A Calling to Work

God cares about work. That job you do for forty to seventy hours a week, God actually cares about it. He made you to do that job. He has called you to your profession, field and industry.

But in the church, it’s often portrayed that God only cares about pastoral ministry. Pastors are ‘called’ to ministry, but business people to industry? Preachers are called to speak, but teachers to educate? When do you ever hear someone say God called them to be a plumber?

We have a great misunderstanding about how someone is ‘called’.

Note: this content was originally posted here from our church, The Austin Stone Community Church. 

Scripture references for this sermon

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (ESV)  –  Genesis 1:1-4, 31

Sermon transcript

A Calling to Work

God cares about work. That job you do for forty to seventy hours a week, God actually cares about it. He made you to do that job. He has called you to your profession, field and industry.

But in the church, it’s often portrayed that God only cares about pastoral ministry. Pastors are ‘called’ to ministry, but business people to industry? Preachers are called to speak, but teachers to educate? When do you ever hear someone say God called them to be a plumber?

We have a great misunderstanding about how someone is ‘called’.

People will say they had a moment when they knew God had called them to a certain profession or ministry. As someone who feels called to what I’m doing, I can relate to this. I had moments where my desire to pastor and teach the word of God was almost palpable.

However, the clarity of these moments fades away. More often than not, your calling is a gradual process that is solidified over time.

I remember two moments that convinced me that I had to be a pastor. First, my wife and I were at a coffee shop doing our Pre-Marital Counseling homework. It was the first time we realized that I had a great desire for pastoral ministry. Another moment, on our honeymoon, my wife is on the beach and I’m in the room reading Jeremiah. I was reading through it, longing with everything in me to teach the word of God like he was doing.

But as I pursued this job, those moments faded. I’ve even had times where I questioned it. I didn’t have any other amazing moments, a word from the Lord or a vision. What happened was over time I became more convinced of my desires, abilities and opportunities.

Your calling is determined over time, as you process what you want to do, what God has gifted you to do and the opportunities He’s placed before you.

So why do we think this calling is just limited to pastors? Can you not go through the same process to be an engineer, a stockbroker, or a stay-at-home mom?

Think about the Scriptures and how God called His people to all different types of vocations. Not just ministry.

When God brought the people back from slavery in Babylon, He needed a wall built. He needed an engineer and someone to manage the building. He called up Nehemiah and appointed him to the task.

As Moses and the people were wondering in the wilderness God wanted a tabernacle where His presence would dwell. He wanted it to be perfect, beautiful and detailed. So He called up some artists to create it.

In the Scriptures, God paints a very different picture of work than we’re used to. There is no sacred and secular divide for Him. He creates and calls all of us to different professions and vocations. He calls some to pastor and preach, but He also calls some to be entrepreneurs, businessmen, custodians, construction workers, artists and doctors.

He calls all of His people to their professions, because work is important to Him. This is evident by looking at the larger narrative of the Bible.

The story of history is broken into four main categories:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption
  4. Restoration

God created everything good. Then we fell and sin ruined all that was good. But Jesus came and redeemed us and will one day restore everything to the way it should be.

Let’s look at work through these four categories. We’ll discuss the creation or work, how the fall affected work, how Jesus redeems work and how He will ultimately restore it one day.

Creation of Work

One of the first things you learn about God is that He is a worker.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Genesis 1:1-4 (ESV)

The first thing you see God doing is working. He’s creating, molding and shaping the physical world from nothing. The world was without form and void, meaning there was chaos. He comes in like a master craftsman and makes it into something useful and beautiful. He takes the chaos and turns it into rhythm and beauty.

As He does this, you learn two things about His work. It’s characterized by joy and service.

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 (ESV)

When you read the creation account, you see God blessing His creation, enjoying His work. He’s expressing joy in what He’s doing. He looks back at all that He’s made and says, “Its very good”.

God made the world to display His glory, but He didn’t need it. He was already happy forever in Himself. Him creating the world was not out of a lacking in Him, but rather a fullness in Him. It’s for the benefit of His creatures, so that we can see His glory. His creation and work is in service to us.

God is a worker who works in joy and service.

When He makes image bearers, to reflect who He is, He makes them workers. He gives Adam and Eve jobs to do. As humans, we were made to work; it’s part of who we are.

You weren’t made to sit around all day and accomplish nothing. You were made to work, to build and accomplish things. You’re a worker, because God’s a worker.

Work is not given as a consequence of sin. Work was given as a gift.

The first job God gives is wasn’t to be a pastor. It was to be a gardener, called to take care of the earth, to tend and cultivate the land. Adam and Eve were shaping the physical world with their hands, so that the rest of the image bearers they would create together would have places to live.

Work was for their joy and the service of others. God gave them a real role to play and real work to do.

But then we fell.

Fall of Work

God had an amazing plan for us, but we rebelled. The rebellion against God and the path of self-discovery ruined everything. All the goodness was taken away, including from our work.

Working is an integral part to being human. When God judged Adam and Eve for their rebellion, the main thing He cursed was their work.

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “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; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19 (ESV)

In Genesis 1, God gives Adam and Eve two main jobs; to make image bearers and to cultivate the earth. He tells them here in Genesis 3, that those two jobs just got incredibly more difficult. Their rebellion just ruined their work.

They can’t reflect His image like they used to. They were designed to work in joy and service. But now they’ve sinned, their work is characterized by pain and selfishness.

Work was meant to be a joyful exercise, but now it’s just a task of utility. It was meant to serve other people, but now it’s about bettering ourselves.

The fall ruined all God created work to be.

Then God sent His son.

Redemption of Work

Jesus came to be what Adam failed to be; a perfect image bearer of God.

In Romans 5, Paul talks about Jesus as a second Adam, whose come to be a perfect representation of God on earth.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

Jesus is the true and perfect image bearer of God. He came to be all we failed to be. And just like Adam, Jesus was given a job to do. He was going to show us how to be image bearers, even in our work.

Jesus’ first job was not as a preacher, teacher, leader or healer. His first job was as a blue-collar worker. For twenty years, the majority of His life, He worked an ordinary job, as a carpenter.

The God of the universe is on earth, wrapped in flesh, here to save His people from sin, and the first thing He does is work an ordinary job, in an ordinary town, with ordinary people.

Do you think Jesus wasn’t called to that job? Do you think maybe He hadn’t been praying enough? You think that job was a sign of God’s small plan and little affection for Him?

Of course not. That job was a testimony that what it means to be human is to work; to work in the mundane. Jesus worked for twenty years and no one noticed He was God in the flesh. He was showing us what image bearers look like.

We were made to work, but we are not defined by our work. Jesus’ work, His title, His salary didn’t define Him. His Father defined Him. His Father gave Him value. Because of this, He could enjoy His work.

This is hard for most of us to imagine, because we define ourselves by our work, title, salary or status. We’re always frustrated, thinking of the next job, climbing higher up the ladder; more benefits or less work will make us happy and satisfied.

That is not true. We’re not supposed to be defined by our work.

But we are still made to work.

If the Son of God can get off His throne and work in manual labor for twenty years, we can get off the couch and get a job. There is no job that is below us.

Jesus eventually transitioned out of this job, showing that your job is not forever. He transitioned into teaching, preaching and healing. But, ultimately, toward the cross, the most difficult job ever. All the while, His work was defined by joy and service. Even at the cross, we see joy and service as Jesus’ driving motivation.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

The joy set before Him motivated Him to do His job. He endured the cross for the joy He knew would come, but also for service, to build a faith for other people.

Jesus was the worker we should be.

Do you feel underpaid or underappreciated at your job? Consider Jesus. He was the most underpaid and underappreciated worker in the world. Yet, He stayed faithful, because He knew God would take care of Him.

When we lack joy and service in our work, we need to remember the Gospel. We need to go back to Jesus and His word to be reminded of who we are, what’s true and how He feels about our jobs. He cares about it, even when no one else does.

Until Jesus comes back, we’re going to struggle to have joy and service in our work. This world is still in sin. The curse is still on work, making it feel futile, difficult and sometimes impossible.

We’re still only in the third act of the story. Restoration is coming, but its not here yet.

Restoration of Work

So when it feels impossible to keep on working and you can’t find any joy in it, remember you’re not home. God is not done with this world yet. There is still one act of the story to come.

Jesus will come back and restore everything. God will be on the earth with His people and we will reflect His image properly, the way we were meant to in the garden. He will redeem work to the way it should be, where it will be fruitful and things won’t fall apart. Where it will always be a joy to us and in service to others.

What Are You Called to Do?

What do you want to do? What do you have the ability to do? What opportunities has God given you?

You need to the answers to these questions.

There will be seasons when these questions of desire, ability and opportunity don’t line up. When you’re not working your dream job. Remember that no job is forever. There are seasons. Your job doesn’t define you.

When you’re in a job that you don’t like, remember that it’s the job where God has placed you. We need to show the world that God cares about our work. The way you work shows Him to other people.

There is not a JV calling or role. Whatever job God has given you, in whatever season, for however long, it is a gift to you. So do your job well.

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