there? Then you see how we’ve gone astray in that situation, as a people.

The next thing, turn to Genesis Chapter 2, verse 2. 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Just in case you didn’t know where work came from, God is where it came from. Your job came from God. I don’t know about that. You could say that. But the idea of work came from God. It’s a holy, sacred thing. God himself worked for six days—rested. God is a worker.  He’s a worker. When you and I work, we’re connecting with the Imago Dei—the image of God. We’re falling in line with what he made us to be. 

Skip down to verse 15: 

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 

So the Lord God put man in the garden. This is kind of a retelling of Genesis 1. Genesis 1 is real poetic. And this is kind of a fuller commentary of the creation process. It’s saying that God made the man and put him in the garden to what? To work it and take care of it. Maintain it. And then, if you skip down to verse 18,

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 

So again, non-poetic details. God put man in the garden and said, “I want you to work it and take care of it.” 

And then man wasn’t that good at it. Maybe. I don’t know. He had dominion over the animals. They actually came to him and he named them and all this stuff. He was supposed to have dominion over all these things and it was easy. It was easy because of the way the world was set up at that point. It wasn’t laborious or hard for him to maintain, take care of this garden. But something was missing and God said, “We’re going to make a helper suitable for him.”  

We obviously know this is more than just somebody to work with him. It was to become bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and someone that becomes one; and the idea of marriage was instituted. But we’re talking about work right now. Relationships was last week.

But work is something that God made Adam and Eve, male and female, to work this garden, to take care of it. If we add the other language, to then make the rest of the world a garden. Because remember that God took the world, which was without form, and void, and he made a garden. He put Adam and Eve in it and said, “Now you work for six days on this garden, to care for it and further it, and then rest. Work for six days on this garden to care for this garden and further it and then rest.” I mean, basically the whole situation. 

And that’s what they were doing. We don’t know how long. But then Genesis 3 happens and what happens? Sin. Adam and Eve decided they knew better, or believed the lie the devil was telling them, and didn’t take God at his word, and ate of this tree. Maybe they felt like, “Hey, we grew that tree. We’re in charge of the garden. We have dominion over everything.” Even though God put a limitation on them, they did anyway.

And then sin came. And do you remember what sin brought into the garden? It brought a curse, right? And what was the cruse brought onto? Labor. You see how holy and sacred work is? That when the first mention of sin comes in, the curse, the damage that sin does was on the work, the labor. Women and childbearing. I’ve heard it’s labor. I don’t know if it’s true. Ha. That’s a joke. Whoa! Man. 

The second thing was, and the fields, it would be labor, challenge for the fields. And basically, entropy began. Second law of thermodynamics. There it is. Weeds. Whereas, before, taking care of the garden and making it further was easy because there wasn’t a curse. But now, because of sin, there is a curse. 

So check this out. Work is not cursed. Work is holy and sacred. But there is a reality of sin that has brought a curse that affects the work. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work anymore. It doesn’t mean work is worthless. Work is still what God did and wants us who are in his image to continue to do. But now it’s harder and challenging and difficult because of the reality of sin.

Here’s me trying to sum it up:

God’s work was to make a garden out of the formless void of our world. He worked for six days on that garden and then rested. He put mankind in the garden to enjoy it and fill it and expand it. When man sinned, the curse that came was on labor—labor in childbearing, labor in the gardening work. Because of sin there is entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. Mankind’s job in the beginning was to maintain and further the garden, the goodness of God’s garden. Mankind’s job is still the same today. Therefore, your work at home, in an office, in a shop, in a studio, in emails, in spreadsheets, in classrooms, in your vehicle, in research, in your children, in your relationships, it is sacred and holy work. You may think your job is lame, but God sees you as his special agent, sent and planted in your work situation. 

Even if your work is lame. There’s so much more to it. 

Ephesians 1, in the Message (MSG), it says, 

 I, Paul, am under God’s plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers in Ephesus…

And then he goes on into one of Paul’s awesome run-on sentences about the wonder and beauty of God, and the amazing work of salvation, and how much God has meant to him. And then he sums it all up with this. He says: 

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

The call is the same. Nothing has changed. Jesus has work that he wants you to do. And if you will give your life to him, and you will trust him, he will not only point you in that direction, but he will fill you with passion—his passion—to accomplish it. 

And this is really my prayer for us over these next few weeks, that we would be gripped by the passion of God in the direction that he wants us to work. Next week we’re going to celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks this day when he rode this donkey into Jerusalem, and the next week, leading up to the death and resurrection, they call it Passion Week. Jesus was passionate. He was gripped by the Father’s heart for the work that God wanted him to do. So gripped by it, that at one point they described of him that his face was set like flint toward Jerusalem, toward the cross.

He was so compelled and constrained by what the Father wanted that he was willing to do anything and everything, including being crucified on the cross to accomplish the work that God wanted him to do. And I want us to be gripped by the passion. Do not come next week if you’re scared of the passion of Christ. Because my prayer is that we will be gripped by this passion for this city, for your job, for your family, for your kids, even if they drive you crazy. Whatever work he has called you to do, it will be coupled with his passion. His passion is dangerous stuff.

One time Jeremiah the prophet said, “God, you told me I’m supposed to keep telling people what you say, but every time I do it, I get beat up or thrown in the dungeon or laughed at. I’m not going to do it anymore.” And then this beautiful passage in Scripture says, “Your word was like a fire in my bones and I could not hold it in. Your passion burned hotter and brighter than any pain I ever experienced.” 

And Paul also said in a different place—they were asking him, “Why are you so crazy, Paul? Why are you so radical, Paul? Why did you leave everything and go to all of these people who don’t know Jesus and you’re building tents, and why are you so crazy about everything?”

He said, “Well, I’m not crazy. It’s the love of Christ that constrains. The love of Christ has gripped me. I have a passion for the gentile people. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know if I necessarily wanted it. But I know it’s the most life-giving thing I’ve ever experienced. And I’m not going anywhere else.”

Maybe the Lord’s going to give you a passion for whatever weird job you have, or cool job, or lame job or whatever; and all of a sudden you just start loving your job. And you have such a passion about it. People are so confused and you get to tell them about Jesus. 

That’s what we’re praying for. Passion for the work that God has given us to do. 

Turn to the last page of your Bible, Revelation 22. We’re going to see that God’s garden idea is God’s garden idea. He never gave up on it. He’s still into it. So Revelation is kind of showing us a picture of what God wants things to be. 

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life… 

Which, by the way, was in the garden of Eden. 

…bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of [all] the nations. No longer will there be any curse. 

There’ll be a garden without weeds. It’ll be relationships without weeds. It’ll be dominion. Subduing. Reigning. Ruling. Without selfishness. 

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.  

What does that mean? It means we’re not going to be sitting on a cloud, playing a harp. I guess—unless that was your job. We’re going to reign. What does that mean? We will continue to be gardeners, maintaining the good of the garden and furthering it.

Ask me the next question. I don’t know. I have a thousand questions too. But that’s the picture we’re given. This gardener thing, God’s pretty serious about it. And that’s why every once in a while, when you make something beautiful, there’s this pleasure in your heart. That’s why when you’re unable to contribute in some way, or feel like you’re contributing in some way, there’s such anguish in your heart. You’re killing your own nature. This work thing is a very serious thing. 

I’ll close with this quote from a book. It’s a book called Garden City. It’s actually up on our livingstreams.online for everybody who goes to church here or listens online or whatever. It’s a book that’s very helpful in understanding work and this whole idea of garden coming out of the Scriptures. And we’ve got a little study guide to go along with it. It’s that same concept that God has made you, has fashioned you for a work. It very well could be the work you’re in is the work he wants you to do or is preparing you for something. But there’s something bigger and broader than just the job you have.

Again, your work might be raising your kids, taking the formless voice of your kids, the wild, untamed, what-is-going-on-there, and fashioning it into something beautiful. That is a holy, sacred work. Maybe one of the most holy, sacred works. Your marriage. Your household, whatever it might be, whether there’s kids or a spouse or not. 

This quote from the book is helpful.

You are a modern day Adam and Eve. This world is what’s left of the garden and your job is to take all the raw materials that are spread out in front of you to work it, to take care of it, to run, to subdue, to wrestle, to fight, to explore, and to take the creation project forward as an act of service and worship to the God who made you. —Garden City by John Comer

Real simple. And some of you are doing this well. Our Finance Director, Anthony DeArcos. This guy, he comes to our finance meetings and he’s made these spread sheets that are beautiful. I can’t understand them or what they’re saying, but they’re beautiful. And the time. And he does these Power Points and I’m just like, “Wow this is beautiful.” He’s pouring his heart and his soul into this thing. And it’s beautiful.

And it’s work and it’s causing this place, this corner of Phoenix to be a place where it feels like a garden. Not just for you and me, but for asylum seekers who are crossing the border having no idea what’s going to happen. And next thing you know they’re living in a house and having people caring for them. It’s definitely not what they had in mind. Or kids who are aging out of the foster care system. They come and they live in this giant house. And they’re telling me, “This place is nice!” And there’s room for them. And people are taking care of them. 

And it goes on and on. You guys are doing so many things. And we’re working on this corner, but we’ve got to take this to all of the corners. Whatever corner of this city you’re on. Maybe all you’ve got is a cubicle or a desk, or maybe they put you in the corner at work. You just have to sit there. Whatever it is, that’s your corner. Make it beautiful. Make it a place that everyone, when they walk by they’re like, “Well, I just want to hang out here for a little bit.” Do that. Don’t wear a crown like you’re a king and you’re going to do things. That’s weird.

Next week we’ll talk a little bit more about how to find the passion and how to make sure we have the authority to subdue and the way we do. The message next week is, “Should You Quit Your Job?” So we’ll see what happens there.

Let’s pray:

Jesus, we do thank you so much for your word that enlightens us and your Spirit that impassions us in the direction that is good for us and the whole world. And I pray that this city would have revival. That this city would be struck by your passion because it is so prevalent in your people. Help us to do our part, Lord. Help us to work your work in this city.


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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV®,
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. 
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