“Let’s talk about identity in work. This is where so much of the tension is for so many of us. This is how our culture and the default nature of our hearts tends to find our identity, tends to build an identity based on achievement. Even that old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”—that’s an identity question. We have a cabinet maker in the back, but that’s not his identity, right? He’s a son of God; he’s a beloved child of God whether he made a great series of cabinets last week or not.” — Justin Buzzard
Date: October 17, 2018
Event: TGC 2018 West Coast Conference
Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast.
- The White-Collar Gospel
- Progress for Its Own Sake Isn’t Growth. It’s Cancer.
- What If My Work Isn’t My Passion?
Find more audio and video from the 2018 West Coast Conference on the conference media page.
Justin Buzzard: Hey, my name is Justin Buzzard. I’m glad that you’re here, I’ll tell you a little bit about me, then I’ll ask a little bit about you and then we’ll go through some content together.
I’m a pastor in Silicon Valley, just had my 40th birthday, 40 years old, married to my wife, Taylor, we’ve been married 15 years, we have three sons, three boys that are 12, 10, and 8. And we’re gonna be talking about work, so I’ll talk a little bit about my background with work. I grew up originally in a blue-collar family. My dad was a truck driver, and we lived in the Sacramento area, just a blue-collar neighborhood truck driver, he’s finding his way.
But when I was a young kid, we got robbed and my dad was very mad. We got robbed and everything was taken. They took my piggy bank and smashed it and even stole what was in my piggy bank, they took everything from my home. My dad was furious and so he started learning about alarm systems, how alarms work, and he started on the side a small alarm company business that then turned into a large business. And so he’s this entrepreneur, he leaves truck driving, starts the alarm company, begins to be successful with that. And so if I start thinking back where did I start getting my first ideas about work, it was watching my dad transition from truck driver to starting a company out of nothing and then the company growing and taking off.
I then entered college with a couple of different ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to either be a teacher, a high school history or English teacher and also coach football or I wanted to start my own adventure travel company business and take people on these adventures around the world, or I want it to be a pastor. And God continued to call me towards this direction of being a pastor.
So, I’ve been living in the Bay Area since 2002, and I’ve pastored Garden City Church, a church that I planted seven years ago. Started the church, we had just three people and $3,000 and this dream of impacting Silicon Valley with the Gospel in a fresh new way. And as I’m a pastor in Silicon Valley, I just I’m very passionate about my people in their church and about their work and about what they’re doing and about what they’re spending so much of their week doing. And so that’s why I love to talk about work and putting our faith to work.
And so what I’m gonna be doing today is I’m gonna be sharing six ideas, six concepts, six themes to pay attention to with putting your faith to work, tying those two to about six texts of scripture and talking about some practical tips and then have some time for Q&A at the end, which I think might be the best part of this whole thing just getting to interact and talk about stuff.
First, I wanna know a little bit about you though so I know what kind of this audience that I’m speaking to. How many of you are pastors? Raise your hand if you’re a pastor. Okay. So, maybe half the room. What do some of the rest of you do? So, I know what you do. Let’s hear some ideas.
Man 1: Software developer.
Buzzard: Software developer. Great.
Man 2: Certified Public Accountant.
Buzzard: Certified Public Accountant. Yeah.
Man 3: Literacy ministry.
Buzzard: Literacy ministry. Great. One more.
Man 4: Nursing.
Buzzard: Nursing. Great. Okay. Good. So, that’s helpful. So, so that you know, the way I originally conceived and geared this talk, I was thinking, “Okay. I bet it’s gonna be mostly pastors in the room and I’m gonna be trying to equip pastors for what they do in leading their churches.” But knowing the makeup of this room, all this content, and I’ll keep gearing it as I speak, will hopefully serve you as you think about what you’re doing in your workplace and as you think about shaping culture with your friends in your church to have a church community that’s more in tune with the workplace. Okay. So, let me pray and then we’ll get going.
“Father, thank you for everyone who is gathered in this room. Everyone in this room is created in Your image uniquely, created in Your image to use their wiring and their gifts and their strengths to glorify You and to do good work in this world that makes an impact and loves their neighbor. And so I thank You for the certified public accountant in this room and for the nurse in this room and for the pastors in this room, for the software developer in this room, Lord, and for all the other jobs and callings that are represented here. Would you speak to us in this time that we have together? I pray that there would be at least one insight, one piece of truth that you want to pierce our hearts and pierce our stories with and that we would leave this room changed by that truth and it would make a real impact in our work and in our leadership and in our influence. We pray this in Your name, Jesus. Amen. Amen.”
So, we’re gonna walk through these six principles. I’m gonna do it. So, my talk is like this Monday through Friday thing, what they assign me to do. So, think of the… I’m attaching these to days. So, day one, I like to think…who thinks of Sunday as the first day of the week? Okay. I do that because I’m a pastor and that’s how I start my week, and that’s how my calendar works. So, I’ll think about Sunday is the first day of the week.
So, this is the Sunday Insight. We’re going to go Sunday through Friday here. So, Sunday. Let’s talk about the origin of work and let’s get a definition of work. Let’s talk about the origin of work and let’s get a definition of work. A lot of you when you were young, you started thinking through this question or you were asked this question, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” What do you wanna be when you grow up? How many of you are what you wanted to be when you grew up? How many of you did turn out that way? All right. I see six, seven, six, seven hands. So, that’s great. What are you, sir?
Man 5: I’m a process engineer [inaudible 00:06:01].
Buzzard: Whoa. And you wanted to be that when you were young? That’s amazing.
Man 5: It feels great.
Buzzard: Wow. Amazing. Incredible. Okay. I saw another…let’s get one more hand that was back here, in the very back. What are you, sir?
Man 6: Cabinet maker.
Buzzard: Cabinet maker. Amazing. So, you were young, you wanted to be a cabinet maker, and you are. Incredible. So, that’s one of the first questions that we remember being asked. I’m sure we were asked other questions when we were really little but we were maybe five, six, seven and we have a memory of being asked that question.
And I think that’s something to really think through Scripturally. Okay. Work is a huge part of our lives. If like me, you started working when you were about 15 and could get that work permit, and, you know, I wanna work till I’m 70 or so. We’ll see what happens. That means 55 years of work, so much of your life is gonna be spent working. It’s a massive part of our lives.
The problem and the problem that sets up this entire talk is that many people in our churches, what they do, what they spend 50 or so hours of their week doing, that they don’t see a strong connection between it and the Scriptures, they don’t see a strong connection between it and Sunday morning when you’re gathered in worship, they don’t see a strong connection between the preacher’s pulpit and what they’re doing. And not only do they not see that connection, many people just feel really, really alone in their work. So, hopefully, everything that we’re talking about will speak to that.
When you open your Bibles and you get into the book of Genesis and have your Bibles handy because we’re gonna get into them in a second. You started turning the first few pages of our Bible and you right away see God is a worker. God is working. He’s doing work all over the place and he’s doing all kinds of work. Look at all the kinds of fields of work that God is in. He’s into astronomy as he’s creating the stars and the lights, He’s into marine biology as he’s creating the seas and the fish that are in them, He’s into the arts as He creates beauty, He’s a zoo-keeper taking care of the animals, creating the animals,
He’s doing legislation as he is creating framework and law for humans, He is doing venture capital as He’s giving resources to humans to use and to develop and to work with, He’s an electrician, let there be light. God is doing all kinds of work and so we are a people created in His image. So, when we wanna start talking about the origin of work, sometimes people mistakenly think, “Hey, work came after the fall, you see this curse on work.” No. God is a worker, He’s been a worker. Our Bible opens with…the first way we really begin to get to know God is as a creator and as a worker and we’re created in His image to work.
And if you look at the work that God is doing, our world today, I’m in Silicon Valley where it’s increasingly white-collar, so much of the work that is being done, but God is at the beginning of the Bible, He’s doing just so much blue-collar work, He’s doing gardening, His hands are in the dirt and He’s getting dirty and He’s created…The Bible gives wonderful dignity, wonderful dignity to all work. Okay.
So, Genesis 2:15. Of all the verses we’re gonna look at today, this might be the most important. I think there’s so much here in this verse. I wrote a book on marriage called “Date Your Wife.” And it’s really just unpacking this verse for marriage. Here, I’m gonna talk about it with work, not marriage. So, Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.” Let’s pay attention to those two verbs, to those two commands.
Work, that’s the Hebrew verb of “Avodah,” which is also translated as cultivate. God put the man in the garden of Eden to cultivate and then to keep, “Shamar,” which can also be translated to tend or to guard. So, God creates the first man, God the worker creates the first man in His image as a worker and his job is to cultivate and to tend the garden so that he and so that others can flourish within this garden.
And I believe that this is a paradigm for work, this image of gardening that we’re meant to really take from the Scriptures. And that shows up and again and again throughout the Scriptures. This idea of gardening. So, let’s get the first part of a definition of work that I think is really helpful and really useful and you can use in your life and you can use in your churches. So, it’s this. Work is cultivating the raw materials of a particular domain for the flourishing of others. Work is cultivating. So, we’re taking that straight from the text, Genesis 2:15. Work is cultivating the raw materials of a particular domain for the flourishing of others.
So, Adam had to take the raw materials of the garden and cultivate them and develop them so that the garden would flourish so that Adam would flourish so that his soon to be wife, kids, family, offspring would flourish. And so we can think about all of our work like gardening work. What a good gardener does is they tend to the garden, they cultivate the garden, they guard the garden so that life can flourish there.
So, the gentleman in the back, a cabinet maker, he’s taking the raw materials of wood and bringing his tools together and he is creating cabinets that can house, that can store things so that life can flourish. I think about just some of the guys in my life group in my church who are in very different fields of work, this is what they’re doing. Max, who is a musician, he’s taking the raw materials of sound and he’s organizing them so that the music he and his band make would sound good and would cause life to flourish.
I think of Mike who’s an engineer at Google working in the robotics field. He is taking all of his engineering knowledge, he is taking mechanical things, he’s taking hardware, he’s taking sensors, he’s taking artificial intelligence concepts, putting them together so that companies can use this technology so that their companies can flourish. I think about Chris, an entrepreneur in that group who took his idea of I want to start a security company and he just starts with the raw materials of an idea and sees an opportunity and sees a problem to solve and he’s put that together and he’s put people together and he’s created a real company, or I think about my wife who’s a stay at home mum, who does really hard, really meaningful work as a stay at home mum and she’s taking the raw materials of three crazy boys who are running all over and just an open day and what’s before her and how can I organize this so that life can flourish?
Paul, who wrote so much of our New Testament, we can tend to think of this guy as a very spiritual guy. Read the Scriptures, Paul is often talking about prayer, preaching through Ephesians right now and he’s talking about all that is going on up in the heavenlies and put on the armor of God. Let’s remember, though, Paul is also such a deeply physical guy, Paul was a tent maker his whole life. Paul is writing Bible, Paul is planting churches, and he’s working with leather and he’s making tents and he’s making materials that will help people and care for people. And he came…a Jew with the Hebrew mindset that did not have this gnostic distinction between spiritual world and physical world. It’s all deeply, deeply connected.
I also want us to…so in your church and with your friends, I’d encourage you, make sure your church just never says the phrase like, do you go to church? Go to a church, go to the Sunday service. Talk instead about being the church, being the church all week long. I’m always telling that to my church. We want to be the church all week long in our city. Our Sunday gathering is super important and we put a bunch of stress and emphasis on that. But so is our scattering throughout our city all week long, not just when we’re sharing the Gospel with someone or praying, but when we are doing work all week long, we’re doing something deeply, deeply Biblical that we’re called to and it makes real difference in a world and it gives God glory.
What I’m gonna spend the most time on is this first point. Others will be shorter. I wanna get to the second part of this definition of work. We also have to think about the master-servant relationship. When we’re thinking about work, all your work is done in service to your master, the living God. And this theme also shows up throughout Scripture again and again. This word that is translated here as work is also often translated in the Scriptures as serve.
Let’s look at two more verses in Genesis Chapter 2. Look at Genesis 2:7. “The Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And the man became a living creature.” Continuing into verse eight. “And the Lord planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He put the man whom He had formed.” So, God formed the man, created the man, then He put him in the garden.
And we see this again in verse 15 that we already looked at. “The Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” So, we’re seeing right at the start of the Scripture, this paradigm of this master-servant relationship where God is the master in this relationship. He creates His servant and He puts His servant where He wants His servant to be. He puts His servant in the garden and He gives a clear calling to the servant to be obedient, to follow His will, to work the garden, to keep the garden, to serve the master. And I see as I work with people in my church, so much of their stress comes down to a misunderstanding of this master-servant relationship, especially as I work with young people in my church who are trying to figure out their callings and what to do with their work.
The master’s responsibility is to put the servant where he wants the servant. The master’s responsibility is to give the servant everything that he needs to do his will. The servant’s only responsibility is to be faithful and obedient where the master has put him.
So, God created the garden, He took man where he was and put him in the garden, He sent sunshine to the garden, He sent rain to the garden, and the servant was never responsible to do his master’s job and figure out the future and do everything to provide for himself, he’s supposed to trust his master and just be faithful and obedient where the master has put him.
So, to go to part two, to a definition of work, it’s this. Faithfully serving where the master has put you and promises to resource you. Faithfully serving where the master has put you and promises to resource you. You and the people in your churches need to have a God-sized understanding of your work and that God cares about your work more than you ever could because God cares about this world and other people more than you ever could. And the cabinets that you make and the software that you develop and the nursing care that you provide and the literacy training that you provide, our world desperately needs that. And so if God has put you in those fields of work, He will care for you there, He will resource you there until He places some kind of perhaps new calling on your life and wants to put you into a different field.
So, with each of these, I’m gonna give you these theological ideas, these principles, these themes and some texts, and then just a few tips for you. They told me I was supposed to give some practical tips. So, if you’re…this is geared to if you’re a pastor, but even if you’re not a pastor, you just do this in your small group, your church with people, influence your church in this way. Just keep teaching people these ideas of Genesis 2 and this paradigm of gardening, that all work is so deeply valuable, all work as this gardening kind of work you can…I’m sure there are some jobs that don’t glorify God because I’m thinking of a couple right now, they’re like, “No. That’s not good. You don’t do that.”
But pretty much any work has tremendous dignity to it, that you’re taking these raw materials, you’re cultivating them, you’re helping other people through your work. A lot of people need help, they need stories, they need help connecting the dots between how their work is meaningful and the impact that it’s making in the world. So, do that for yourself and do that for other people. ….I’ll talk about my visits in the workplace with people, but people are often saying to me, “Man, Justin. I wish I had your job. You’re a pastor. Your work just seems so meaningful, it seems so important.”
And I’m always trying to deconstruct that with people and oftentimes I’m looking at what they do. I’m like, “Man, I kinda wish I had your job today. I wish I was doing what you’re doing, it looks really cool and I’d rather be doing that.” You’ve got to help people connect the dots between their work and then just constantly show people and remind yourself if you need this reminder today that your work is maybe the primary way you glorify God in your life, like “Yeah. We wanna have thriving marriages,” if we’re married. All that is super important, be great parents if we’re parents. But you’re spending so much of your time each week working and that’s a profound and primary way you glorify God in your work. So, teach that, share that.
Let’s move on to Monday. Okay. Monday. Now, this is where we got to talk about the thorns of work and these ideas of overworking and underworking. So, if we just stopped with what I’ve said, we’d say, “Okay. Great. Work is incredible, work is so important. There’s great dignity to all work, I’m excited to work.” But if we want a biblical-theological understanding of work, we don’t have to read too far in our Bible, we get to Genesis 3 and really quickly we see that, man, work is hard. It’s not just the work is designed of God and wonderful, work is hard.
And we quickly see in our Bibles and in our own experience that to really do theology, to do psychology, to understand human personality, people are very different. We’re created in the image of a magnificent God and we all uniquely reflect Him and we’re all wired really pretty differently. So, let me just…this is oversimplifying, but in your context, maybe in this room, in your church, you’re generally gonna run into two types of people. You’re gonna run into overworkers and underworkers. Overworkers and underworkers.
How many of you would say you’re an overworker? You just overwork. Yeah. That’s me too. How many would you say you’re an underworker? Yeah. See? And that’s harder to admit to like in our culture, an overworker, you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I overwork.” Underwork, “You’re just lazy.” I’m not saying that about you guys, but yeah. I’m in Silicon Valley, so in my church, I’m dealing…no one moves to Silicon Valley to rest and for cheap housing and to just chill out. They move there for jobs and move there for work. So, I’m dealing more with overworkers in my church. If my church was in Las Vegas, maybe I’d have more underworkers and my messages would be a little different to them.
Look at Genesis 3. Genesis Chapter Three. Familiar text, but let’s look at it again. Starting in verse 17, God speaking to Adam after the fall. “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you.” Never let anyone tell you that Genesis 3 says God curses the man. He never does. God curses the serpent and he curses the ground, but there’s a discipline for the man and woman. There’s no cursing the man. Hebrew, the curse means there’s gonna be an end to this eventually, that life doesn’t continue.
Okay. So, we’re there. “Cursed it is the ground because of you, in pain, you shall eat of it all the days of your life, thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” So yeah. That’s a tough day for Adam to hear that. He only worries like, “Man, Mondays can be super hard. I’m not looking forward to going back to work on Monday.”
What this is telling us is work has thorns, right? In this garden, it was all pretty great. The gardening work Adam was doing, now there’s thorns in the garden, now there’s difficulty in the garden. And so some people in your church are gonna have a more flowery view of work more, just totally optimistic view of work, that work can become this utopia. I deal with that all the time in my city, everyone moves to Silicon Valley to be really successful, to have the next great startup. Everyone in my church, I mean they’re at Google, they’re Apple, they’re Facebook, they’re Netflix, they’re starting new companies, they’re doing all these things and they think it’s gonna be amazing.
Have any of you ever visited Google in Silicon Valley and you’ve seen that context or seen that world, that company? Yeah. It’s ridiculous. It’s a playground. People get paid really well, all your food is free. I was there last week visiting someone from my church. Rooftop gardens, rooftop basketball courts, pool, fitness center is amazing, there’s the meditation room, there’s all the food you could ever want. It’s incredible. Right?
And so if you had that view of work and then you go into a workplace like that starting out, you start thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve got it made, work can just be amazing.” But the reality is jobs are hard. Sometimes I’m talking to people in my church and hearing about their dreams, their work, and what’s gonna happen. I just say, “You don’t want a job. Jobs are hard, it’s difficult to have to have a job. Work is hard.” So, if someone is got a really flowery view of the garden, their tendency is gonna be to make an idol out of work, their tendency is going to overwork. Like, “If I can just work harder, work harder, work harder, I can finally achieve all these dreams and this work idol can totally satisfy me.” So, you’re dealing with people like that in your church.
Another approach, the garden is an overly thorny view of the garden of, “Okay. God cursed the ground.” There’s some kind of a curse going on in work we see from Genesis Three. So, I’m just gonna live for the weekends. I’m just gonna have my job and do…I’m gonna do all right, but I wanna live for the weekends and that’s what I’m gonna do and I don’t know that my contribution to the work world really makes that big of a difference since Genesis Three.
So, you’ve got people that are thinking like that in your church and that type of person is going to tend to underwork, and that type of person is going to tend to make an idol out of, you can name it a couple of different ways. An idol out of free time, spare time, just the weekend, not working. So, you need to be aware of that as you’re caring for people and navigating the workplace. So, just some tips here are just always remember that people are all wired differently, people are wired differently, people are motivated differently, people have different kinds of idol structures going on in their life.
So, me as a pastor, I have to remember that to pastor differently when I’m dealing with different people, I have to remember that very different people are in the room as I’m pastoring, I have to remember that people are motivated very differently than me, I’m motivated in very particular ways and my tendency is to want to always preach that way, to want to always counsel that way, ask questions and lead that way. And I’m just on a continual journey of learning the different ways people are motivated. So, get to know your people in your church, get to know your friends and think about how you can best motivate them when talking to them about work.
I love trying to put overworkers and underworkers together in community in the same life group, in the same community group, that kind of a thing, because a lot of great discipling happens that way because overworkers are hanging out with underworkers and they’re getting mad at the underworkers and calling the underworkers lazy and the underworkers are getting mad at the overworkers and saying, “You’re no fun and you know, just stop…” And a lot of times they can tend to balance each other out a little bit. So, put those types of people together.
Something we’re doing in our church right now that’s been really cool is we just pray for people in their workplaces a lot. We’re going through this right now, I created this for my church it’s called “The Awe and Power Plan.” And it’s a…it’s more than a Bible reading plan, but it’s reading Scripture and it’s got these three main habits we want to build in our church through it.
And we have a different big prayer that we pray every day of the week as a church. And the prayer, you open up the plan and you start looking at these big prayers that we pray, so these two. And the big prayer that we pray on Monday is it’s a prayer for our people when they are in their workplace. And we’re praying that God would…and it’s not about sharing the Gospel in your workplace, though I’m all for that. It’s about that there are people doing really good work that blesses our city and makes an impact in the neighborhood. And so that’s been a really great thing for the church, I cycle through different names of different people in our church every Monday and I’m praying for them specifically in their work and just knowing that our whole church is doing that for our church body has been really good. Okay. So, that’s Monday, let’s get to Tuesday.
So, Tuesday. Let’s talk about identity in work. Identity in work. This is where so much of the tension is for so many of us. This is how our culture and the default nature of our hearts tends to find our identity, tends to build an identity based on achievement. Even that question we first started talking about, what do you wanna be when you grow up? That’s an identity question. What do you wanna be when you grow up? We have a cabinet maker in the back, but that’s not his identity, right? He’s a son of God, he’s a beloved child of God whether he made a great series of cabinets this last week or not.
And so it starts young with that question for people, what do you wanna be when you grow up and you think, “I’ve got to grow up and I’ve got to achieve this and this, and then I can finally be this thing.” But the Scriptures wonderfully liberate us from that. Turn to Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2. Hopefully, it’s a verse you know really well. Ephesians 2:10. Definitely have this underlined in your Bible. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” I love that. Before the Bible starts talking about who we are, in this verse it starts first talking about whose we are. We’re His, all of you in this room, you’re His.
When you go to work next week, you’ve got this big invisible “His” sign across your chest. You’re His, you belong to God. Whatever field of work He has puts you in, whatever garden He has put you in. And we’re His workmanship. The Greek word “poiema” means masterpiece, it means work of art. You’re His masterpiece and you’re His unique masterpiece. Just you’ve all probably meditated on Psalm 139 that we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made. You’re wonderfully made. God wonderfully designed you and made you with a unique purpose.
We’re His unique workmanship or His workmanship. And what are we created for? After the session, if you had coffee with God and you were sitting with God and you’re saying, “Okay. God, what am I created for?” And if God was about to answer this question for you, you’d be sitting on the edge of your seat like, “Okay. What am I created for? What’s the purpose of my life, God?” What He would say if he was speaking Greek, He’d say, “ergois agathois”, if you speak in English, “for good works.” That’s what He’d say. You’re created for good works. And don’t hear this in a religious way. When Paul is saying it’s created for good works, he means everything that’s to follow in the book of Ephesians and if you’re familiar with it, once he gets into chapter four, he starts talking about a tremendous variety of good works, what we do with our speech, our character, our bodies, sex, he starts talking about marriage, he starts talking about the workplace, he starts talking about all kinds of things.
But Paul, again, the Hebrew, the tent maker who’s still doing tent stuff right about the time of his Roman imprisonment before writing this, he’s thinking about what…he’s not thinking about the Ephesian church, he’s not thinking, “Okay. This is like an hour and 15 minutes on a Sunday what you’re created to do.” He’s not thinking about a church service, he’s thinking about these people who are being the church all week long in the city of Ephesus, he’s thinking about what they’re spending so much of their life doing, they’re created for good works.
So, that’s your purpose, that’s what you’re created for, and your church needs to know that. And what you’re doing is you’re joining the master. Again, to get to the master-servant paradigm here, you’re joining the master in work that he’s already created, and a path that he’s already created for you because what Ephesians 2:10 says, that is amazing. I preached on this verse a few weeks ago and I kept looking at these words, “Which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,” and I kept going like, “What does this mean? What does this mean? How do I preach this to my people? What does this mean?” Then I just realized, “Oh, it just means what it says.”
God created good works in advance for us to walk in. And so much thought has gone into your life. So much thought has gone into your life. God wonderfully created you and He’s wonderfully redeemed you as His workmanship and He’s created in advance these good works He has for you to walk in. Which is incredible. God calls, He’s the caller and we’re the walker. God calls, we walk.
He calls us into certain work and we walk with Him in that work. And He really gives us detailed instructions in that. God calls Abraham, Genesis 12, and Abraham has to walk to a land that God’s gonna show him. He rarely says, “You are to be a nurse, you are to be a cabinet maker.” Sometimes He gives us that, there’s a journey involved with that.
So, there’s some tips on this point, identity in work. Just constantly remind people of their Ephesians 2:10 identity. The book of Ephesians, the book of Ephesians, our first three chapters. I’ve been reminding…I think I preached my 10th or 11th sermon on Ephesians on Sunday. And I’m reminding my church every single week. The first three chapters are all just theology doctoring, this is who you are in Christ. It’s just grace coming at you like this huge snowball down a hill just slamming you, just grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. It’s all about our identity in Christ. Then you get into the second half of the book and it’s the imperatives, it’s the commands of how to put these realities into action. And I’m reminding my church every week that at some point in my sermon I just say, “Church, just remember you haven’t had a single command coming at you yet. God is just telling you who He is and who you are and you’re just told to just marinate in this grace.”
So, what we tend to do as people is we tend to read the book of Ephesians backwards and we think, “If I can just do chapter six well, and chapter five well, and chapter four well, and do my work well, do this well, clean my act up here, really obey well here, then I’ll have this identity of being a saint, of being a beloved child of God.” And that’s just not the Gospel. Okay? Not The Gospel.
So, remind people this Ephesians 2:8 identity. People are always trying to work for an identity rather than from their identity that’s been given to us in Jesus. And just remind your church that everyone is got these diverse callings. Okay? People have very diverse callings. Think about the Ephesian church. It was totally radical in the first-century world, all the different people that came together in the church. People were separated by ethnicity, people were separated by Jew-Gentile, separated by male-female, separated by socioeconomic class, separated by regions they lived in. The church brought all those people together.
So, when I try to picture what must have been going on there in Ephesian church, I picture you had the really wealthy people and you had the peasants, you had slaves. One-third of the Roman empire was slaves. You had people that probably were formally serving the temple, the Artemis, you guys know this in Ephesus, it is one of the seven wonders of the world. That was probably their former way of life is silversmiths making stuff for the temple. And you had people who had grown up around the Old Testament. Just there’s so much diversity and so many diverse callings around. So. remind people that we’re all very different in our work. I love just what’s even in this room. So, many different callings here.
Let’s talk Wednesday. Wednesday. Being known and loved in your work, being known and loved in your work. I think most people, maybe some of you are exceptions to this, but I feel like most people feel super alone in their work and that’s because they are. All right. I think most people in the church feel super alone in their work. Most people come and they gather with the church on Sunday and they just feel like, “Man, alone. Man, that preacher or the person sitting next to me in the pew, they don’t understand what I’m going back to tomorrow. they don’t understand what I’m dealing with, they don’t understand these unique challenges.”
And I really think that shouldn’t be the case. I really think that that needs to change. I spent a lot of my time visiting people in the workplace and that came from where I served before I planted our church where I served as a pastor. I’d get depressed every Monday because we’d be gathered on Sunday in our services and it was jam-packed and tons of people, I’m an extrovert, I’m hanging with everyone that’s awesome. Loved it.
Then I would show up on this big church campus on Monday morning and there were eight of us there. And I had this office way off in the corner and I was totally by myself and I was just like, “I hate it here. I’m a pastor here, I’ve got this office here, I hate it.” So, I just started visiting my people in their workplace. I’m like, “You work there, you work there, can I come visit you there? Can I come see where you work? Because I don’t like where I work and can I see your deal and can we go to lunch and can we hang out?” And I just realized people loved it. People loved it.
So, I started doing that. I don’t know, I’m 40 now. I started when I was 28 or so. And I still do it. I do it all the time, I don’t know, two, three times a week visiting people from my church in their workplace and almost once a week this happens. Someone just…they’ll just tell me, “No one has ever visited me at work.” And sometimes these are people that have been at this company 10 years, 20 years, no one has ever done this.
And that’s one small way and if you’re not a pastor, you can do that, just visit your friends. I started doing this with all these people in my church, then I realized, “Man, I wanna do this with my non-Christian friends too, who I love so much as a way for them to see that I just love them and care about them.” And I went and I hung out with one of my dearest friends, so want him to know the Lord. And I visited him at work and he was like a seven-year-old boy, it meant everything to him. He just thought it was so cool. He was showing me and having me meet all his coworkers, talking about…he was just showing me everything. It was incredible. So, that’s one of the best things you can do to help people feel known and loved in their work.
As I was preparing for this talk and God was drawing me to this Scripture, look at Mark 1:16. Mark 1:16. You know this text well. This is Jesus passing alongside the Sea of Galilee. Jesus saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen, and Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. What do you see there in that text? Maybe in light of this talk. Where is Jesus showing up at? Work. Jesus shows up at their workplace. Jesus calls his first disciples, I’ve never seen this until a couple days ago working on this, He shows up at their work. I think that’s…His first disciples, they’re fishermen. He shows up at their work, He knows them there where they were in the boat with their father and doing their fishing, that’s where He shows up.
I really think…I don’t know. I always am thinking about Jesus and the secret sauce to His ministry. Obviously, He’s the second person in the Trinity, that’s a pretty big deal, but I also just think you study the Gospels and you look at what he’s doing. Jesus is always on…He’s always just on these long walks with his disciples spending lots of time with them, He’s always having these long meals with them, He’s always having these parties,
He’s always putting His disciples in really difficult situations. Coming on these adventures, just go out to sea and I’ll see you later and the big storm is gonna come and just…I don’t know. That’s a topic I’d love to explore more. Just Jesus in the workplace and long walks with Jesus and feasts with Jesus and adventures with Jesus. It wasn’t classroom stuff, so we really need each other and sanctification is not something that happens when we’re alone, sanctification isn’t just about you and your Bible and prayer, it’s about being in community with people, being known and loved.
And a huge part of your story that involves being known and loved is your work and is what you do. I’m so thankful for elders and other friends of mine who are pastors where I feel like I can really bare my soul about my work and can be really known and that, and just know that God knows what He’s doing and giving you your particular church that you’re at. God did not…there’s not like, oops, puts you as a pastor of this church or oops, you’re a software developer in this church. God knew what he was doing and you’re there by design and He wants to shape you there and He wants to use you to shape that place.
So, some tips. If you’re a pastor, especially, but anyone, visit people in their workplace. I make that, again, a huge priority. I do it two to three times a week and I just go through our list of members and I schedule, I’m the proactive one with that. I have a gal on my staff that does that scheduling for me and I just tell her, “I wanna go to lunch with that person, that person, that person, that someone. Just do it, just make it happen.”
And then my assistant last year had an idea. I thought it was dumb, but it turned out to be a good idea. He said, “You should start taking pictures of these visits that you do in the workplace because no one knows you do it and post them.” I’m like, “Okay. I will try that.” I started doing that and it’s like everyone just loves it. It’s the favorite thing people in my church, they just love seeing that, people, like, talking about. Gospel Coalition asking to write an article about it. because they saw me doing it and that’s probably why they have me talking about this here.
So, visit people in the workplace. Highlight on Sunday the different kinds of work people are doing in your church. Highlight that. That’s a great thing to do. Pray for people in their workplace, have a little…you can have a little two-minute interview, have a public school English teacher in your church come up and talk for two minutes about the work that she’s doing and then pray for her. Have stories of people and what they do in their work, have them be in your sermons, have this just be a something that’s part of your church or highlight it. If you do church emails or different social media things, you can highlight people and the work that they do. It’s really cool.
A guy in my church sent an email to our elders last week saying, “Hey, I’ve really…” He works at Apple. And he said, “Man, there’s a ton of us at Apple and I wanna get some lunches together with all of us Apple people and elders, if you ever wanna come and sit in on one of these lunches, you’re invited.” And he sent the email to 12 other guys in our church that work at Apple and then the elders too. And they’re now doing a monthly lunch at Apple.
And so stuff like that is cool. It’s happening. You can encourage that sort of thing in your church. If you have some other people in the same company or the same industry, get together, have some lunch, hang out and do it…and gather different types of workers together. I think there’s a lot of talk about diversity today in the church, which is so important. I just preached a sermon on diversity last week. Diversity and unity in Christ, end of Ephesians 2. But I think in many ways the hardest area of diversity to get and to crack in the church at least where I live, is socioeconomic diversity. I think that’s really hard.
It’s not as difficult to get people of several and quite a few different ethnicities together, but to get people who are in very different income levels, socioeconomic status, together is hard. So, one way I’m trying to think about how to get at that is to get people who are doing very different kinds of work, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers folks together. So, I think….try to do that too because I’m glad this Apple lunch is happening, but I don’t just want 12 Apple guys that are all paid pretty well hanging out at my church, I want more diversity happening there too.
So, let’s now talk about Thursday. Two more to go, Thursday and Friday. Thursday, number five. Position your life for maximum fruitfulness. Position your life for maximum fruitfulness. I also want to say as I’m talking about this too. Know that the fact that a lot of things we’re talking about here, it’s a luxury that we can talk about them. There are people in many parts of the world that can’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about, could I have a different job? Could I position my life for maximum fruitfulness? They’re just surviving. So, praise God, glory be to God, thanks be to God that we can even have a seminar like this and talk about this.
Positioning life for maximum fruitfulness. Do you feel like you’re as fruitful with your life as you could be? As you want to be? Do you feel like God is using you with your unique wiring? You don’t need to be like anyone else, but with your unique wiring and desires and call of God on your life, do you feel like you’re being as fruitful as you wanna be? I’m constantly frustrated with that. On the one hand I’m like, “Yeah. I think I’m doing pretty good.” Other hand I’m like, “Man, no. I desire Lord so much more, I’m gonna see you use me more. I feel like this could happen, this could happen. I could do this.” And so I wrestle with this a lot and I think about this a lot and it’s a good question for you to think about and for you to ask your friends and ask her church lot like, “Are you being maximum-ly fruitful with this life that God has given you?”
Turn to John 15. John 15:8. For the last, I wanna say five years, a week hasn’t gone by where I’ve not been meditating on John 15. It’s become such an important chapter of the Bible to me. It’s the very familiar, I’m the vine, you are the branches section of the Scripture. This call to abide, to depend on Jesus, the vine. We’re just a branch. We just have to be a branch, He the vine, but then verse eight hits you. “By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
So, they were taught that God is glorified as we bear much fruit. Fruit, certainly that means character, fruits of the spirit, but it’s also an echo back to Genesis, to be fruitful with the one life that God has given you. So, I think God is really glorified by Max and my life group who’s young, he’s 20. Who is in a band that’s just getting started and he has these big dreams for the band to really take off and really grow. His band came and they played at my 40th birthday party and they’re great and I’ve got them on video and I’m like, “I want them to make it big.” So, I wanna say, “Look, when they played at my 40th birthday party, these guys were amazing.” I think God is glorified by those ambitions, those dreams, those hopes.
I think God is glorified by Mike, the Google engineer who has ambition and dreams to rise up the ranks in his company to do really good work with robotics there and to make a real impact at Google and through Google.
I think God is glorified by Chris, the entrepreneur in my life group who feels like he started this company out of nothing, it’s done, check him out, Abode. They are a really cool company. He was able to successfully sell it. It’s growing, it’s been great, but as he stays on as the CEO as it’s been sold, he just wants to keep charging and forward and he’s got big dreams where he wants to take it and I think God is glorified by that. And I think sometimes we can be afraid as Christians to try to position our life for maximum fruitfulness. It’s not that God needs our good works, God doesn’t need our good works, Ephesians 2:10, but our neighbor does, our world does. And we’re created for it, we’re created for it. Let’s look at one more text on the same, Luke 19.
Turn to Luke 19:13. Luke 19:13, the Parable of the 10 Minas. “Calling 10 of his servants…” so. we’ve got the master-servant paradigm showing up here, yet again. “Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas,” three months worth of wages, “And said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.'” Does that say engage in church activities until I come? No. Engage in business until I come. Take what I’ve given you, three months worth of wages, take the resources I’ve given you, take the raw materials of the garden that I’ve given you and engage in business until I come.
And you know how the rest of the parable goes. Who’s rewarded? Yeah. The person who’s rewarded the most is the person who’s maximum-ly fruitful with that investment, who engaged in business with the most fruitfulness, the most wisdom. took it, invested it, got a 10-fold return. So, I feel like I could give say a lot on this. It’s a text I’m still thinking about a lot, but just give your people vision for that. Don’t let your people settle, give your people…I feel like Ray hit towards this in his topic a little bit. Just step out in risky ways for the glory of God. That doesn’t mean just preaching a sermon, that means with whatever field of work God’s called you to, endeavor to be maximum-ly fruitful with the one life that God has given you.
The final one, Friday. The unfinished and the finished nature of work. We have to talk about this, which means we have to talk about Sabbath, it means we have to talk about the Gospel. Genesis 2:1-3, I won’t read them right now, but after creating the world, what did God do? He rested. God created the world and He rested, He kept the Sabbath.
It’s a really busy day, God finishes His work, He blesses the seventh day, then He rested. And this becomes a paradigm through the rest of Scripture. Again, what we see God doing and those early chapters of Genesis show up as this paradigm, just like the gardening thing and the master-servant thing becomes a paradigm. God resting becomes a paradigm throughout the rest of the Scripture. Shows up again in Exodus Chapter 20. So it’s the last text I’ll take you to, Exodus 20:8-11.
Exodus 20:8-11, the Fourth Commandment. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant or your livestock or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.”
So, the fourth commandment…there’s only 10 commandments given to the nation of Israel and the fourth one and a lot of attention is given to is this commitment to keep the Sabbath, to cease, to stop, to rest. Why? Well, because God rested and because God wants to give the gift, this gift to these people. Sabbath is super important. Do you keep the Sabbath? Do you keep a 24-hour…let’s just raise our hands. Raise your hand if you keep a 24-hour Sabbath each week. Yeah.
Okay. So, the rest to you just are disobeying the Bible here. Okay. Yeah. I teach on the Sabbath a lot at my church. Again, if I was in Vegas, I probably wouldn’t hold on. I’d just quit keeping the Sabbath and get a job. But in my church I feel like one of the most radical ways our people can adorn the Gospel is to rest because no one in Silicon Valley is very good at rest.
And when I teach it, people either catch the Biblical vision, the spirits at work and they love it and they start keeping a weekly Sabbath and they go, “Oh, my gosh. Why did I never see this in the Scriptures before? And why was I ignoring this and…wow.” Or they say to me, “Man, I just can’t do it. I just can’t do it.” To which I then ask more questions, “Why can’t you rest? Why can’t you rest?” It’s a good question to think for yourself and ask other people, why can’t you rest?
Sometimes I hear, “Well, I’ve just got so much work to do, I’ve got more work to do. I can’t rest until all my work is done.” Well, you’re gonna die with unfinished work, so don’t use that as an excuse. Sometimes it’s the technology reason, just I’m always on. I’m always on my phone, my computer, just somehow I’m always on and I’m always getting pinged and that’s just a hard reality in our world. Sometimes you’re just always aware that the competition is better. Since globalization and with technology that you have, you’re always aware of someone who’s doing work a little bit better than you. Right? I’ll preach my heart out on a sermon some time and someone will walk up to me like, “Well, I heard Tim Keller preach that text and he had a lot better.” Right? 50 years ago that wasn’t a thing. But that’s a thing now.
So what we’re doing is asking this question about as you’re going a little deeper. Sabbath is super important, but you’re going a little deeper and you start realizing that you’ve got people in your church who just can’t rest because their identity is so deeply tied to their work, they just can’t distance themselves from it, they can’t ever rest, they can’t ever stop, they don’t trust God enough to stop their work and rest for 24 hours.
Really radical that God gave this commandment to the Israelites after the Exodus because what had the Israelites been for 400 years? Slaves. Nonstop work, 24 hours a day, seven days, like just work, work, work, work, work, work. They didn’t rest, they were slaves. So, this is a totally radical thing that God was giving the Israelites.
So, what you got to do is you got to turn up the volume on the Gospel, in your heart, in your head, in your preaching, in your leadership, in your relationships. There’s two places, you know, that it says God finished his work. Genesis 2, the seventh day God finished His work and He rested. And then many years later, Jesus entered a restless, restless world and here we have the servant-master relationship showing up again. Jesus is a faithful servant serving His master and the Father and He was put not in the garden of Eden, but he was put in the garden of Gethsemane. And as He was contemplating the work that he was gonna have to do, He was sweating blood.
This great work He always had to do. And there…Jesus went to the cross. And on the cross, Jesus was working. Jesus was working. Jesus was doing a good work there on the cross. There, He was working, bleeding, suffering for you, for your sin, for your wounds, for your weaknesses. Please, especially if you’re a pastor, never confuse sin, wounds, and weaknesses. Sins are to be repented of, wounds need to heal, weaknesses just need grace and mercy.
He died for your sin, He died for your wounds, He died for your weaknesses, He died for your identity to make you His workmanship, He died for your work. And there, Jesus proclaimed from the cross, it is finished. So, after I preached that text a couple of years ago, John 19:30 to my church, I’m not really a very impulsive guy, but I was impulsive after that, I went and I got a tattoo. And I got this tattoo and it’s that word “Tetelestai.” It is finished and above it is an image of an anchor, an anchor cross, the early Christians, often disguised a cross in the catacombs as an anchor cross.
And what this is a reminder of, because I’m an overworker and just 100 ideas a day and can’t get to a mall just charging it. It’s a reminder to me that I am an unfinished man with an unfinished life, with unfinished work, resting in the finished work of Christ. So, nothing can take the place of the Gospel. Getting deeper into your heart and into your people’s heart as I think about work because rest is very connected to work.
So, just some tips on this. Teach the Sabbath to your people and model the Sabbath to your people. I think it’s one of the best things I do as a pastor is modeling Sabbath to my people. A weekly Sabbath, for me, that’s sundown Friday till sundown Saturday. We sit down to a family dinner most Friday nights or sometimes we’re out or something with people and we sit down and how we mark it is we light candles. We burn candlesticks on the table Friday night and we light those candles and it’s just symbolic of us entering into 24 hours of rest and we say a prayer. And we rest and I say to my family, “Anyone else has last minute work you’ve got to get done, you got two minutes to get it done because I’m about to light the candles and we’re gonna Sabbath.”
So, Sabbath. I started keeping that when I almost got burned out as a pastor nine years ago and it saved me. Sabbath weekly, Sabbath daily, I have a period of time each day where you just cease from your work, that one is the hardest for me. I think I’m really good at it weekly, I’m hard…and not great at daily. Sabbath annually, I’m passionate about that. Have annual time where you get away from your work, you vacation, you rest. It takes a lot of faith to rest. It takes a lot of faith to rest.
And then just keep turning up the volume on the Gospel. You have to, again and again, look yourself in the mirror and do this in your preaching. Just say, you feel like, who are you if you don’t do anything? Who are you if you can’t make cabinets anymore? Who are you if you can’t code software? Who are you if you’re not a pastor? Yeah. You are a deeply loved son, daughter of God is who you are. You’re so important you’re His. You’re His workmanship. So, that’s it, folks. Thanks for being here and if you wanna talk more, I’ll be up here for a bit.