Note: This was supposed to go out tomorrow, but tomorrow is Good Friday and I decided to post it a day early. Enjoy.
So, without really planning it, this week has become a little series. It started more observationally than anything. On Monday, I wrote about how I did very little to be where I am—it was God’s doing. I followed that up on Wednesday with a post about why grace is such a difficult concept. I figured to try and conclude this accidental series today with a way to hold these ideas together—to provide some type of balance (even though I hate that phrase and view much of my life as imbalanced).
On the one hand I did little/nothing to be where I am. I am humbled regularly. The greatest gifts in life that I have received are really gifts form God (Jas 1:16-17). On the other hand I did do work of one kind or another. Jobs don’t work themselves. Degrees don’t earn themselves. Children don’t discipline themselves (though that would be nice). So what gives? How can we think about it?
Work hard, in God’s power, with gratitude. . .
Work Hard, in God’s Power
The first idea is one that sticks with my from the book of Colossians . If anyone was familiar with the concept of working hard, it was Paul. At the same time, he didn’t view his power as his own.
28 We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.Colossians 1:28-29 (CSB)
Paul labors—he actually says it, “I labor for this. . . .” Then he turns that idea on his head and follows that statement up with, “striving with his strength. . . .” both ideas in one verse. Our work, but really God’s strength. I always think, “Ok, how do you work in God’s power?” Well, I think the preceding verse helps—you work in God’s power when you are working in whatever ways you can to make Christ known/glorified. You work in God’s power when your chief end—in whatever your endeavor—is to lift up the name of Jesus. To the school teacher to the lawyer to the bus driver to the stay-at-home mom—when Jesus is your focus, then your work takes on unique meaning. In fact, such a focus actually motivates hard work because it is a work that demands God be active for it to be meaningful. This work is a type of work that comes from a posture of faith (Rom 14:23)—it has God as its goal, God as its motivation, and God as its strength.
Gratitude should be something we are always about, but gratitude is a missing virtue for many of us. It is in gratitude that we recognize the work of others and our inability to complete everything ourselves. It is in expressing gratitude that we begin to see all the ways God has been active. It is a characteristic that should only increase in the life of a Christian
6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)
“Overflowing with gratitude.” Why? Because it is part of how we “continue to live in him.” A life with Christ is a life of overflowing gratitude. In our work, in our witness—in every moment large and small—we are grateful. Gratitude is a pride-killer. It doesn’t boast, “I did it!” but rather praises God that something was done at all. It doesn’t say, “I am great!” but says, “You are great.” It doesn’t take credit, it gives credit.
When God’s power works in us to do what we could have never imagined, we are grateful. It does not become about the work itself, but the God who is working. Our focus is not on us, it is on others. And in gratitude we recognize what God is doing in, through, and around us—things we could never do ourselves. We work, yes, but we worship, too. We give God our attention and our affection.
And we are better for it.