Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
November 29, 2015 :: Philippians 1:1-11
This is our second-to-last sermon in our series called “Working for the Lord,” where we’ve been exploring what the Bible says about what we spend most of our time doing each week.
It’s been so good to hear from so many of you that this series has helped you at your work all Fall. And I hope that it continues to bear fruit.
Even though this series will end next Sunday, Lord-willing, I plan to not continue to bring applications to our work-lives just about every Sunday from now on. I’ve been convicted that there needs to be a closer connection in application between what we read on Sunday mornings and what we live out Monday through Saturday.
So, listen each week, even after this series is over, for more direct applications of how the truths we discover in our Bibles on Sunday mornings get lived out at work on Monday mornings.
And I was serious when I said last week that I’d like to visit you at your workplace. I’ve come to understand that my job as your pastor is more than just shepherding in homes and hospitals but also in the marketplace.
I’d love to drop by your job and learn more about what you do and also to pray for you there. And to meet your co-workers.
Co-workers are the subject of today’s message. Last week, I said that many of you in the sermon surveys have asked for wisdom on relating to your teammates on the job.
So that’s what today’s message is all about, and we’re going to study the first eleven verses of Philippians chapter 1 to gain some wisdom on that.
But first, there is another group of workers that I’d like to recognize.
Every week in this series, we’ve been asking different kinds of workers to stand and be celebrated for your unique contribution to the common good and for your calling to work for the Lord and not for men.
Last week, we asked everyone who interacts directly with the public to stand.
Today, I want to do the opposite. I want to ask the folks who often work in the back room to stand.
And here I’m thinking of IT professionals. Information technology folks. Tech folks. Office workers. And management people. Folks that often sit in a back room and have to make out schedules and balance the checkbook and make personnel decisions. You may not be the face or voice of the company, but if you folks in the back rooms don’t do your job, then nothing works, and no one gets paid. You are often the unseen engine that empowers the company.
Would you back-room-type folks please stand and be recognized?
Thank you! Thank you for your contribution.
And thank you for serving the Lord in your work. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Whether anybody else notices it or not, thank you for doing your job for Him and for His glory.
And thank you for putting up with your co-workers!
I know that’s not always easy.
Most of us have co-workers.
There are a few people whose work alone, completely alone, but most of us have some kind of a team that we do our work with.
Now, maybe our co-workers do a very different part of the job than we do. Some are front office and some are back office. Some are labor and some are management.
But most of us have other people that we do our work with. We work on some kind of a team.
And when that team is working well together, it can be terrific.
That was the apostle Paul’s experience with his gospel-sharing team, wasn’t it?
Verses 1 through 8 of our text for today reveal how deeply thankful Paul was for the team he was on.
When Paul sat down for Thanksgiving like we all did on Thursday and counted his blessings, his co-laborers in Christ were near the top of his list. V.1 again.
“Paul and Timothy, servants [together] of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons [the leadership there]:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy [why?] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I had a missionary friend send me these very verses this week to express his thanksgiving that we are in partnership with him in his gospel work.
Whenever Paul thought about his co-workers at Phillippi, he was thankful.
Whenever Paul thought about his partners in his work, he was filled not just with confidence that God would complete His work in them, but gratitude that they got to work together for the Lord.
Does that describe you and your situation?
Now, Paul was talking specifically about gospel work here. This is the work of the church. This is missions.
But the principle carries over into our vocations, as well, doesn’t it? Because all of our work is ministry, right? At least it should be, because it is the same Lord Christ we are serving on all of our jobs.
So, it is possible to feel this way about our co-workers today.
And I know that many of you do. I see your posts on social media about how thankful you are to work with so many great people each day.
I see you celebrate the accomplishments of your teams at work, and my heart rejoices with you that you have something good to exult in and teammates to exult with.
Look at see how much Paul felt it. V.7
“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
That last phrase in the Greek is literally, “with the entrails of Christ Jesus.”
“I love you guys with all of Jesus’ guts!”
And that’s how I feel about you all here. Because we are all co-workers in the gospel just like Paul and the Philippians.
So when that team is working well together, it can be terrific.
But it doesn’t always work that way, does it?
What about the times when it’s difficult to get along with your co-workers?
Last week, I joked that the sixth commandment was about dealing with co-workers, “Thou shall not murder.”
A number of you have asked for help with dealing with difficult co-workers in the survey sheets that we put out.
I got this email the other day, (mostly tongue-in-cheek, I hope), “How do we work for the Lord and maintain our level of compassion and Christianity when all we want to do is strangle our co-workers!? And now, you have a glimpse of my work week, too...”
I assume that many of you can relate to that question.
Sometimes it’s not the work that’s so hard, it’s who we have to work with.
So, what do you with a difficult co-worker?
The answer is, “It depends.”
Right? I mean what kind of a difficult co-worker do you have?
What is the situation? What is your relationship with that co-worker? How often do they do what they do that is problematic? Is it just annoying or is it sinful and wrong?
Is it unethical and immoral? Or is it just a way of doing things differently than how you would do it?
Is it how they dress or act? Is it how they act on the job or how they act when they are not on the job, but you have to deal with them there?
What drives their difficult behaviors? What is the root problem?
And what is your responsibility to them? What are you expected to do or not do?
You see how it depends?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to those questions.
I wish I could say, “Here’s how you deal with a difficult co-worker in six easy steps.”
But life is messier than that.
And the Bible’s wisdom is richer than that, as well.
It depends. So what you need is wisdom.
And the Bible says that there are two main ways to get wisdom.
One is to dig for it in God’s Word.
And two is to pray that God would give it to you.
And those are not mutually exclusive.
Dig for wisdom in God’s Word and pray that God would graciously grant it to you.
So, if you’re having trouble on the job with your co-workers, you should be ransacking your Bible for wisdom.
And let me recommend to you especially the book of Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is chock full of wisdom for relating to difficult co-workers. The Proverbs have a word for folks like that. It calls them “the fool.”
And sometimes we act like the fool, and sometimes interact with others who are being foolish.
I highly recommend that you go through the book of Proverbs and underline every verse that says how to relate to a fool. You will find all kinds of wisdom for on the job. How to answer a fool, how not to answer a fool, how and when to send a fool on an mission or with a message. How to talk to a fool and how not to talk to one. What to share with them and what not to.
And how to not be a fool. Very important that we ourselves not become the difficult co-workers who are so hard to work with! Like the slacker/sluggard, right?
Don’t be that guy.
So, again, if you are struggling to work with a difficult co-worker, then the book of Proverbs is your friend. “Dig-in, dig-in, dig-in like you’re searching for gold!”
But don’t just read your Bible. Talk with the Author, as well.
The second way the Bible says to get the wisdom we need is to ask God for it.
That’s what James says, right, in his first chapter?
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
And that’s also where Paul goes next in verses 9 through 11 of Philippians 1.
Paul explains what he regularly prays for the Philippian church, and somewhat surprisingly, it’s a prayer for wise love. Or what I’ve often called “smart love.”
Because even though Paul was experiencing gratitude and joy for his partnership in ministry with the Philippians, the Philippians themselves were experiencing some level of conflict within their church.
We talked about this a few weeks ago when we read chapter 2 together and talked about our attitude at work. That we need to develop a servant attitude and not complain and a grumble.
It appears that two key lady leaders at Philippi were in a quarrel with one another. Chapter four gives us their names of Euodia and Syntyche. And there were probably others there who were struggling to get along with each other.
It was one of the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to them, to try to help them to work it out.
The Philippians needed God to give them wisdom for loving each other.
Let’s read verses 9 through 11.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”
Point number one of three this morning:
#1. PRAY FOR A GROWING “SMART LOVE.”
In dealing with difficult co-workers, we need to be regularly praying to God that He would grant us a growing and wise kind of love.
You see that in verse 9. Paul says that he prays, “that your love may abound more and more”–so that’s where I get “growing.”
Paul prays that they would not have a small love but a big love and an increasingly larger love.
Do you pray that?
Do you pray that you would love your difficult co-workers?
Not just the ones that we enjoy. They are easy to love.
And not just the co-workers who are basically okay but annoying.
Our Lord Jesus said that we are to love our enemies.
And that’s not just ISIS.
That’s loving the co-worker who stabs you in the back when you aren’t watching.
That’s loving the co-worker who is vying for your job.
That’s loving the co-worker who took credit for your work.
That’s loving the co-worker who said those nasty things about you last week.
Our Lord Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a).
And it makes sense that we would pray for ourselves that we our love for them would grow.
One of our prayer requests should be that our love would be larger today than it was last year.
Do you love others on the job more today than you did a year ago?
The word for “abound” here in verse 9 is “periseuo.” That’s the root word that I once demonstrated by over-filling a cup of water up here on the stage. It means to be full to overflowing.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may [overflow] more and more in knowledge and depth of insight...”
That’s what I call “smart love.”
We don’t tend to put those things together, smart and love, but they absolutely should go together.
The Greek word for love here is “agape,” and that’s the word that the New Testament writers go to the most to describe the kind of sacrificial love that God demonstrated for us in Christ and that we are to grow in for others.
1 Corinthians 13 love.
David Powlison calls it, “contra-conditional love.” Love that goes against all expectations and deserts. He says that it’s better than un-conditional love! This is a love that shows commitment even though the person being loved not only does nothing to deserve it, the person being loved actually does things to deserve the opposite than love.
This is a love that is committed to what is best for the other person regardless of the personal cost. Regardless of the sacrifice.
A love that goes beyond feelings (even in spite of feelings) to commitment.
And Paul prays that this growing love would be...smart.
That their love would “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight...”
A growing, SMART kind of love.
Now, we don’t normally think about love being smart or dumb. We tend to think about it being either hot or cold or somewhere in between.
But Paul prays that the Philippians love would be SMART. They would love in knowledge. They would love (King James says,) “in all judgment.” In depth of insight. A SMART kind of love.
What’s that mean?
Well, think for a second about the opposite. Not just a sentimental kind of love, not just a dumb, bland love, not just a mushy love that doesn’t know what it’s trying to accomplish.
This is a love that has its head about it. This is a love that knows what it’s doing. This is a smart love, a wise love, a love that can really achieve its aim.
Do you see why that’s the kind of love that we need on the job?
Love that knows what it’s doing.
Have you ever struggled to know HOW to love someone?
I sure have. Lots of times.
I often say, “I don’t know where to start with so-and-so.”
I know that my job is to love the, but I don’t know how.
I maybe even feel love for them but I don’t know the best way to express it. What would really help them? What would really hit the spot?
Paul says that we need to be praying for that.
This is a prayer that we would grow in our ability to know how to love intelligently.
To love wisely. To love in knowledge and depth of insight.
So that (v.10) “you may be able to discern what is best.”
How often do we do that about our work?
How often do we do that about our relationships with our co-workers?
I think that most of the time, we pray that our co-workers would smarten up, but this is a prayer that we would smarten up and be better able to love them well.
Why is this smart-love so important? Paul gives 2 main reasons, and they are our last two points.
One is super important for us and the other is ultimately important in the universe.
#2. SO THAT WE WOULD GROW IN CHRISTLIKENESS. V.10
We should pray for a growing-smart love for our co-workers so that WE would grow in Christlikeness. V.10
“[And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,] so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”
Notice the “so that” in v.10. This smart-love makes us able to discern. Or literally to “prove and approve and choose” what is best. Not just what is good, but what is best.
Remember, the “good” is often the enemy of the “best.”
And this is a prayer that we would be able to smart-love in such a way as to recognize the best. What is excellent. What is the most suitable, the most favorable, the most God-pleasing, the wisest, the best thing to chose.
And then, to chose that in such a way that we live (v.10) “pure and blameless until [or “in view of”] the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”
This is growing in Christlikeness.
Paul prays that the Philippians would grow in smart love so that they would more and more look like Jesus.
Jesus, more than anyone, has smart-love. He always knew what to say, what to feel, what to do, how to love in knowledge and depth of insight.
Jesus, more than anyone, was pure and blameless. He was totally holy and perfect in every way.
Jesus, more than anyone, was filled with the fruit of righteousness. His words, His actions, His choices, His behaviors, His fruit was perfectly characterized by righteousness.
So, this smart-love that we’re supposed to pray for produces Christlikeness.
And we’re supposed to pray that we would grow in that until (towards) the day of Christ. The day when Christ’s glory is fully revealed.
We should pray this way (for a growing smart love) so that we would grow in Christlikeness.
And what would that do on our jobs?
It would point people to Jesus, wouldn’t it?
If you and I, as servants, looked more and more like our Master, our co-workers would be more and more drawn to our Master.
What does He look like?
Well, take the fruit of the Spirit for one.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
That’s what we will look like if we are becoming like Christ. And if we follow the wisdom that God has given for us live out.
Often, the co-workers that have been given to us are for our sanctification.
God has providentially provided these particular co-workers so that we would pray for smart love and grow in that love so that we would become holy in new ways, ways that we weren’t before.
Pure and blameless.
Filled with the fruit of righteousness.
In ways that we never would have been if God hadn’t plunked us down with these particular co-workers.
Does that help at all?
It doesn’t mean that they aren’t difficult. They can be really bad.
But it does mean that God wants to use even them to refine you.
That’s what we ought to pray!
Let give you some good news before we look at point #3.
This work of producing Christlikeness in you is God’s work. And if you belong to God, He’s committed to doing it in you!
I love this little phrase that is easy to miss in v.11. It’s this one, “filled with the fruit of righteousness THAT COMES THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.”
The Lord is the one that is doing this work! We are called to pray and to cooperate. But God is doing it. Remember verse 6.
“...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Who began the work? God did.
Who carries it to completion? God does!
When is the work done? Today? “Until (or towards) the day of Christ Jesus.”
That’s the same day that our purity and blamelessness is aimed at.
That’s the same Christ who is producing in us the fruit of righteousness. It comes from Him and it is for Him. And we can rest on Him to produce it in us.
V.11 again. “...the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”
And notice how much! “Filled.”
Normally, we’d say “bearing the fruit of righteousness.”
But Paul doesn’t just see one apple on the fruit tree. Paul sees God producing a bucket-full of fruit from the work of Jesus in our lives! An orchard-full of fruit. “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”
You might be discouraged today that you haven’t grown on the job like you think you should. But I want to encourage you, if you belong to Jesus, He is busy completing His good work that He has begun in you. He wants to fill you with good fruit for His day.
There is a more ultimate reason that we pray this way than to just grow in Christlikeness and spiritual maturity. It’s God’s glory. V.11
“[And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ]–TO THE GLORY AND PRAISE OF GOD.”
#3. SO GOD WOULD GET THE GLORY AND PRAISE.
We should pray for this growing smart love for our co-workers in order that when all is said and done God would get the praise and the glory from our life and our work.
This is the ultimate reason for Jesus’ work in our life. And it should be the ultimate motive in our prayers and our growth in Christlikeness and our relationships with oru co-workers and our work.
That God would get the ultimate in praise and glory forever.
Is that why you go to work?
Is that why you relate to your co-workers?
It’s not just to pay the bills.
It’s not just to get things done.
It’s so that God gets the praise and glory that He deserves forever and ever.
That perspective changes everything doesn’t it?
So that difficult co-worker is not just there to give you trouble.
He or she is not even just there so that you could grow in Christlikeness while you relate to them in love.
They are there, ultimately, so that when you respond with smart-love and grow in your ability to discern what is best, and become like Jesus, God gets the glory for it all.
If that’s your every day goal in your working relationships, then you can’t go wrong.
You may not know how to fix things and things may not get better.
But God will get the glory, and that’s what counts the most for all eternity.
Messages in this Series
01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest
07. Called to Work
08. Prayer at Work
09. Your Attitude at Work
10. Working in the Name of the Lord
11. Love at Work