It is easy to get too busy these days. With the 24/7 world we live in and constant connectivity, we have demands coming at us every moment of the day. If you are seeking to work for God and taking it seriously, the needs of others can seem overwhelming. Just helping our immediate family can take up every waking hour. We can drown in business. We can get so busy helping other people and working about Jesus that we find ourselves working without Jesus. Trying our hardest to do things for the glory of God is great but doing it without God’s power is a terrible, empty feeling.
Colossians 3:23 is one of those great simple verses that keep us going as Christians.
These are verses that we frame and put on our walls. They are what we repeat to ourselves as we struggle to remain joyous and faithful in a tough job or difficult life period. We tell ourselves that this chore may not seem like much in the Kingdom of God but if we do it well, God will be honored. Martin Luther King restated this when he said:
These ideas are all true and powerful. It is the Word of God and therefore eternally applicable. There is a problem, though, a subtle trap that often lies in wait when humans apply the Bible to their own lives. When we take these awesome verses on their own and without the entire message of Jesus explaining them, we often create a message of our own making.
The Holy Spirit brings the Word of God to life and fills it with power. He has no such relationship with the Word of ME.
I had a season of my life where I was working a difficult, joyless job. I was trying hard and doing well in my position, but receiving very little in return. The workplace environment was painful and toxic and the staff was frankly miserable. As I set out to work each morning filled with dislike for the day ahead of me, I would repeat these verses to myself. Work hard, do it for the glory of God and in Jesus name. I would set my will on doing it. As the day went on and the atmosphere took a toll, I would reset my will and try even harder to be joyful and loving. I would try to seek the good things. I truly would fight like mad in my mind to be there for the glory of God. There was one humongous problem though.
I had removed the verses from context and turned them into motivational slogans for my effort. They had become ways to spur me to harder work rather than the natural result of a vibrant relationship with the Risen Lord.
Jesus says abide with Him and we will be fruitful. He doesn’t say take one or two verses and work your hardest to be good. That is the opposite of a full life in Jesus. Our working hard for Jesus and in His name only becomes possible when our life is spent with Jesus. It is from that richness that we can share with others. Look at the verses that immediately precede the exhortations above:
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
The thoughts are intimately interconnected. When the peace of God is ruling in our hearts and the Word of God is dwelling richly in our hearts THEN and only then our lives will be pictures of Christ no matter what we are doing. A streetsweeper can make a gigantic impression on the world doing his job for Christ only when his heart is filled with the love of Jesus. He will be singing Jesus songs with gratitude while doing even the most unrewarding job according to society.
Does it require discipline? Surely! Does it require hard work and pushing through the low moments? Again, most certainly, yes! But a life lived to the glory of God cannot be from just discipline, hard work and intent. It must, must, must flow out of abiding with Jesus and His love if it is to honor Jesus.
When Paul and Silas reach the city of Philippi in the Book of Acts, they have gone through many tough times together. They are mature men of God who appear to be hard workers with great intentions for Jesus. They want to make a difference and are highly motivated. They are ready to tough anything out. Nothing is going to stop them, not even when they are beaten half to death, dragged to prison and chained in a horribly painful position. They may have enough sheer determination to endure this torture and humiliation. But sheer will power is not what is driving them during that night, is it?
In the middle of the night, while in great pain, strapped in position meant to torture them with no idea of their fate, Paul and Silas begin singing hymns to the Lord and praying. Despite their circumstances they are singing songs of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord. Endurance never makes us sing like this. Sheer grit never fills with gratitude. Determination does not provide the power to be outside the circumstances. Only a full and passionate relationship with the Lord makes us want to sing.
If we don’t have that relationship, no matter how hard we try, we can never give that relationship to anyone else. We have to have the fire in us to pass it on to others.
Working hard for Jesus is a wonderful thing. Having great intentions for God is noble. God wants us to work hard in His name. But in order for us to spread His Gospel and offer an awesome life in and with Jesus, we must have an awesome life with Jesus. Feverishly spinning our Jesus themed wheels doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
So each morning, please, we need to start our day with Jesus. Pray, read the Bible and spend quality time with the One who loves us more than anyone else. Take in His Word, speak it to others, seek out Godly fellowship instead of talking about the weather or local sports. Abide in Jesus and let His Word dwell in us richly…..then go out and do everything for Jesus. It is only by being with Him every day, abiding, that we will see abundant fruit.