DO WE WORK FOR TOMORROW?

Sometimes the routine of our work, the repetition of certain tasks associated with our vocational journey seems, well, non-productive.  What do I mean?

You build a house, and when the last nail is driven, deterioration sets in and you fight disintegration year after year. In my case you prepare and preach a sermon, and when the last word is spoken, people forget and a month later, not only do the people forget, but I can’t even remember what I preached on a month ago. And I do this all over again the next week and so it goes. A mom cooks a wonderful meal, spends hours lovingly in the kitchen, and in a matter of moments, especially if you have teenagers, it is all gone. And she must do it all over again. Or take the task of laundry (ok, let’s not go there). You finish that long, arduous  work project at the company, and just when you feel that sense of relief, the boss dumps a new project on you and you start all over again.  If work is seen only in light of the day to day process, we have much cause for despair.

Paul the apostle sheds some light on this matter when he tells us that our labor is not futile when it is expended for the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Revelation 14:13 speaks of our works following us even after we are gone.  Paul tells us that the people that he invested his life and ministry in were his joy and crown (I Thess. 2:19-20).  These texts made me think about my work as a “tomorrow” thing.  Solomon understood this when he spoke of sowing your seed in Ecc.11:1-6. It is tomorrow that the fruit shows up because we all know or should know that  fruit takes some time to grow. That is why it is called fruit.  I have a favorite saying that has encouraged me many times and that is: “Don’t be discouraged. God is not done yet!” 

So how does this play out practically in our lives as servants of God? I am holding in my hand a book from my father’s library. He has been with the Lord now for over 22 years but I see his notes in the margin and sensed why that passage spoke to him and I realized, though he may not have realized it, he was working for tomorrow, not just today. I am benefiting from his work. I look around at all the “friends” in my library,  most of whom are in glory, and yet they being dead, yet speak! They worked for tomorrow too. These men left a profitable legacy for the rest of us. Their labors live on.

The impact of my life and ministry should be seen to extend beyond today. I witness to my neighbor today yet I see nothing happening. But tomorrow…will that labor of love for Jesus come to fruit? Somehow that puts a fresh perspective on what I do in the here and now.

So just maybe my work by God’s grace and design is meant to encompass tomorrow.  I have today, I don’t have tomorrow…or do I?  Think it thru

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WHAT KIND OF GOD CAME UP WITH CHRISTMAS?

god-at-christmas Can’t you imagine Charlie Brown saying to Linus…Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to be a repeat of last year?  There are the Christmas cards to send, the parties to attend, the shopping to do, the meals to prepare and the travel  plans to  visit relatives or the work of hosting family members.  In the words of one writer  “Christmas time is rather predictable.” Could you take last year’s calendar entries and just lay this year’s plans  over that and come up with about the same thing?  Does this sound pessimistic? Cynical? A kill-joy attitude? I don’t want it to sound like that.

But here is the thing. When Christ came here and was born as a baby, it was a total shocker! There was nothing the same about it compared to all the other births through all the other years.  God just knocked our socks off with how the whole birth thing of Jesus played out.  He was virgin born as the King/Messiah with no royal surroundings or heavy weights politically to accompany the event. God never consulted us and did not allow us to weigh in with our opinions on how it should be done. He told us in the Old Testament what He was going to do, and then He just did it!  Jesus showed up as a baby. Our future hopes totally rested on what appeared to be shaky birth circumstances.  How will this thing ever fly with so little of what we have come to believe are necessary components for success?  No financial backing, no public solicitation for support, no powerful dignitaries to speak up for the babe [except the chief honcho who wanted to kill him when the news leaked out]. Yeh, pretty shocking how God does things.

Sometimes God does that with our lives too. It is coming up on Christmas and suddenly you lose your job and face financial set-backs. Shocked, right? Or you approach the Christmas season with a bit of dread and discouragement because God allowed some sorrow or difficulty to come your way since last Christmas. Never thought you would face that, right? Or your carefully laid plans are messed up by some unexpected turn of events or some “clod” decision made by some relative or boss.  Surprised and frustrated, right? Well, your life might be “right on schedule,” for God is doing things His way! The kind of God who came up with Christmas is the God who does things His way! Remember what God said in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The virgin birth of Christ in this world was God doing things His way.  It was proof positive that we need Him if we are ever going to survive this life and the eternity to come.  Salvation comes through God’s work and plan not through my efforts and plans [Titus 3:5]. Joseph and Mary could not produce their own savior even if they wanted to.  And life unfolds in that same way.  In most of life’s circumstances we find ourselves pretty  helpless. The Old Testament Joseph in Genesis told his brothers that all the bad stuff they did which God allowed in his life was meant for good [Gen. 50:20]. The events of his life  made no sense to Joseph  until years later.  His own puzzlement, helplessness, and frustrations over what was happening in his life revealed the surprising work of God for his good down the road  [and for the good of others too] . The God that came up with the shocking surprises of the birth of Jesus in this world is the very same God that is doing things His way in my life and yours.  Randy Alcorn in his book “If God is Good” put it this way: “If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good.” The kind of God who came up with Christmas is the God who is in charge and the God who is good! That makes a difference!  Think it thru