September 11, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In my last devotion, we began to focus on the imperative in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.” We were reminded that “the work of the Lord” isn’t just what we might call “church work” or “missionary work.” God’s work begins in creation. God creates human beings to join him in the work of filling and stewarding the world. Thus, “the work of the Lord” can include what we do every day, as we offer our “ordinary” work to God. This truth encourages us in our work and motivates us to work with energy and excellence.
The original language behind “give yourselves fully to” is actually a participle that means, literally, “abounding.” As people inspired by the hope of God’s future, we are to be “abounding” in God’s work. We “abound” in God’s work when we “give ourselves fully to it.” But “abounding,” especially given its usage elsewhere in Paul’s letters, also implies that God’s work is happening in us. We are able to give ourselves fully to God’s work only because God is working in us. God’s Spirit motivates and empowers us for all of this work. In a sense, 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because the Lord is already fully at work in you” (see, for other examples, Phil 2:12-13; Eph 3:21-22).
We rightly think of our work as a way of embodying our faith. As we are formed in Christ, we express who we have become in him through our work. But I would also suggest that work can be a crucible in which God forms us, not just a place to enact our formation. Through our work, we learn to trust God in new ways. As we work, we are challenged to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. In our workplaces, we learn how to pray without ceasing.
Thus, giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord includes allowing God to work in us as we go about our daily work. We give ourselves fully to God’s work when we work hard at whatever God has given us to do. And, we give ourselves fully to God’s work when we allow the Lord to use the challenges, opportunities, and frustrations of our daily work to help us become more like him.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times when you have given yourself fully to your work? What helped you to do this?
How is God forming you in Christ through your daily work? How is God stretching you? Challenging you? Empowering you? Blessing you? Molding you?
How might you see and experience your work differently if you believed it was one of God’s essential tools for your spiritual formation?
Gracious God, again we thank you for the privilege of work. To be sure, our work isn’t always glorious, and sometimes we feel quite painfully how sin has corrupted it. Yet, still, you created us to join you in your work in the world, and this gives us meaning and purpose.
It also gives us a context in which to grow, Lord. Your Spirit is at work in us, not only in our daily devotions, our families, our worship, and our mission work, but also in our daily work. You are using what we do and experience each day to help us become even more the people you have designed us to be.
May we abound in your work today, Lord. May we abound as we invest our energy in the work you have given us to do. And may we abound as your Spirit works within us. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Grand Plan: A Theological Vision (Ephesians 1:1–3:21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.