MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
TEXT: Ephesians 6:5-6; Daniel 6:20; Jeremiah 29:5-7; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
A. For most Americans tomorrow is a holiday, it’s Labor Day, & in the opinion of some, it is the most hypocritical of all of our holidays.
They say that if Labor Day is a celebration of the unique rights & freedoms that we, as workers, enjoy in our nation, that if we’re really thankful that we have jobs while some don’t, that if we’re really serious about labor being a blessing, then what we should do on Labor Day is go to work & tell the boss, "I’m going to work today, & I’m going to work for free, just for the joy of working."
But no, we’re not going to do that, are we? Most of us will say, "I don’t want to work on Labor Day, but I do expect to get paid for it anyway." Maybe we’re not quite as dedicated to the celebration of labor as we thought.
B. So let me ask you a few questions, "Do you really like your job? How many of you look forward to going to work on Monday mornings because you really miss seeing your boss? How many of you miss your fellow workers so much that you can hardly wait to get back & see how they’re doing?"
Now if you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, then you’re in the minority. Surveys reveal that 65% of American workers are unhappy with their jobs. Many of them go to work simply because they have no other choice. "I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go."
They would probably tell you that they are unhappy with what they do because it is the same old routine day after day, & their life seems to be a meaningless merry-go-round with no real purpose to it.
ILL. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, "You load 16 tons, & what do you get, another day older & deeper in debt."
ILL. Someone else sang, "Up in the morning, out on the job, work like the devil for my pay. Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids, work till I’m wrinkled & gray. But that lucky old sun just rolls around heaven all day."
And just like that lucky old sun, many people dream of the day when they’ll have nothing to do but "roll around heaven all day."
PROP. Now this morning, I want to share with you what I believe will help you see our work as an exciting opportunity to serve God.
C. One of our problems in life is that we divide everything into secular & sacred categories. We say that over here is the secular, & over there is the sacred. And we spend the best hours of every day in the secular world. We say, "We’d really like to serve God, but we have to spend so much time on our secular job."
So we give God a few hours on Sunday morning. Maybe another hour on Sunday night, & that’s about all for a lot of people.
You can see that sacred & secular pattern in the O.T., but not in the N.T. The O.T. says, "Over here is the sacred with its temple & priests, & everything else is secular." But the N.T. teaches that we’re all priests, & our body is a temple, & that God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, & every day is holy.
The N.T. tells us that we can take God with us wherever we go, & that He can be a part of everything we do.
With this in mind, I want you to see three things this morning. First of all, I want you to see your everyday work as a service for God.
I. SEE YOUR EVERYDAY WORK AS A SERVICE FOR GOD
A. Do you realize that almost everything we do affects someone else? We have food because there are farmers who planted the crop or raised the cattle. We are the beneficiaries of their labor.
ILL. Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life in the little town of Nazareth helping his earthly father out in the carpenter shop. Why? Because work is important. Because people need houses. Because people need yokes for their oxen. Because people need chairs on which to sit, & tables on which to serve their food.
ILL. Every once in a while someone will say to me, "You know, I never thought of it quite the way you presented it this morning. Your sermon really changed my way of thinking." And it humbles me to hear that.
B. But at the same time it reminds me of the awesome responsibility we have. What we say & what we do are important, & it makes a difference because others are affected by what we do.
I am convinced that that is what Paul means when he wrote in Romans 12:1, "Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy & pleasing to God - which is your spiritual service or worship."
We can serve God in the way we work & where we work every day!
II. YOU CAN SERVE GOD WHERE YOU WORK
A. You say, "You don’t know where I work. You don’t know my boss. You don’t know the kind of people I have to work with. You don’t know the power struggles that go on, the flirtations, the cursing. You don’t know the dirty stories that are told, the pornography that is passed around."
Let me share a scripture with you. In Ephesians 6, beginning in vs. 5, is a passage that I think is very appropriate today. It is addressed to slaves, but the closest thing to them today are workers like you & me. So let’s substitute the word, "worker," for "slave" & listen to what God has to say.
"Workers, obey your earthly masters with respect & fear, & with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart." [5-6]
Now that’s interesting. He’s saying, "Even though your boss is a two-legged monster who is about as pagan as anyone you’ve ever seen, do your work for him as though you are doing it for Christ."
You say, "You don’t know my boss or you’d never suggest that. I work in a pagan office in a pagan company. There is no way that Christian principles will ever change that."
B. I want to take you back to the O.T. for a moment & remind you of Daniel. You’ve heard about him ever since you were children in Sunday School. Daniel was carried away captive to Babylon, taken from Jerusalem where he was surrounded by people who believed what he believed, who believed in one God.
But now he is in a totally pagan environment in Babylon. As time passed, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed him a government official. He became a government bureaucrat.
Now if a lot of what we hear is true, if you want to get as far away from God as you can, become a government bureaucrat. Serve in that kind of environment & you’ll be about as far away from God as you can possibly be.
But as Daniel worked in his government office, sitting behind his government desk, doing all his duties as a government bureaucrat, he was able to serve God. And King Nebuchadnezzar respected his faithfulness to God as Daniel rose higher & higher among the leaders of the country.
But when King Nebuchadnezzar died, the Babylonian Empire began to disintegrate, & finally it was conquered by King Darius. Once again Daniel’s outstanding qualities were recognized, & he was soon appointed one of the highest officials in all the land.
But there came a time when pressures were put on him to do things that were against God. So Daniel said, "That’s enough. That’s as far as I can go." And King Darius, who had become his friend, was forced to have Daniel thrown into the lion’s den.
You know the story. God shut the mouths of the lions, & Daniel was unharmed. The next morning, Darius came rushing to the lion’s den, expecting to find the mangled bones of Daniel.
Listen to what Darius says in vs. 20 of the 6th chapter of Daniel. It says, "When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, `Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’"
C. Isn’t that interesting? Daniel worked in a pagan environment. He worked in a pagan office. He worked for a pagan king. And yet, the one thing that that pagan king knew about Daniel was that Daniel served God continually.
APPL. Do your fellow-workers know that? Do you try to serve God continually in the environment of your work? Have you seen yourself as a walking temple of God? Have you been able to put God first where you work, so that your fellow workers know that you are trying to serve God?
You say, "Well, Daniel was extra-ordinary. I’m just ordinary." If you’re ordinary, thank the Lord. He made more ordinary people than He did anybody else. He didn’t make very many geniuses. He didn’t make very many five talent people. But He made a lot of ordinary people.
And God delights in taking ordinary people & infusing them with extra-ordinary power. And when an ordinary person goes to an ordinary workplace, determined to be faithful to God, God can do extra-ordinary things through him or her. And God always is glorified when that happens.
III. ALL OF US ARE MINISTERS
A. Now the third thing I want you to see is that all of us are ministers, no matter who or where we are.
ILL. At times people say to me, "I wish I could do what you do. I wish I were a preacher." Now I spent 8 years working in grocery stores, an oil company, & in department stores before I became a full-time preacher, & I know where you’re coming from. I know a bit about the language & the things that go on in the secular workplace, & I’m very thankful that God called me out of that into the ministry.
But I want you to understand that I am no more a servant of God now than I was then. You see, the Bible teaches that all of us are ministers no matter what our job description or workplace might be. If you’re a Christian, you’re a minister of God.
Now God may call you out of that to a mission field, or to a preaching ministry, or whatever. And if He does, you need to respond. But you will be no more a servant of His then, then you are right now. Your ministry is now, wherever you are, that’s your sphere of ministry.
B. You say, "Well, I’m a victim of circumstances. I have this job because I couldn’t get the one I wanted. I have to make a living, so here I am, & I hate every minute of it."
ILL. Daniel was a victim of circumstances, too. Let me ask you, "Why was Daniel in Babylon?" And of course, the answer is that the Babylonian army took him to Babylon. But notice, in Jeremiah 29:7 God says, "I have carried you into exile." "I have carried you from Jerusalem to Babylon."
Here is Daniel in a pagan place, surrounded by pagan people, but the Bible says that that is exactly where God wanted him to be.
ILL. We’ve heard the old adage that "one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel" so long that we think that bad always wins, & good never does. But the Bible teaches that we can overcome evil with good.
C. If you’re in a secular workplace, working next to a pagan, then see that as a God-given opportunity to influence that person for good.
That person whom you work with every day, whose eyes you look into, whose voice you hear, who’s shared hopes & dreams with you, who’s told you about the new car they’ve bought & about their kids & family, doesn’t it make sense that that person is the one God would like to see you leading to the Lord?
SUM. That’s lifestyle evangelism - when you go to work & see that place & those people as your God-given opportunity for service.
APPL. Now let me give you 4 suggestions for witnessing for Christ effectively.
1. First of all, don’t brag. Don’t go to work & brag about how wonderful your Christian life is. Don’t brag about how righteous you are & how much sin you have overcome, & how you used to drink & carouse & be unfaithful, but now you are a model husband or wife & you don’t drink anymore. Don’t brag. That will only turn them off.
Self-righteousness has always been repulsive. It simply won’t work. Don’t brag.
2. Secondly, don’t nag. Don’t carry a big Bible under your arm, & every time somebody cusses pull it out & say, "Look here. It says, `Thou shalt not swear.’" Every time they brag about what a hangover they have, don’t pull it out & say, "Look, it says, `All drunkards are going to hell.’" Don’t do that.
Because all you’re going to do is turn them away. You may think that you are being bold. No, you’re not being bold. You’re simply turning them away.
3. So don’t brag, & don’t nag, & don’t lag. As a Christian it is important for you to do your work & do it well, to set an example for others, to be there on time, maybe even early, to do your job & maybe a little bit of their job if they’re falling behind, to help them out in any way you possibly can.
If you’re lazy, if you’re slothful on the job, then that’s a poor testimony for the Lord. So do your job & do it well, as if you are doing it for Christ.
4. Fourthly, don’t sag. Be really careful not to go back to your old way of life. Be really careful not to listen to their language & start to use it yourself. Be really careful not to see the bright lights of a far country & be enticed. Make sure you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Then, if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, if you don’t use their language, if you react in a different way to problems & difficulties that come, sooner or later they will come up & say, "I notice you’re different. What has caused the difference?"
They will, because inside they’re hurting. Inside they’re looking for answers & solutions. And if you can mirror what Christ can do in a life, sooner or later the door will swing open for you to share gently & tenderly your testimony with them. If you’ll just be there every day, setting that solid consistent Christian example.
D. Back in that 29th chapter of Jeremiah, God gave instructions to the children of Israel as to how they should behave in a pagan environment when they were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. He said, "Now here is how I want you to live as my children." Listen to these very plain & practical words beginning in vs. 5.
He said, I want you to "Build houses & settle down; plant gardens & eat what they produce. Marry & have sons & daughters; find wives for your sons & give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons & daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace & prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." [5-7]
Those are very practical instructions, & very up to date as Jeremiah passed on the thoughts of God to a people in exile.
CONCL. I think we’re in exile. "This world is not my home. I’m just a’passing through." Jesus is building a real home for me, & I’m anxiously awaiting that home.
But in the meantime, I’m here. And while I’m here, God says, "Settle down. Build a house. Plant a garden. Get married & have children. Find wives for your sons, & marry off your daughters. They too will have children. Go out & work & prosper, because as the city prospers you, too, will prosper."
You see, He is saying, "You be God’s person. Be different, & yet blend into society. Don’t give in to their way of doing things. Daniel didn’t. Meshach, Shadrach & Abednego didn’t. They went so far, & then they said, `This is as far as we can go.’"
There were fiery furnaces, & there were lion dens. But God saw them through all of that, & He’ll see us through, too, if we’ll just settle down, build houses, get married, have children, go to work, & be the stable part of society until finally society realizes it needs changing. And we’re the ones who have the message of change, the message of Jesus Christ.
You carry it in your heart this morning. So carry it to the workplace next Tuesday. Someone desperately needs to hear that message. I hope that in some way you can see your workplace as a sacred place, where you can serve the Lord, where you can witness your faith with those who don’t know Jesus.
If you’re here this morning & Jesus is not your Lord & Savior today, then we extend His invitation. We pray that you’ll respond to Him. That you’ll know that Jesus Christ went to the cross & died for your sins, that He was buried & on the third day He arose from the dead, victorious & triumphant. And He offers His sacrifice as payment for all your sins.
We offer that invitation & pray that you will respond as we stand & as we sing.