Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/04/06/work-hard/
Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because of my actions today?
These are good and important questions, and I was asking myself them only today. My answers were not so good if I am being honest. I didn’t share my faith outside of the blog. I did not pray nearly enough. I saw no impact on God’s Kingdom through any of my actions. Unsurprisingly this left me a little discouraged.
Thank the Lord that He is so kind to us though, and the very bearer of the gift of encouragement!
He reminded me that I had done a full day’s work, earning my pay which I would later receive. He then reminded me of this verse from Ephesians.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.
Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)
I am blessed to be able to say that I enjoy my work. That has not always been the case, but my present employment is fulfilling and although not Christian ministry, it does serve the wider society.
At the end of the day, even if I fail in a number of ways, I can know that the day’s work will result in a payslip, and that I can use that money to give to those in need. For the most part, that may be giving to the church or ministry in order to enable others to share the Good News. If I am not in the position to share it widely myself, I can at least support others who can.
Perhaps you are in secular employment, and like me wonder how your life contributes to God’s Kingdom. Let me suggest you do not work merely for yourself and to pay your bills, but also so that you might have something to give. I have met people whose ministry it was to be successful in business and to offer their entire profit margin to the Lord. That is no small thing.
Jesus taught of the Shrewd Servant in Luke 16, who misused his master’s money on himself and came under threat of losing his job. Instead of using that money to help himself, he then began to use it to win friends of the master’s debtors. Both ways were misusing the master’s money, but Jesus praised him in the second way because at least he used the funds for a future purpose.
Jesus pointed out the lesson in verse 9:
Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
Luke 16:9 (NLT)
The lesson is clear. Use your earthly resources to benefit others and win friends. Notice that final phrase though, “to welcome you to an eternal home.” This suggests not only that we use our money to meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too. We can use our earthly money – which we cannot take with us – to fund the preaching of the Gospel, and that one day when we reach our eternal home, there will be people there to welcome us.
If you work a physical job, a secular role or something that seems disconnected to the Gospel, use the money you earn to spread God’s message throughout the world. It is not a waste of money, and rather an eternal investment. One day, someone will swing past your heavenly mansion and thank you for what you gave.
Work hard, as if working for the Lord Himself, because you are!
In my younger days, I was never much of a fan of country music. In more recent times though, I must admit to enjoying it much more. Not all of it is particularly edifying of course, so I’d advise you be selective (as with all things) if you tune in to country radio.
I heard a song the other day called “Buy Dirt” by Jordan Davis and featuring Luke Bryan. I will put a link below in case you are not familiar with it.
The song is about a younger man sitting down and sharing a coffee with an older gentleman, perhaps a grandfather. Over the course of their beverage, the older man shares some wisdom with the younger, and I thought I’d examine the wisdom given in light of Scripture with you today.
Chasing the dollar
When the older man asks the younger what he’s been up to, the younger replies that he’s been “chasing the dollar.” This is what prompts the wisdom sharing.
We cannot deny that all of us need money, and earning it takes up no small amount of our lives. Chasing after it though is a dangerous thing.
The Bible says:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:10 (WEB)
This does not say that money is evil, but that loving it is a root of all kinds of evil. Having too much or too little money can lead us into temptation. Loving money can even lead us away from our faith, so let each of us have a proper relationship with it.
Some devote their lives to earning and having more. To do this, they can sacrifice their health, their families, their friends and even their relationship with God. The thing is, when you are on your death bed, you are unlikely to ask for your accountant. Instead, you will be wanting the comfort of family and faith.
Do What You Love, But Call It Work
The older man advises the younger to do what you love, and call it work. This is a great nugget of wisdom in my view. It has been said that if you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. This is so true!
There have been times in my life where I really did not enjoy my job, and those days were hard indeed! In more recent times, I have loved doing my job, and when that is the case, it does not feel like work at all.
We must remember it is a privilege to enjoy one’s job, as there are many who work to pay their bills and support their family, and “enjoyment” does not even come in to it.
As with all things, it is a balance. If you are doing a job you hate, then prayerfully consider a change. If you have little choice because of financial demands or to support those you love, then clearly I am not telling you to quit, do a job you love and face bankruptcy. Do what you need to do of course, but also do not feel trapped where you are. And look for opportunities to move towards a job that you love.
Throw a Little Money
At one point in the song, the advice is given to throw a little money in the church offering. While I do not want to overthink such a line, as it is clearly not a theological song, it does give you pause to think.
It is good advice to give, no question about that. The Bible is full of instruction for us to give to God’s work. Throwing a little money in the collection plate though is not the way we ought to be giving. That smacks of someone who is unprepared and just grabbing whatever they have in their pocket at the time. Our giving should be more purposeful than that.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (WEB)
This instruction suggests planning on our part, and deliberate giving. Notice it is on the first day of the week, so that God is given to first and does not end up with whatever we have left over at the end.
Giving is also connected to the points above about working. We work, not for our own pleasure, but rather so that we might have something to share with the church.
In Ephesians, Paul states:
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)
We work to support ourselves and our families yes, but we work primarily that we might have something to give to the family of believers.
Send Your Prayers Up and Your Roots Down
This gem of wisdom needs little explaining. Indeed, we ought to be sending up our prayers regularly. In fact, not just regularly, but at all times.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word[a] of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:
Ephesians 6:17-18 (WEB)
Likewise, putting down roots, in the context of the song at least, is about building your family in the community. As I write, I cannot think of a specific verse to quote here, but believe it is biblical for us to be a positive force in the place where we live. You could point to the Great Commission for instance on that one. I also feel that Christians should have a good level of commitment to the place where they live.
It All Goes By Real Quick
It sure does! Need I emphasise this point to you? Life is short, and goes by very quickly indeed! We must make the most of it, and never forget it is the preparation for all eternity.
In the psalms, we read:
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure
Psalm 39:5 (NIV)
It may seem negative to point out the shortness of life, but I do not mean it to be. Even a life of 100+ years is short in comparison to all eternity. God is Eternal, unending and beyond time itself. Our handful of decades here is a mere blip next to the infinite life to come. Ensure you make the most of it while you are here, and be ready for the next!
Buy Dirt and Thank the Good Lord For It
The song is titled “Buy Dirt,” and says although you cannot buy happiness, you can buy a home and build a good life for yourself and your family. This is true, and while a nice house does not make a home, we can all do the best with what we have and make our lives worth living.
Throughout it all, when times are both good and bad, we thank the good Lord for it all. He has given us life, and our very breath is dependent upon Him.
Join me in thanking Him today for all the good things in our lives, and for what we have learned from the bad.
Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
In this latest “best of “post, we return to the subject of giving. Not my own teaching this time, but one from my church when they visited our local school.
Don’t let the fact that this video is intended for children put you off. There have been times in my life when the family talk, aimed at younger people, has spoken to me more than the full length, adult sermon!
At this time of year, we tend to look back over the last 12 months to review how things have gone. This is an excellent time to look at you’re giving for the year. Have you given where the Lord has directed you? What is he asking you to give next year?
Our church regularly visits our local church school to give assemblies and teach classes. it is a wonderful ministry, and great to be able to share the good news with young people.
This week, the team were not able to visit in person so instead recorded a video. I wanted to share this with you.
And as well as giving the children something to think about, it also talks of the shoebox appeal. we support Operation: Christmas Child which provides gifts two children living in poverty across the world at Christmas time. If you have not heard of it before, then do check it out.
I have been thinking a lot about giving lately. i’ve said it before, and will no doubt say it again… A Christian who does not give, is like a Christian who does not pray. God has blessed me a great deal, and expects me to use that for the purpose of His kingdom.
How about you?
You may not feel like you have very much, but what has God put in your hand to use?You may not feel like you have very much, but what has God put in your hand to use?
We conclude Acts 4 today, thinking about verses 31-37.
When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. 32 The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all. 34 For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. 36 Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, 37 having a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts :31-37 (WEB)
In yesterday’s post – Praying Under Persecution – we thought about the kind of prayer Peter prayed in response to the persecution they faced from the authorities. Peter did not ask for the trouble to be removed from them, but instead asked for boldness to speak the Gospel in the face of that resistance. Perhaps I should have included verse 31 in that post?
Verse 31 clearly tells us that God faithfully answered the prayer. The Father’s power is released and the place where they were was shaken. I must admit that such a thing has never happened to me! Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time we uttered the “Amen!” that we would see a physical sign like this – a kind of “read receipt” acknowledging our prayer had been heard.
Yet, on the other hand, we need no such sign to be assured that God has heard our prayers. We live by faith, and not by sight, and we trust that God has heard and naswwered our prayers irrespective of whether we feel or see anything in that moment. We know when the answer comes, even if it is not the answer we had in mind.
Without the shaking of the place, we would still know that the Father has responded. All who were gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then began to speak with boldness. The very thing they had askked for was given immediately.
One Heart and Soul
The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Acts 4:32 (WEB)
Sometimes, when we hear of church division and in-fighting, we can only dream of the unity described in these verses. It tells us they were of one heart and soul, the very epitome of teamwork and unison. They worked together for the Gospel, sharing and supporting one another.
It says that not one of them claimed ownership of the things they possessed, and instead shared everything. This is very hard for us to imagine. For us, who have so very much, it is hard to comprehend the idea of owning nothing and sharing everything.
This kind of selfless lifestyle goes far beyond mere giving. It describes a people who have truly crucified the flesh, letting go of their own desires and living for the benefit of the whole. The modern church in the West has moved so far from these values it is virtually impossible to see a way back.
We might be excused for thinking that perhaps these disciples had very little to share, so maybe it was easier for them to do so. If you have little, then sharing and benefitting from the whole makes sense. yet the passage corrects this view too. It says those who had lands sold them, and placed the money at the apostle’s feet.
Those who had more, shared with those who had less. There was no longer “me” and “mine”, just “ours.” Such a way of life requires all to obey the rules. Everyone must do the same, pooling their resources such that “no one lacked anything.” Imagine lacking nothing… we work hard for what we get, and we keep it all, yet few of us can claim we lack nothing. This family of believers gave up everything for each other, and yet had all they needed. That is God’s economy in action!
And look at the result highlighted in verse 33 – “With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all.” We want the power and the grace, we want the success in ministry and to see God at work in our lives, yet are we willing to live like these beleivers did?
Son of Encouragement
Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, 37 having a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 4:36-37 (WEB)
The passage and the chapter ends with these words about Joses, also known as Barnabas. Bar means Son, and so they call him a Son of Encouragement. I imagine he must have been one who constantly built up those around him with affirming words. Encouragement is a spiritual gift, and yet is something we can all practice in our lives. A rightly placed word of encouragement can make a person’s day and costs us nothing.
Barnabas had a field and he sold it, giving the proceeds to the apostles for the work of the faith. He held nothing back. He may have had plans for that field, perhaps wanting to farm or some other activity. Instead, he gave it up for the good of the family of believers. He chose to have less so that others might have more. What a humbling lesson for us!
Note these actions of Barnabas, because they will be important as we understand the events of chapter 5. Will any successful group, there will always be those who want to get in on the action for their own gain. We see such an example next time.
I have been quite humbled as I’ve read this passage and written these words. My life seemingly falls far short of the life that these believers lived. How can I explain the extra TV I bought, or the bigger house I purchased, when I knew of believers in need around me? I am not telling you to sell all you have and give it away, let me be clear, but all of us ought to look at the Early Church’s example and assess our own faithfulness.
Does this passage challenge us to live differently? I’ll leave that one between you and God.
Giving can be a tough subject to discuss, and particularly at the moment with all the other issues going on in the world. However, a Christian who does not give is like a Christian who does not pray. Christians should be generous givers.
There are many individuals and groups struggling because of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. Churches are not immune to this, and I am conscious that many churches will see a large drop in gifts and offering to them. Churches depend on this giving, and so I want to encourage you today to not stop your giving just because you can’t physically be there.
Of course, if you have lost income because of the virus and its restrictions, then you must change your giving accordingly. No one expects you to be able to continue giving based on an income you no longer receive!
Let’s see what the Bible says, and do a short study of this passage from 1 Corinthians.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come. 3 When I arrive, I will send whoever you approve with letters to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem
1 Corinthians 16:1-3 (WEB)
Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, gives some basic instructions about their giving to the work of the saints. He gave the same instructions to the churches of Galatia, and so I think we can apply it to our own church as well.
On “the first day of the week,” which was a Sunday, the people of the church should set aside the amount of money they wish to give. I believe that Paul chose the first day of the week for a reason. He wanted them to put God, and the offering to the work of the church, at the top of their priorities.
For many of us, giving is something of an afterthought. We arrive at church, rush in during the worship, and then scrabble around our pockets or purses to find a few coins to toss into the offering basket. This is not the way to give in a way that honours God.
Rather, Paul is encouraging them to prepare for giving, to pray about it, and to save the money in advance. In a similar way, we should be setting aside the money we want to give to our church and do that at the top of our budget. We should give first, then save, and finally spend.
Now we are not meeting together, we should not simply forget to give at all. We should be setting aside that money as before. If you can give by online means, then you can continue to give like that. If that is not an option for you, you can still save that money ready for when you can meet again.
Another version of the Bible translates verse two like this:
On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
1 Corinthians 16:2 (NLT)
This is perhaps much clearer than the WEB version above. What Paul is saying is that we should give according to our means. Those who have more, should give more, and those who have less should give less. When Paul wrote these words, there were no set salaries like we have, and people’s income fluctuated depending on their trade. We tend to be paid the same amount each week or month in a salaried role, so it’s a little easier to manage our giving.
Those who are self-employed or who do not have a steady income can give depending on how much they have earned that period. Those impacted by COVID-19 may have had their salaries cut drastically, or may have even lost their jobs. Paul is telling us to give in accordance with what we have earned.
There is a lot more we could say about giving, but let me repeat my main point today. Don’t give up your giving. Just because you cannot be together as a church does not mean they no longer need your gifts. Pastors and ministers still need their wages, bills still need to be paid, and churches depend on its members.
Be a generous giver, especially in these difficult times. Churches want to be there to help those in need, but without your support, they cannot keep going let alone help others.
You can give without loving, but cannot love without giving.
The other day in London, I saw a homeless person asking for spare change in the train station. Many commuters walked by without even looking up, but a few dropped some small change into the person’s hand.
Of those who passed by, and even of those who gave, very few made eye contact and not one stopped to talk to them. Sometimes we can feel that we’ve done our part by putting some coins into a charity box or collection plate, and while i’m in no way suggesting giving isn’t a good thing, it isn’t always loving.
We can give small change like this, or even large sums, without actually loving people. But we cannot love someone – really love them – without giving them something important.
It may not be money of course, and might in fact be something as simple as our attention or time. We cannot love, without giving something of ourselves.
Like anything, giving can be done without love. When we love people as Jesus loved, we always give them something of value or of benefit to them.
Love someone today – give them your attention, encouragement, support, prayers or anything else they may need. You can make a positive impact on their day with something that costs you nothing.