…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Its not often we hear Jesus and the office (or our place of work) spoken in the same breath. However, each week, we spend a great amount of our time at places of work … where our physical, mental and emotional energies are engaged, and sometimes stretched.
Often the office (or place of our work) and work in general, is simply swiped into the evangelism inbox or the ‘secular‘ folder. The cathedral of urgency, cubicles, tablets, multi-screen dashboards of streaming information, profit/loss and endless powerpoints, crazy deadlines, targets, quick response, border-less 24/7 teleconferences …. seems a million miles away from the blissful, sublime, restful, contemplative, spiritual cathedral of peace and worship on Sunday.
I don’t know about you …. but there have been late evenings, sitting in a near empty office, staring at the screen responding to the day’s endless stream of emails, crunching the numbers, rushing a late report, nailing a technical issue, …. after a long day of endless meetings …. and wonder ….
Can the office and work be a place where Jesus walks into and
ministers to His people,
and through His people?
We shall see that He does it more often than we think.
When and where does God speak?
What should our attitude be towards everyday work in the hustle and bustle of life?
One day, while reading on how Elijah called Elisha, spotted an interesting detail, that led to a pathway in His work.
Let’s look in the Bible … and have a down-to-earth bible reading of His Word :-).
At the beginning in Genesis, God worked and then He rested.
Genesis 2:2 (NIV)
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
Before the fall of man, God gave Adam work.
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
By the way, Adam was also a scientist when he identified and named the animal species God created (Genesis 2:19,20).
Paul was a tentmaker, here’s his views:
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9
7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. 8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you.
9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us,
but we wanted to give you an example to follow.
Jesus spent most of his adult life diligently working as a carpenter … faithfully doing the Father’s will.
“Isn’t this the carpenter? …”
Mark 6:3 (NIV)
In the gospels,
Matthew 9:9 (NASB)
9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
When Jesus called Matthew, he found him at his office doing an honest day’s work, … carefully detailing the exact tax that someone had to pay based on his income, ….. not a cent (denarii) more and not a cent less.
Jesus went to where Matthew worked, collecting tax honestly.
Later, God used his professional intellect & integrity in Matthew’s Gospel, where he meticulously and carefully records each event in Jesus’ life that fulfills Old Testament prophecy, like a good accountant/tax collector balancing the books would.
Similarly, Luke the physician probably wrote his gospel and Acts, like how he would skilfuly record the medical history of a patient in his referral letter to Theophilus, i.e. “carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account” (Luke 1:3).
Matthew also invited Jesus home for dinner to meet all his colleagues and friends (Matthew 9:10)
Luke 5:1-11 (NASB)
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
Jesus went to Peter at his place of work. He borrowed his boat (or office) for a meeting. After the meeting, he gave Peter a hot investment tip, where to invest and when to invest; i.e. “Put out into deep water”. Peter hesitantly obeyed, and was blessed with probably the catch of his life – his nets were breaking and he had to call his colleagues to come and assist.
Peter, an experienced fisherman heard Jesus’ words. His astute experience told him, no fish today; he had tried every trick of the trade he knew all night. But, when the expert fisher of man tangibly gave him the miraculous catch of his life, he was convicted and followed Jesus to be a fisher of men.
The catch was also in some ways, Jesus’ generous payment to Peter for renting his office. (way above market rate 🙂 ).
“Master, we worked hard all night …”
one thing’s certain, through his work,
Peter had a perserverance attitude, … he did not give up easily.
Jesus repeated this miracle again, when He found and restored Peter after his resurrection (John 21). Deja Vu. They again fished all night and caught nothing. 153 large fishes were miraculously caught in shallow waters very near shore, immediately right after Jesus told them to cast their net. This time the net did not break.
By the way, Peter actually has a third fishy story …
when he was questioned about the temple tax, and Peter went to ask Jesus, Jesus said,
Matthew 17:27 (NASB)
27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”
The exact amount in the first fish’s mouth to pay their temple tax. Jesus is laser precise in his instructions …. use a line not a net (like the last time), at sea not at river, just one fish is enough, not in the fish gut but its mouth, one shekel, first fish … laser guiding Peter’s work … to literally find this one fish in the vast sea.
I’m just amazed that Peter could share his salvation testimony of meeting Jesus …. about the God of the second chance who never gives up on Him … and the God who so wonderfully supplies his needs …. all through the colorful language and imagery of his professional trade which his colleagues can appreciate as he shares His ‘fishy’ stories ! What a truly personal God we serve 🙂 .
Furthermore, for Peter, added to these stories … the day a life threatening storm at sea was suddenly & immediately stilled, … the night, he walked on the waters of the sea, … the day he saw fish miraculously multiplied on dry land to feed a multitude,
… happenings at his workplace or related to his trade.
Although, not much is written about the background of Jesus’ 12 disciples, … we know that 4 of them were fishermen, and 1 was a tax collector. Of the 4 gospels, 3 were written by a tax collector, a physician and a fisherman; not much is known about Mark’s profession.
So, perhaps, a simple layman introduction to the bestseller, the New Testament may read as:
a book written by a physician (Luke), a tentmaker (Paul), 2 fishermen (Peter & John), a tax collector (Matthew), and probably a carpenter (James)
about their experiences with a carpenter (Jesus) who transformed lives, healed the sick who died and rose again to save all of us from sin 🙂 .
Let’s now zoom into the Old Testament.
Exodus 3 (NASB)
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
Moses was out, working in the hot sun, faithfully pasturing his father-in-law’s flock somewhere in the wilderness. The angel of the Lord tracked him down and spoke to him. That day Moses received his calling through the burning bush, from shepherding sheep to patiently shepherding the children of Israel out of Egypt (Psalm 77:20) into the promised land . His shepherd’s staff became the staff of God (Exodus 4:20, 17:9).
As a shepherd, Moses had seen thousands of bushes in the wilderness, but that day his curiosity was aroused when he saw a bush burning but not consumed.
To lead His people out of Egypt … the Lord went to look for a true shepherd who has led, tended and patiently shepherded all kinds of sheep in valleys, to mountains, through wilderness … and one who is familiar with such terrain, and hardy, having survived the harsh elements of the wilderness.
1 Kings 19:19-21 (NASB)
19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. 20 He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.
Elisha was working hard, vigorously plowing a field with a pair of oxen, … breaking up the unplowed, fallow ground, so that new seeds can be sown (Hosea 10:12, Jeremiah 4:3).
While flexing every muscle of his body on the job, and sweaty trying to maximize the yield on this plot of land, Elijah dropped in unannounced to anoint Elisha as a prophet of God. Soon Elisha will be flexing the arm of God to maximize God’s vineyard … breaking up the fallow ground of hearts, sowing the seed of God’s word in miracles and wonders.
Judges 6:11-12 (NASB)
11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”
Gideon was alone working, physically beating out wheat in a breeze-less wine press, so that his enemies, the Midianites, could not find it. Again the angel of the Lord tracked him down, and … I like the relaxed description of the angel who “came and sat down” … to have a patient chat with Gideon while he was beating out the wheat. That day, God called Gideon into something bigger than anything he imagined possible, from threshing wheat to thrashing the Midianites :-).
1 Sam 16:6-12 (NASB)
6 When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” 7 But theLord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.”
11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
That day someone had to take care of the sheep, while everyone was at this big church meeting with Prophet Samuel. So it was left to David, the youngest. But God had not forgotten David. Suddenly, his smartphone rang calling him to quickly come to church, as the meeting cannot start without him. Everyone waited and waited and waited. David finally arrived, after making sure the sheep were taken care of.
David, the one working hard at the office, was the one God chose. God saw his heart. From shepherding sheep to shepherding a nation.
Psalm 78:70-72 (NASB)
70 He also chose David His servant
And took him from the sheepfolds;
71 From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.
72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands.
It is interesting to note that 2 of the greatest leaders in the Old Testament, Moses and David, … were once lonely, unknown shepherds tending lambs and shepherding sheep in hidden valleys and wilderness.
John 20:15,16 (NASB)
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
When Jesus was born, angels appeared to ordinary shepherds living in the fields keeping watch of their flocks by night, i.e. working the late night shift (Luke 2). Besides Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ arrival was announced to the important spiritual and executive leadership folks of the day (priest, king, scribe, wise men, prophet, prophetess) …. and ordinary shepherds in faraway fields working at night :-).
The first evangelists to spread the message about Jesus arrival were the ordinary shepherds …. not the theologically trained scribes or priests.
Luke 2:17,18 (NIV)
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Ruth the Moabitess worked tirelessly gleaning the barley harvest for Naomi and herself. She caught the eye of the single, available and wealthy Boaz (Ruth 2:5,8), and became part of Jesus’ genealogy … His-story.
Another lady in Jesus’ genealogy was Rebekah, here’s how she joined the family. Here’s Abraham’s servant relating his experience to Rebekah’s brother, Laban.
Genesis 24:40-46 (NASB) –
40 He (Abraham) said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you to make your journey successful, and you will take a wife for my son from my relatives and from my father’s house; 41 then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my relatives; and if they do not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’
42 “So I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now You will make my journey on which I go successful; 43 behold, I am standing by the spring, and may it be that the maiden who comes out to draw, and to whom I say, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar”; 44 and she will say to me, “You drink, and I will draw for your camels also”; let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder, and went down to the spring and drew, and I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’; so I drank, and she watered the camels also.
Her practical servant attitude won the servant’s heart :-).
She went the extra mile with a smile.
By the way, …. Abraham’s servant had 10 camels with him (Genesis 24:10). A thirsty camel drinks many liters (some say 100 liters, others 60 liters in 10 minutes). Rebekah volunteered to draw out water with her jar from the spring for these 10 camels who had been on the road. It must have taken her a strenuous long while … really hard work making so many trips drawing and watering the 10 camels. She must have been physically strong, had the stamina of an endurance athlete, and used to such daily joyful work.
Rebekah’s warm hospitality spirit won the servant’s heart.
In case you were wandering,
…. Genesis 24:16 – The girl was very beautiful
Talking about beauty .. yes, there’s even a beauty queen in the Bible, Esther, who won a heathen beauty contest. Her beauty won the heart of a king. God honored her for her inner beauty and courage.
Proverbs 31 paints us the beauty of the virtuous woman.
An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
Proverbs 31:10 (NASB)
Instead of describing her piousness/devoutness in spiritual matters/activities (prayer, bible study, etc), or attending synagogue meetings, ladies meetings
…. she is described as a business saavy, industrious, entrepreneurial and generous businesswoman; a responsible, practical and faithful steward/manager in down-to-earth matters … with a caring heart to her workers and family.
Her eventful days’ schedule is described to us in Proverbs 31, from early morning (while it is still night) to late night.
Throughout her typical day, she multi-tasks quite a number of work and family activities. She certainly would feel right at home in our fast paced modern society juggling work/life balance. She works with her hands in delight (verse 13), and she’s like a merchant ship (verse 14), wisely invested with a diversified investment portfolio of property (field), commodities (vineyard), and manufacturing (linen garments & sashes).
Proverbs 31:30-31 (NASB)
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
In Proverbs 31, her devotion to the Lord transcends into the ordinary, the everyday, … of early mornings and late nights, … as she skilfully, and practically attends to the details of her family, her employees, business, … plans & prepares for the future, …. and charitably helps those in need. Indeed, it is how she lives her everyday life, and the people she practically blesses that she is honored
“let her works bring her praise“.
And her beloved husband and children?
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
Yes, God does show up like
… Isaiah who saw the Lord in His awesome glory in His temple (Isaiah 6)
… John received the Revelation when he was in the spirit on the Lord’s day (Revelations 1)
… Ezekiel’s panoramic vision of the Lord and the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1, 2)
but He also comes to us … in the everyday and ordinary,
and speaks in our language of the ordinary and everyday,
so that folks like us can know Him personally,
to practically live out His life in the world,
…. even a child can understand His story and be in awe 🙂
… having a noon-day chat with a Samaritan woman at the well (John 4),
… spotting Zacchaeus on a tree, and going to his home (Luke 19)
… joining a wedding celebration in Cana (John 2),
… making breakfast for His disciples (John 21)
… just having a stroll with 2 friends on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24)
and He walks unannounced into the corridors of our everyday world of work as well … when we are sometimes not in our Sunday’s best, sometimes at our weakest … and guides our professional skills and abilities for His glory. Praise the Lord. Truly, Jesus comes down-to-earth.
Further examples are Joseph and Daniel, how God enabled and positioned them to wisely engaged and solved the challenges and issues of the day in the corridors of power.
Daniel was a great statesman faithfully serving foreign heathen kings,
and a prophet who prophesised to kings and kingdoms in his time, the superpower nations of his time …. and kingdoms of the future,
a faithful servant of the King of Kings.
Through Daniel’s life and gifts of the Spirit … the heathen kings he served personally encountered the Lord who loves them.
Daniel 1:17,20 (NIV)
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding
about which the king questioned them,
he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
And Solomon, not only was he a wise king/judge, a great thinker, an accomplished songwriter, but also an expert scientist; a polymath.
1 Kings 4:29, 32,33 (NASB)
29 Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. .
32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall;
he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.
Consider also, … Nehemiah.
Nehemiah’s heartfelt prayer,
… led him on an amazing journey with the Lord,
from a humble cupbearer, … to favor with the king … to a highly competent project manager, a builder, … leading a team to complete a building project in record time, putting his life on the line (as in his previous job as a cupbearer), … to a wise, benevolent, no-nonsense, competent governor.
Nehemiah consistently led by example, and served the people practically and generously. He was ‘hands-on‘, and constantly had to “think on his feet” as new challenges arose in his project.
Nehemiah also led in the restoration of worship (at the dedication of the wall), and led the people in repentance following God’s word (eg. last chapter of Nehemiah). Throughout his account, we hear his simple and effective prayers to the Lord.
For most of His adult life, Jesus was a master carpenter craftsman running a carpentry service, sales/marketing, product development, managing supply chain, cash-flow, profit/loss in the world of business … dealing with all kinds of customers, suppliers, officials, etc.
Yes, He certainly understands the tough world of business.
“Isn’t this the carpenter? …”
Mark 6:3 (NIV)
Jesus spent his earlier life first as an apprentice with his father Joseph, and later as a master craftsman patiently fashioning ordinary pieces of wood into useful and beautiful furniture masterpieces,
… and He spent His last years patiently fashioning ordinary people for kingdom glory.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
From building and restoring wood creations, to building and restoring lives, His creations.
By the way … perhaps from his carpentry days Jesus used the metaphor of the ‘speck of sawdust‘ and the ‘plank‘ in His teaching on judging others (Matthew 7)
Jesus also used many practical work examples in his parables to explain His Kingdom. (eg, Matt 20, 25, Luke 16, 19).
He invited us to look at women baking, farmers in the fields, shepherds & their sheep, workers in a vineyard, managers and workers, kings and subjects … rich men, judge, laborers, beggars, widows, merchants, …
Jesus taught and spoke through the everyday lives of ordinary folks,
… His miracles were mainly framed within the struggles of everyday people,
and everyone from different cultures could easily relate with His stories and experiences.
Also interestingly, 2 of the 3 questions that John the Baptist was asked by the people he baptised, … had to do with daily work
Luke 3:10-14 (NKJV)
10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”
14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?”
So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
The people did not see a spiritual/secular divided world,
and were deeply concerned about how to honor God in their daily lives when they asked, “And what shall we do?”
John the Baptist did not spiritualise his answers to “And what shall we do?”
… like — pray more, read the Bible more, attend church more, evangelise more, go bibles study, give more to the church, … ‘pray,pay,obey’ …. etc
All 3 of John’s answers were down-to-earth, practical, and relevant to the individual and his daily walk & work in the world. Basically, do one’s work with integrity of heart, and practically serving others in need with one’s means.
Certainly, not institutionalised rules, … but a living faith in the real world,
being a practical blessing to others.
Proverbs 12:27 (NASB)
… the precious possession of a man is diligence.
The quality of our daily work matters to God.
Work is spiritual.
The workplace a cathedral of worship and workship.
Colossians 3:23,24 (NIV)
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Proverbs 22:29 (NASB)
Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.
Luke 16:10,11 (NASB, NLT)
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?
Recently, heard a brother share his story about obeying the Lord’s call into full-time ministry. His friends were amazed that he gave up a lucrative career, “to serve God!”. He thought, “You mean all the time when I was working in the office, I was not serving God?”
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
July 3, 2014
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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