OUTRAGEOUS, CONTAGIOUS JOY
Take This Job And…
February 18, 2007
[Ed comes out to the song “Taking Care of Business,” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive]
What’s the song? The song is “Taking Care of Business.” And that’s what we are going to do today. We are going to take care of business right here at Fellowship Church. TCB…Taking Care of Business.
A couple of summers ago I was out doing some white water rafting, and it was a lot of fun. We had this guide named Dave. He would take us through rapid after rapid and he would say, “Paddle left, paddle right!” And your adrenaline was on point, and your heart was pumping. It was a cool deal.
Between one of the breaks I asked him, “Dave, do you enjoy your work?”
He said, “I love it!”
You could tell; it was pretty evident.
I was having a physical a while back and I was talking to a technician who performs the same procedure 8-10 hours a day. We would call it a boring procedure.
I asked her, “Do you enjoy what you do?”
And she said, “I have a blast doing this!”
I thought, “Well, that’s kind of odd.”
And then I talked to a guy who owned a car detailing business and I watched him work in the hot sun on these different cars.
I said, “Man you love your work don’t you?”
He said, “Yes! If people are willing to work they can do anything.”
Just the other night I watched a friend of mine who teaches basketball lessons. I watched him work with a bunch of junior high girls; he was teaching them about defense. He was motivating them. I didn’t even have to ask this guy if he liked his work. You could see it all over him. It was all over his countenance. He loved and loves his job.
Now what do these people have in common—the basketball coach, the car detailer, the wellness technician, and the white water rafting guide? What do they have in common? They all love their work. They’re experiencing the joy of work.
Now some of you are saying, “Now wait a minute, Ed. Are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that you can like work? Work is an albatross; work wears me out. You don’t know who I work for. My boss is a card-carrying idiot. This woman whose office is next to me? I cringe every time she walks by my desk. You don’t understand. It’s easy for you to say, but I’m not experiencing job satisfaction. I don’t necessarily like my work. Surely God gave work to us as a curse. It’s like this albatross, it’s like this thing we just hate to do. Surely God did that.”
God is a God of work. All you have to do is read the first verse of the Bible. Let me read the first verse of Genesis 1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Created—that’s a verb. He’s working. And if you skip down to verse four in Genesis 1 it’s says, “God separated.” And if you look at verse seven it’s says, “God made.” And you go down to verse nine, “God gathered.” Look at verse ten, “God called.” And in verse eleven, “God produced.”
We serve a God who works. God is into diligent labor. He made you and me in his image, and that’s why we have a desire to work. Isn’t that something? This desire I have, this desire you have for diligent labor comes from the God of the universe. God is a God of work, and he’s giving us this desire to work.
Work, though, was given to us before sin entered the human equation. I talk to people all the time that say, “Work is a curse. ‘To the salt mines you go!’ That’s what God said.”
That’s not true. Look at Genesis 2:15. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Now this should settle once and for all what the world’s oldest profession. It’s landscaping!
Obviously, sin tainted work. Yet, it still has kept its same value. We have this passion for work; we want to produce; we want to do something. It’s God-given. So, God’s a God of work. He gave us a gift before sin entered the human equation. And God wants us to experience the joy of work. But too many of us are splashing around in the shallows with our floaties on. We think we can find a job that can make us feel happy and peppy and bursting with love.
Happiness, though, is based on happenings, it’s based on chance, and it’s based on luck. If things are happening in your career, then you’re happy. But I’m not happily employed. I have moments of happiness. I am joyfully employed.
We need to transition, when we think about our career or our profession, from the shallow end to the deep end. We need to curl our toes over the end of the board and we need to go deep. God wants all of us to experience the joy of work. It’s not a paradox. It’s the real deal; God wants work to be a thing of joy.
Think about work for a second. What does work do in your life and mine? I spend roughly 40 hours a week, about 2,000 hours a year, 90,000 hours over a lifetime (if we drink carrot juice and eat bean curd) in the workplace. That’s just what we do. God being God could have given us something boring and routine, but he gave us work—something that should excite us, something that should bring us joy.
And work fulfills us. Think about it. God gave us something to fill our time with, and this thing that fills our time fulfills us. That’s a benefit of work that should bring us joy. It’s very fulfilling to work and toil.
Confidence is something else that God gives us through work. You can’t buy confidence. Put your credit card down, you can’t buy it. Confidence comes from diligent human labor. It’s something that occurs in your life and mine. You say, “I can do something, I am producing.” And it all comes forth through human labor.
Do you remember David of the Old Testament? David the statesman, David the warrior, David the military genius? They still study his strategies today at West Point. David, the guy who could sing, he could do it all.
Well, where did he have this confidence? Where did it come from? Just read about him. His first job was tending his father’s sheep in the middle of nowhere. This Hebrew hillbilly, this Jewish redneck was out there tending his father’s sheep. The Bible says a lion came after him and tried to take out the sheep, and he killed the lion. A bear came after him, and he killed the bear. Then, he faced the big behemoth Goliath, and he took Goliath down. And from that battle on he became the toast of the town overnight. He gained confidence from his work ethic.
I’ll tell you something else about work; it gives us the opportunity to provide for others. It provides us the opportunity to bring home the bacon. God did that when he created the heavens and the earth, and he provides all that for his children. He provides food and clothing and shelter. Where does that come from? God. And I can work and provide for others.
I had my first job when I was 15. I worked in a formal wear store in South Carolina. It was called “Sharp’s Formal Wear,” and the guy who owned this place, Jimmy Sharp, was a great guy. He was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. Here’s what he would do. You’d walk in the doors of the store and he would go, “Hey, hello! How are you? Welcome. You need a tuxedo? You’re so handsome, come over here.”
I started working there and he’d say “Listen, Ed, you go to the warehouse and you start moving tuxedos for about eight hours a day. I want you to move those tuxedos from that rack to the other rack. Forty-two longs over here and 38 shorts over there.”
And I did that hour after hour after hour at Sharp’s Formal Wear. I’ll never forget when I got my first paycheck. I thought, “This is awesome!” I just felt like confidence and fulfilled, like I was providing income. “I’ve got some spending money!”
So I put that check in my wallet and jumped in my first car—a lime green 1968 Delta 88 with snow tires on the back. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had the eight-track with the Bee Gee’s. And I’m thinking about this girl, this good looking girl at church. So I thought that I would get this girl a ring. So I went to Dim’s House of Diamonds and I saw this ring and put it on lay-away. And it took me about a year and a half to buy it, but I finally did. I took a portion of my paycheck from Sharp’s and I bought this ring. I gave it to this girl named Lisa.
Well, she’s now my wife.
It felt good to provide, to have some income, some spending money. I could buy my girlfriend a ring. It’s a gift from God. So when we provide, when we make money, we should go, “God, thank you. You provide for us, we provide for others.”
I’ll tell you something else about work. Work and diligent labor produces character. People say character counts, integrity, who you are when no one is looking, discipline and vision and creativity. Well, where does that play out? It plays out in diligent human labor. Forty hours a week, 2,000 hours a year, 90,000 hours a lifetime if you drink carrot juice and eat bean curd. Character.
I think back to my father—we had a fire that burned down our house and the lot. We had these giant flower beds all over our lot. We had one flower bed that was about the size of the stage. Every Saturday as Dad was going to work, because Dad’s a preacher and Saturday’s his day, he would say, “Ed, go out and pull up every weed in that bed and then mow the lawn.”
Well, we had this demonic weed in our flower beds called nut grass. This stuff is evil, it’s from the devil. You can’t get rid of it. I can still hear him say, “Ed, get up all the nut grass and mow the lawn.”
I remember my high school coach, Lee Cody, he had a one-of-a-kind voice. He would just ride me all of the time, “Ed move those 9th grade feet! You’re too slow! You’ll never make varsity. It’s time to hit the jump rope.” He was just yelling at me and using other words I can’t use here from the stage.
I remember my seminary professor who taught me Greek, Dr. Gideon. He said, “Ed, God has not called us to an easy task, but to a demanding responsibility.”
As I look in the rearview mirror of my life, I remember those voices and those moments and they built character. Human labor, work builds character.
Some of you are saying, “Ed, that’s cool, that’s funny, and that’s nice that God is the God of work and confidence and character, and I should work and have the desire to work. But you don’t understand where I work. I don’t like my work; I don’t dig it. My goal is to make a big hit, to have a home in the mountains, along the seashore.”
But, hold it. God blows that mentality off of the mountains and out of the water. We are made to work. You will not find “retirement” in the Bible. God is a working God and he’s made us to work. Here are some things that we can do to turn us from just splashing around in the shallows to the deep end. Here’s some stuff that can turn happiness into joy. Three things.
DEVELOP A PASSION-BASED PROFESSION
Number 1—Develop a passion-based profession. That’s huge. We all have unique gifts and abilities and aptitudes. You do and I do. Here’s the question that I want to pose to you, “Does your profession match your passion?”
Don’t think you have any gifts? Yes you do! Don’t give God that weak “I don’t have any gifts” stuff. Yes you do.
“Well, what am I good at?”
Ask somebody. People will affirm it in your life. Make sure that your passion and profession sync up.
I want to read a verse to you that might seem strange under this passion-based profession, but let me just unpack it for a second.
Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
“Wait a minute, Ed. You moved from work to parenting and kids?”
Yeah. How many parents do we have? Raise your hand. Parenting is challenging, isn’t it? I love it, but it is challenging. We have four kids and they are all different. That in and of itself will just mess you up. One of the biggest responsibilities we have as parents is to see the giftedness of our kids and give them opportunities. We see what puts wind in their sails, what really gives them confidence, what they do well. We applaud them and coach them and say, “Go for it!”
Think about someone right now who is experiencing the joy of human labor. You can just tell it. They have the joy of human labor—the river guide, the wellness technician, the basketball coach, the car detailer. I guarantee that if you go back in their past and polled them, I bet you, as kids they manifested those passions and those gifts that they are showcasing today as an adult.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should…” what? “Go.”
The picture behind this Hebrew language is beautiful. It’s a picture of a hunter that will go out and search for a bow. He would find the limb with the natural bend and take that limb and make a bow out of it, and shoot arrows with great trajectory. He wouldn’t see a bow that was bent one way and try to bend it the other way. That would be stupid.
So many parents tell their kids, “You are going to play football. You are going to be a doctor. You are going to be a cheerleader, because mommy didn’t make cheerleading.”
And we want to do this, don’t we? It’s a natural thing to want to turn our kids into what we maybe didn’t do or wanted to do. Yet, we have to expose them to different avenues of life and see what they are good at and applaud them. We have a huge responsibility to lead them into the right profession.
So I’ve got to ask you right now: when you think about your profession, do your gifts and everything sync up? They should, because God wants them to. Life is too short to hate work. We shouldn’t hate it; it’s a God thing. So develop it.
CULTIVATE REALITY-BASED RELATIONSHIPS
Number 2—Cultivate reality based relationships. I talk to people and they say, “My passion matches my profession. It does. But I hate my job.”
“Well, I work for this guy that makes me sick to my stomach. This lady who sits next to me, she is just evil.” And then they get into this whole relationship thing.
I say, “Your passion matches your profession and you’re gifted to do this, and you still hate your job?”
They say, “Yes, if it weren’t for the people. If I didn’t have any people around, I would love it. But these people just mess me up.”
Well, next week I’m talking about the joy of relationships, and I’ll get into that in a deeper sense.
Some people, when they go to work they sing “High ho, high ho, it’s off to work we go!” They love to go to work.
But too many people are singing, “Oh no, oh no, it’s off to work I go; with all the jerks and all their quirks, oh no…”
It shouldn’t be that way. Maybe your career is all jacked up because you’ve got the wrong relationships.
I read the other day that over in Europe there are these weather vanes and they have these giant ropes that are made by billions and billions of spider webs that they’ve cultivated. And if you get enough spider webs, the rope is strong enough to choke a human being.
You show me someone who has relational difficulty; you show me someone is pseudo community; you show me someone who does not settle relational problems quickly, and I’ll show you somebody who’s got a bunch of spider webs all over them. And the spider webs can collect and form ropes and choke the life out of your career and mine and choke the joy out of us. You know the word “worry” means to choke. Isn’t that interesting?
Let me put it this way. You will never find a place that has better sunsets than Texas. The sunsets here are amazing! I love the sunsets. I think in our careers we should live by the “Sunset Principle.” Say it with me, “Sunset Principle.” That’s important. And it’s found in Ephesians 4:26. It says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
We’re going to have problems and difficulty with the people we work with. It’s just part of being human. I’m a sinner, I work with sinners. I’m self-centered, so are they. I struggle, so do they. We’re going to have problems. We have relational challenges at Fellowship Church.
People think, “Oh, it must be awesome to work at the church. You probably never have any problems or difficulties.”
I say, “Sin is our business. And so often we see the worst in people. There is pressure and tension everywhere. We keep short accounts. We are not going to live in pseudo communities where we say everything is cool, yet we are thinking ‘I hope she messes up.’”
Settle the deal. Do the biblical thing before the sun sets. Let’s get this relationship right, let’s have the hard conversation, let’s go through the tunnel of chaos; because when we go through the tunnel of chaos, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It will take the relationship to the next level.
Speaking of that, look at Titus 3:10. Ouch! This is a tough verse. Here’s what it says, talking about church unity. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
That’s in the church. If you have someone who is negative, back-biting, someone who is a gossip, who’s spreading all this junk, say, “Ain’t no lie, bye bye bye!”
That’s what you say. Don’t make me start dancing. That’s one of the great things about Fellowship Church, the unity here.
Now, let’s move that vibe from the church to the work site. Am I that divisive person? Are you? Scripture says that if you are a believer, you settle it, you make it right, you forgive, you release. Because when you work and where you work matters to God.
You are a minister. If you are a believer, you are a minister. We are all saints. And your ministry is out there in the laboratory called work. We can bump up against people and change their forever. We can have these incredible conversations. Make your relational world a top prayer priority in your whole career, because God will just do some phenomenal things.
RECOGNIZE WORSHIP-BASED WORK
Number 3—Recognize worship-based work. We find this in Colossians 3. As a believer, I don’t come to church to worship. Yeah, I come to corporately worship. But as a believer, I should come here worshipping. Real worship is not here, it’s out there in the world. I spend more time in the office than I will with my family. People try to compartmentalize their lives. But God wants everything to be an act of worship.
So, whatever you do—if you paddle down the river guiding people; whatever you do—if you are administering a test at a wellness center; whatever you do—if you are cleaning a car and detailing it; whatever you do—if you are coaching basketball; whatever you do, the Bible says, you are working for God.
Those aren’t my words. Look at Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
Wow, that’s awesome! Let me just add this on. You know what a wonderful thing about work is? It’s a sense of accomplishment. Let’s say you mow the lawn; it’s a big lawn and you have a push mower. Let’s say you have to pull the nut grass out of the flower bed. There’s a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. You say, “I worked. I was diligent. It’s done.”
I’m talking to the mom who puts the preschooler down for the night; it’s done. I’m talking to the teacher that grades that last exam; you have this sense of accomplishment. I’m talking to the athlete who walks off the field, and you’ve given your all to the best of your ability; you have that sense of accomplishment. I’m talking to the preacher. In a couple of minutes we’ll say, “Let’s stand for closing prayer.” That’s another weekend done. It’s a sense of accomplishment. We all have those moments.
God has those moments, too. Look at creation. What did God say? He looked back over his creation and he said, “It’s very good, it’s great.”
Think about Jesus. He knew we could not work our way into heaven. What kind of place would heaven be if we could work our way into it? We can’t work our way in. I deserve to be separate from Jesus for the rest of my life for my eternity. So do you. What did Jesus do? Jesus performed the ultimate labor of love, didn’t he? He died on the cross for your sins and mine. And right before he breathed his last breath, what did he say? “It is finished.” The work is done. Jesus performed the ultimate labor of love.
So, for many here, you’ll never experience the joy of work until you apply the finished work of Jesus in your life. It’s all about work.
Because God, when it comes to the marketplace and when it comes to our lives, wants us to have outrageous and contagious joy. Do you have it?