A Time to Work and a Time Not to Work

Labor Day - celebrating work

The Labor Day holiday weekend is coming. Ironically, it’s a holiday we celebrate by avoiding what we’re celebrating. We celebrate labor by not working.

This holiday reminds us there’s a time to work…and a time not to work.

And that applies to our Christian life, too. There’s a time to work and a time not to.

Our restored relationship with God is not dependent on any labor on our part. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV):

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We can’t take credit for our salvation. That’s what makes it so amazing. Every other religion is based on humanity’s efforts to work their way up to heaven. But Christianity is all about God reaching down to us. He did it all.

And it’s a good thing He did. Because we don’t have the ability to reach up to a holy God. Our sin separates us from Him—a chasm we couldn’t breach even if we wanted to. If restoration is to occur, it must be initiated by Him.

Still, there’s a place for our work. Because the next verse (Ephesians 2:10) tells us:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Yes, there’s a time to work—not for our salvation, but because of it. We serve the Lord from a heart overflowing with gratitude because He restored us to Him.

But what about Philippians 2:12-13?

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (NIV).

“Work out your salvation” or “It is God who works in you”? Which is it?

Both.

As Oswald Chambers explained:

“With focused attention and great care, you have to ‘work out’ what God ‘works in’ you— not work to accomplish or earn ‘your own salvation,’ but work it out so you will exhibit the evidence of a life based with determined, unshakable faith on the complete and perfect redemption of the Lord.”

But what about Labor Day? What about the work we do vocationally? The Bible has something to say about that, too, especially for Christians:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV).

So this weekend let’s celebrate labor. And as we celebrate, let’s remember that our salvation is the one area where God did it all, because there’s a time to work…and a time not to.


What is Salvation?

What is salvation?

Ever feel as if God is trying to tell you something? I confess, I can be dense. But when I read or hear the same thing repeated in a short time, that’s usually an alert that God is trying to get my attention. This time, the subject is salvation. What is salvation?

Someone recently posted a quote that started me thinking. The quote is from Oswald Chambers:

“Eternal life is not a gift from God, eternal life is the gift of God.”

Later the same day, another person posted this quote from Max Lucado:

“God’s present is his presence. His greatest gift is himself.”

Those quotes started me wondering. If someone asked me to define salvation, how do I answer? Phrases I’ve frequently used include:

  • A gift we receive because of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice
  • Restored relationship with God
  • Forgiveness of sin
  • Deliverance from sin and death.

While those are all correct, did you notice what they have in common? They’re all things or experiences.

But the quote from Oswald Chambers reminded me that salvation is not only something we get from God. Salvation is not just a what. It’s a Who. It’s God Himself. His very presence, as Max Lucado noted.

Those words can roll off my tongue without a second thought. But when I dwell on what they really mean, their impact shatters anything that might be mundane, commonplace, or business-as-usual.

  • I’m in the presence of the One who is not dependent on anything or anyone.
  • The Creator of the universe.
  • The One who is absolute perfection and holiness.
  • The One who died for me.
  • The eternal Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yes, salvation is indeed a gift through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a restored relationship with God. It does provide forgiveness and deliverance. But all those things culminate in the very Presence of the living God.

When I truly consider what salvation is, how can I take it for granted? How can I take Him for granted?

How about you?


Prayer – War or Magic?

A recently-released movie has brought the subject of prayer front-and-center. Yet even on the topic of prayer, Christians don’t seem to agree.

War Room has exceeded all box-office expectations. Many Christians view it as a much-needed call for believers to get serious about prayer. Individual lives, families, communities—even our nation and our world—are in dire need of divine intervention.

But some Christians believe the movie handled the subject of prayer in an unrealistic way. They are concerned that this particular movie appears to portray God as a cosmic Santa Claus or genie-in-the-bottle who magically responds to our every request if we are fervent enough in asking. Marriages restored, families healed, legal consequences skirted…all because someone made an impassioned plea to God.

That wasn’t my impression after seeing War Room. The main characters (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it yet) were clearly willing to trust God regardless of the legal outcome. Which leads us to the biblical focus of prayer…

As the characters in this movie demonstrated, prayer does more than change our circumstances. Prayer changes us. Oswald Chambers once said, “We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”Sadly, I confess there have been too many occasions when I have spent time in prayer for the purpose of getting something from God, rather than getting to know God.

I’ve wanted Him to change my circumstances instead of changing me.
I’ve asked Him to bless my agenda instead of seeking His plans.
I’ve sought His hand instead of His heart.

The result? I’ve grieved His heart and missed His best for me.

Regardless of your opinion of War Room, I’m grateful for the reminder that prayer is not to be taken lightly. I must make it a priority. I have to be intentional about seeking God’s heart…and changing mine.

There’s nothing magical about prayer. But who needs magic when we have access to the Father’s throne room through the Son’s redemption by the Holy Spirit’s leading? Not me.

How about you?