I like the story of the young man who, eager to make it to the top, went to a well-known millionaire businessman and asked him, what the number one reason for his success was. The businessman answered without hesitation, "Hard work." After a lengthy pause, the young man asked, "What is the SECOND reason?"
Three young boys were bragging about who had the fastest father. The first boy said, "My dad can run a mile in only five minutes." The second boy countered, "My dad can mow the whole lawn in only ten minutes." The third boy jumped in, "My dad's the fastest of all. His job ends at 5 p.m. and he's always home by 3 p.m."
Pastors talk a lot about church, family, and the spiritual life (prayer, Bible Study, etc.), but when is the last time you heard a sermon about work? Most people spend the majority of their time working. It may be going to school, caring for a family, or going to an office, but it is our job. We are designed by God to do some type of work. Even in paradise, God had a job for Adam. No matter what you've heard, the oldest profession is landscaping.
In creating our world, God worked for six days before He rested. Jesus spent most of His life working at a vocation. The home of Jesus was the home of a working man. Jesus, whether he was restoring furniture or souls, was doing the work of God. God does not have secular business people and spiritual church people. He has one people. Our work is our personal mission field. Jesus spent little time in synagogues or meeting with religious leaders. Most of His time was spent in the marketplace or the public square.
Work, like all human experience, took on a ragged edge when sin entered the world. Therefore, it takes a renewed mind to turn mundane work into worship. It also takes a higher purpose to make every day a holy day and every job a holy job. One of the most pathetic personalities in the Bible is the proverbial sluggard — the one who avoids work by using any excuse he can concoct.
It reminds me of the robber who was brought before a judge. The judge noticed that, in addition to stealing money, the robber took a lot of valuable jewelry. "Yes, your honor," the thief replied happily. "You see, my mother taught me from childhood that money does not bring happiness." I have heard many excuses that are just as pathetic from church members. Are we cheating, lying, "fudging," and rationalizing that we give our best effort doing God's business at church? Once you label yourself a believer, those at work watch to see if you are real. The Bible says that Daniel's fellow government workers watched carefully to find fault with his work, only to discover that he did more than was asked and better than was expected.
You can turn work from drudgery to delight by understanding that God has placed you there as His representative. Most unbelievers won't come to our churches. Therefore, they are not influenced by our sermons or our songs. We will get their attention by living a life that cannot be explained. It's an attitude of joy while working for a jerk. It's not grabbing them by the collar and asking if they're ready to meet God — it's your life grabbing them by the heart. It's their grabbing you and asking you what's the secret to the life you live.
President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886. It is over three hundred feet high and weighs 254 metric tons. It was designed by Fredric-Auguste Bartholdi. Oscar Hammerstein noted in his book Lyrics some information about the Statue of Liberty that you may not know:
"A year or so ago, on the cover of the New York Herald Tribune Sunday magazine, I saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty … taken from a helicopter and it showed the top of the statue's head. I was amazed to see the detail there. The sculptor (Bartholdi) had done a painstaking job with the lady's coiffure (hair arrangement), and yet he must have been pretty sure that the only eyes that would see this detail would be the uncritical eyes of sea gulls. He could not have dreamt that any man would ever fly over this head. He was artist enough, however, to finish off this part of the statue with as much care as he had devoted to her face and her arms and the torch and everything that people can see as they sail up the bay …" (from Illustration for Preachers, Larson, p.74).
That's a pretty good example of a commitment to doing your best work. Our motivation to do our best should be from a desire to glorify the Lord. We know that He sees everything we do, not just the parts visible to people.
Every day is the Lord's Day, and it may be a good time to start taking what is in our mind on Sunday to work with us on Monday. Pastors, this also may be a time for one of those paradox sermons that Jesus was always preaching. Something like: It's time to stop merely working at church to impact the world and start working at work to impact the church.