Monday Morning Faith: A New Source of Power at Work (Sermon Notes)Sermon Notes / Produced by The High Calling
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:22-25)
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:2-4)
The Big Idea: If all work is God’s work, then he is ready to work with us, through us, and for us, bringing his power to bear throughout the course of our daily work.
Introduction: Last Sunday I asked you if the hour we spend here in church has any relevance to the other 100-plus waking hours of our week. Sadly, today many Christians don’t see the connection between Sunday worship and Monday work. If this is the case in your life, as the saying goes, “you’re leaving money on the table.”
According to the Small Business Administration, “Starting and managing a business takes motivation, desire, and talent.” It also takes resources. Most new businesses fail in the first few years because they are underfunded. While this is true financially, did you realize that this is also true spiritually? If we are underfunded spiritually, we will fail in our most important enterprise—to glorify God in our work.
No matter what kind of work we do, all of us will stand before God one day and give account of our lives . . . not just for what we did on Sundays, but with what we did with the skills, resources, relationships, and work he entrusted to us. If we want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” it will be based on our dedication to work for his glory—and doing our work for God’s glory requires prayer. When was the last time you prayed about your work?
[Insert an illustration from your own experience. Here’s mine: I was meeting with a group of high-powered businessmen for a weekly Bible study. As we were updating each other on what was going on in our lives, one man who was wrestling with a big business decision asked the group, “Do you think that it’s all right to pray about my business?” What was surprising is that this man was a leader in his church and sat on several ministry boards. And yet, he never made the connection between God and his business. Having led men’s groups for 30 years, I’ve learned that if I want to see a group of highly successful executives squirm, all I have to do is to mention two words: “Let’s pray.”]
Truth is, prayer is so easy even a child can do it: “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” But somewhere between childhood and adulthood, prayer becomes awkward or difficult for many people. Author Robert McAfee Brown put it well. He said, “Prayer is like a foreign land. When we go there, we go as tourists. Like most tourists, we feel uncomfortable and out of place. Like most tourists, we therefore move on before too long and go somewhere else.”
Have you ever been lost somewhere where you couldn’t speak the language? That’s not unlike how many people feel about prayer. And so even though they’ve read about God’s incredible promises about prayer, they don’t go there partly because it feels uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but also because they’re relying on their own resources and think things are under control. Nowhere is this more true and more tragic than in the workplace.
But for many Christians, there comes a defining moment—a time of crisis when we decide to call on God because we’re up against overwhelming odds. Or maybe we’ve pursued a dream, and we finally realize we cannot reach it on our own, no matter how hard we try. Whether or not we discover the power of prayer will define our future. Many people are navigating turbulent waters right now. They’re in painful and difficult situations. When calamity strikes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the odds. Even hopeless. It’s at this point that either we sink under the waters or we learn to rely on God’s power.
I. Jesus’ perspective of work and prayer
How about you? Do you pray about your work—about decisions, budgets, office conflict, legal issues, strategic plans, or even doing your very best work? If you don’t, you’re in good company. Jesus’ own disciples had the same disconnect between faith and work. Listen to how Luke records their story. [Read Luke 8:22-25] I used to puzzle over Jesus’ question, “Where is your faith?” He seems a little harsh with his disciples, don’t you think? After all, these guys had left everything to follow Him.
So why did Jesus confront them like this? I think it’s because at least four of them were professional fishermen. They were in their power zone! They were in the world they knew and understood—the last place they ever dreamed of needing God. Sure, they knew that Jesus could heal people, feed a multitude, preach a moving sermon, and even change water to wine, but what did Jesus or faith have to do with boats and sailing—their work? Only when they had no other options left did they call on him. “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
That day those professional fishermen learned in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the Lord of their workplace as much as he was Lord of their synagogue. In their boat was a man who had more ability in his little finger than all of their combined abilities, experience, and expertise gained from years of working those waters. They also learned that he was not only able, but willing to bring his power to bear in their workplace.
What can we take away from this passage? For one, Jesus’ power is not reserved for mission projects in third-world countries or designated for religious activities at church. His power applies to boats and big waves and other real-life stuff we deal with on the job on a daily basis. Second, he is always there, ready to move beyond our feeble competence, inadequate resources, limited thinking, and bring his power to bear into the ordinary parts of our lives, as well as our most challenging dilemmas. The fact is, our work is important to God. Not only does he expect us to take our faith to work, he wants us to be absolutely dependent on him to do our work. We have an inestimable amount of spiritual capital at our disposal, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we’ll be. Imagine for a moment:
- What if you could have Warren Buffet on autodial to ask about investments?
- What if you could ask Dale Earnhardt, Jr., about why your car isn’t running right?
- What if you could ask Sandra Day O’Connor about a legal issue?
- What if you could call Bill Gates to come over and help you with a computer problem?
What if these individuals not only made themselves available to you, but also were truly interested in your success at work? And what if they were with you every day at your office or job site to walk with you through every decision and dilemma and pat you on the back when you succeed? You’d be a fool to turn your back. And yet that’s exactly what most Christians do every day when they ignore God’s interest and presence in their work, and fail to depend on him.
Of course, the experts I mentioned don’t care about you or your work. But there is Someone who is infinitely smarter, wiser, and wealthier than all of the world’s experts combined, and he’s a committed companion who is always at your workplace before you arrive.
When God says “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” he wasn’t just talking about the time you spend at church. He means every moment of your life, in every area of your existence—including your work. That’s a mighty reassuring promise, especially considering the work environment we have today.
When you’re dealing with a knotty problem or need to make a hard decision, remember: His promise is as true at work as it is anywhere.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the
darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not
forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
And he wasn’t just talking to missionaries when he promised …
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
II. Accessing God’s Power in Our Work
Last week, we looked at what Paul said in Colossians 3 and 4 about new attitudes in how we go about our work. Immediately following his instructions to employees and employers, he tells us, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” A Monday morning faith goes to work not in my strength, but God’s strength.
In those few words, Paul tells us how we should pray, why we need to pray, and what we should pray for.
A. First, look at how we should pray.
In a word, we should pray persistently. The Greek word translated “devote” means “to attend to constantly.” In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean sneaking off somewhere to talk to God. It means going through the day with a stream of consistent consciousness of God’s presence and interest in our work. It means consciously remembering God is with us and that we can carry on a private conversation in our mind, asking him for wisdom and to be at work within us in any given situation. It means that even when we get distracted, given a moment’s pause, our thoughts return to God like a bird to its nest.
We should also pray dependently. The Greek word translated “devote” implies much more than persistence. It’s actually a combination of two Greek words: pros which means “unto” and kratos which means “strength, dominion, or might.” In other words, Paul is telling us to lean into God’s strength. By praying, we declare our dependence on God to do our work. We also need to pray expectantly. Paul reminds us that we are to pray “being watchful and thankful”—that is, with a sense of expectation and confidence that God cares and is at work.
B. Next consider why we need to pray.
Most of us probably don’t have trouble praying when the storms of life roll in. However, it’s not just in the storms we need Jesus. We need him in the ordinary transactions of the day—especially at times when we feel most competent and confident and think we can handle things on our own.
If ever there was a person who by sheer power of his personality could persuade someone to respond to the gospel, it was Paul. But even Paul, as competent as he was, depended on God in his work. That’s why we find Paul asking for prayer for his work here and numerous other places in his letters. What is true for Paul and his work is true for us and our work as well. In John 15:5, Jesus reminded his disciples of an overwhelmingly important principle. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” [You might misquote this passage at first to emphasize what we often think—that “apart from me you can do . . . some things; . . . many things; . . . a few things.”]
Did you hear that? Apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zilch! Now consider this: According to Genesis 1, God put us on the earth to work to be “fruitful” and “fill the earth.” That is, to be productive and develop his creation to its full potential, to bear much fruit. Think about it for a minute. Is there anything that you use in your work or produce in your work that can’t be traced to God’s good hand who gave us all good things to use and richly enjoy? Where do the raw materials come from? Where did the expertise come from? Even the abilities we use to do our work are from him. Remember Moses’ words, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth . . .” (Deut. 8:17-18). Why do we pray about our work? Because God is the source of life and strength behind everything we do, and we depend on him for everything. To neglect prayer for our work is to live half-asleep to reality. We simply can’t afford to leave him back at church if we want to be both personally and spiritually successful at our work. There is no greater indication of a fragile grip on reality than failing to pray about our work.
C. Now consider what we should pray for.
The context of this passage tells us several things we should pray about.
- Ourselves. We should pray for ourselves, that we do good work, serve other people—employers, employees, customers, clients, and coworkers, keep our priorities in godly order, and live a life that draws others to Christ.
- Open Doors. Paul asked that God would “open doors.” We’ll talk about this next week, but in Paul’s work that meant an opportunity to share the message of salvation. For us, an open door certainly includes that, but it could also include any opportunity to do the good work that God created us to do—such as the opportunity to serve a customer, improve a product, teach a lesson—as well as answer a request to talk about our faith.
- Pre-Christian friends. We also pray that God would draw the people we encounter in the workplace to himself and use us to help them take one step closer to Christ.
Conclusion: It’s easy to fall asleep spiritually on the job, forgetting how much we need God every day. But, we do so to the harm of ourselves, our fellow workers, our business, and the Kingdom of God. A few verses earlier in Colossians, Paul tells us, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17). If whatever means whatever, then I need God’s help in every small thing as well as the big things in my life—even at the place I feel most competent and confident. None of us can do the work God gave us to do in our own strength.
Have you ever had the thought that you shouldn’t bother God with the small things? After all, he’s probably busy in the Middle East and doesn’t have time to deal with the ordinary things in my life. One Sunday after Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had finished preaching, a proper English lady took issue with his insistence that we should pray about the small things in life. Dr. Lloyd-Jones respectfully replied, “Madam, can you think of anything you can ask of God that is not small to him?” Do you recognize your need of God’s power every moment of your day? Wake up to God’s power waiting for you at work tomorrow. Recognize the importance of prayer at work.
[Some other things to consider: If you have a prayer ministry, encourage people to ask for prayer for their workplace. Tell them you want to pray for them, and ask them to let you know how you can pray for their daily work. Challenge them to ask for God’s blessing on their work when their hand hits the doorknob of their workplace. If they have a tendency to fall asleep spiritually during the day, encourage them to think of a way to remind themselves, i.e. to place a sticky note on their computer that reminds them (like “I’m here”).]