Introduction:I read this introduction to a Labor Day Sermon online this week:
This is the Labor Day Weekend.
Labor Day is a strange holiday.
While we call it “Labor Day,” we try to do as little labor as possible and most working people have the day off.
Nobody has wished me a “Happy Labor Day”.
We didn’t get any Labor Day cards.
We don’t decorate the house, or give Labor Day gifts.
The florists and greeting card manufacturers haven’t found a way to capitalize on it.
It’s a bad weekend for a Church because everyone wants to travel.
Labor Day is different things to different people.
To the factory or office worker, it may be a day off.
For policemen, who deal with extra traffic and alcohol abuse, it’s a tough day.
To farmers and ranchers, it’s just another day to feed the cattle and work in the fields.
For preachers, it is an opportunity to talk about work.
Work is a very important part of God’s will for people.
And since I am a preacher, I plan to talk about work!
Just a couple interesting facts about Labor Day. The reason we celebrate it on the first Monday of September is because someone thought that the time gap between Independence Day (July 4th) and Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November) was just too long between National Holidays! And so this seemed like a great time for Americans to have a break!
Do you ever feel overworked, over-regulated, under-leisured, under-benefited? Take heart. This notice was found in the ruins of a London office building. It was dated 1852.
1. This firm has reduced the hours of work, and the clerical staff will now only have to be present between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays.
2. Clothing must be of a sober nature. The clerical staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright colors, nor will they wear hose unless in good repair.
3. Overshoes and topcoats may not be worn in the office, but neck scarves and headwear may be worn in inclement weather.
4. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff. Coal and wood must be kept in the locker. It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring four pounds of coal each day during the cold weather.
5. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from the supervisor.
6. No talking is allowed during business hours.
7. The craving for tobacco, wine, or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to all members of the clerical staff.
8. Now that the hours of business have been drastically reduced, the partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and noon, but work will not on any account cease.
9. Members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens. A new sharpener is available on application to the supervisor.
10. The supervisor will nominate a senior clerk to be responsible for the cleanliness of the main office and the private office. All boys and juniors will report to him 40 minutes before prayers and will remain after closing hours for similar work. Brushes, brooms, scrubber, and soap are provided by the owners.
11. The owners recognize the generosity of the new labor laws, but will expect a great rise in output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.
We know that the idea behind this holiday came from Labor Unions and was meant to honor the working people of America. And I think that is a noble reason to set aside a special day. If it weren’t for the working people of America—the factory workers, the farmers, the doctors and nurses, and all those who faithfully do their jobs so that we as a society can function—what would we do?
So working America: WE SALUTE YOU!
And, of course, we want to narrow our focus this morning to the spiritual realm and consider the work God has ordained for us to do! So let’s consider:
I. THERE IS A WORK THAT GOD HAS FOR US TO DO.
a. Jesus very specifically told His disciples the scope of that work in The Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 18-20, NIV).And, again in Acts 1:8 just prior to His ascension Jesus told His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
b. And while the scriptures give us great detail as to how to accomplish those commands, it is apparent that the primary work that we have as Christians is to tell others about Jesus and to help them enter a committed relationship as a Christian.
c. Under that imperative umbrella, we have many other tasks that come our way: Our responsibilities to our marriages, our parental responsibilities, and to our responsibility to society at large through our various contributions. I cannot stress it enough: we have responsibilities in all these areas and we must each fulfill those responsibilities if our lives are to function properly. Paul, in his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians stated it rather bluntly: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10).
d. But remember, while all these various responsibilities are necessary and important, for the Christian they fall under the umbrella of the greatest work we are all called to do—To be witnesses and to Make Disciples! And the Bible is pretty clear that this responsibility is not just for the Clergy or a select few—this is the responsibility for every Christian!
e. You have a job to do. Are you fulfilling that job description?
II.THERE IS A TIME FRAME IN WHICH WE ARE TO DO THE JOB GOD HAS CALLED US TO DO.
a. In our scripture passage from John 9, verse 4, we are told, “As long as it is day we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.”
b. Paul in his letter to the Romans, wrote in Romans 13: 11-14, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
c. Over the years I have been asked many times whether or not I believe we are living in the last days. I have to honestly say, I do not know God’s timetable. But this I know: every day we are one day closer to the day when Jesus will return. As we read in Matthew 24 and similar passages, there are signs occurring that point toward the end of time and the Judgment Day when all will stand before God and give an accounting of how we have lived our lives—and that time may be sooner than we think. But this I know, we have no guarantees about tomorrow, so we had better be doing all we can today to witness to others and to make disciples of all the nations.
d. As I read these scriptures and as I think about the work God has called us to do, one word in particular comes to mind: URGENCY!. We must do all we can as quickly as we can, because we do not know how much time we actually have. Jesus may return any minute—or our lives may end at any time. None of us know how much time we are allotted here on earth. So, we need to be about our business while we are able!
III.HOW WE DO THE WORK MATTERS!
a. Glen Pierpoint wrote, Our labor for the Lord is: 1) a labor of love (I Thes 1:3). 2) a labor not in vain (I Cor 15:58). 3) a labor known by Christ (Rev 2:2). 4) a labor God does not forget (Heb 6:10). 5) a labor which is to be done together (I Cor 3:9). 6) a labor for eternal things (Col 1:28-9). 7) a labor which is to reward (I Cor 3:8). 8) a labor done to be accepted by Him (II Cor 5:9). 9) a labor which doesn’t have an end (Luke 10:2). (Sermonillustrations.com)
b. I read this interesting story in an online sermon this week: The U.S.S. Astoria was the first U.S. cruiser ship to engage the Japanese during the Battle of Savo Island in World War II. It was a night action fought August 8th and 9th in 1942. Although the Astoria scored two hits on the Imperial flagship Chokai, she was badly damaged and sank shortly after noon on August 9th. About 2:00 that morning, a young Midwesterner, Signalman 3rd Class Elgin Staples, was swept overboard by the blast when the Astoria’s number one eight-inch gun turret exploded. Wounded in both legs by shrapnel and in semi-shock, Staples was kept afloat by a narrow life belt that he managed to activate with a simple trigger mechanism. At around 6:00 that same morning, Signalman 3rd Class Elgin Staples was rescued by a passing destroyer and returned to the Astoria, whose captain was attempting to save the cruiser by beaching her. The effort failed, and Staples, still wearing the same life belt, found himself back in the water. Close to 12 Noon, Navy seaman Staples was picked up again, this time by the U.S.S. President Jackson. He was one of 500 survivors of the battle who were evacuated to Noumea. Safely on board the ship, for the first time, Staples closely examined the life belt that had served him so well. It had been manufactured by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, and it bore a registration number.Given home leave, Navy seaman Staples told his story and asked his mother, who worked for Firestone, about the purpose of the number on the belt. She replied that the company insisted on personal responsibility for the war effort, and that the number was unique and assigned to only one inspector. Staples remembered everything about the lifebelt, and quoted the number. It was his mother’s personal code and affixed to every item she was responsible for approving. Do you suppose Mrs. Staples was glad that she had performed well on the job?
c. How we do our job matters! We must do our job with love and respect towards God and others. We must be careful to preach and teach the truth. We must carefully reveal the consequences of the choices we make. And we must be passionate and zealous because of the urgency of the time we have to share the Good News about Jesus!
There is an old Hymn we used to sing that had these words: “We’ll work ‘til Jesus Comes. We’ll work ‘till Jesus comes. We’ll work till Jesus comes, And we’ll be gathered home” (“We’ll work till Jesus Comes,” # 282 in Sing to the Lord, Nazarene Hymnal.)
Are you doing the work God has called you to do? Are you giving attention to the spiritual mandate He has given us?
And consider the work invested providing for our salvation. Jesus took our sins upon himself and died in our place, paying a debt we could never pay on our own. Jesus gave his very best—his life, his all—in order to purchase our salvation. When we consider what He was willing to do that for us, how can we not give our best in doing the work He has called us to do.