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Doing God’s Work

There’s a short film called “Godspeed” that I watched recently and it’s all about this Pastor, Matt, who ended up moving to and pastoring in a tiny community in rural Scotland. And while he is there, to make a long story short, he learns the value of slowing down, learning to really know and be known by the people around him, and he learns to participate with God in the slow work of changing lives through relationships. And I watched this film back in January and I am still processing the implications for my life. It’s had a significant impact on me and I’ve debated showing you the whole film in place of a sermon, but I’ve opted not to do that today – perhaps that’ll be part of a Bible study in the fall or something.

But at the end of the film, there’s a short epilogue. After spending 13 years in Scotland, learning to operate at Godspeed, Matt moved back to America and began pastoring a church in small city in central Washington. And the film closes with how Matt is now, along with his new congregation, trying to figure out how to live the slower, more relational “Godspeed” life in the midst of the fast paced, non-stop culture of America. Life in urban America is very different from life in rural Scotland, so how do these principles translate and apply in this culture?

And that actually sounds a bit like what we’ve been doing here for the past several weeks. About a month ago we began going through this series called “Kingdom Living” and we’ve been trying to figure out how do we live differently in the Kingdom of God while still living in this world. What does it look like for citizens of the Kingdom of God to live right here here in Alberta, Canada in 2018 in the midst of a very worldly culture & society? Because just like how rural Scotland is very different from urban America – the Bible describes life in the Kingdom of God as being very different from life in the kingdom of this world.

So far, we’ve looked at two major contrasts between these two kingdoms. The first contrast was how our western culture today is increasingly individualistic and me-centered. Selfies are our main way of expressing ourselves. The question everyone asks is “What’s best for me? – Not, “What’s best for us?” But in the kingdom of God, we are called to put others first and to sacrifice for the good of one another. 

Which is exactly what Jesus did for us. Jesus didn’t come to earth to live and die for his own benefit – but he willingly came and did that for us – sacrificing for our sake. And so we are to do the same – living for the benefit of the people around us.

The second major contrast we looked at was a contrast of economies. We found that the world economy is based on the notion of scarcity – it’s the ol’ issue of supply and demand. There is never enough supply to meet every possible demand. There’s only so many resources to go around. That’s just how the economy works. 

But it seems that in the kingdom of God, God’s economy is an economy of abundance – not scarcity. God is eager to supply our every need and then some! We looked the example of creation and saw how God created one little apple seed with the potential to produce 10 billion apple trees over the course of just 50 years. That’s incredible abundance! We looked in the old testament and saw how God provided mana for the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness – and for those 40 years, everyone always had enough. We looked in the New Testament and saw how Jesus multiplied just a few fish and a little bit of bread to feed thousands of people – and there piles of leftovers. So as we looked at God’s economy, we learned that in the kingdom of God, we don’t have to cling to what we have as our own, but instead, we can generously bring God’s abundancy to a needy and hurting world.

We talked about how God’s been doing exactly that (bringing his abundancy into a needy world) since the time of Adam & Eve. Even though the introduction of sin into God’s good creation has caused wide-spread damage, God’s good and pleasing and perfect will is to restore and redeem his Creation and He has been at work doing exactly that, right up until this day.

Of course, the central part of that is Jesus coming to earth to live and to die and to rise again to redeem us. He wants to restore our relationship with Him and our relationships with others. He wants to undo the damaging effects of sin in our lives.

So certainly defeating death on the cross was a central part of Jesus’ mission on earth – but that wasn’t the only thing he did. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus bringing restoration to His Father’s good Creation in all kinds of ways. Last week we read from Luke 7:22 – that’s when John the Baptist’s disciples were asking if Jesus really was the Messiah or not. And so Jesus said in verse 22:

22 Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22

Jesus was constantly carrying out His Father’s good and pleasing and perfect will by bringing restoration and redemption to the people around him. He was bringing God’s abundancy to a needy and hurting world.

And we ended last week on the exciting note that we too, get to be part of God’s work of restoring and redeeming his Good Creation. Not only has God restored us, but He’s invited us to join him in his restoring work. We get to be the ones to share God’s abundancy with the needy and hurting world around us.

And I want to dig into that a little more today.

Near the beginning of this series we talked about how living in the Kingdom of God means carrying out the will of our King Jesus. And often we ask the question: What is God’s will for my life? Well, actually I can tell you! First and foremost, God will is that you have a loving relationship with him – but secondly, once you have that, it’s God’s will that you join him in his work of restoring His good creation.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10…

“For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” Ephesians 2:10 NET

Or to put it another way – the New Living Translation says…

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT

God’s plan for us – God’s will for us – is to do these good works – these works that bring restoration and redemption to his world. Of course, these good works certainly don’t save us. They don’t contribute to our salvation. We only have salvation by trusting in Jesus.

But God has done amazing work in us – we are his masterpiece. He’s completely changed us – he’s poured out his abundance into our lives. We mentioned last week how not only has God has given us physical blessings (like food and clothes and shelter and much more), but through Christ, we have incredible spiritual blessings like forgiveness, peace, joy, and life. We also gain incredible relational blessings – blessings of friends – family – community. God has been so generous to us. And now it’s our turn to go and do likewise.

Sometimes I think we can get the idea that doing God’s work means being a missionary or a pastor or at least leading Sunday School or helping with some church activity.

For example, many of you might say that the pastor spent his week doing God’s work as he wrote sermons or led Bible study or visited different folks. And that may be true, but would you ever say that welder spent his week doing God’s work as he fabricated metal and interacted with customers and hung out with his co-workers in the lunch room? Is that doing God’s work? Or how about a stay-at-home parent? Would you say they spend their week doing God’s work as they washed dishes or took the kids to school or dealt with little Johnny’s melt-down in Walmart? Is that doing God’s work?

Well, I think all of those things could be potentially be ‘doing God’s work.’ As we’ve already noted, doing God’s work means working to undo the damage of sin in our world. It means doing our part to restore God’s good creation by bringing God’s abundance into our world – just like what Jesus did.

Now of course, we don’t do the same kind of miracles that Jesus did – we can’t multiply bread and fish and we can’t heal the blind, but we can certainly share the bread and fish that we do have. We can walk alongside the blind and helped them know which way to go.

We can’t do everything, but we can certainly do something.

The Bible is full of examples of people doing God’s work. And often we focus on the stories of the big one-time events that really make an impact, but I think there’s more to God’s will for us than just the big events. Our work of bringing God’s abundance to a needy world happens through the little things just as much as the big things. But sometimes, I think we get stuck thinking that God’s plan and God’s will is about the big things in life. We look at the story of Esther for example.

If you don’t know the story of Esther, Esther was a young Jewish girl who was living in exile actually. The Jews had been conquered by the Babylonians some time early and now Esther was living among the Babylonians under the care of her Uncle Mordecia. As it happened, the King of Babylon was looking for a new queen and so he held a beauty contest and wouldn’t you know it, Esther won the contest and became the new queen.

Well, about that time, a one of the king’s officials named Haman – who hated Esther’s uncle Mordecia – he decided that the best way to get rid of Mordecia was to eliminate all Jews. (Not realizing that Queen Esther was a jew herself.) And so he got the king to sign off on an edict declaring that all Jews were to be slaughtered on such and such a day.

Well of course, when Mordecai heard about this, he sent a message to Esther – asking her to go before the King and plead for the lives of her people. Well, of course, Esther was very scared to do this, since anyone who appears before the king uninvited (even the queen) could be put to death. So understandably, Esther was pretty scared to do that. But then Mordecai replied to Esther – And I’ll read that for you in Esther chapter 4, verser 13:

13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. [And then we get this fairly famous line…] Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Esther  4:13-14

And we kinda come away with this idea that God’s will or God’s plan for Esther’s life was this big one-time event of saving her people from destruction. And I think that was certainly part of God’s plan for Esther – but it was just a part. That wasn’t “THE ONE THING”.  This was the big thing that we remember her for, but I’m pretty sure God had her doing all kinds of things throughout her life (big and little) that made a difference in the kingdom of God.

Let me give you another example of what that might look like. Consider Timothy. Timothy was one of the really significant figures in the early church. He met Paul as a young man during Paul’s second missionary journey and actual become one of Paul’s traveling companions and was mentored by Paul for many years. He actually co-authored with Paul several letters that became books of the New Testament – I believe 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon – Paul co-authored those with Timothy. He was also one of the early church pastors – leading the church in Ephesus.

So Timothy was a significant player in the early church and He had a significant impact on the kingdom of God. But his impact would not have been –  without the impact of his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois.

In 2 Timothy 1, verse 5, we get a glimpse of their impact on Timothy. Paul writes:

5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 2 Timothy 1:5

And I know that’s just a small little snippet – a glimpse into the family life of Timothy. But I think it’s an illustration of how these two ladies – Lois and Eunice – faithfully carried out God’s work simply by being a mom and a grandmother – which significantly shaped the life of Timothy.

We don’t read of any big moments where they did this super-significant thing in the kingdom of God. They just faithfully did the work of God by washing the dishes, cleaning the laundry, dealing with little Timothy when he had a melt-down in the market. But in doing all that, they passed their faith onto Timothy – and that was hugely significant in the kingdom of God.

I could argue that their impact on Timothy (by just being a mom or a grandma) had just as much impact on the world as Queen Esther had.

So don’t get stuck thinking that God’s plan and God’s will for you is only about the big things. Your work of bringing God’s abundance to a needy world happens through the little things just as much as the big things. 

We can work with God undoing the damage of sin in so many ways – big and small. 

  • When you care for someone who’s hurting – that’s doing the work of God.
  • When you feed someone who hungry – that’s doing the work of God.
  • When you say an encouraging word to someone – that’s doing the work of God.
  • When you share your joy or your hope with others – that’s doing the work of God.

Anytime we counter the effects of sin – anytime we work for the good of others – we’re doing the work of God. We’re ushering in the kingdom of God by bringing God’s abundancy into a needy world.

The question I want you to think about today is: “What work does God have for you do to?” What work does God have for us to do – together as a church?”

To go back to that Godspeed video that I talked about earlier… after watching that video I had to know what happened next. After Matt had learned all those lessons in rural Scotland about slowing down and really learning what it means to be in relationship with people – now he was back in the states trying to figure out how do do this in urban America. And so I wanted to know – what does that actually look like here in our culture? And so I managed to find his church’s website and I sent him an email. He sent me his phone number and so I ended up chatting with him one afternoon about how things were going at his new church and how he was trying to apply what he had learned now that he was in this new setting.

And so one of the questions I asked him was “How are you trying to teach all this to your congregation here? You can’t take everyone over to Scotland for 13 years so they can experience what you experienced. How are you helping them catch on to this ‘Godspeed’ life?”

And he said in his city, there is an interesting mural on one of the buildings near the church. On the mural it says “God could have chosen anyone to be here, but he chose you.”

And so Matt said that he’s been using that mural to get people thinking about what God has called them to do. He said he’s instructed his congregation to ask two questions when they see that mural – and these are the questions:

Why me?

Why here?

And I think those are excellent questions. I do believe, like we read in Esther, that God has put us where we are for such a time as this. God had his pick billions people that he could have placed here in Penhold or Red Deer or wherever you are – he could have picked anyone, but He picked you. He put you right here, right now, for a reason. Why? 

Why me? Why here?

What task does God have specifically for you? How is God inviting you to join him in countering the effects of sin in our world? How has he uniquely prepared you to usher his abundancy into this needy, hurting world?

On Friday, I was browsing through facebook and I saw a post from an organization out of Manitoba that I follow called “Give the Word” And it’s an organization that basically works to give free Bibles to anyone or any organization who needs them. And they give away literally tens of thousands of Bible. In fact, if I remember right, I believe they have actually partnered with One Hope Canada to provide Bibles for many of our Bible camps.

But I just want to share what this “Give the Word” fellow posted on Friday night, because I think it’s a perfect example of what we’ve been talking about. This is what he said:

Met Rachel today outside a grocery store. She was in tears standing just outside the store. 

Long story but I walked up to her and asked her if I could pray for her. She was quite taken aback. 

I asked if she had a Bible. She said no and said she’d love to have one. Told her I had one in my car. She was so grateful and even made me sign it with the date inside.

Life does not sound easy for her, quite heartbreaking.

Pray for Rachel if you think of her. Her biggest request was for safety..she just wants to feel safe.

This is not the first time this guy has posted something like this. I love seeing his posts on facebook. Here’s a guy who’s just looking for opportunities to usher in God’s abundancy into people’s lives. When he meets hurting, broken people, he does whatever he can do give them hope and help. I don’t know how he finds all these people – but it seems he’s living his life just waiting to usher in God’s abundance to a hurting, needy world.

And I know we’re not all called to do what he does. But we’re all called to do something.

It might not be something that’ll get recorded in the history books like what Esther did. Or maybe it will!? I don’t know. Maybe a big part of your work is the long slow work of being a mom or a grandmom. Again, I don’t know. But God certainly does. He’s had this planned for a looonng time! You’ll remember, we read in Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

So what good things does God have in mind for you to do? Why did he put you in your family? Why did He put you in your neighborhood? Why did he put you in your work place? Why did he put you in this church?

What is it about you, that God wanted to have you right where you are right now?

Why you? Why here?

I think as we ask that question – God will answer it. As we look for ways to bring God’s abundancy into our needy world, God will bring us those opportunities. God will show us the unique tasks that He planned and prepared us for us long ago.

And I am excited to see what good things each of us will get to do to counter the effects of sin in our world! I’m excited to see what Cylis will get to do or what Charlotte will get to do or what Jake will get to do or what all of us get to do.

I’m excited to see how our church will bring healing and hope to the broken world around us. 

Cuz that’s what it means to live in the kingdom of God. That’s why we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come – May thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are asking God to unleash us into this world with his abundance – bringing restoration and redemption to his good Creation.

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