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The Sacred Calling of Work, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 13, 2021 12:00 am

The Sacred Calling of Work, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 13, 2021 12:00 am

It’s easy to go on mission trips and evangelistic outings and serve God in diverse ministries at our local churches, then forget that what we do at work is also worship. We don’t clock in and clock out of the Great Commission. Today Stephen teaches us how to worship God, even in the mundane.

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When God saves us and makes us his child, the reformation of our lives begins to impact the institutions we're part of.

The New Testament didn't write about how to rebel against or even how to reform the human institution. But it did introduce all that was necessary to reform the human heart. And the reformed, spiritually redeemed human heart will impact and reform human institutions.

As God brings reformation to the hearts of his people, they in turn bring reformation to the institutions they're part of. One of the places where that happens is the workplace. Your job is more than just a means to support yourself and your family. Where you work is an opportunity for you to live out God's mission for your life. It's easy to go on missions trips, to serve God in your local church, but forget that what you do at work is also part of your service to God.

Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Today, Stephen Davey has a message from God's word called the sacred calling of work. There's a Latin word which gave us a wonderful English word while over time losing its meaning to the English world. It's the Latin word vocatio. It means a calling. And as early as the 1500s, the word was used to refer to every occupation, every kind of work as a sacred calling from God.

Martin Luther, the reformer, the converted monk who would begin unknowingly, unwittingly the Protestant Reformation, wrote that God could populate the earth by creating each new generation of babies from the dust. But instead, he ordained the offices of husband and wife and parent as sacred vocations. All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in government.

These are the masks of God behind which he is hidden, through which he does all things. He even wrote this, God himself is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid. Every vocation was a sacred calling through which God fulfilled his divine purposes. So behind that word vocatio was the idea that every legitimate kind of work or social function was in fact a distinct calling from God. The reformer and theologian John Calvin wrote around 450 years ago that the workplace was to be considered a place of worship. You see, what these reformers did was wrestle the idea of a sacred calling away from the clergy alone and give it equally to the tradesman, the mother, the milkmaid in the dairy barn where it belongs. Every Christian has a sacred calling from God, whether you're a student or a teacher, an artist, a housewife, a farmer.

So it doesn't matter if you're a chief surgeon or the chief of police or a chief executive officer or the chief custodian. All of you have been given a sacred duty of vocatio, a calling from God. And for the believer, of course, this is revolutionary application. Out of this would come what we would call the Protestant work ethic, which is now waning because we've lost the meaning. It is this truth that any status, any occupation is the work of God.

Nothing is wasted. Even the mundane act of milking a cow can be touched with magnificent meaning. So we have the attitude told or described in that proverbial event where three men in the Middle Ages were on the grounds of a building site where for decades a cathedral had been under construction and all three of them were chipping away at rock and all three were asked by the visitor, what are you doing? And the first man replied, well, I'm chipping rock.

The second man replied, well, I'm earning a living as a stonemason. The third man replied, I'm building a great cathedral for God. See, the reformers are going to flesh out what the apostle Paul has already written nearly 2,000 years ago as he encouraged Christians, in whatever you do, work with all your heart as for the Lord and not for men. For it is the Lord Christ whom you serve, Colossians 3, 23, and 24.

Now, unfortunately, the word vocatio has become commonplace. It has become separated, again, from that which is sacred and that which is now secular owns the word, which is tragic. We talk about our vocations, our vocational training independently of the idea of sacredness or calling from God. See, today then, the work or the motive for work is a paycheck and the incentive for the work week is the weekend. And the ultimate goal for work is retirement when you don't have to do it anymore.

See, the average American dream is to be done with work, never having to serve anybody ever again. But the apostle Paul is about to clarify for the family what it means to work. It's going to be, in fact, the common ordinary family member known as the household servant who's going to be given this clarification. It's going to be the slaves that Paul is going to give the dignity of work as worship and mandate through them that Christ can be seen and honored and exalted. Even a servant is endowed with a calling from God. So would you take your copy of inspired scripture and turn to the letter of Paul to Titus, if you're not there already, to chapter 2 and let's pick up the last member of the family that Paul speaks to in this family talk at verse 9. Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith.

Why? So that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. Now when Paul wrote this letter to Titus, there were an estimated 50 million slaves in the Roman Empire. In fact, estimates were that about every third person you met on the street was a bond servant belonging to somebody else. They could become slaves through being taken as prisoners of war, as punishment for certain crimes, because of debt, kidnapped and sold into slavery, voluntarily becoming what we would think of today, indentured servants, farm laborers, clerks, craftsmen, leaders, teachers, even doctors in the first century were bond servants.

They could be treated without mercy because they were viewed as not a citizen, therefore not having rights, or they could be treated with great mercy. Aristotle called a slave a living tool, a kind of possession that possessed a soul. It will be the gospel, by the way, that will topple the tyranny of slavery, and to this day it is the gospel in every generation and in every culture, and the cultures of our world have embedded within them slavery. It is the gospel that topples it all so that man treats other man, mankind with equal dignity and justice. Paul did not call for an end to slavery, nor did he call for an open rebellion of slaves, for which the liberals, by the way, have made hay out of that in discrediting the apostle Paul.

But what they miss is the patience of God's revelation, delivered to this culture in the first century where every third person belonged to somebody else. And what Paul does do is lay the groundwork for the elimination of slavery. He plants the truth of the gospel, which will eventually bear the fruit of freedom in any country and in every generation to this day.

And he writes such radical things that don't sound that radical to us, but they did back then, and in other cultures even today. He writes that slaves and their Christian masters are actually brothers, 1 Timothy 6.2. He writes that in the sight of God there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slaves or free men, but they are all one in Christ. See, that's going to ripple out and change everything and eventually even topple institutions built upon slavery, Galatians chapter 3 verse 28, when Paul meets and eventually leads to faith in Christ, a runaway slave named Onesimus. He writes a letter, the letter we call Philemon, simply because that was to whom Paul was writing. Philemon was the owner of that slave.

And he tells Philemon, whatever Onesimus stole from you, put that on my account and welcome him back, because I'm sending him back to you, not as a servant, but as a fellow brother. When the Roman Empire disintegrated and eventually collapsed, in that world and in that generation, that system of slavery collapsed with it, due in great measure to the influence of Christianity. In fact, before it's collapsed, you can learn from your history books that so many slaves were being set free that the Roman Emperor introduced legal restrictions to try and curb the trend. The Gospel will make the difference. The New Testament didn't write about how to rebel against or even how to reform the human institution, that along with others, like government. But it did introduce all that was necessary to reform the human heart, because it's a matter of heart. And the reformed, spiritually redeemed human heart will impact and reform human institutions. And what I find really fascinating in this paragraph from Paul to Titus that I just read, is that Paul is challenging a change of heart, not for the master, but for the slave. Paul will effectively tell the servant that his station in life is a divinely ordained vocatio, that even that life is not a wasted life. It's a sacred calling because God behind the scenes will work through the hands and the life of that servant and impact his world for the glory of God. And from this text, for those of us who live in a free world now, come six characteristics that revolutionize your own personal vocation. You may not be a slave, but you might feel like you're living to get out of debt.

You may consider your life something of an indentured servant to the bank or to that corporation. Well, in this culture, and of course I'm going to make immediate application to us in this free culture, what is Paul telling us to do? How should we approach Monday morning and a world system, at least our world, driven by about eight or nine hours as you're heading off to that sacred calling or remaining at home, which is your sacred calling, wherever your station of life is, that is your vocatio. How do you handle that calling?

Let me give you six things. First of all, we enter our world of work with the characteristic of humility. Go back to verse nine again. He said, urge bond slaves to be subject. That word subject was used by the military to designate a soldier's relationship to his superior officer. It carried the idea of lining up in rank and file. First, urge bond servants or bond slaves to make sure they're in order. Now, that sounds redundant, doesn't it? Why tell a bond slave to line up behind his master?

He already was. In fact, he didn't have a choice, but that's the point he's going to make, because Paul uses the passive voice in the original language indicating that servants then and employees today are to willingly, voluntarily accept their position in the rank and file of their world, to voluntarily come under the authority of their supervisor. You see, it isn't a matter then of being bullied in the submission, and only if they twist my arm will I cry uncle. No, it's a matter of being willing, no matter how difficult, no matter how unfair, no matter how oppressive, the faithful believer perseveres with humility and self-sacrifice as long as he is employed in that job.

Well, the others, where you're going to show up perhaps tomorrow morning, I mean, they live to roast the management, right? I mean, they live to talk down the boss, to run down the company, but the Christian stays in place willingly, graciously doing the hard task, even if he's never thanked by his supervisor or paid what he believes he's worth. In fact, Paul uses the word for master here. It gives us another English word. It's the word despotes. It gives us the word despot. That man is a tyrannical arbitrary ruler with absolute authority who often in his authority acts with unkindness and unreasonableness and an overbearing spirit.

So what Paul is doing is he's painting the worst possible picture. He isn't saying submit at your job and to your supervisor because he loves you or because she has your best interests at heart or because over there at that company they just love and appreciate you. They can't tell you enough ways how important you are.

No, it's just the opposite, which might be the majority of your impressions. Willingly submit even when you're working for a despot. Why would anybody willingly, graciously work for someone like that? Nobody out there submits willingly to a boss like that.

And that's his point. The world doesn't. That's how a Christian stands out as soon as they show up.

Like a candle burning in a very dark room. Believers who understand that their supervisor really isn't their final authority. That their job just so happens to be a sacred calling from a living God who will work through them to fulfill his purposes and reflect his glory by their own gracious perseverance and by that they're able to carry on even when it means going out to the dairy barn at five o'clock in the morning to milk a cow. That's why Paul begins with the categorical characteristic that makes this employee absolutely unique and outstanding. He's showing up with a characteristic of humility. He's accepting his or her place in this role while everybody else is clawing over everyone else to get one more rung up. Paul refers secondly to the distinction of reliability.

Here's another way to show up for work. Paul adds in verse nine to be well pleasing. This word well pleasing was almost always used in the New Testament for being well pleasing to God. Paul uses that and he's hinting then for the believer who knows his word, his scripture, he's hinting at a greater higher vision for any employee. Paul wrote it was his ambition to be pleasing to Christ, 2 Corinthians 5, 9.

Same word here. He, Christ, is our ultimate supervisor. So being an employee has to do with your status, but being well pleasing has to do with your spirit. So a Christian employee has no excuse for half-hearted work, for cutting corners, for laziness, for a lack of initiative, for only doing the bare minimum and even that because my boss is watching me. See, that person will never please his boss. Bosses figure that out fairly quickly.

Many of you are supervisors in your world. But what Paul wants us to know is that isn't pleasing the Lord who happens to be watching 24-7. Do what you do to the best of your ability for the glory of God. Martin Luther, that reformer again, was once approached by a cobbler who wanted to know how he could best please his savior now that he'd become a Christian. So he asked Luther, how can I serve God? Luther asked him, well, what is your work? The man said, I'm a shoemaker.

Much to the cobbler's surprise, Luther replied, then make good shoes and sell them at a fair price. What Paul was doing is what the Reformation attempted to reignite. This is a higher motive for work.

It's a standard of excellence because of the person you ultimately represent. One author put it this way, it is then possible for the housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus Christ were going to eat it. Or to clean the house as if Christ were to be the honored guest. It is possible for teachers to educate children, for doctors to treat patients, nurses to care for them, for salesmen to help clients, shop assistants to serve customers, accountants to audit books, and secretaries to type letters as if in each case they were serving Jesus Christ, which we all are. That's why the Christian does the hard work. That's why they stay after or show up early. That's why they go the extra mile.

That's why they're the one that someone says, that's the person we can ask to help someone else out. See, Christianity makes that cubicle, that desk, that home, that shop, that office, that boardroom, nothing less than a holy of holies where God touches earth. Paul says if you want to revolutionize the island of Crete, it won't be through a series of sermons that most of them will never come to hear. It will be a reliable employee who shows up that everyone around him happens to see in action. And he's driving toward his purpose statement, but there are some more characteristics still being delivered. This characteristic of humility, this distinction of reliability, thirdly an attitude of complicity.

This might be the hardest one yet, by the way. Verse 90 adds to be well pleasing, not argumentative. Now Paul actually puts together a string of participles that describe what it means to be well pleasing.

For the sake of our study, I'm going to separate them individually. Paul refers to complicity, not argumentative. That's how you can be well pleasing. And he keeps raising the bar, doesn't he?

With each one of these, he's going to raise the bar. The slave in Paul's day had to be submissive. That was the way it was. But now he's told to be reliable. That's even harder. And now he's told, and every employee to this generation is told, don't argue back. Don't grumble. Don't complain. Don't voice displeasure. Okay, I'm going to do it. I get paid to do it. I showed up, didn't I?

I'll do it. But I don't like it at all. He says, don't be that way.

Don't be argumentative. And that effectively shuts down most of the inner office conversation. I mean, what in the world are you going to talk about at the water cooler if you can't run the boss down and talk about your supervisor and how bad the corporation is and the low wages and the unfair treatment? Oh, lunch is over, man, I've got to go back to work.

Work won't be nearly as fun if you can't do that. Paul actually uses a verb that means you can translate it to speak against. In our vocabulary, it would be to talk back.

Don't talk back. It carries the idea of mouthing off. So the idea isn't now you fulfill a task or that you do it or that you plan to do it with excellence.

But you don't complain about it in the process. See, Paul is getting under the skin of work to the very spirit of the worker. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. This is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. Today's message is called The Sacred Calling of Work.

It's not complete, but we'll end here for today and bring you the conclusion on tomorrow's broadcast. Between now and then, you can learn more about us if you visit our website, which is We also post each day's broadcast, so if you ever miss one of these lessons, you can go to our website to keep caught up with our daily Bible teaching ministry.

The archive of Stephen's teaching is available on that site free of charge, and you can access it anytime at In addition to equipping you with these daily Bible lessons, we also have a magazine. It includes articles written by Stephen to help you dive deeper into various topics related to the Christian life. That magazine also has a daily devotional guide. Many of our listeners use it to guide their daily time in God's Word. The magazine is called Heart to Heart, and we send Heart to Heart magazine to all of our wisdom partners.

We'd be happy to send you the next three issues if you'd like to see it for yourself. You can sign up on our website, or you can call us today here in our Cary, North Carolina office. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE.

That's 866-482-4253. Here's another opportunity I want you to be aware of. How would your life be impacted if you set aside one year to study God's Word, experience authentic community, grow in discipleship, study in Israel, and even earn your master's degree in theological studies? Stephen is the founder and president of Shepherds Theological Seminary, and he invites you to consider joining us for the Shepherds Institute. This unique one-year program offers a life-changing opportunity to all believers, no matter your vocation. Shepherds Institute invites you to invest one year of your life to equip yourself for the rest of your life.

Learn more about that at If you have a comment or question for us, or if you'd like more information, you can send us an email if you address it to info at Once again, that email address is info at We'd really enjoy hearing from you and learning how God is using this ministry to build you up in the faith. Please take a few moments and drop us a note. Our mailing address is Wisdom for the Hearts, P.O.

Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. And by the way, please consider including a gift when you write. Stephen often reminds us that our ministry is empowered by your prayer and enabled by your support. Your partnership is vital to us, and we're thankful for it. Well, thanks again for joining us today. We're so glad that you were with us, and I hope you'll be with us for our next Bible message tomorrow on Wisdom for the Hearts. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-19 03:51:37 / 2023-11-19 04:00:48 / 9

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