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LABOR AND MANAGEMENT (2): LIVING UNDER THE SMILES OF GOD (Ephesians 6:5-8) Nobody wants to be different.

We dont want to stand out. A teenage girl left for school wearing one yellow and one orange sock. Her mother headed her off at the front door and asked why she was wearing two different colored socks. The teenager responded, "I have a right to be different if I want to." And she added, "Besides, all the kids at school are doing it!" Isnt that classic? Even in our rebellion, we want to rebel in the same manner that everyone else is rebelling. Right? Human nature Dont be different! Then we come to Gods message through Paul in Titus 2:14, who [Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Christ wants to purify us as a people of His own possession Hey, we all like the sound of that, right? But as one sign of that, He wants us to be people who are zealous for good works. Zealous for good works. Man tell you right now were going to stand out! This means we cant go along with the crowd. The crowd is not zealous for good works. This means we have to take a stand. This means were going to be different. Can we handle it? And what will it mean? Well, Ephesians 6:5-9 tells us how we are to be zealous of good works in the workplace where we spend the majority of our time. God intends we take Him to work with us just like we take Him to church. And He intends that it make a difference. At work -- zealous for good works. If you think this is easy, you may not have tried it. One guy described a fellow-worker: He likes to relax over a cup of coffee; sometimes for three or four months. Workplaces have a lot of people like that, so anyone doing a conscientious job is frowned upon. He or she is breaking the mold and therefore not appreciated. But we have to ask ourselves, do I fear man, or do I fear God. Who is going to govern my life the opinion of someone I probably wont even know in a couple of years, or the God who is my Savior for eternity? It fascinates me that God has a lot more to say to the slaves than the masters, and He pulls no punches. Eph 6:5-8, Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6) not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7) rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8) knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will
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receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Strong language. Abnormal workplace behavior but commanded by the Father. We will examine it over the next couple of weeks under the outline I. The Mandate II. The Manner and III. The Motivation I. The Mandate We looked at the mandate last week. To obey to hear and to do. It is striking that slaves are not encouraged to revolt against a harsh and unfair system; instead they are urged to cooperate with this injustice in the most willing and enthusiastic manner. What in the world gives? Doesnt God care that these people are being held in slavery? Doesnt His heart go out to the injustice of it all? May I assure you that the great heart of God hates injustice. He hates it more than we ever will! But even more, He hates slavery to sin because He realizes the eternal consequences that attach to that. So, while He never loses sight of the goal to right the wrongs of human injustice, His greater passion is to free people from bondage to sin. That is why He did not instigate here a revolution against the evils of slavery. Instead, He sent His own Son to die for the sins of the whole world so that He could offer a gospel that was more revolutionary that mere human revolution has ever been. Revolution always has bad side effects, leaving bitterness and hatred that lasts for centuries. The gospel of Christ works from the inside out, attacking not merely the institution of human injustice but the sin that lies behind it. Eph 2 -- The gospel breaks down the walls of prejudice and discrimination and disintegration that pit one group against another. It introduces brotherly love. The gospel urges love of God and love others in place of revolution. It frees God to do great and glorious things. And so the mandate to slaves is to obey your masters, including those, as we saw last week, who are unjust. Obey and unleash the power of God. II. The Manner Now, having established the mandate, our passage gets very specific about the manner of implementation. Five great characteristics are to define our obedience. They eliminate any excuses. And when we embrace them as the will of our heavenly Father and implement them as Spirit-filled believers, they will most definitely differentiate us as those who are zealous of good works, in the workplace. Four characteristics of Spirit-filled obedience.
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A. Conscientious Conscientious labor is implied in the first phrase: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling. Not mere obedience -- obedience with fear and trembling. These words mean just what they say. The word fear () is often used to describe someone who is scared. It has a secondary meaning of respect or reverence. The word tremble () means to quiver or shake. Taken together, they urge a very healthy respect for authority. This does not mean that the slave is to be literally shaking in his boots for fear of incurring a penalty. Rather it undermines casual attitudes exhibited by most workers things like Ill do it when I get around to it or Ill do it to the extent that I agree with it or I may do it, but dont think I dont know its not fair or Ill do just enough to get by. Basically Ill do it but I wont like it! These are exactly the types of attitudes that God is attacking. Do you see? Our obedience is to be conscientious, thorough, sparkling, with no holding back or ulterior motive. Now, this instruction actually speaks to two related but different elements. It speaks first of a respect for authority and secondly of a reverence for the Almighty. 1. Respect for authority The command to obey with fear and trembling does not mean to adopt a servile, fawning attitude. Rather, it suggests respect for the masters authority. The master may be an ungodly nightmare, but God, for now, has allowed the slave to come within his orbit. Now, He wants the slave to be Christ to that master. The master will not be forever. He has an expiration date. But the actions of the slave have eternal value if committed to the control of the Spirit who commands respect for this authority. Weve seen before, God has ordained two great pillars of society authority and submission. But submission to an ungodly authority can be tough. Slaves were close to masters often knowing their affairs inside and out a situation that might breed contempt even in good situations. Montaigne, the famous French philosopher and essayist, said that far from home he was considered a great man, in the neighboring town only a man of good business ability, and at home merely as a scribbling country lord. The saying goes, Familiarity breeds contempt. It would have been natural for a slave then, as for an employee today, to resort to a hypocritical, patronizing and sarcastic inner attitude. I know Im better and smarter than you. I feign
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inferiority only because circumstances dictate my subordinate position. But if I ever get the upper hand, look out -- youre in trouble! This is exactly why Paul advised in I Tim 6:1, Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. You mean I have to give honor to that despicable, ammoral, arrogant, lame excuse for a human being who is my boss? Really? I must? Yes, says our Father. But notice why. Because he deserves it? No so that the name of God wont be dragged through the mud. Some disrespectful Christian slaves were tarnishing the gospel with their judgmental attitudes, and God said, Please, dont. This is hard when we truly believe we believe our boss is capricious. Its like the older fellow who was habitually late for his job at Home Depot. The boss finally called him in one day and said, Fred, you know your lateness is becoming a problem. Fred replied, I know, and I apologize. I will work on it and do better, I promise. The boss sought a way to emphasize the point and said, Great. I know that you are retired military. What did they say when you were late in the service? Fred replied, Well, usually they said, Good morning, General. Could I get you a cup of coffee? The retired general apparently was having trouble adjusting to reporting to those who might have previously been considered his inferiors. Its a very easy habit to get into, Beloved. Thats why God reminds Fear and trembling. Interestingly, this is ever more true if your boss happens to be a believer. In Ephesus, slaves could have been teaching masters at church! A slave might have taken advantage of the relationship of Christian brotherhood. I have seen many Christian organizations where employees excuse negligence, procrastination and disrespectful lethargy because the reins are not held as tightly as in secular employment. Ive seen church employees not give because they are working for the church, take extra time off because they were at a meeting the night before, engage in time-wasting, meaningless conversation to avoid real work. This is a travesty. And it is exactly why Paul went on in I Tim 6:2, Those [slaves] who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. If youre employed by a Christian organization or Christian boss, your diligence in Gods eyes actually ought to exceed His standards for normal employment.
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Serve with fear and trembling. I was once hosted by the Chief of Police for the Chinese peninsula of Macau -- a British holding prior to 1999. We had sold a fingerprint identification system there and he was showing us around. Macau is a major gambling center, so our tour took us into a casino. The response when that chief entered the building was astounding. Despite all the activity and noise, somehow every person in that place was aware of this guys presence. A Red Sea of bodies parted as we walked through. Respect for authority that God asks even toward unfair, ungodly, capricious bosses. 2. Reverence for the Almighty Fear and trembling means respect for authority, but I think there is another, even more important meaning that attaches to this phrase. Paul uses this phrase elsewhere, most notably for our purposes in I Cor 2 the text for my first sermon as your pastor. Paul in reminding the Corinthians of his initial visit, says beginning in I Cor 2:1, And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling. So what caused Pauls fear and trembling in Corinth? Was he afraid of the people? No that is not what caused Pauls fear and trembling. God always warns against the fear of man. Prov 29:25,The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. We might be susceptible to the fear of man, but Paul was long past that foible. He was not afraid of the Epicureans and the stoics in Athens, or of kings like Herod, or Roman Governors like Felix and Festus. He feared no man. So what? Why did he come with fear and trembling? The Apostles fear was that he might somehow or other misrepresent his Lord and Master, and the Gospel which he had to preach. He knew the danger of antagonizing people by offense given on his part. Hence his fear and trembling. The Apostle regarded the preaching of the Gospel as a very serious matter, not to be polluted by any attempts at lofty speech or wisdom on his part. He said in I Cor 9:16, Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! He feared messing it up through some fleshly effort of his own. Any preacher worth his salt has the very same fear and trembling at his awesome responsibility. Test pilots know a similar fear. They do not fear the machines they fly or the conditions they fly in. They fear one thing goofing up. They have a phrase for it that I cant repeat here, but it represents the fact that they fear messing
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up worse than death. Gus Grissom was the second American to fly in outer space. It was a simple non-orbital ride in a Mercury capsule, but it was successful successful until the entry hatch blew off as Grissom awaited rescue at sea. The result was that the waves overwhelmed the capsule and it was lost in thousands of feet of ocean depth. It was rescued a few years ago and is in the Smithsonian now. Grissom always claimed it blew by itself, something that was supposedly impossible. Others thought he blew it himself, either by accident or in a panic to get outside in the high seas. Either way, he messed up and his reputation took a serious hit for awhile. That was Pauls attitude fear of somehow misrepresenting His Lord and the gospel. So when Paul says, Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling he is asking us to take the same attitude toward our work that he did toward the gospel. Dont mess up! Get it right! Get above your own petty concerns and fear misrepresenting God by shoddy workmanship! Thats the message. Forget what is fair or not to you and worry about reflecting badly on your Father. This doesnt mean they will accept Him, any more than everyone responded positively to Pauls gospel, but we dont want people to miss him because of our poor or shoddy performance. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says about employees, They are to have the same concern about their pulpit their work, that Paul had for his when he feared lest he misrepresent the gospel. Dont mess up. Die first, but dont mess it up by casual, poor performance. Be conscientious. B. Channeled (wholeheartedly) Secondly, channel your work. Do it wholeheartedly not going off in a dozen difference directions. The idea is found in two places in our passage. The first instance is in verse 5: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart. The second is in verse 6: not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Sincere in verse 5 is the Greek word -- haploteti. It means single as opposed to twofold. Originally it meant simple. That captures the idea. Simple What you see is what you get. No strings attached; no hidden agendas; no duplicitous intent or action. We are doing it with a sincere, honest, straightforward, trustworthy heart. Our effort is entirely channeled into what the boss expects and the job demands. Our mind is on the job, not somewhere else. Weve all seen cartoons of the guy who is playing his heart out on the football field when suddenly some sweet young thing in the stands catches his eye and waves at
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him. As he turns to wave back, eleven guys from the other team steamroll him. Contrast him with the guy whose only focus is the goal line. You see his determination in every move he makes right up until he hurdles the last remaining obstacle and scores. That is Pauls word-picture here. That is to be the nature of our work single-minded. The phrase in verse 6 re-enforces the idea. It actually reads that we are doing the will of God from the soul []. So literally, we are putting heart and soul into our job, giving it single-minded attention. Distractions have to wait. The implications of this command are enormous for modern-day workers. Ive shared previously that the latest stats suggest that employees are using up to 40% of their internet time on the job doing personal business. That, Beloved, is duplicitous, not single-minded. Ive seen people literally stand around for hours talking about everything in the world except business. Once I got into executive management and had a admin, that was not a problem, but in the early days of my business career, I had to cope with people who just wanted to come by and shoot the breeze. It took some strategizing to ward that off. More than once, as desktop computers came into vogue, we had to let people go who were engaging in inappropriate activity or, in some instances, actually running other businesses on the side. Then there are those, who when they do work, do so in a surly manner, making clear that they do not like the work, or it is below them, or it is unfair or too demanding. Any of those things may be true, and can be addressed with the boss in the privacy of his office, but meantime, if we stay the command of our Father is that it be done with sincerity of heart and soul. We should be all out. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. Our old Pastor Ken used to advise us young college guys two things that have always stuck with me. He said, If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well. That includes work. And he said, When you work, work hard, and when you play, play hard. He modeled those maxims for us, and that is what God is teaching us here. Let your work come from the depths of your soul. Work without complaining, bragging, criticizing the work of others or in any way being disruptive. Assume that you will always have a stupid boss because you probably will. They outnumber employees 10-1! Get on with life. Give your best. Too many of us are like the two gents who were out traveling one night. The driver began to suspect that his turn-signals were not working, so he asked his companion, Will you stick your head out the window and see if my
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blinkers are working? The companion, who was one brick short of a load anyway, said, Sure. Ill look. He stuck his head out the window to observe. The driver turned the blinkers on and said, Are they working? His companion replied, They are, they arent, they are, they arent; they are, they arent. Hey, let me ask us would that be an apt description of our work habits? We are; we arent; we are, we arent. That is not Gods way. Gods way is channeled, focused, single-minded, from the heart regardless of the unfairness of it all. I hired a man one time who I thought would be a bulldog at his sales job. At the end of the first year, he had shown potential, but it had become clear that he was at least as focused on how to take advantage of airline promotions and travel clubs and such as he was on his job. He was a little taken aback when I mentioned that in his annual review, but to his credit, he got his mind 100% in the game and lived up to his potential became one of our best. Conclusion Our work is to be conscientious and channeled, whether secular or sacred. God required that of slaves, Beloved. How much more of we who have choices and freedom of movement! The great preacher and Americas foremost theological mind, Jonathan Edwards made it a rule that to neglect secular duties, even for the sake of personal piety, is hypocritical. He used his wife to illustrate the point in this quote. He refers to her quaintly as the person. Listen: Oh how good, said the person once, how good it is to work for God in the daytime, and at night to lie down under his smiles! High experiences and religious affections in this person have not been attended with any disposition at all to neglect the necessary business of a secular calling . . . with great alacrity, as part of the service of God; the person declaring that it being done thus, tis found to be as good as prayer. I wonder do we stand apart from the crowd in the way we do our work in a conscientious and channeled manner? Zealous for good works. Can we lie down at night under the smiles of God knowing that we have attended to both our devotional life as well as our secular duties in keeping with His desires? Lets pray.