Day 215

Working Without Wilting

Wisdom Psalm 90:11-17
New Testament Romans 16:1-27
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36

Introduction

The average person will spend approximately 150,000 hours at work in their lifetime – that is to say, about 40% of our waking lives are spent at work, whether it be paid or voluntary employment, or as a carer or full-time parent.

‘Is God interested in our work? Many people do not see God as a 24/7 God, but as a withdrawn actor confined to a Sunday show with a declining audience. There is a widespread view that God and work simply don’t mix: the competitive, cut-throat demands of the working world are seen as the obvious enemy of Christian compassion and love. But the God who created and sustains the world is also the God of the workplace. If the Christian faith is not relevant in the workplace, it is not relevant at all.’

Writes Ken Costa, in his book God at Work (see also godatwork.org.uk). For over forty years, Ken has been living out his faith on the frontline of Christian ministry – in the ‘secular’ workplace in the City of London. And he sees that as his primary calling as a Christian.

Whatever kind of work you are called to, it will probably occupy a large proportion of your life. Work is an important part of God’s ‘economy’. It is part of what you were created to do, and will be part of what you do in heaven. Work has an intrinsic value. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of our work.

Wisdom

Psalm 90:11-17

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

Commentary

Your work has lasting value

What are you doing now that will outlive you?

Psalm 90 is all about the brevity of life (vv.3–4,10). However, even though your life is short and fleeting, according to this psalm it is possible for your work to outlive you. What you do can have lasting value. The psalm ends on a note of hope: ‘May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands’ (v.17).

The ultimate value of your work is a reflection of the fact that God too is a worker. The psalmist says, ‘Let Your work [the signs of Your power] be revealed to Your servants, and Your [glorious] majesty to their children’ (v.16, AMP).

In Working Without Wilting, Jago Wynne, formerly a management consultant, now the rector at Holy Trinity Clapham, writes, ‘We tend to think that things like our work, which happen when we are on earth, are nothing more than temporary and transient.

‘The Bible paints a different picture. When Jesus returns, God is not going to obliterate this earth, but he will renew it, redeem it and liberate it from its bondage to decay... Human work will be purified and redeemed, so that it is free from sin just as we will be free from sin. But work will certainly be a part of the new creation.’ This is why it is right to ask God to ‘establish the work of our hands’ (v.17b).

Prayer

Lord, may your favour rest upon me. Establish the work of my hands for me. May my work outlive me and have a lasting impact for good.

New Testament

Romans 16:1-27

Personal Greetings

16I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [24]

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Commentary

Give yourself fully to God’s work

Being a Christian involves being set to work, especially in the work of the gospel. Paul’s letter to the Romans ends with greetings to a list of people. In it, he places great emphasis on the value of their work.

Priscilla and Aquila are described as his ‘co-workers in Christ Jesus’ (v.3). Mary ‘worked very hard for you’ (v.6). Urbanus was ‘our co-worker in Christ’ (v.9). Tryphena and Tryphosa were women ‘who work hard in the Lord’ (v.12). Persis is ‘another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord’ (v.12). Timothy is ‘my fellow-worker’ (v.21).

Elsewhere Paul writes, ‘We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow’ (2 Thessalonians 3:7–9).

Paul was probably the most effective servant of Christ who ever lived, but he was not in ‘full-time’ ministry. He was a tentmaker earning his own keep.

Similarly, not everyone listed in Romans 16 was involved in ‘full-time Christian ministry’. Erastus had a secular job – he was ‘the city’s director of public works’ (v.23). He no doubt regarded his work as his primary calling and ministry. In that sense, all of us are involved in full-time ministry – whether we are called to work full-time in a church, or in the secular world.

It is also interesting to note how many women worked in the church. Phoebe (v.1) is described as diakonos (a servant) – the Greek word meaning deacon, or minister (‘a key representative of the church’, MSG). She is described as having been ‘a great help to many people’ including Paul himself (v.2). The Greek word for ‘a great help’ is the word used for a political sponsor, protector and patron. It suggests she possessed some social position, wealth and independence. She clearly had a very prominent role in the church.

Priscilla and Aquila (see also Acts 18) had a joint ministry. Priscilla is named first (v.3). This is probably due either to her having been converted first (and having led Aquila to Christ) or to her having played a more prominent role in the life and work of the church.

Ten of the people named in the list are women. They include Junia – one of the ‘outstanding leaders’ (v.7, MSG). Junia is almost certainly a female name. She is described as one of those who was ‘outstanding among the apostles’ (v.7). Since she was clearly not one of the twelve apostles, ‘apostles’ here has a wider sense, denoting someone sent out as a missionary. Paul includes a woman as being outstanding among these missionary leaders. It is clear from all of this that women occupied prominent places on Paul’s team.

Paul ends on a note of thanks and worship: ‘All our praise is focused through Jesus on this incomparably wise God! Yes!’ (v.27, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, help all of us, whatever our calling, to be those who work hard in the Lord and proclaim ‘Jesus Christ’ (v.27).

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

15After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.”

3 David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to the place he had prepared for it. 4 He called together the descendants of Aaron and the Levites:

5 From the descendants of Kohath,

Uriel the leader and 120 relatives;

6 from the descendants of Merari,

Asaiah the leader and 220 relatives;

7 from the descendants of Gershon,

Joel the leader and 130 relatives;

8 from the descendants of Elizaphan,

Shemaiah the leader and 200 relatives;

9 from the descendants of Hebron,

Eliel the leader and 80 relatives;

10 from the descendants of Uzziel,

Amminadab the leader and 112 relatives.

11 Then David summoned Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab the Levites. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. 13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way. ” 14 So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.

16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

17 So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel, the gatekeepers.

19 The musicians Heman, Asaph and Ethan were to sound the bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah were to play the lyres according to alamoth, 21 and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps, directing according to sheminith. 22 Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

23 Berekiah and Elkanah were to be doorkeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer the priests were to blow trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-Edom and Jehiah were also to be doorkeepers for the ark.

25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. 26 Because God had helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed. 27 Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the musicians, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps.

29 As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.

Ministering Before the Ark

16They brought the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God. 2 After David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. 3 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman.

4 He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: 5 Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
9 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
11 Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

12 Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
13 you his servants, the descendants of Israel,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
14 He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

15 He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

19 When they were but few in number,
    few indeed, and strangers in it,
20 they wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
21 He allowed no one to oppress them;
    for their sake he rebuked kings:
22 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
    do my prophets no harm.”

23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him.
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
30 Tremble before him, all the earth!
    The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! ”
32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
    let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing,
    let them sing for joy before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.

34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
    gather us and deliver us from the nations,
    that we may give thanks to your holy name,
    and glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

Commentary

Imitate God in work and rest

Work is one of the ways in which you imitate God. As God laboured in creation, so we are to do the same. The command to work was there before the Fall (see Genesis 2:15). As Ken Costa often says, ‘Work was in the original God-breathed prospectus.’

David set to work. He ‘constructed buildings for himself’ (1 Chronicles 15:1). He called together the leaders and set them to work (v.12).

There is no divide between the sacred and the secular. Worship was at the heart of all that they were to do. David gave instructions about ‘the work of worship’ (v.2, MSG). They were appointed ‘to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel’ (16:4). King David joined in the worship ‘dancing and celebrating’ (15:29).

At set times during the day (16:7), they took what Joyce Meyer describes as a ‘praise pause’ – ‘I do not think anything blesses God more than when we stop right in the middle of what we are doing and lift our hands to worship him… Think about a businessman, for example, maybe the president of a large company. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if several times a day, he closed the door to his office, turned the key, knelt, and said, “God, I just want to take some time to worship you.”

‘The same is true for students, stay-at-home [parents], retired people, secretaries, flight attendees, brain surgeons, clerks, and salespeople – anyone you can think of. We all would benefit greatly from taking a “praise pause.”’

David praises and thanks the Lord for what ‘he has done’ (v.8), ‘his wonderful acts’ (v.9), ‘the wonders he has done’ (v.12). He recounts the great work of the Lord and calls the people to ‘worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness’ (v.29).

God is a worker. We see this right from the start of the Bible. He was at work in creation, ‘by the seventh day God had finished the work he had being doing; so on the seventh day he rested’ (Genesis 2:2). He not only creates the world, he sustains and redeems it. Work really is one of the ways in which you imitate God.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for work. Thank you that even ‘hard work’ is such a blessing. May my work in itself be an act of worship, as I present my body as a ‘living sacrifice… [my] spiritual act of worship’ (Romans 12:1–2).

Pippa adds

1 Chronicles 15:29

‘As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.’

I love worship, but it is easy to have likes and dislikes. Sometimes I can think ‘how can that be worship?’ But God looks at the heart. And I don’t want to become like Michal!

Verse of the Day

Psalm 90:17

‘May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; |establish the work of our hands for us…’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Ken Costa, God at Work (Alpha International, 2013).

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018), p.635.

Jago Wynne, Working Without Wilting (IVP, 2009).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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