Theme: Why We Should Keep Working
In these lessons, we learn to look to God for life’s purpose.
Scripture: Psalm 127:1-5
We concluded yesterday’s study with the official motto of Edinburgh, Scotland, which says, “Without the Lord, Frustration.” There are people who understand this, of course, even without knowing God, and despair is the result. People who commit suicide have confessed the futility of a godless life in the most extreme way imaginable. But others who are less extreme simply drop out of the race. They react to the futility of human work without God by ceasing to work at all.
Timothy Leary expressed this philosophy for the drug culture of the 1960s by the slogan: “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” Is that the solution? It is not the Bible’s solution, nor the teaching of this psalm.
1. God works. The first reason that dropping out is not the right solution is that God works himself. So there must be some kind of work that is meaningful. This is the point at which the Bible begins. God worked on each of the six days of creation to bring light out of darkness; separate dry land from water; cause the land to produce an amazing variety of trees, shrubs and plants; create animals, birds and fish; and eventually make man and give him meaningful work to do. Adam and Eve were to manage the garden, name the animals, and “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28).
In Psalm 127 we are reminded that if we are willing, “the LORD builds the house” and “the LORD watches over the city” (v. 1). That means that God is working, too. In other words, the work of God did not stop on the seventh day of creation when God “rested from all his work” (Gen. 2:2). Not at all! God continues to work and works constantly. And part of what he does is work in, with and through those who are working for him and in his name.
2. God makes our work meaningful. If the architects, carpenters, roofers, bricklayers and electricians labor without any thought of God and apart from him, the buildings they erect will be meaningless. But if they work with God and for his glory, the structures they build will not be in vain. God’s blessing will be on them, and, like God himself, they will be able to look on the works of their hands and say, “That is good.” If the watchmen stand guard without any consideration of God, their protective oversight will be useless and the city will be overthrown. But if they watch with God in mind and for him, then God will protect their city himself, and they will reflect on their security and say, “That is good.” It is the same in whatever we are doing. Without the Lord, frustration. With the Lord, satisfaction. The important thing is to look to God for his blessing.
3. God rewards our work for him. Paul told the Colossians, “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” (Col. 3:23, 24). We often receive rewards here, too, of course, though not always or in every case. But if we serve God, we can be certain of rewards in heaven. And that is not something to be treated lightly! It is not something to be thrown onto the bonfire of our earthly vanities! Do you want your work to last? Do you want it to be meaningful? Then do it for God, and look to him for the blessing.
The great American statesman Benjamin Franklin was not a Christian, but a deist, though he appreciated Christians. He thought well of George Whitefield, the Calvinistic evangelist, for example. But Franklin understood the point I am making and expressed it well in his “Speech to the Convention for Forming a Constitution for the United States,” delivered in Philadelphia in 1787. He said,
In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence. To that kind Providence we owe this opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived for a long time (81 years), and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.1
1Cited in Rowland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1904), pp. 231, 232.
How do we know that God’s work extends beyond the original creation?
Why is it significant that God himself works?
For what three reasons is dropping out not a solution?
Do you know any who have “dropped out” or perhaps even any who have despaired to the point of considering suicide? How can you reach them?
We are conditioned to think that only religious work is meaningful. How does this study change your thinking?
Application: Read Colossians 3:23, 24. While at your place of work, ask God to enable you to work for him.
Deist: a person who believes in the existence of God on the evidence of nature and reason only, with rejection of the miraculous.