Right out of the gate, Paul tells us we need to get to work. You got to keep on doing what you’ve been doing…living in obedience…be energetic…but have reverence…no bickering, no second-guessing. No matter where we are employed, the goal of our labor should always be as Paul puts it to “provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”
What does that job look like to you? Showing up to church on Sundays? Being kind and getting along with everyone? Or being generous with your time and money? Volunteering or going out of your way to help someone in need?
For Paul, this meant getting up every day to live his life in accordance to God’s will; mirroring his life on that of Christ so others can come to know God’s glory. This is what it means to be faithful – to act on your faith that you have in Christ. This also means we can’t sleep in or take an early retirement. We have to get up every day and punch the clock for Christ.
The gospels only give us a small glimpse into the life of Jesus. What we know about his ministry is that he didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around quibbling over who was the greatest shooting guard in NBA history. He knew it’s Kobe. Whenever Jesus tried to rest or even retire for the night, people would come begging for help. And every time he saw them, Jesus had compassion for them.
Jesus spent his time living out the gospel – loving, healing, feeding, caring for God’s children so God’s glory could be seen, and God’s grace be given.
A couple of days ago I was talking with my mom about Medicare and Social Security. She said she didn’t get a lot because she only worked for a year or so. I told her that was not actually true. She worked tirelessly to keep our home and family running. Yet she still had time to run for public office, volunteer for numerous political campaigns, cheer at our sporting events and so much more.
Although my mother brought her own flavor to a conversation, it was always seasoned with the gospel. She knew her job wasn’t just a housewife or mother. She was also a beloved child of God who still shares the good news by living the gospel as best as she can be.
This reminds of me of a story in John’s gospel when Jesus is walking in the temple and a group approached him and said, “Tell us plainly, are you the Messiah?” This is a title given to God’s anointed savior. Jesus answered the men, “I’ve told you already, and yet you don’t believe. The works that I do in God’s name reveal who I am.”
What does this say about us? How does our work describe who we are?
Jesus worked out the gospel by bringing the good news to others in the way he lived out his faith and faithfulness to doing God’s will. This tells me that if we want to have real joy in our lives, we have to take the gospel, the very gift of our salvation, and put it into productive use. When we live short of all that God has given to us our joy is short lived.
Kobe Bryant took his gift to create multiple championships. He worked out constantly to keep his body in optimal health, and to stay at the top of his game. As students of Christ, we must constantly work on our spiritual health and wellbeing. We have to work out, what God has worked in us.
I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Carry the light-giving message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.”
Paul worked out his salvation by mirroring Christ. So did all the Apostles, and all the saints before us. What they all showed us is that this job is what Henri Nouwen described “a daily work out of our salvation…to make our own lives available to others as sources of new life and joy.”
Just as Jesus pointed out to the men in the temple, our true identity cannot be reduced to a job title. I couldn’t say Kobe is the greatest basketball player of all time if he never played the game. Likewise, the gospel has to be lived out, it has to be experienced.
Salvation is not just a theory or religious concept. It’s a reality we live in and live out daily. The early church grew exponentially because they experienced Jesus firsthand through the works and words of the Apostles. This experience was passed down through the generations. To this day, people will continue to experience the everlasting joy of Christ through us.
That’s the church’s job. And by your faith in Christ, you are a part of his church. It’s in our living out the gospel that people will come to know who we are, and what we stand for or believe in. We need to get up and work out the Christ in us everyday. We need to let Christ’s joy be felt in the way we love God, love others, and serve both.
That’s the mission of New Church Sherman Oaks. We chose it because we believe Jesus meant it when he said, “They will know you are mine by the way you love one another.”
As the church we carry on Jesus’ legacy. We become the visible presence of his love; the very place where joy is born. We invite you to join us in this mission, and to be a part of this good news.
Like Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’”. Will you be able to say that?
Lebron, Anthony Davis, and the LA Lakers bench did this last Sunday. They used all that they had. And now they rejoice. Kobe used everything God gave him, every time he stepped on a basketball court...or a boardroom. And of course, Jesus left every last bit of himself on the hard wood of that old rugged cross.
Today it’s our turn. God has employed us to be more like Jesus, who through his righteous works of love was raised up and became one with God.
Like Jesus, we too will find our truest joy being one with God allowing God to work through us. And when God works through us life's most difficult challenges can be overcome. Joy can be had. Like Paul realized and shared with us, in Christ God has given to us all the abundance of life so we can pour out our life generously for others with great joy.
Whether you’re retired, unemployed, or overworked this is the goal. You might be student or in the midst of changing careers, but Christ is still calling you because there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Whether you are facing difficult challenges and overwhelming uncertainty – the work you do in Christ’s name is never done in vain. But done in glory of the One has given us everlasting joy through our glorious salvation.
The one who is the greatest boss, employing us for the greatest of jobs. Now, let's get to work.
This is a revised version of a sermon previously given on April 17, 2016.
Bible. Philippians 2:12-18; John 10:22-30 (The Message).
Cook, John, ed. The Book of Positive Quotations: 2nd Edition. Minneapolis: Fairview Press, 1993.
Holladay, Tom. Philippians: The Eight Places Joy Is Won or Lost. El Toro: Saddleback Church, 2014.
Mahan, Michael. "How to find more meaning at work." Relevant, Jan-Feb 2016: 38-39.
Miles, Sara. Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Nouwin, Henri. Bread of Life. New York: Harper-Collins, 2007.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”