First Things First

Friday: Serving and Working for God’s Glory

Romans 12:3 To learn not to esteem ourselves more highly than we should, we must cultivate a proper relationship to God, a proper evaluation of ourselves, and right relationships with others.
Serving and Working for God’s Glory

In discussing right relationships and ministry within the body, Paul speaks specifically of spiritual gifts, that is, those that are to be exercised for spiritual ends within the fellowship and outreach of the church: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership and showing mercy. But I think it is fair to say, and important to add, that we are also to have a sober assessment of our secular abilities and skills and that we are to use these to God’s glory also. This is particularly true if we think about our secular employment. 

I think of a story told by Harry Ironside, that great Bible teacher of an earlier generation. Ironside’s father died when he was quite young. So during his school days, on vacations and on Saturdays, Ironside used to work for a Scottish shoemaker, known as a cobbler. The man was a Christian, and he was from the Orkney Islands. His name was Dan Mackay. He did his work well, and as he had opportunity he would speak to his customers about the importance of being born again. 

Ironside’s responsibility was to pound leather for the soles of the shoes. The cut cowhide was soaked in water then placed on a piece of iron and pounded until it was hard and dry. This toughened the leather and made the soles last longer. But it took a long time. 

One day Ironside was walking by another cobbler’s shop, and he saw that the owner was not pounding the leather soles at all. He simply took the soles out of the water and nailed them to the upper portion of the shoes with the water splashing out as he drove the nails in. Ironside went inside and asked him why he was doing his work that way. “Are they just as good as if they were pounded?” he asked. 

The cobbler gave him a naughty wink and answered, “They come back all the quicker this way, my boy!” 

Ironside thought he had learned something important. So he went back to the Christian cobbler, his boss, and suggested that maybe he was wasting his time pounding the leather to toughen it and get it dry. Mr. Mackay stopped his work and opened his Bible to Colossians 3:23-24, where he read, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” 

He said, “Harry, I don’t cobble shoes just for the money I get from my customers. I am doing this for the glory of God. I expect to see every shoe I have ever repaired in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ, and I do not want the Lord to say to me in that day, ‘Dan, this was a poor job. You did not do your best here.’ I want him to be able to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”1 

Let me give a more recent example. Several years ago Charles Colson, the head of Prison Fellowship, and Jack Eckerd, founder of the well-known Eckerd drug store chain, teamed up on a book entitled Why America Doesn’t Work, which examined America’s loss of a sound work ethic. Their conclusion was that the problem is spiritual and that it requires spiritual solutions. Their suggestions concerned a sober evaluation of ourselves as God’s work and of why God has given us the work we have to do in life. “Why, then, should we work?” they asked. Here are their answers: 

“Because work gives expression to our creative gifts and thus fulfills our need for meaning and purpose.”

“Because work is intrinsically good when done with the proper attitude and motive.”

“Because we are commanded to exercise stewardship over the earth, participating in the work of creation in a way that glorifies God.”

“Because we are citizens of this earth and have certain responsibilities to our fellow citizens.”

They say rightly that “it is this moral character of work that historically has been the very heart of the work ethic.”2

So you see how practical this all is. A proper humility in which we learn to think soberly about ourselves does not lead to self-abnegation or inactivity, which honors no one. Instead it leads to the energetic use of every gift and talent God has given, knowing that they have come from Him— that no glory is ever due to us— but because they do come from Him, they must be used faithfully and wholeheartedly for His glory. 

1H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1945), 37-39. 

2Chuck Colson and Jack Eckerd, Why America Doesn’t Work (Dallas, TX: Word, 1991), 178.

Study Questions
  1. How can secular skills be used to glorify God?
  2. Why did the cobbler in the story do his work well?
  3. From the book by Charles Colson and Jack Eckerd, list the four reasons why we should work. How can you apply this to the work you do?

Application: Make a list of the ways you can serve the body of Christ, whether through secular skills or spiritual gifting. Are there skills or gifts you possess that you aren’t using to serve God’s people? How can you use these skills or gifts to minister to the body of Christ and glorify God?

Key Point: A proper humility in which we learn to think soberly about ourselves does not lead to self-abnegation or inactivity, which honors no one. Instead it leads to the energetic use of every gift and talent God has given, knowing that they have come from Him.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Humility: Evidence of Consecration.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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