Taking Our Medicine

11 02 2009

stimI ran across another fantastic piece on Voddie Baucham’s blog site. It’s not bound to be popular reading, because it deals with the cold, hard truth of the economic times we’re facing as a nation. But our problem runs far deeper than economics – ours is a spiritual crisis. We are a people who have become bent upon pursuing self-interest, comfort, pleasure and ease at the expense of godliness, wisdom, charity and accountability. The hallmark of our age is wreckless irresponsibility coupled with an absolute denial that our actions have consequences.

Yet, consequences, while they may be pushed back for a time, will inevitably come. God is not mocked. There ultimately comes a point where our efforts to deflect or postpone the consequences of our actions only exacerbate them and intensify our problems. Sometimes, the best and only thing that you can do is submit to the consequences of your actions, humble yourself, hold your nose, and take your medicine.

This is the backdrop for Voddie’s piece highlighting the sound wisdom of economic advisor Peter Schiff, who’s predictions about market trends in 2006 and 2007 won him the ridicule of his peers, but who is suddenly sounding very prophetic. Mr. Schiff speaks to the proposed “stimulus package” as a “depressant,” which it surely will be if our nation and its leaders continue to press on in the false hope that ignoring the consequences of our wreckless and selfish behavior, and wishing it away with more wreckless and selfish behavior, is the answer to the crisis we face.

Click here to check out Voddie’s excellent blog…





The Christian at work (Part 5)

5 09 2008

This will be the final post in our series on the Christian at work. In previous installments, we have seen the following principles that ought to guide a believer’s attitudes and actions in his vocation:

  1. The principle of industry – work hard unto the glory of God
  2. The principle of direction – seek the Lord’s will for your particular calling
  3. The principle of active dependence – pray continually for God’s blessing on your labors
  4. The principle of consecration – do all your daily tasks humbly, as unto the Lord

The final principle we will address is the principle of contentment. In the previous post, reference was made to the increasing level of job dissatisfaction in the American workplace, and we noted that the self-conscious consecration of our daily tasks – even the smallest of them – to the Lord is a great preventative to grumbling and complaining. Our focus in this post is on the bigger picture. What do you hope to gain from your career? What are your goals? How do you arrive at your objectives? What standard of measurement do you use to evaluate success or failure? Are you disappointed and frustrated when the goals you have set do not come to fruition? Are you burned out and exhausted from chasing the elusive ideal of “success” as defined by the world?

Contentment with God will enable you to handle prosperity

The principle of contentment directs the follower of Christ to entrust the results of his labors to God. If a man commits himself to work hard for God’s glory, continually seeks God’s direction in his pursuits, prays constantly for the Lord to bless his endeavors, and purposes each day to do his work as unto the Lord, he will be able to rest in the assurance that the results are in the hands of God. The desire of his heart will be, not that he will be able to accomplish his personal objectives of amassing wealth and advancing his reputation, but that God will work out His sovereign purposes and glorify Himself through His servant. Spurgeon writes:

Faith hath a happy influence upon the present life, for it moderates a man’s feelings as to the result of his work. Sometimes the result of our work is prosperity, and here the grace of God prevents a surfeit of worldly things. There is a keen test of character in prosperity. Everybody longs for it, but it is not every man that can bear it when it comes. True faith forbids our setting great store by worldly goods and pleasures and enjoyments, for it teaches us that our treasure is in heaven. If we begin to idolize the things that are seen, we shall soon degenerate and turn aside from God. How easily we may spoil a blessing! Two friends gathered each a rose: the one was continually smelling at it, touching its leaves and handling it as if he could not hold it too fast. you do not wonder that it was soon withered. The other took his rose, enjoyed its perfume moderately, carried it in his hand for a while, and then placed it on the table in water, and hours after it was almost as fresh as when it was plucked from the bough. We may dote on our worldly gear until God becomes jealous of it, and sends a blight upon it; and, on the other hand, we may with holy moderateness use these things as not abusing them, and get from them the utmost good which they are capable of conveying to us. Many pursue wealth or fame as some eager boy hunts the painted butterfly: at last, after a long and weary run, he dashes it down with his cap, and with the stroke he spoils its beauty. Many a man hath reached the summit of a life-long ambition and found it to be mere vanity. In gaining all he has lost all; wealth has come, but the power to enjoy it has gone; life has been worn out in the pursuit, and no strength is left with which to enjoy the gain. It shall not be so with the man who lives by faith, for his chief joys are above, and his comfort lies within. To him God is joy so rich that other joy is comparatively flavourless.”

Contentment with God will enable you to handle adversity 

Today’s bookstores are filled with volumes on how to be wealthy and successful. I challenge you to find a book in the business section of your local Barnes & Noble on how to be content in the lean times. The world’s model knows nothing but the relentless drive toward increased riches, status, and power. When these goals are not reached, the result is often depression, work-a-holism, or even resorting to less than ethical practices to gain the desired outcome. The faith of the Christian frees him from this destructive cycle, by enabling him to rest in God’s wise governing of his affairs, and find ways to glorify his Lord even when He withholds material blessing for His own hidden purposes. Spurgeon comments:

But perchance the result of all our work may be adversity. Some men row very hard, and yet their boat makes no headway. When an opportunity presents itself the tide of trade suddenly turns against them. When they have corn in the mill the wind does not blow. Perhaps they lose all but their character, and then it is that faith comes in to cheer them under the disaster. I am deeply grieved when I hear of persons committing suicide because they were in difficulties: it is a dreadful thing thus to rush before one’s Creator unbidden. Faith sustains the heart and puts aside all thought of such desperate attempts to fly from present griefs by plunging into far more awful woes. We shall bear up and come through our trials triumphantly if we have faith in God. If our heavenly Father has appointed a bitter cup for us shall we not drink it? If the fields which we have tilled yield no harvests, and the beasts that we have foddered die in the stall, shall we not bow the head and say, “The Lord hath done it”? Must it not be right if the Lord ordains it? Let us bless him still. If not, it will be our unbelief which hinders. How many have been happy in poverty, happier than they were in wealth! How often have the saints rejoiced more during sickness than in their health. Payson declared that during illness he felt happier than he had ever been, far happier than he had ever expected to be. Though bereavement has come into the family, and sickness unto the household, yet faith has learned to sing in all weathers because her God is still the same.”

Contentment with God will equip you for every situation

So, what is the secret of success in business? Self-help books, seminars, consulting firms, and focus groups offer a variety of answers to this question, but all of them boil down to some variation of having confidence in yourself, drawing from your “inner-strength,” and finding that secret formula or magic pill that will propel you to the pinacle of achievement and prosperity. The faith of a Christian offers a radically different answer, because it has a very different definition of success. Faith desires, above all personal fulfillment, the glory of God and the enjoyment of His presence. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the question: What is Man’s chief end? The answer is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If this is your definition of success, and this is the faith that captivates your heart, you will be equipped to face any situation with genuine peace and joy. Here is Spurgeon’s final word on the value of faith for everyday life: 

O brothers and sisters, faith is a precious preparative for anything and everything that comes; mind that you have it always ready for action. Do not leave it at home in time of storm as the foolish seaman left his anchor. It is not a grace to be shut up in a closet, or fastened to a communion table, or boxed up in a pew, but it is an everyday grace which is to be our companion in the shop and in the market, in the parlor and in the kitchen, in the workroom and in the field; ay, it may go into the workhouse with the poor, as well as into the mansion with the rich; it may either cheer the dreary hours of the infirmary, or sanctify the sunny weeks of holiday. Faith is for every place in which a good man may lawfully be found. ‘Should fate command you to the utmost verge of the green earth, to rivers unknown to song,’ yet shall a childlike faith in God find you a home in every clime, under every sky. Oh, to feel the power of it, as to all that comes of our labour, that the life which we live in the flesh may be lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.”





The Christian at work (Part 4)

3 09 2008

How would you rate your job satisfaction? Do you enjoy going to work each day? Are you content with your position? Complaining and grumbling in the workplace has increased dramatically in recent years. In a survey of 5,000 households by the Conference Board, less than half of the respondents described themselves as satisfied with their jobs. In a web opinion survey by Monster.com, 57% responded that they feel overworked, and 83% said they are not satisfied with their jobs. Most of those who reported discontentment in the workplace blamed management for their sense of dissatisfaction. Sadly, most surveys of Christian workers produce results that mirror those of non-Christians. This points us to the fourth principle that should guide the attitudes and actions of the Christian in the workplace: the principle of consecration.

Rejoice in the privilege of serving God

The believer is called to do his work “unto the Lord and not unto men.” This focus on serving God in one’s daily calling should have a marked effect on a Christian employee’s attitude and demeanor. Understanding and resting in God’s providence enables the believer to bear up under difficulties, while seeking opportunities to bring glory to Christ through diligence and cheerfulness even in the face of petty annoyances. Simple and consistent obedience to the commandments of God will be a powerful witness in the workplace. If your speech and behavior are consistent with godliness, you will avoid many common pitfalls that create workplace tension and ruin the witness of the believer to his Savior. Spurgeon begins his discussion of this aspect of faith’s impact on vocation by stating:

Faith exercises a power over a man’s life of a remarkable kind because it leads him to serve God in his daily calling. Never is life more ennobled than when we do all things as unto God. This makes drudgery sublime, and links the poorest menial with the brightest angel. Seraphs serve God in heaven, and you and I may serve him in the pulpit or in the kitchen, and be as accepted as they are. Brethren, Christian men are helped by faith to serve God in their calling by obedience to God’s commands, by endeavouring to order everything according to the rules of love to God and love to men. In such a case integrity and uprightness preserve the man, and his business becomes true worship. Though there be no straining after eccentric unworldliness and superstitious singularity, yet in doing that which is right and just, the common tradesman is separated unto the service of the Lord. Jesus says, ‘If any man serve me let him follow me,’ as much as to say that obedience to the divine command is the true mode of showing love to Jesus. If thou wishest to do something great for God, be greatly careful to obey his commands: for ‘to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.'”

Determine to manifest the spirit of Christ

Part of my son’s first semester freshman experience in college involves participating in a work study program. He was assigned to the janitorial crew and given the task of cleaning the bathrooms in the dormitories. I have marveled at the grace that he has shown as he has humbly determined to “scrub toilets as unto the Lord.” Such an approach to work can only come by the transforming grace of Christ, who willingly humbled Himself and took the place of a servant. It is possible to perform one’s daily tasks with diligence and precision, while manifesting a haughty or condescending attitude. But the true beauty of the testimony of Christ in the workplace is diligence joined with genuine humility of spirit – a concern for excellence, even in the smallest and most demeaning tasks, because God’s glory is magnified through the behavior of His children. Spurgeon writes:  

Godly men exercise faith in God in their callings by trying to manifest a Christian spirit in all that they do. The spirit which actuates us may seem to be a small matter so long as we are outwardly right; but it is in reality the essence of the whole thing. Take away the flavour from the fruit, or the fragrance from the flower, and what is left? Such is correct living without the savour of grace. The same thing can be done in several ways: you can do a right thing in so wrong a way as to make it wrong. Even in giving to the poor, a churl will trample upon their feelings in the very act of his charity; while I have known others who have been unable to give who, nevertheless, have expressed their inability in so kindly a form that they have comforted the disappointed applicant. Oh, to act in your trade and your calling as Christ would have acted had he been in your place. Hang that question up in your houses, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then think of another, ‘How would Jesus do it?’ for what he would do, and how he would do it, may always stand as the best guide to us. Thus faith puts a man upon serving God by leading him to exhibit the spirit of Christ in what he ordinarily does, showing all courtesy, gentleness, forbearance, charity, and grace.”

Purpose to serve God in your labors today

The concept of serving God in one’s vocation may at times seem overwhelming. The key to success in this endeavor is to do it one day at a time. Last night I caught the final set of the U.S. Open tennis match between Andy Roddick and Fernando Gonzales. Roddick won in straight sets to advance to the quarter finals. In the interview after the match, Andy was asked about his hopes going forward. He responded that he has tried to approach the tournament “one point at a time.” This is the approach of every great champion, and it is also the best way to ensure success as you seek to honor God in your vocation. Purpose in your heart that you will glorify God today in the performance of your duties, in your interactions with co-workers, superiors, employees and customers. Pray for grace to enable you to exalt your Savior from your first interaction to your final transaction of the day. As you encounter each challenge to your contentment, pray again for God to glorify Himself through your response, and remind yourself that you represent Him and that your reactions will either honor Him or dishonor Him in the eyes of men. And be thankful, today, for the grand privilege of carrying the testimony of Jesus into your place of business. We’ll give Spurgeon the last word:

Furthermore, in all that we do, we should be aiming at God’s glory. We should do everything as unto God, and not unto men. There would be no eye-service if we left off being men-pleasers and began to please God. Neither would there be impatience under injustice; for if men do not accept our service when we have done it with all our hearts, we shall comfort ourselves with the reflection that our Master in heaven knows how little we deserve the unrighteous censure. To live as kings and priests unto God is the cream of living. Then will you be the Lord’s free men. Serve God in serving men, and serve men by serving God: there is a way of working out those two sentences even to the full, and thus rendering life sublime. May God the Holy Spirit teach us to do this. If we really live to serve God we shall live intensely day by day, allowing no time to waste. Sophie Cook sought Mr. Wesley’s counsel as to what she should do in life, and he answered, ‘Live to-day’: a very short direction, but one that is full of wisdom. ‘Live to-day,’ and tomorrow you may do the same. Plans for the whole term of life many of you may not be able to construct, but mind that you work while it is called to-day. ‘Son, go work to-day in my vineyard’ is the great Father’s word. How would a man live if he felt that he was specially to live for God this day? Suppose that to-day there was a vow upon you, or some other bond, by which you felt that this whole day was solemnly consecrated to the Lord; how would you behave yourself? So ought you to behave this day, and every day; for you belong wholly to him who loved you, and gave himself for you. Let the love of Christ constrain us in this matter: let us put on the yoke of Christ, and feel at once that we are his blood-bought possession, and his servants for ever, because by faith he has become ours and we are his. We ought to live as Christ’s men in every little as well as in every great matter; whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we should do all to the glory of God, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Christ Jesus. Thus, you see, faith in him who gave himself for us leads us to spend our energies in his service, and to do our ordinary work with an eye to his glory, and so our life is coloured and savoured by our faith in the Son of God.”





The Christian at work (Part 3)

27 08 2008

How do you relate prayer to work? Does this seem like an odd question? If you are a Christian it shouldn’t. If your goal is to live every facet of your life to the glory of God, you must consistently consecrate every activity and every endeavor to Him in prayer. If you wish to please Him in your daily activities, you will need to seek His blessing, direction, and provision and consciously submit your will to His. Your vocation is a major part of your life. It is a daily stage in which you are called to demonstrate God’s grace and truth in the midst of a world that operates on the principles of “me first” and “whatever it takes to get to the top.” To walk into that arena prayerlessly would be like walking onto a battlefield without armor, communications, or a battle plan.

The third principle for integrating faith in the workplace, then, we will refer to as the principle of active dependence. It is the deliberate cultivation of daily dependence upon God to enable you to represent Him well in the calling in which He has placed you. As a Christian, you are called to do your work “as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” If you are to put this principle into practice, you must be in constant communication with your True Employer through prayer. Spurgeon wrote:

Faith leads a man to look to God for help in his ordinary avocation. Here, again, it has a great influence over him. A believer may seek of God the qualifications for his particular calling. “What,” say you, “may we pray about such things?” Yes. The labourer may appeal to God for strength; the artisan may ask God for skill; the student may seek God for help to quicken his intelligence.”

Pray daily for skill, understanding, and ability

There are a plethora of resources available to professionals to help them succeed in the marketplace. Most focus on harnessing the “inner strength” of the individual, finding the “magic pill” that will give you a new perspective and enable you to unlock the secrets of success. For the follower of Jesus Christ, the secret of success is active dependence upon God, submitting every thought, action and decision to Him, and walking in His will. The man who does this will be successful, perhaps not as the world defines success, but certainly as God defines it.

Do you want to do well, and glorify God in your vocation? Do you feel inadequacy in some area of your work? Are there aspects of your job that you don’t understand, or skills that you feel you lack? Go to your heavenly Father and ask Him to help you to glorify Him by growing in your effectiveness and mastery of your field. If your genuine desire is to honor Him, rather than merely enriching yourself or building your own reputation, you will find Him more than ready to help you in your daily endeavors.

David was a great warrior, and he attributed his valour to God who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight. We read of Bezaleel, and of the women that were wise-hearted, that God had taught them, so that they made all manner of embroidery and metal work for the house of the Lord. In those days they used to reckon skill and invention to be the gifts of God; this wretched century has grown too wise to honour any God but its own idolized self. If you pray over your work I am persuaded you will be helped in it. If for your calling you are as yet but slenderly qualified, you may every morning pray God to help you that you may be careful and observant as an apprentice or a beginner; for has he not promised that as your day your strength shall be? A mind which is trusting in the Lord is in the best condition for acquiring knowledge, and getting understanding.”

Prayer for godly conduct in the workplace

Even more important than your skillfulness in executing your vocational tasks is your behavior in the workplace. Your credibility among your co-workers, superiors and subordinates depends upon your faithfulness as an individual who professes Christ. Especially as a professing Christian, your fellow workers will be watching your conduct. If your speech and behavior are inconsistent with godliness, you will not only lose credibility as a professional, but you will give the enemies of Christ a reason to blaspheme. Daily diligence in prayer is essential to maintaining godliness in the workplace. Ask the Lord each day to grant you the grace to respond to every situation and challenge in a manner that honors Him. Pray for help to guard your tongue from harshness, gossip, backbiting, and disingenuousness. And above all, pray for humility, that when you stumble in these things, you will have the grace to confess it and make it right with your fellow workers. Without purposeful prayer, you cannot hope to maintain a godly testimony. Spurgeon puts it this way:

As to your behaviour also in your work, there is room for faith and prayer. For, O brethren, whether qualified or not for any particular offices of this life, our conduct is the most important matter. It is well to be clever, but it is essential to be pure. I would have you masters of your trades, but I am even more earnest that you should be honest, truthful, and holy. About this we may confidently go to God and ask him to lead us in a plain path, and to hold up our goings that we slip not, He can and will help us to behave ourselves wisely. “Lead us not into temptation” is one sentence of our daily prayer, and we may further ask that when we are in the temptation we may be delivered from the evil. We need prudence, and faith remembers that if any lack wisdom he may ask of God. Godliness teaches the young men prudence, the babes knowledge and discretion. See how Joseph prospered in Egypt because the Lord was with him. He was placed in very difficult positions, on one occasion in a position of the most terrible danger, but he escaped by saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” A sense of God’s presence preserved him then and at all other times. He was set over all the house of Potiphar because God was with him. And so, dear friends, engaged in service or in business, you may go to your heavenly Father and ask him to guide you with his counsel, and you may rest assured that he will order all your way, so that your daily calling shall not hinder your heavenly calling, nor your conduct belie your profession.”

Pray for success, as God defines it 

James exhorts us that we do not have because we do not ask, and when we ask and don’t receive, it is because we have asked with wrong motives, that we may spend what we receive on our own pleasures (James 4:2-3). Two important things are evident here. First, God expects us to pray for His blessing upon our labors. It is not wrong to ask God to prosper you in your vocation. He promises to bless those who seek Him and to prosper the work of their hands. Second, God will not grant success if you are not seeking it for His glory. If your goal is self-advancement, you have no right to expect divine favor in your pursuits. But if you desire to do well in order to glorify God and serve the ends of advancing His kingdom, He will grant you success. One important caveat, though: success must be defined in God’s terms, which are not necessarily linked to your material prosperity. When asking God to bless your labors, and prosper you in your vocation, you must be careful to submit your will to the divine will. It may be that God purposes to put you through a lean time, in order to strengthen your faith and increase your dependence upon Him. Remember that God does not define success as the world does, merely in terms of increasing in earthly possessions, wealth, or prestige. God defines success as that which most glorifies Him and serves the purposes of His kingdom. Spurgeon challenges us:

Faith bids you seek help from God as to the success of your daily calling. Know ye not what David says, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.’ It is a most pleasant thing to be able by faith to consult the holy oracle about everything, whether it arises in trade, or in the family, or in the church. We may say with Abraham’s servant, ‘O Lord, I pray thee send me good speed this day.’ You may expect success if you thus seek it: and peradventure some of you would have prospered more if you had more believingly sought the Lord. I say ‘peradventure,’ because God does not always prosper even his own people in outward things, since it is sometimes better for their souls that they should be in adversity, and then the highest prosperity is a want of prosperity. Faith quiets the heart in this matter by enabling us to leave results in the hand of God.”

Pray for fellowship and support

One final area for which a believer can and should pray in relation to his daily pursuits is God’s provision of friends and associates who will help, support, encourage, inspire and challenge him. God has created us as social beings, and the encouragement of friends is a great help to the soul. Yet, as all things are under the providential care and governance of God, it is important to commit this aspect of our vocations to Him in prayer as well. Ask Him to raise up fellow-believers around you, that you may lift up and support one another. Ask Him to make you a light among your co-workers, that some may even be drawn to Christ by your humble and godly example. Ask Him to surround you with sound advisors, and those who are endowed with gifts and abilities that complement yours. Ask Him to keep you from evil company, and those who would lead you into sin. Take hold of this promise: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Prov. 3:6). Here are Spurgeon’s comments:

Faith acts also in reference to our surroundings. We are all very much influenced by those about us. God can raise us up friends who will be eminently helpful to us, and we may pray him to do so: he can put us into a circle of society in which we shall find much assistance in this life’s affairs, and also in our progress towards heaven; and concerning this we know that ‘The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.’ Faith will keep you clear of evil company, and constrain you to seek the society of the excellent of this earth, and thus it will colour your whole life. If there be no friends to help him, the believer’s dependence is so fixed upon God, that he goes forward in cheerful confidence knowing that the Lord alone is sufficient for him; yet, if he be encouraged and assisted by friends, he looks upon it as God’s doing, as much as when David was strengthened by those who came to him in the cave.”

Imitate your Savior, who was a man of prayer

Spurgeon closes the section of his discourse on the necessity of prayer in the workplace with an exhortation to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, and we will give him the last word on this subject:

Do you say, We see the connection of this with faith, but how with faith upon the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us? I answer,-Our Saviour as the object of our faith is also the object of our imitation, and you know, brethren, how in all things he rested upon God. Whenever he undertook a great enterprise you find him spending a night in prayer. If anybody could have dispensed with prayer it was our Lord Jesus; if any man that ever lived could have found his own way without heavenly guidance it was Christ the Son of God. If then he was as much in prayer and exercised faith in the great Father, much more should you and I bring everything before God. We should live in the flesh expecting that the Lord Jesus will be with us even to the end, and that we shall be upheld and comforted by his sympathetic love and tenderness. Faith enables us to follow Jesus as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to expect to be led in a right way, and daily upheld and sustained until the Redeemer shall come to receive us unto himself.”





The Christian at work (Part 2)

26 08 2008

In part one of this series, we began to look at some basic principles for how faith impacts the attitude and behavior of a Christian in the workplace. The main points of this series are inspired by a message preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The first principle we considered was the principle of industry – that a Christian, by virtue of the transformation of his nature and the grace of God in his life, desires to work hard for the glory of God.

The second principle we may refer to as the principle of direction. How is an idividual to determine a specific calling or vocation as the position of labor and service that he should pursue? Worldly wisdom would suggest that a person choose a career based on personal goals and ambitions for wealth, status, or social advancement. For the Christian, the choice of a particular vocation is rooted in a desire to glorify God and to serve the ends of advancing His kingdom in the world. This is not to say that gaining wealth is evil in itself, but only that it ought not to be the driving motivation for a believer.

Is it a lawful calling?

Since the ultimate goal of a follower of Jesus is to glorify God, he will reject any career path that would involve compromising his faithfulness to God’s commandments. The first question, then, in a Christian’s choice of a calling ought to be, “Is it lawful”? Spurgeon wrote:

True faith in him who loved us, and gave himself for us, also seeks direction of the Lord as to the sphere of its action, and waits upon him to be guided by him in the choice of a calling. This part of our discourse may be useful to young persons who have not settled upon what they are to do in life. Faith is a great service to us here. Much depends upon the choice of our pursuits. Very grievous mistakes have been made here-as grievous mistakes as if a bird in the air should have undertaken the pursuits of a fish, or a labouring ox should have entered into competition with a race-horse. Some people are trying to do what they were never made for, ambitious beyond their line. This is a grievous evil. There should, therefore, be a seeking unto God for guidance and direction; and faith leads us to such seeking. This prayer may be used in many senses: “Show me what thou wouldest have me to do.” In the choice of a calling faith helps a Christian to refuse that which is the most lucrative if it be attended with a questionable morality. If the Christian could have huge purses of that gold which is coined out of the drunkenness, the lust, or the ungodliness of men, he would scorn to put them among his stores. Trades which are injurious to men’s minds and hearts are not lawful callings before God. Dishonest gain is awful loss. Gold gained by deceit or oppression shall burn into the soul of its owner as the fire of hell. “Make money,” said the worldling to his son; “make it honestly if you can, but, anyhow, make money.” Faith abhors this precept of Mammon, and having God’s providence for its inheritance, it scorns the devil’s bribe. Choose no calling over which you cannot ask God’s blessing, or you will be acting contrary to the law of faith. If you cannot conceive of the Lord Jesus wishing you success in a certain line of trade, do not touch it. If it is not possible to think of your Lord as smiling upon you in your daily calling, then your calling is not fit for a Christian to follow.

Has God gifted me for this career?

This is the second question a Christian should ask when considering a particular vocation. There are many indicators of God’s direction and will which may be found in our natural circumstances. Some men are born leaders, while others are more suited in temperament to be helpers. Some are naturally adept in mechanical skills, and some are more at ease in public speaking. For some, mathematical calculations come fairly easily, while others may excel in music and artistic expression. Natural talents and latent skills are gifts from God, and can often direct an individual to an area of service in His kingdom for which they are especially endowed. Thus, Spurgeon exhorts his hearers, when choosing a vocation, to give due consideration to the way that God has designed them:

Callings should be deliberately chosen with a view to our own suitableness for them. Faith watches the design of God, and desires to act according to his intent. It had been ill for David to have lived in retirement, or for the prophet Nathan to have aspired to the throne. The law of the kingdom is-“Every man in his own order”; or in other words, “Every man according to his several ability.” If the Lord has given us one talent let us use it in its own market; or if two, or five, let us trade with them where they can be most profitably employed, so that we may be found faithful servants in the day of the Master’s coming.”

Where has God placed me?

Here is a third question the Christian should ask when choosing a vocation. Not only an individual’s natural skills and talents, but also his circumstances often have a controlling effect on the course he is called to take in life. Discontentment has led many to spend their lives dreaming of greener pastures and jumping from job to job in an endless quest for a better future. Had they determined to “bloom where they were planted” and to joyfully and deliberately serve God where His providence placed them, they would have found countless opportunities to do good and spent many years in useful service. The Apostle Paul tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Spurgeon exhorts:

We should also by faith desire such a calling as Providence evidently has arranged and intended for us. Some persons have never had a free choice of what vocation they would follow; for from their birth, position, surroundings, and connections they are set in a certain line of things, like carriages on the tram lines, and they must follow on the appointed track, or stand still. Faith expects to hear the voice behind it saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Trusting to our own judgment often means following our own whims; but faith seeks direction from infallible wisdom, and so it is lead in a right way. God knows your capacity better than you do; entreat him to choose your inheritance for you. If the flowers were to revolt against the gardener, and each one should select its own soil, most of them would pine and die through their unsuitable position; but he who has studied their nature knows that this flower needs shade and damp; and another needs sunlight and a light soil; and so he puts his plants where they are most likely to flourish. God doeth the same with us. He hath made some to be kings, though few of those plants flourish much. He has made many to be poor, and the soil of poverty, though damp and cold, has produced many a glorious harvest for the great Reaper. The Lord has set some in places of peril, places from which they would gladly escape, but they are there preserved by his hand; he has planted many others in the quiet shade of obscurity, and they blossom to the praise of the great Husbandman.”

Seek Him early

Spurgeon is convinced that the sooner in life a person comes to faith in Christ, the better he will be prepared to ask and answer these questions and dedicate himself to a calling that will be both honoring to God and rewarding to the soul. If, instead, an individual places his hopes in worldly rewards and his trust in himself, he may succeed in amassing great wealth but his life on this earth will be restless and miserable, and his eternity worse.

So, then, you see, faith has much to do with the force and direction of our life in the flesh. It provides impetus by giving a man something to live for; it shows him the far-reaching influences of the thoughts and deeds of today, and how they issue in eternal results; and faith also takes the helm and steers the vessel along a safe channel towards the haven of holy rest. Happy are they who in the early days of their youth believe in him who loved them and gave himself for them, and so begin their life-walk with Jesus. Blessed be God for converting some of us while we were yet boys and girls. O happy young people, who begin life with the early dew of grace upon them! No prince of eastern empires was ever so richly bejewelled! You will not in after-days have to lament a score years spent in error, or half a life wasted in sin, or a whole seventy years frittered away in idleness. O that you, who are yet young, who have the world before you, may now be led by the Spirit to follow Christ, who pleased not himself but did the will of his Father, so shall the life that you live in the flesh be lived by the faith of the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you.”





The Christian at work (Part 1)

21 08 2008

This will be the first in a series of posts on the proper Christian attitude toward work. The content of these messages was inspired by a sermon preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon on May 22, 1881 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. The sermon text was Galatians 2:20 – “The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Spurgeon’s thesis was that genuine faith has a profound effect upon the whole man, including his attitude and actions in his vocation. In the introduction, he made the following remarks:

It would be a great pity, dear brethren, if in the process of being qualified for the next life we became disqualified for this; but it is not so. It would be a very strange thing if, in order to be fit for the company of angels, we should grow unfit to associate with men; but it is not so. It would be a singular circumstance if those who speak of heaven had nothing to say concerning the way thither; but it is not so… My brethren, true religion has as much to do with this world as with the world to come; it is always urging us onward to the higher and better life; but it does so by processes and precepts which fit us worthily to spend our days while here below. Godliness prepares us for the life which follows the laying down of this mortal flesh; but as Paul tells us in the text, it moulds the life which we now live in the flesh. Faith is a principle for present use… Godliness with contentment is great gain: it hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. The sphere of faith is earth and heaven, time and eternity; the sweep of its circle takes in the whole of our being-spirit, soul, and body; it comprehends the past and the future, and it certainly does not omit the present. With the things that now are the faith of Christians has to do; and it is concerning the life that we now live in the flesh that I shall now speak, trying, by the help of God’s Spirit, to show the influence which faith has upon it.”

True faith will have its due effect upon how we live our ordinary lives in the here-and-now. It will shape our conduct, not only in “spiritual” matters, but in our callings and vocations. This is true, whether one is called to the office of the ministry, or to the vocation of a butcher, a salesman, or a computer technician. The Bible knows of no division between spiritual life and ordinary life. For the Christian, all things are molded and directed by his relationship with Christ and the precepts of God’s word. What, then, are the Biblical principles that should guide the believer in his daily pursuits?

Spurgeon begins with the principle of industry.

“FAITH INCLINES A MAN TO AN INDUSTRIOUS LIFE. It suggests activity. I will venture to say of any lazy man that he has little or no faith in God for faith always- ‘worketh by love.’ I lay it down as a thesis which shall be proved by observation that a believing man becomes an active man, or else it is because he cannot act, and, therefore, what would have been activity runs into the channel of patience, and he endures with resignation the will of the Most High. He who does nothing believes nothing-that is to say, in reality and in truth. Faith is but an empty show if it produces no result upon the life. If a professor manifests no energy, no industry, no zeal, no perseverance, no endeavour to serve God, there is cause gravely to question whether he is a believer at all. It is a mark of faith that, whenever it comes into the soul, even in its lowest degree, it suggests activity. Look at the prodigal, and note his early desires. The life of grace begins to gleam into his spirit, and its first effect is the confession of sin. He cries, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.’ But what is the second effect? He desires to be doing something. ‘Make me as one of thy hired servants.’ Having nothing to do had helped to make him the prodigal he was. He had wasted his substance in riotous idleness, seeking enjoyment without employment. He had plunged into the foulest vices because he was master of money but not master of himself. It was not an ill thing for him when he was sent into the fields to feed swine: the company which he met with at the swine trough was better than that which he had kept at his banquets. One of the signs of the return of his soul’s sanity was his willingness to work, although it might be only as a menial servant in his father’s house. In actual history observe how Saul of Tarsus, even before he had found peaceful faith in Christ, cried, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ Faith arouses the soul to action. It is the first question of believing anxiety, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Hence faith is such a useful thing to men in the labour and travail of this mortal life, because it puts them into motion and supplies them with a motive for work. Faith does not permit men to lie upon the bed of the sluggard, listless, frivolous, idle; but it makes life to appear real and earnest, and so girds the loins for the race.”

If you are a Christian, then you have been transformed into a new creature. The principle of newness is the re-creation, renewal, and re-invigoration of the image of God in you that was defaced by sin. Sin had turned all of your thoughts inward, toward self-interest, so that all of your attitudes and actions were geared toward satisfying your cravings for comfort and ease. God created man for honorable – that is, God-honoring – work. When He put Adam and Eve in the Garden, he charged them to tend it and cultivate it, to rule over the earth and subdue it.

Work itself is not part of the curse of sin. But sin has had a profound effect upon man’s attitude toward work. Because of sin, work has become a drudgery – “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread.” But sin did not change the nature of work. It changed the nature of man. Instead of seeing work as a means to glorify God, fallen man sees work as a means to glorify and enrich himself. The end he has in view makes the means seem bitter, because the labor involved in work infringes upon man’s enjoyment and leisure. So he looks for ways to cut corners – to exert the minimum amount of effort for the maximum amount of reward. Sinful man is naturally lazy and self-indulgent, and it often shows in the workplace.

But the Christian, by God’s grace, has a new nature. His self-centered and self-indulgent mindset is transformed into one that is Christ-centered and God-honoring. So, for the Christian, work is no longer a drudgery that stands between himself and his desire for honor, enrichment, and ease. It is an honorable calling that allows him the great privilege of serving God by advancing His kingdom, exercising wise and careful stewardship over His creation, and contributing to the welfare and happiness of his fellow man.

“Everyone should follow an honourable vocation. It was a rule of the old church, and it ought to be one of the present- ‘If any man will not work neither let him eat.’ It is good for us all to have something to do, and plenty of it. When man was perfect God placed him in a paradise, but not in a dormitory. He set him in the garden to ‘dress it and to keep it.’ It would not have been a happy place for Adam if he had had nothing to do but to smell the roses and gaze at the flowers: work was as essential to the perfect man as it is to us, though it was not of the kind which brings sweat to the face or weariness to the limbs. In the garden of grace faith is set to a happy service, and never wishes to be otherwise than occupied for her Lord.”

“The text says, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.’ Does faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him, suggest to the redeemed man that he should be industrious and active? Assuredly it does; for it sets the divine Saviour before him as an example, and where was there ever one who worked as Jesus did? In his early youth he said, ‘Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’ He was no loitering heir of a gentleman, but the toiling son of a carpenter. In after life it was his meat and his drink to do the will of him that sent him. He says, ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.’ His was stern labour and sore travail: the zeal of God’s house did eat him up, and the intensity of love consumed him. He worked on until he could say, ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’ Now, it is no small thing for a man to be roused by such an example, and to be made a partaker of such a spirit.”

What is your attitude towards work? Do you see it as a curse, or a blessing? Is it oppression, or opportunity? Are you industrious, or indolent? Is it a means to accomplish your personal goals of enrichment, ease and reputation, or a means to advance God’s glory by laboring in His vineyard? Let the word and example of Jesus Christ challenge you, in whatever calling God has placed you, to be diligently and cheerfully about your Father’s business.





Stolen Poultry

17 08 2008

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.” (Jeremiah 17:11)

It was commonly believed that the partridge would steal eggs from other birds’ nests and hatch them as its own. Eventually, however, the pilfered birds would leave and return to their own kind. God used this example from nature to teach an important lesson through His prophet Jeremiah. Those who get riches through unrighteousness are like the nest-robbing partridge. Whatever they gain eventually deserts them, and they end up looking stupid.

Everybody’s trying to gain something. The old bumper sticker that says, “Whoever has the most toys at the end wins!” seems to be the operational creed of most folk in our generation. The quest for fame and wealth, power and reputation drives the daily pursuits of folk inside and outside of the church. But most are no different from Jeremiah’s foolish partridge. They’re stealing eggs from other nests and passing them off as their own, because they’re gaining riches by injustice.

There are some who enrich themselves by theft. These are not just the thugs that knock over stores and mug old ladies on the street. They’re also the ordinary folks who cheat on their taxes, or pinch a few dollars from the petty cash drawer when nobody’s looking. And they’re the churchgoers who think all they get is their own and never give a dime to the Lord’s work. They’re the preachers who lazily feed God’s sheep with watered down fluff and collect a paycheck like they’re serving up a five star banquet.

There are some who enrich themselves by deceit. They twist the truth in order to gain the applause of men and pump up their bank balances by preying on the gullible. They sell products that they know are not worth the price, or offer services they have no intention of delivering.

There are some who enrich themselves by murder. You don’t have to be a mafia hit man to fall into this category. It also includes business men who sell faulty products with no regard for their effects on the lives of the consumer; or even preachers who kill the souls of God’s children by filling them with errors and heresy or simply depriving them of the life-giving truth and get rich in the process.

Some folk get rich by misusing religion, and these are the worst kind of partridges. They’re the hypocrites who pretend to serve Jesus and use His holy name so they can squeeze dollars from His people and build their own personal kingdoms.

But God says plainly, all those who get riches through injustice, deceit, murder and theft will see those riches fly away, and will be seen in the end to be as foolish as the partridge that sat on stolen eggs. What they had was not their own, and what they’re left with will be worse than nothing.

Now read what Jesus says in Luke 11:9-13…

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you want an egg, you don’t have to steal it from some other bird’s nest. You just need to ask your heavenly Father. But notice what the egg is! Jesus said that if we earthly fathers, though we are evil, know how to give our children an egg instead of a scorpion when they ask, then how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

Luke 11:9-13 is not a proof text for getting rich by asking God for worldly prosperity. Jesus is directing us to the true riches that we ought to be seeking. Real prosperity is the presence of Christ in the heart in the person of the Holy Spirit. That kind of wealth cannot be stolen. We need to get our hearts and our eyes off of the world and its empty promises of gain and set them instead on the pursuit of Christ and His indwelling presence, which is better than all the riches this world can ever produce.

How do we get this precious “egg”? Ask… seek… knock… with a sincere heart and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek the eternal treasure that can’t be taken away. Everything else is stolen poultry.