Selected highlights from this sermon.
God wants us to think big. We need to stop focusing on ourselves, our desires, our situation, our ambitions. We need to be focused on the one thing that will give an ordinary life meaning: God’s glory.
How we live, how we act, our attitudes, our reactions to hardships—all we do should glorify God. God has put us where He wants us, and it’s our responsibility to show other people who Jesus is and what He’s really like. For nothing else matters but the glory of God.
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Nothing Else Matters #4
God’s Glory in Our Lifestyle
There is a story about a boy who was trying to sell his scrappy little dirty puppy and he put up a sign that said, “$3.00 or best offer.” The sign was up for several days and no one stopped to buy his puppy. A salesman saw the sign and thought he’d teach the boy a lesson about thinking big, and so he said to the boy, “You need to think big. Clean up your puppy and then up the price so people think they are getting something valuable.”
The next day when the salesman drove past he noticed that the sign said, “Puppy for sale: $1,000.” (laughter) The salesman thought he should stop and give the boy some wisdom because it’s okay to think big but not quite that big, but when he came home that night he noticed that the word, “Sold” was scrawled across the sign. He couldn’t believe it. He looked up the boy and he said, “Are you telling me you sold your puppy for a thousand dollars?” and the boy said, “Yes. I traded him in for two $500 cats.” (Laughter)
Well today what we’d like to do is to think big – really big, but before we do that I need to tell you a couple of stories.
First of all, this past week I was in Indianapolis for a day or two and spoke to a young executive, and you know what’s happening in our companies today. What you find is that they are laying people off and then not replenishing their positions and just redistributing the work. So here’s a young man who is overworked and he’s underpaid and he is finding his job to be very stressful.
Then I know someone else who has a Ph.D. and he is flipping burgers. He is something like Moses who was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the Bible says. That means he studied hieroglyphics and mathematics and astronomy and there he is forty years with his aptitude and training in one direction having to be confined to a desert for forty long years where the most important intelligent conversation was, “Baa.” Here he is with all that talent going to waste.
And then you and I know people who are looking for work. They are in transition and they are in desperate need of money.
Today what I’d like to speak to you about is how do we see God in all of this, and what is the big picture, and how do we think big at a time like this, or a time as it has been in the past? I need to begin by saying that obviously money alone cannot be our objective because if all that you do is work in order to have money you’ll never have enough. You’ll complain. You’ll be dissatisfied and life will become a drag and you’ll be focused on the injustice of it all. That cannot be the motivation to have meaning in your job, in your vocation, and in your lifestyle, nor is it possible for you to say that your big aim in life is to be able to choose something that you enjoy doing, something that is in keeping with your DNA. You necessarily can’t have that. Maybe you can. Some of us have but not everyone. As a matter of fact, about fifty percent or more of the American people believe that they are in jobs for which they are ill-suited. It is not in line with their aptitude. They are with Moses in the desert, trained in one area and yet doing a job in another–a job that perhaps naturally they don’t like at all.
Nor can your big picture meaning be connected with being praised or being thanked or achieving success the way in which we generally think of it, because you might be working for someone and making him or her look good and they get all the credit and you get none. In fact, things may be so bad that things are actually going downhill for you. In fact, the only way in which you can make a small fortune on Wall Street is to begin with a big fortune I’m told.
So the question is, where do we go from here? How do we find meaning in the ordinary things of life where the pressure cooker is on? Where is meaning found?
If I preach this message correctly I will actually give you some principles that would even apply if you were to be a slave. Imagine that. We’ll get to that in just a moment but I also need to stress that what I’m telling you now is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are listening to this and you do not know Jesus Christ as your savior, you are going to say, “This is all theoretical. I don’t know how it works. I don’t understand how I can believe all of that.” But if you know Christ as Savior, this is for you.
Barna did some research and they asked this question: Is the essence of the Christian life doing all of the commandments that Jesus gives us? Fifty-seven percent of the people said yes, but you and I know better than that. Of course we want to do the commandments that Jesus gives us, but the Christian life is so much more than that. The Christian life is a relationship. It isn’t rules, and the better you know Jesus, the better you are going to be able to apply what I am going to be sharing with you in just a few moments. In fact, it’s going to give all of us an opportunity to think and to pray and to believe in a way that we’ve never had to do before, to do it in a way that enables us to think big.
The passage of Scripture I want you to turn to is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31. This single verse is so huge. It is like a stick of dynamite that can blow away all the mountains that stand in your way at the job that you have, and the work that you may either delight to do or not delight to do. I may comment about the context later but here it is. Chapter 10, verse 31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s the text for today. It’s not the only text but the main one. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.
Is there an overarching principle that is so important that you can find satisfaction in your life even if you do a job at work and somebody else gets the credit? You are being downsized unfairly. Is it possible to still find meaning? And the meaning is wrapped up in that little verse of Scripture, “Do all (everything) for the glory of God.”
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, that’s so theoretical.” I know it sounds theoretical and that’s why I am going to help you to unpack it. We are going to break it down and we’re going to bring it down to exactly where you live today.
First of all, let me make a few comments about the text itself. Notice this. We should glorify God in the ordinary things of life. What could be more ordinary than eating and drinking, something that we do every day? And yet even there we should glorify God.
Now before the Reformation there was a belief in medieval times that if you wanted to do a good work that God might be pleased with, it had to be a religious work such as saying a prayer, giving alms-some kind of a good deed. Martin Luther came along and said that we are all priests before God and that means that Sophie, the scrubwoman, when she’s washing a floor, can glorify God more doing that if she’s doing it as an act of service to the Lord. If it’s an act of worship she can glorify God while she cleans the floor better than a pompous priest who is up there trying to draw attention to himself whose heart is far from God because “It is not the act,” said Luther, “but it is the attitude of worship with which we do it that makes the difference.”
Did you know that according to a study on the 40 characters of the Bible that we give most attention to, three-quarters of them never had a religious job. For example, Abraham was a sheepherder. Joseph he was a massive administrator. You come to the New Testament; Luke was a doctor. It’s only a small percentage of those who had (quote) a religious job. Most of them learned what it is like to serve God and to worship God in the ordinary things of life.
Years ago I was told that Ruth Graham, who is now in heaven, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, used to have above her sink (because she didn’t like washing dishes) the words, “Divine Service Done Here Three Times Daily.” And it is divine service.
Now sometimes we say, “Well, you know, work gives us a platform upon which we can witness.” Yes, and I’ll talk about that, but there’s something more important, and that is that the work itself is the witness. The work itself is the worship even if nobody sees, nobody knows and it’s just between you and God.
We’re to glorify God in the ordinary things. We’re to glorify God in the necessary things. Eating and drinking is necessary if you want to live, and I’ll talk about that in a moment. We’re also supposed to glorify God in the controversial issues of life. The context of this verse is whether or not people should eat meat sacrificed to idols, and Paul says, “Some of you can and some of you can’t depending on your conscience because this is a matter that is not black and white. It’s not either right or wrong. It has to do with a certain context as to how you view the meat that was offered unto idols. If it was offered to an idol and then brought into a shop, and you buy it, and you don’t know that it was offered to an idol, that’s perfectly fine. If it causes someone to stumble, you might think twice before you eat it. And that’s what Paul says. “In all things we glorify God.”
We’re to glorify God in the television programs that we watch. We’re to glorify Him in our relationships because universally whatever you do, do in the name of Christ, giving glory to Him. All right, all that by way of introduction.
Now what I’d like to do is to give you five principles that will help you to understand the glory of God in your situation. It may be the glory of God where you work if that’s what we were talking about, and we were, but it also may mean the glory of God in your marriage, the glory of God in the tough time that you are going through, the glory of God in all of life, because remember, nothing else matters. Ultimately your happiness doesn’t matter. Your success doesn’t matter, however important it may be in a certain context. Only the glory of God matters, but how do we do it? I’m so glad that you are asking that question because I thought you would.
Let’s look at one other verse before I give you the five principles. Keep your finger there in 1 Corinthians 10:31, but then turn to Ephesians. This is a remarkable passage of Scripture. People say the New Testament condones slavery. The New Testament clearly is opposed to anything that we would call today the slave trade, and slavery is an evil, but when Paul was writing about slaves, remember this: There were 40 or 50 million slaves in the Roman Empire. There was no way that they could begin to organize to cast off the injustices that they were facing. Many of them had good masters. Many of them had bad masters so in no way do we mitigate or try to water down the evils of slavery. But in this context people were slaves and they were locked into a system. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians 6:5: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service (that is, working only when somebody is watching), as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”
Wow! Talk about an explosive passage for slaves. Think of the slaves. I mean, many of them were intelligent, but they never had an opportunity to study. The aptitude of many of them lay perhaps in the intellectual side, but they were expected to do slave labor. In that situation they can also see the glory of God, and here now are the five principles. And I know that you don’t have the space to write them down and I give permission today to write all over the bulletin, wherever you can find a strip of white because these principles should be laminated, put on your refrigerator, put at your bedside and maybe reviewed every day that you might see the glory of God where you are.
Are you ready? Sometimes I think I’m alone up here. I didn’t get any coffee this morning and I said to somebody, “Did you hear about the preacher who dreamt that he was preaching? And then he woke up and found out that he was.” (Laughter) I want to make sure everybody is ready for this.
Number one: Accept your situation as from the hand of God. You say, “Well, I don’t like what I’m doing and I’m trying to get another job.” Fine, but you don’t have the other job yet as I understand it correctly, so accept your situation as it now exists as God’s will, as from his hand, unless you are in some kind of a business that is morally impure, and we could list some of them but I won’t. You and the Holy Spirit can figure that one out pretty easily, but accept your situation as from God’s hand. Notice what it says regarding the slaves: “Do the will of God from the heart.” That was God’s will for them in that terrible situation. Do you have enough faith to believe it?
I received an email from a friend who may be listening to this who said that he was offered a job, he accepted, and then they withdrew the offer. That’s not very nice. You accept it as from God. Now how do you know whether you’ve accepted your situation from God? I’ll give you a test. Can you give praise for it? Can you say, “Lord, I thank you today that I am in a situation. I thank you for my boss. I thank you for my co-workers. (In fact, it is important that you pray for each of them by name.) I thank you that even though this isn’t what I would have chosen, this isn’t my preference, but here I am. Thank you, Lord (because you are going to do the will of God from the heart).” Lesson number one: Accept your situation as from the hand of God, and you know whether or not you have if you give praise to God.
Second, never substitute (this is very critical) the lesser glory for the greater glory. Don’t ever substitute the lesser glory for the greater glory. Now you and I are just alone together enjoying a cup of coffee, or possibly a cup of tea, and I am looking into your eyes, and you are looking into mine. I have a question for you. Is there something that you value more than the glory of God? It could be ESPN. You are into sports. Football has its own glory. Baseball has its own glory, and it’s possible for us to get so wrapped up in these things that we miss the glory of God. Sensuality has its own glory, but is it true in your life, is it true in my life (and this message is being preached to me much more than it’s being preached to you), is it really true that we do not accept lesser glory for the greater glory of God? We have no substitutes.
When I was a little boy my brother convinced me to give my small dime to him in exchange for his big nickel. (laughter) And I thought I was getting a bargain. Money can be a substitute for the glory of God. I know you need it to live and the more we have of it the easier life becomes. I understand that, but at the same time money, success, and recognition–all of those can be more important than the glory of God. Do not ever accept a lesser glory for the greater glory of God.
Now I gave you a word–praise–for the first principle. Let me give you a word for the second principle. It is the word surrender. There has to come a time in our life when we die. We die to our own ambitions. We die to our own things that we think we deserve. We have to die to our own desire to be well known or well accomplished or rich because we say to ourselves that these are lesser glories, and nothing can substitute for the glory of God.
Number three: God is most glorified in us when we bear fruit in a desert. “Herein is my Father glorified,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit.” To be a fruit-bearing Christian in the midst of a wasteland! I know where some of you work. You work at a place that is just morally, on behalf of the employees, impure. Let’s put it that way. By the words that come out of people’s mouths, by the kind of jokes that are told, by the undercutting, by the vicious criticism of others, and you live in that environment. Do you participate in that environment or is there something different about you that shows that you have roots that go down to a hidden stream, to an oasis? And you don’t have to live that way. And when you are sinned against you don’t have to sin in return because God is most glorified in us when we bear fruit in a wasteland, in a desert, and God plants us there. Remember what your responsibility is. Your responsibility when you go to work is to show other people what Jesus really is like and who He is. That’s why God has you in that hard place. That’s why He’s putting you through difficult circumstances. You are His witness there. Yes, in that sense work can become a platform for it, and this means that you live a life of integrity, because what does the text say, as we’ll see in a moment? You are not serving man. You are serving Christ. Would you cheat from Jesus? Let me ask you that question.
I remember a man saying that he was supposed to cheat in a bank, and he told the bank manager, “If you expect me to cheat for you, what makes you think that I won’t cheat against you? If you expect me to steal for you, what makes you think that I will not steal from you when I have the opportunity?” Absolute integrity!
Now when you go to work, don’t say to yourself, “I wonder whom I can buttonhole for Jesus.” Go with an attitude of expectancy. Have you ever met people who are maybe (what shall I say?) over-saved? (laughter) Have you ever met anybody who is over-saved? A light bulb at work has to be changed and they say, “Well you know, Jesus is the light of the world.” (laughter) Somebody loses his keys and he says, “You know, what you really need is the key to the kingdom,” and the guy says, “I’m not driving a kingdom.” (laughter)
Don’t be over-saved. If you are available to the Holy Spirit and available to God, God will give you an opportunity to represent Jesus Christ, and the word that we need to connect with this is courage. Don’t be intimidated, and if you are intimidated, talk to people one-on-one, and in those environments it’s amazing how they will open up to you if you are a good listener and care about them, and then you can share Jesus with them. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Let’s go on to number four. And this is what gave the slaves the ability to show the glory of God in horrendous conditions–way beyond what you and I have ever experienced. Number four: What you do is not as important as the person for whom you do it. Look at what the text says. You have to read it again. Now we’re in the sixth chapter of Ephesians again. Look at this: “Slaves, obey your earthy masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord.”
You don’t want to work for that boss? Stop working for him. Work for Jesus. If Jesus came out of heaven and said, “I want to give you an assignment; I want to put you where you are today working with the people that you are with and I want you to serve Me here, and because you love Me, I want you to serve with an attitude of cheerfulness in the midst of all of this,” wouldn’t you say, “Wow! If Jesus asked me to do that I’d be glad to do that for Him.” Well here’s the news–the newsflash. He’s put you there because He’s asked you to do that. You see, to Jesus, it didn’t matter whether He was washing the disciples’ feet. Talk about being over-qualified for His position, washing the disciples’ feet.
The person who flips burgers, who has a Ph.D., there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing shameful about that because you see, after all, he is doing it for Jesus, and it isn’t what you do. It’s for whom you do it that gives it significance.
Do you remember this story? It’s a legend but it has a point. As the disciples were walking along Jesus said to them, “Please pick up some stones,” and so they picked up some stones and later on Jesus turned them into bread. Later on He asked them to pick up stones again and this time Peter especially picked up a really big heavy one. They got to a river and Jesus said, “I just want you to throw the stones in the river,” and the disciples thought, “What is this? What sense does that make?” And when Jesus saw their consternation He said to them, “For whom do you carry the stones?”
If Jesus asked you to pick up a stone and throw it in the river isn’t that okay if Jesus asks you to do it and you are doing it for Him, even though there doesn’t seem to be any sense to it? It isn’t what you do that’s important. It’s the person for whom you do it, and if you do it for Jesus you can live in difficult circumstances, and in those circumstances display the glory of God because whatever you do in word or deed you do all to the glory of God-not just the religious things but everything.
We had Elizabeth Elliot here a number of years ago and you remember her husband was killed along with four others in Ecuador I think it was, but I remember she spent two years working on a language, trying to break it down into writing with an informant. This is a laborious process, and in those days there were no computers, no Xerox machines, no duplication. Somebody stole the suitcase with all of her work. It had to be done all over again from point zero. Somebody said, “Weren’t you angry at God?” and she said, “No, it was lost to us, but it wasn’t lost to God. That was my worship to God for two years. I was worshiping. I did that for Jesus and if He wants the suitcase stolen, He can have it stolen, but what I did for Him lasts.”
What you do in the Sunday school classes that you teach that you have long ago forgotten about, the blessings that you have said to people as you have encouraged them and you can’t remember that you even said it, all those things, the Bible says, that God takes care of our works and keeps them and remembers them if they are done in His name for His glory, even though this isn’t what you were born for, even though it seems as if your aptitude is in one direction and your work in another, you are there to glorify God. It’s all about God and not about you.
Finally, and by the way the word there that we should highlight is focus. You focus on Jesus.
Finally, number five: You live your life with the assurance that heaven is coming. Do you have enough faith to believe this? You know, we live in such a litigious age. Everybody is suing everybody. “Oh, I was fired from the job for age discrimination.” We’ve got a lawsuit on our hands. I’m not saying that all lawsuits are wrong, but why is it that we get so jumpy when we are wronged? Did you know that as Christians when we get so nervous it’s because we don’t believe God? That’s why.
You know there’s a passage of Scripture–the first 12 verses of James 5–that are devoted to the whole issue of employer–employee relationships, and James is very critical of the rich that are exploiting the poor. As a matter of fact, he says, “Go weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you (You’d better know that judgment is coming to you.),” but this is what then says: “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you.” That is to say that these poor exploited people are crying out against you and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. He says, “You have lived on this earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter because you have condemned the righteous person. And be patient,” he says then to the brothers, “because the Lord is at the door.” God is going to straighten out these injustices. Of course you should work toward justice, especially in the lives of others. In today’s society we can work with labor relations boards or unions to address certain wrongs but they didn’t have that and God says, “What I want you to do is to trust me. I’ve heard the cry of the exploited, and judgment is on its way.”
Rest, knowing that it is in God’s hands. You can’t settle all of the wrongs. You have to give it to the Lord. In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus did. Before he was crucified, the Scripture says, “When He was reviled He reviled not again. When he suffered he uttered no threats.” He didn’t say, “Wait till I get a chance to blow you away. I’m going to sue you.” He didn’t say that. When He was reviled He reviled not again. When He suffered, He uttered no threats but He kept entrusting Himself to Him that judges righteously. Jesus said, “I’m being falsely accused. I’m in the midst of a difficult situation. People are talking about me. Things are tough. The cross is just around the corner, but I am content with the fact that someday my Father will set this right and I rest with confidence in that.”
And so as you go to work, this is the way you do it. Tomorrow morning you wake up. [I hope you wake up. Of course, if you don’t wake up here, there’s another place where you are going to wake up, which would be much better, I think and I hope. If you are going to heaven it certainly will.] But here’s what you do. Before you get out of bed you say, “Oh Lord, today glorify yourself in me at my expense.” I did it this morning. I’ve been doing it now for months. That’s the way you begin the day because nothing else matters. Are you starting to get the point? Nothing else matters. And then you say, “Lord, if this body were Yours, if Jesus were in this bed getting up to face His day, how would He go to work today? Would He chisel the boss? Would He talk behind the boss’s back? Would He join in the criticism and office talk, which often times is decidedly unholy? No, Jesus wouldn’t do that, and neither should you and neither should I, because remember we exist to help people to get a better conception of who Jesus is. That’s the whole point. It’s not whether you are fulfilled. It’s whether or not God gets glory.
Three men were on their knees working with stones, and someone went to the first one and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am cutting stones. I’m chiseling stones.” He went to the second one and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am earning a living,” and he went to the third who said, “I am building a cathedral.” God wants us to think big. All of life should be lived under the banner of the glory of God. Whatever you do, whether it’s eating, drinking, word or deed, let all be done to the glory of God. Nothing else matters!
Let’s pray together.
If God has talked to you today, would you talk to Him? What issue are you bearing in your soul that you ought to give to Him, because it’s not about you? It’s about His glory, and it’s about the work that He does in our hearts to accept our circumstances.
Father, bless your word, however inadequately preached, and make it transforming and may we live our lives from beginning to end for your glory.
And if you have never trusted Jesus as savior, right at this moment I pray that you will. Receive him and his forgiveness and then learn to trust him.
And thank you that Jesus was willing to go to the cross, and thank you that he was willing to die within your good will, Father. As we remember that together now, bless us we ask in Jesus name, Amen.
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