MOTIVATED TO WORK

1 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Text 11,12

(c) Copyright 2003 Rev. Bill Versteeg


People of God

Over this past summer, we have focused on the scriptural theme of rest. Theologically, the theme of rest is more important than the theme of work. Our salvation is a rescue that leads us to eternal rest in Christ, not eternal work in Christ. We live in a culture that is "turning us into human whirlwinds" (according to Dr. Bertha Cato of the University of Florida, http://www.leaderu.com/theology/leisure-rest.html). In a new concept called "time-deepening," in our culture we are trying to do more in less time, often by multitasking. We "are constantly attempting to do two things at once: Drive and have breakfast or lunch, apply make up or shave and drive, exercise and read." We live in a busified culture. We need messages on rest!

After hearing, if I count accurately, 5 messages on the theme of rest in the past few months, I suspect that some of you are wondering about the theme of work - is there a theology of work in scripture, is there a place for work and service in our salvation? The answer of course is a definite yes, but again, I suspect we often have a distorted theology of work and service. To give us the beginning of a handle of this topic, please read with me from .

2 Thesalonians 1:1-12

1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What ought to be the Christian's motivation to work? I suspect you have asked yourself that question before - and you have probably responded with the answer - Thankfulness. A lot of Christians feel that the motive for why we serve and work for the kingdom of God is because we are thankful. And thanks to the way we have taught the Heidelberg Catechism over the years, and maybe thanks to sermons that have tried to motivate Christians to serve by guilt, implying that if they do not serve, they are not thankful, that we don't have the attitude of gratitude, we make the connection that thankfulness ought to be the motivator for service and Christian work. But I challenge you to find a scripture passage that clearly makes that connection. I challenge you (and please take me up on this challenge) to find a scripture passage that clearly indicates that we work for the kingdom of God to pay a debt of gratitude to God (The heart of this insight comes from John Piper in his book Faith in Future Grace). If you find a scripture passage that clearly tells us that we are to serve God motivated by gratitude for what he has done for us, I promise you I will preach that passage. Until then, let me give you some alternative ways of looking at motivation for work based on the scriptures including this passage.

Fundamental to a theology of work is that we, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are becoming Christ-like!  The character of Christ was to serve! Jesus said "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Characteristic of our new nature in Christ is to give ourselves in service to others - its part of our new nature. A mature disciple is like their master - living to serve because it is part of the nature and godliness that they share in Christ.

The question that we want to ask though is this:  What is it in this new nature that motivates us to work for Christ, be a servant to others, give our lives for the kingdom?

This is where our passage, and actually many other passages in scripture come in. Notice especially verse 11

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

Motivation number 1 - Good Intentions

One of the first characteristics of Christ living within us is that we become "good people," we carry the goodness of Christ within us, the Spirit of the living God bears the fruit of goodness within our hearts. God creates in us good intentions!

Now most of us have heard the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." And I hope we have all understood that the unspoken meaning of that phrase is that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions never acted upon." At the same time, with sayings like that, and with a long Christian theological history of highlighting our misery, fallenness and depravity, we have not talked very much about how God by his Spirit turns us into good, really good, people. So often, maybe because of our theological history we attribute our goodness to our own human qualities. When someone says about the church, "they are good people," we reluctantly take some credit for our good character and we don't acknowledge that they are seeing in us the character of Christ and maturity in the Spirit. The early church right after Pentecost is said to have "enjoyed the favour of all people." (Acts 2:47) Jerusalem saw amazing goodness in a whole group of people!  It struck those who saw the church with favour and awe!  This was not just that the early Christians were naturally good people,   this was the Spirit filled work of God in their lives.

Many of us have different reasons for giving our lives to Christ. When in my youth, I realized God was real, one of the first things that I noticed is that what was inside my heart was all wrong and self centered. I could hardly find a good motive in my heart. I could not find an intention within me to love anyone else unless I could make some gain by it. I started crying out to God to change that character, to place his love within my heart. It seemed all to long before I noticed a change.  Then one day I caught myself helping my mother with the dishes and she had not asked me to do it. It was a flicker of goodness that had not been there before. (If you don't see a true flicker of goodness in your heart, I invite you to ask Jesus to come into your life, he is the only one with the power to change who you really are!)

Now understand:  Good people go to heaven! I know somebody someday will take that statement out of context and misquote me, but it is true. Good people go to heaven! The scriptures are very clear.  People motivated by evil, distortion and corruption will never inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9 - 10, Galations 5:21) People who have the goodness of Christ by the work of the Spirit planted in their hearts are the ones who will go to heaven. They demonstrate by their Christ implanted goodness that they are worthy of the calling, they are fitting recipients worthy of heaven. They demonstrate that God's evaluation, God's judgmeent of them is right-on. Good people go to heaven!

God places good intentions in you. Listen to the Spirit within you motivating you to work and serve for the kingdom.

Motivation #2 - Faith

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

How does faith motivate us to serve?

The best way to understand that is by starting with a scriptural definition of faith.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
(Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is first of all "to be certain of what we do not see."

When it comes to motivating us to work, when it comes to good intentions, faith sees, is convinced of the fact, that the good things we do for others in this life have eternal significance. When we serve others out of the goodness that the Spirit has created in us, we are doing something with eternal consequences. Our eyes can't see the eternal consequences. Faith is convinced of them. Satan comes around and often tries to undermine what we know to be true. I suspect what goes through my mind goes through your's too sometimes. We serve, we work hard, we get tired, this usually just before summer and we start asking ourselves; "What is the point?" As Satan tests our faith, we start asking if the work we are doing has any significance at all especially when we don't see any measurable results. Faith remains convinced to the eternal meaning and consequences of our service. For this truth, let me point you again to Christ. As Christ served (for only three years), as he gave his life on the cross because those he served rejected him, by any human measure, he looked like a complete failure, a sacrifice with no consequence. But Hebrews 12 says to us

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Let me make that practical. When we take the time to lead children in leading gems, cadets, youth education, our new Pastoral Care Workers program, counsel members, Alpha, serving coffee to making a meal for another, we know by faith that our service has eternal significance!  Faith motivates by being convinced of the eternal significance of our present actions.

Faith also is sure of what we hope for.

What is it that you hope for? Christians will answer the word heaven!  But its time to realize that heaven is an incredibly rich concept. And this theme ought to appeal to every one here who is upwardly mobile and success driven. The truth is, we tend to have a very static concept of heaven. A place in the presence of God where all is equal, the one who has given his life in faithful service to the Saviour gets the same reward as the one who squeaks in by the skin of his teeth on a death bed conversion. It is appropriate to challenge that assumption. There is no doubt that the Lord determines the reward.  That is the theme of the parable about the workers in the vineyard some of whom worked a long day and others of which only worked a few hours and they got the same pay. The Lord determines the reward.  Yes, but scriptures abound with illustrations that that reward varies. Scriptures list different crowns for those who have been faithful, for those who have given their lives. Those who have been faithful over even the small things will be given the reward of being faithful over much. We are called to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven where moth does not eat, rust does not corrupt and thief does not steal (and this is not referring to dollars and cents). What we do here will be rewarded in heaven. Again, Hebrews 12 is very clear.

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

If we are called to follow Jesus as a model for ourselves, then we need to keep in mind that Jesus, who did not count equality with God something to be held onto, who became the servant of all has now become the Lord over all. In like manner, as we serve, there will be reward for us in heaven. Faith sees this, hopes for it, serves now banking on the future. By faith, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, eternal rewards for faithful service, we demonstrate that we are worthy of the calling, worthy of the eternal kingdom, we will share in the glory that Christ has received.

If the first motive mentioned is Good intentions, the second faith, the third is glory.

Glory has to do with reward on our part but the truth is, nothing compares to living a life of worship that glorifies our Saviour. That's what Paul means when he writes

12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope and our prayer is that in our good intentions, in our faith motivated actions, that others may see Christ, that they may see Christ our first and most important value, that they may see Christ and be drawn to him.

As the Westminster Catechism states
Q. 1. What is the chief end (purpose) of man?
A. Man''s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Follow your good intentions, see by faith their worth and reward and glorify Christ in your life that you may share in his glory.

Prayer:  By the power of your Spirit, Lord, fulfill our good intentions and acts prompted by faith.  In Christ we pray, Amen


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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