Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 4, 2015 :: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
This is our fifth message in our series on “Working for the Lord.”
The first week, we learned what Dan just taught us again, that is “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Our work is to be worship!
The second week, we asked the question, “Is Work – Good or Bad?” And the answer was that it is complicated. Work was made to be good but was cursed when we fell into sin, but Jesus is reworking work to be good again, and someday, He will reverse the curse and make work perfect forever.
The third week, we asked the question, “Why Work?” and the answer was NOT to be saved or to bring glory to ourselves so that we could boast but we work BECAUSE we are saved, and to bring glory to God and to serve our neighbors in love. The Lord has prepared in advance good works for us to do.
Last week, we started to get even more practical. Pastor Kirk Albrecht from First Free McKeesport taught us about working at witnessing and witnessing at work. Using the delightful story of the young Israeli slave girl who kept her message simple and simply said what she knew in the course of her work day, Kirk reminded us that God can use ordinary workers like you and me to reach others for Christ on the job if we are bold enough to speak His name.
Now, in today’s message, I want to raise the issue of hard work, of diligence at work, the concept of industriousness.
Our memory verse says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart...”
Give it your all. Throw yourself into your work. Be diligent, busy, industrious, hard-working.
Or to put it this way, here’s our title: “Get to Work!”
Now, some of you may not need this message today.
Some of you are already hard workers. In fact, you may even be working too hard. Some of you are workaholics who don’t know how to take a break.
And others of you have tender consciences and will feel like this message is for you, but it’s really not. You just are easily shamed.
“I know, I know, I need to work harder.”
What’s difficult about a preaching a message like this one is that often the wrong person hears it and takes it heart and the one who really needs it blows it off.
Next week, I plan to preach on work and rest. And some of you will need that message more than this one.
But most of us need this message from time to time and haven’t heard very many sermons on it–though it’s a big theme in the Bible: “Get to work!”
Work hard. Get off your duff. Roll up your sleeves. And get to work.
In this letter to the church at Thessalonika, the apostle Paul has taught them many things. He’s taught about the return of Christ, and the end times, and the importance of evangelism. And he’s encouraged the believers that God has not abandoned them and will strengthen and protect them from the evil one.
And then Paul ends his letter with an exhortation for all of the believers to get to work and stay at work at their jobs.
It was apparently an ongoing problem at Thessalonika because Paul had said something similar in 1 Thessalonians. The believers needed to encourage each other to not be idle and to keep at their work.
The basic idea here is very obvious: Get to work!
Believers in Jesus Christ are not to be idle but to be busy.
And not just busy in gospel ministry but busy in everyday work. V.12
“Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn [work for] the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.”
Get to work and keep at it.
Notice that Paul stresses that this is a Christian command. V.6
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers...”
And v.12, “we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ...”
Being industrious and diligent is a Christian duty. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Again, not to be saved but because we are saved, the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to get to work.
Do you hear the Lord telling you that today?
Are you hard worker?
Let me ask you this question. How would you answer it? Truthfully?
Did you work hard this week?
Or did you hardly work this week?
Did you recognize it as your Christian duty to be industrious and diligent about your work?
Apparently, there were professing believers at Thessalonika who did NOT see it that way. V.6 again.
“[W]e command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”
V.10 says that Paul has heard that there were some who call themselves Christians who were “idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” Great play on words.
These guys were using their time to get into other people’s business not mind their own business and not be busy in business.
And Paul says that it needs to stop.
#1. REPENT OF LAZINESS AND GET TO WORK.
V.12 again. “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”
Repent of laziness and get to work.
Now, this is a major theme in what book of the Bible?
The Proverbs, right?
There is this major cartoonish character who appears in the proverbs again and again, and he gets funnier and funnier every time.
What’s his name?
We might call him, “Lazybones.”
Or in our modern language, “Slacker.”
Have you ever worked with a slacker? I know I have.
Have you ever been a slacker? I know I have.
Turn with me to Proverbs 6, and we’ll see a little bit about what the Proverbs teach us on this kind of guy. Proverbs 6:6. We’ll come to back to 2 Thessalonians, so you might want to put a finger there. But turn to Proverbs 6:6 and see what it says:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”
That’s an interesting start, isn’t it? How would you like to be told that you need to follow the example of a little squishy bug? You’re not cutting it. You need to go to Ant-School!
Well, obviously, this slacker needs it. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
It’s got nobody to tell it what to do, yet it still does it!
Do you have to be told what to do or you don’t do it?
Do you have to be told “Get to work!” or you don’t get to work?
That’s the mark of a slacker.
Ben Schiefer wisely said last year in our youth boys’ class that the point of the Proverbs is to “not be that guy.”
You don’t want to be that guy.
Repent of being a slacker.
Don’t wait around for someone to tell you to do it. Just do it!
Notice also that the ant stores its provisions when? When they are needed?
No, in the summer it stores and in the harvest it gathers.
The idea there is what we call “delayed gratification.”
You work now, and it pays off later.
Now, that’s not easy to do, but it’s good to do. Our culture loves instant gratification, but that’s actually laziness.
Be like the ant. Choose delayed gratification. V.9
“How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? [Get to work! Here’s the attitude]... A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–[bam!] and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” You won’t see it coming.
Do you see how the slacker doesn’t feel like working?
I don’t know about you, but I often don’t feel like working.
This guy just feels like napping. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest...” what could it hurt?
It definitely does hurt. Don’t be that guy.
Proverbs 20, verse 4 says, “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”
Let’s look at another one about the sluggard. Turn with me to Proverbs 19, verse 24.
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!”
Now, that’s lazy! Alistair Begg calls the sluggard “Crazy Lazy.”
He starts something good, but doesn’t finish it.
He puts his hand into the bowl of nachos but falls asleep and forgets to feed himself.
Now, that’s ridiculous. It’s meant to be ridiculous.
But don’t we all know someone who has started something good but never got around to finishing it?
I have piles of things like that in my office back there.
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!” He just can’t be bothered. He’s too lazy. He doesn’t care.
Let’s look at another. Proverbs 22:13.
“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’”
What are those? Those are ridiculous excuses.
Is there a lion outside? No. He’s just saying whatever he can come up with to get out of work.
“If you make me go outside, I’ll die! I’ll get murdered in the streets!”
Do you know someone who is full of ridiculous excuses for not working?
Have you been full of ridiculous excuses for not working?
One last one. Turn over to chapter 26. Proverbs 26.
Verse 13 repeats the silly excuses that we’ve seen already.
Verse 14 is new. “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”
That’s hilarious. “The lazy man can’t get himself out of bed, or off the couch. He does as much work as a door on a hinge – limited range and limited usefulness. He looks like one, too, as [he] turns over repeatedly to keep on resting and sleeping.
It’s not that lazy people sleep all day necessarily, but that they are given to self-indulgence, easy, and frivolity. They don’t take up challenges; they live life aimlessly and like it that way.” (Daniel Holmquist, “Lampooning the Ludicrous Life of the Lazy.”)
Do you get the picture?
Verse 15 is like 19:24. Look at verse 16. It’s very interesting.
“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.”
Do you catch that?
Is the sluggard wise? Is the lazy man a wise man?
The guy with his hand in the dish, his hinge in the bed, his lion in the street? Is he wise?
He thinks he is.
Do you know someone who says that he’s working smart, but he’s really not working at all?
And he’s got an answer for everything? An objection for everything? An excuse for everything?
A slacker thinks they’re smarter than everyone else. Than seven discreet men.
Repent of being a slacker!
Why do you think the proverbs spend so much time on this?
That’s not all of the verses about the sluggard in the Proverbs.
Why is that so prominent a theme?
I’m sure there’s lots of reasons, but here’s one. We are all prone to fall into the slacker trap.
Sinners like to drift.
How about you? Probably most of us here aren’t as extreme as the sluggard. Though there may be some parents or teachers who could tell a few stories if they had a chance!
But do you have some laziness to repent of?
Easy pay off?
And a prideful answer for everything?
Repent of laziness and get to work.
Don’t be that guy.
#2. GET TO WORK AND SET AN EXAMPLE.
Turn back with me to 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 and see this point in what Paul says about himself and his co-workers. V.7
“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. 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, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (vv.7-8).
Paul worked very hard when he was with them.
He’s not asking them to do anything that he was not willing to do himself.
In fact, that was the very reason why he worked so hard. V.9
“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.”
Paul, as a gospel-worker could have asked for support. Just like you support me in full-time vocational gospel ministry, Paul could have gotten that from the Thessalonians. At other times, he does just that.
But when he was with them, Paul worked night and day to provide them with a model and example to follow of hard work.
Now, there’s a lesson there for pastors like me. We should be willing to work hard as an example for the flock.
But there is also a lesson for all of us. We need to work hard because others are watching us.
Parents, you need to work hard because your kids are watching.
They will pick up on your work ethic.
Christians, you need to work hard because the world is watching.
If the world gets the idea that Christ has a bunch of slackers on His hands, then we are not making the gospel attractive to the world, and we’re telling a lie about our Savior.
I remember one time that I was asked by some co-workers to stop working so hard.
Have you ever had that problem? I’ve been told many times to “get to work,” as well, but when I was a college student, I worked for a temp agency that placed me in a clean-up operation of a department store that went out of business.
And it was our job to clean this place out from top to bottom during one of my spring breaks. That was hard work. But my co-workers felt that I worked too hard.
Now, one way that I worked too hard was not working smart. I would carry these great big shelving units by hand one by one from one end of the shop to the other.
And the other guys working with me, just laughed at me and showed me how we had these carts that would do it for us.
But they also took me aside once and asked if I would slow it down some because I was making them look bad.
I couldn’t do that. I could try to find ways to make them look good and be their friends but I needed to set an example and stay diligent because it was the Lord Christ that I was serving.
What about you? Are you setting an example at work?
How about you students who are in second, third, or fourth grade?
Are you working hard at your school work? Other people are watching and they will take their cues from you.
What about you who are retired? Do you work hard? There are still people watching you. It doesn’t matter if you are being compensated. It matters if you are contributing with your hard work. Same with you are who are disabled.
If you don’t need to be compensated that only means that you have more ability and freedom to focus your work on where you feel the Lord wants you to contribute.
What about you who are unemployed right now?
You don’t have a job right now.
Your main job is to seek a job. I tell guys who aren’t working that they should spend an eight hour workday in seeking a new job.
It won’t be long until you have one if you are working at it for a full day every day.
Paul says in verse 10 that the rule for the Christians he laid down is “If a man WILL NOT work, he shall not eat.”
The question is whether or not he’s willing to work. If he’s a total slacker, then the church should not enable him.
But someone who is willing to work and doing what they can, that’s another story all together.
And when we work hard, the people around us are watching and will learn.
We need to set an example.
What kind of work did Paul do?
What kind of work did Paul do when he wasn’t preaching. Anybody remember?
The Bible says he was a tentmaker. He worked hard with his own hands.
Let’s recognize those of you who work with your hands.
Would you stand if you are a craftsman or a laborer or something like that where your work is with your hands. Maybe a mechanic? Or a builder? Someone who installs things. Or is retired from that kind of work?
Would you stand so that we can celebrate you?
One of my goals for this sermon series is celebrate the hard work of every different kind of worker that we have here.
Thank you for working with your hands just like the apostle Paul.
And just like Jesus.
Did you know that Bible calls Jesus, “The Carpenter.” Not just the “Carpenter’s son,” but the “Carpenter” himself.
Jesus worked with wood for many more years than He preached and acted as the Messiah.
Isn’t that profound and thought-provoking?
How God blessed work by the God-Man being a worker? And working with his hands. Working with the creation. With wood.
Bending over a piece of wood. Sweat on his brow. Jesus.
#3. WARN OTHERS TO GET TO WORK.
Did you catch how serious this is to Paul?
Verse 6 says tells the believers to “keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching” that Paul had passed on to them.
That’s serious. V.14 repeats it.
“If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”
We laugh about the sluggard, but this is serious stuff.
Christians should not let other Christians just get away with being lazy.
That’s one of the reasons for today’s sermon.
Followers of Jesus warn each other of the dangers of sloth and laziness.
At least, we’re supposed to.
We are much more likely to complain about each other’s laziness than we are to confront each other and encourage each other to change.
But the Bible says that we should care about our brothers and sisters in Christ enough to alert them to the perils of idleness.
Is there someone you need to talk to this week?
#4. GET TO WORK AND EXPECT A REWARD.
It’s not so much here in 2 Thessalonians as it is back in the Proverbs about laziness and hard work.
But even here, it’s the ones who are NOT idle who get to eat.
If you work hard, there is normally a payoff.
It doesn’t normally come right away, but it comes.
If you work hard at your schoolwork, you get the better grades.
If you do the overtime, you get the time and half.
If you take the time to do the job right, you don’t have to do it over again.
Listen to these Proverbs. Don’t turn there, just listen.
Proverbs 10, verse 4. “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
Proverbs 13, verse 4, “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”
The slacker wants lots of things but isn’t willing to work for them. But the diligent tend to get what they work towards.
Proverbs 15:19, “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”
The way the slacker chooses looks easier but is actually harder. But the way of the diligent righteous upright worker seems harder on the face of it, but actually gets you there.
Get to work and expect a reward.
God has worked that principle into the fabric of His world.
Worship at the Lord’s Table
In fact, it’s part of what happened to Jesus on the Cross.
We often call what Jesus did on the Cross, the Work of Jesus.
Or His CrossWork.
What is the reward for His work on the cross?
It was a different kind of work. It wasn’t a job He undertook for wages or compensation.
He took, in fact, our wages, the wages of sin is death.
He took our death in our place on the Cross.
And when He did that, He purchased our salvation.
And then He was resurrected and got His reward. Philippians 2.
“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
That’s part of His reward for His work.
And He shares it with us! We who don’t deserve it one little bit.
Jesus earned our salvation and our eternal joy with Him forever on the Cross.
It is at this table that we remember His work and His reward.
Messages in this Series
01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
04. Working at Witnessing