work and God’s work

It’s been a week of realising how easy it is to become an unwilling workaholic — to stay in the office past midnight each night, to go back on weekends — not simply because there’s that much work to do, but because that’s what everyone else is doing.  I’ve had to remind myself almost every day that there’s no point staying late just because a voice tells me I must be seen as the most hardworking, that it makes far more sense for me to bring work home than to go to the office (two hours’ travelling to/fro) on a Saturday, that the desire to look the busiest or the best is unhealthy and, more importantly, unGodly.

I’ve been reading Dale Ralph Davis’ commentary on 1 Samuel (spoiler: it’s wonderful). On Jonathan’s covenant with David and his willingness to give up his rightful throne and relationship with his father for the sake of his friend, Davis says:

Jonathan had acknowledged that the kingdom was Yahweh’s and therefore David’s, so his life did not need to be centered in his ambition (what can I get) but in God’s providence (what Yahweh has given)… Life does not consist in achieving your goals but in fulfilling your promises.

If I may stretch the application: My workplace (kingdom) is God’s. Any possible appraisal, promotion, or opinion of my managers is His to determine for me. My task is faithfulness, which includes carrying out my promise to serve and love God by serving and loving His people. If that results in spending my Saturdays / Sundays baking for my YF kids, planning publicity for church musical, studying Scripture, printing Bible Study material, praising God as a congregation, teaching and learning from God’s Word, at the cost of racking up work-points with my managers / partners (or mostly just in my mind, honestly), then so be it.

(Of course obedience to God means working as if I were working for the Lord, etc. etc.)

I come back once and again to Mike Cain’s wonderful sermon on 2 Corinthians 3:

Judged by outward appearance the ministry we have is not very glorious. Open a community centre and the world will be very impressed. Open a Bible with someone, and the world will say – that is so lame. But Paul is saying, whose definition of glory are you working with? Opening the Bible with someone may seem so lame, but what the gospel does in their hearts is glorious.

And friends, if you don‘t believe me, ask me again in a hundred years’ time. Ask me in five hundred years’ time. Ask me in a thousand years’ time, when that community centre is dust, and there are people with you in glory whose hearts God wrote on, who were brought from death to life, restored forever because you showed Christ to them. Paul says – that is the kind of brilliance I want you to marvel at.

May I always remember that the urgent is hardly ever the important; that the visible is hardly ever the permanent; that playing the world’s game on its terms is a fruitless exercise, and that true Glory dwells in Immanuel’s land.

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