Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Our Identity in Christ: Life at Work

My Life Group lesson for May 21, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

What was your first paying job?

Facebook recently compiled a list of the top starter jobs—the jobs people have when they’re just starting out in the workforce. They gathered this data based on Facebook users’ responses to a question asking about their first jobs. Here’s Facebook’s list of top 20 first jobs:

Babysitter
Cashier
Lab assistant
Newspaper delivery
Teacher
Camp counselor
Retail
Dishwasher
Receptionist
Manager
Waiter/server
Hostess
Intern
McDonald's
Student
Barista
Store clerk
Pizza delivery
Lifeguard
Research assistant

What do you like best about the work you do?

It’s easy for our identity to get wrapped up in what we do—especially if we love our work.

But what happens to our identity at the end of the workday, when we come to retirement, or if we lose our job?

If we define our identity by our work, these transitions can become debilitating.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** In the book of Colossians, Paul writes that slaves should work not for their masters, but for Jesus. Workers today aren’t slaves; we have bosses instead of masters. But we still work to please Jesus.

*** Your work is a reflection of your relationship with Christ. Do you consistently put in an honest day’s work? Are you willing to work hard even when others do not notice or do not appear to appreciate what you do? Can you learn to be content with the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ whom you ultimately serve?

*** The good news is that we’re far more than what we do for a living. For Christians, our identity is defined not by who we are, but by whose we are. Our identity is wrapped up in Christ. And that identity makes all the difference in our work.

Colossians 3:22-25

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

*** Why are bosses so bossy?

--- Office Space is a fantasy for any worker who just wanted to say “forget this” at their job.

--- Do you work for a difficult person? Well, let’s see what the Bible says about that slave driver:

--- “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (1 Peter 2:18).

--- Yep, even if they’re awful, you are to serve him.

--- Since our identity isn’t found in what we do, but in whom we serve, God’s focus isn’t on what we do—it’s on how we do it.

--- The apostle Paul addressed this by writing to those working to serve another person.

--- Paul wasn’t opposed to freeing slaves, nor to slaves working to become free; he simply remained focused on the mission he’d been given.

--- He wrote elsewhere: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you— although if you can gain your freedom, do so,” (1 Cor. 7:21).

--- Paul wanted slaves to work not for their masters, but for Jesus.

--- He understood that a slave’s identity was founded not in his position as a slave, but in his position with Christ.

--- Slaves were free in Christ; thus, they were free to serve Jesus with all their hearts. They could demonstrate that service to Jesus by serving their masters with integrity and faithfulness.

--- Workers today aren’t slaves; we have bosses instead of masters. But we still work to please Jesus.

--- Therefore, we’re called to work wholeheartedly and with obedience, integrity, and dependability.

*** Why is work so much work?

--- Have you had a job that you once were excited about but the daily grind wore you down?

--- At Camelot Music my junior and senior years. At first I was enthusiastic and happy to have a job. But over time the customers wore on me, and I began to really hate people.

--- Our attitude doesn’t have to match our circumstances.

--- Paul told us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

--- No matter what I do— and no matter what you do—we’re to do it enthusiastically, since we’re really doing it for Christ.

--- A heart centered on Christ makes all the difference.

--- Paul mentioned several things that can fuel our enthusiasm for work, including the following:

--- Christ’s reward. “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” This surely appealed to slaves who had no reward or compensation in this life.

--- Christ’s lordship. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The sovereign Lord who loves us deeply is the One we truly serve.

--- Christ’s justice. “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” God will reward obedience and will justly deal with disobedience. Who I am in Christ—my identity in Him—is seen by all when I do my work enthusiastically for Him.

*** Question – How can we maintain a Christ-like attitude, even in work we don’t enjoy?

Colossians 4:1

1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

*** I wish my boss was Star-Lord.

--- You might hope your work is like the Guardians of the Galaxy where it feels like a family and the guy in charge is your pal. But more likely your boss is more like one of the bad guys who will throw you out the airlock for the fun of it.

--- I’m not a boss, but as a newscast director I am the guy with the headset in charge of my crew making sure the news looks clean, so I can see how this applies to me, too.

--- Being the boss, supervisor, or employer generally means more responsibility as well as more pay.

(I wouldn’t want to be a manager. I don’t want the extra hours and meetings, and don’t want the responsibility. It would inevitably eat into family and church time.)

*** Question – For those of you in charge, how do you approach being a Christian who is their leader?

--- In New Testament days slaves had virtually no rights and master could pretty much do what they wanted to do with them.

--- However, Paul commanded Christian masters to do as Jesus would do.

--- They should not use their positions of authority to lord it over those who report to them.

--- Even masters had “a Master in heaven”—the Lord Jesus Christ—and He would hold them accountable for how they treated their slaves.

--- When Jesus spoke about judging others and our treatment of them, He said, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

--- Culture may favor the boss with the power, more pay, and greater influence, but when we stand before God, He won’t play favorites.

--- Let’s never lose sight of the value and importance of the people who work with us and for us.

--- Let’s see them as Jesus sees them—and let’s treat them accordingly each day.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Does your work these days feel like an adventure, a circus, or a marathon?

There are surely areas of your work life you could more completely surrender to Christ.

Think of how your work can bring glory and honor to the Lord and be a testimony to those with whom you work.

As you fulfill your God-given calling to do your work wholeheartedly, others will take notice. Some will follow your example; more importantly, others may be drawn to Jesus.

*** Be positive. Employees often speak disparagingly about their employers and companies. Choose to stand out in your workplace by being consistently positive in your speech.

(I have found this VERY difficult the past couple of years.)

*** Encourage. Take a step to encourage someone you work with this week. Be open and direct about your desire to offer support as an act of obedience to Christ.

*** Pray. Think of a person who is confrontational or difficult to work with. Pray for that person each day. Seek opportunities to be a witness for the love and grace of Christ as you work.

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