In this episode, we examine the rhythm of ordinary life and how we can be faithful even in the basic routines we sometimes view as mundane. Faithfulness is an opportunity available to us in every arena of life. We begin looking at six different perspectives about everyday human existence and how they fit into our desire to live life as an epic journey.
So today we’re going to continue with the terrain of the journey. Last week we talked about the valleys of the journey, of the terrain, in our epic tale that we’re all living; and we saw Job as a great example of how the valleys can be used to bring us into a relationship with God to know him by faith in a way that we’ll never have another opportunity to do, and how God really wanted his favorite guy to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything on his two-minute adventure ride.
But, you know, most of our life is lived in every day. Job—we don’t know how long that period was where he went through that intense suffering; and certainly those times are incredibly important in shaping who we become. But most of life is routine, and we tend to underestimate the value of that routine.
Martin Luther said this: The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays, not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.
The word routine comes from Latin root which essentially means a beaten path. We get our word route from it like Route 66. And it’s just the routine of doing things we do all the time: washing dishes, changing diapers, paying bills, doing our repetitive tasks at work, showing up at 8 o’clock. And this is where most of Christianity is to be lived and where God cares about all these things to an enormous extent.
Oswald Chambers has a writing here. It’s worth reflection. He says, “We do not need the grace of God to withstand crisis.” And I don’t think he’s talking about here the extended period of crisis, but the crisis of the moment itself.
Human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live 24 hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence that is as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes.
Ordinary life is a big, big, big deal, and it tends to be grossly underemphasized.
The reward of the inheritance
Let’s look at one of the best verses on this topic, Colossians 3:23. Colossians 3:23 says, And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Now this verse is incredibly important for a couple of reasons. One is it makes it clear that the inheritance can be a reward. There are various verses in the Bible that say you can lose your inheritance if you do these things, and those verses are often used to say we can lose our justification. God pronounces, “You are free of all sin for all time,” and later says, “I change my mind,” and erases it.
Of course, God does not do that. And here we can see the inheritance is a reward, but not all inheritance is a reward.
Flip over to Romans 8 real quick. Romans 8:16.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God—We are children of God.
And if children, then heirs—inheritors—heirs of God—
Being an heir of God is totally unconditional. We can never lose that inheritance because we’re born into God’s family. Now once we’re born into God’s family, it’s a permanent thing.
But look at the next part of that verse: and joint heirs with Christ—a joint inheritor with Christ if—if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
So there’s a part of the inheritance, the familial part, the part about being born into his family, we didn’t have anything to do with that, just like our physical birth. We had nothing to do with it. We just showed up, and about two years old or something, we woke up and said we’re alive. But the actual part of the inheritance where we grow up and either become responsible and can help the family fortune, or we become irresponsible; and for our best interest, they write us out of the will—that part depends on what we become.
So the reward of the inheritance is the part about our possession. Do we reign with Christ or not? That’s conditional.
What faithfulness looks like
But the other reason this is so important, this verse, is because of its emphasis on what faithfulness looks like. Who is Jesus looking for to share his throne with? He’s looking for—go back to Colossians 3:22—bondservants, employees, not the masters, not the executives, not the business owners.
So Colossians 3:23, whatever you do, do it heartily.
Colossians 3:22, this is who he’s talking to: bondservants, regular employees, people who are just doing a job. They’re in charge of the horses. They’re in charge of the farm. They’re in charge of the house. They’re in charge of bringing in the crops. They’re in charge of raising the children, perhaps, or caring for the children.
Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice—
If you were a bondservant, it would be very, very tempting to only work when you knew you were being watched. It pays the same either way, right? But he says no, no. Work as though you’re working for me, God, not with eyeservice as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
Care what God thinks. Why? Why do you want to care what God thinks? Because God is watching.
And now let’s go. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance;
God wants to look for faithful people in small things, and that’s who he wants to share his throne with him.
Well, you really can’t beat that deal. It’s like the best deal ever, except it takes faith to believe because this isn’t something we can see. Can’t see God, and the reward is in the future. Admittedly, from a standpoint of existence, it’s just a wisp of vapor; but it doesn’t seem like that to us at the time.
Look who else he’s talking to. Verse 21. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
This is also a way to win the reward of the inheritance, good parenting.
There’s nothing more grueling than being a good parent. It never lets up. The kids never stop testing the boundaries. They never stop their bodily functions that you have to clean up after. They never stop getting hungry.
But, look, being a good parent is the kind of thing that God is looking for. Oh, yeah! That’s who I want to share my throne with.
And even look at verse 20: Children, obey your parents in all things—
Isn’t this crazy? One of the things we can teach our children is you want to make God happy, do what I ask you to do. I don’t know if you’ve used that lever or not, but I recommend it.
Look at 19. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
This is who God Is looking for. There’s nothing—
Oh no, no! Don’t let me go there! Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
It’s not easy to respect someone who’s an idiot, right? And all men are idiots to various extents. It’s just a matter of degree. But when you choose to do so, God is saying, man, that’s a servant-king I want to share my throne with.
It’s amazing; and these are all just everyday things.
Verse 17: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Even the words we use during the day, God is looking for faithfulness, and this is the extent or the core part of how we win the reward of the inheritance.
I got to read Diane Pass’ book on John Pass. Hopefully all of you have gotten to meet John. He was in his late 80s when he died, and he was really, really loved by people in our church, for many reasons, not the least of which was his contagious enthusiasm for life and his overbearing friendliness. He’s the closest thing to a golden retriever that jumps up and puts his muddy paws on you every time he sees you that you’ll ever meet.
And Diane wrote this book about his life. I got to preview it. And I was thinking about it, and it was kind of remarkable to me that Diane had a few episodes in there where they mounted significant difficulties, these valleys, these trials of life. And that was a big part of what shaped them. But most of the memories were just of John being John, just where he, with enthusiasm, did something in everyday life that to John would not have been remarkable at all. He was just being himself; but it made a big impact on someone else.
Well, see, even in everyday life it’s that way.
I remember when my dad was dying—I got to go see him about two weeks before he died. He went really fast. The last time I saw him he was carrying firewood into the house. But I remember him saying something like people talking to him about things that he did that really impacted them positively and him not even remembering doing it.
And I think this is a common occurrence. And that’s just a small snippet of God’s perspective where he knows the importance of everyday things. I mean he cares about the hairs on our head. He cares about the sparrows. Everyday matters. This is where most of life is lived.
Six different perspectives
So what I want to do now is go through six different perspectives about everyday life that hopefully will help us be encouraged of the importance of what we do. We have a media that’s constantly feeding us the notion that our life is not as important as the people in Hollywood that set their hair on fire every day. Or our lives are not as important as the politicians who meddle in our lives all the time. Or, you know, something. Being famous is a big deal, this pop culture business, being famous. But that’s not reality. And I think rehearsing these perspectives, I think, will help us in realizing what reality is really like.
Our work reflects God
So the first perspective: A job well done reflects God, who specializes in work excellence.
When we do excellent work, we’re actually reflecting God. Work matters a lot.
Titus writes about this thing. He says in Titus 2:9, Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson says this, “Then their good character will shine through their actions adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God.”
When we do excellent, we actually reflect who God is.
You know, the first time we encounter God in the Bible, what is he doing? He’s creating. Have you noticed the creation, the extent to which the details are taken care of? It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it?
As microbiology continues to develop, this notion of simple to complex has totally cratered. There’s no simple. The intricacy of even down to the molecular level is immense. These cells in our body have basically all the same functions that a factory does including security guards and burglars, the viruses that get in through the security. There’s Mission Impossible going on in our body all the time.
But, you know, that’s what God does; he takes care of detail.
One of our sons was on a sports team, and the team substantially underperformed, really, what it should have; and he told me one time, as someone came and asked him what the main reason for that was, and he said, “Lack of attention to detail.” You know, we had the capability; but what we did not do is the small things, the basics. We would talk about it, but we didn’t do it over and over and over again.
If you’re going to be successful in a game, you have to do these things over and over again. If you’re a basketball player, for example, it takes a lot of energy to go try to get a rebound on every play. It’s draining, and if you try on every play, you might get two extra rebounds a game, maybe just one. After all that effort, for one or two! And you might get one basket out of that.
Well, if you have six or seven guys that take most of the minutes, and they all do that, that’s ten rebounds and 20 points, and you win every game. And that’s kind of the way life goes.
Not surprisingly, Jesus himself—if we look at Mark 7:37,
And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.
Well, that’s before Jesus had his earthly ministry. Jesus was a faithful worker, and he was faithful in his everyday tasks.
We all have a number of jobs that we do. We have our vocational jobs; but, you know, really, going back to Colossians 3, we have our parent jobs, perhaps our grandparent job, our son or daughter job, our friend job, our community-member job, our citizen job, our church member job. All these jobs have everyday components to them, and they’re all work.
The first thing God gave Adam to do after he created him: go to work. That’s what we’re made for.
Look at little kids. What do they do? They pretend to work. They build things and tear them apart. They play house. They cook imaginary—what is it—pasta-yogurt is what our granddaughters want to always cook for us. I have no idea how pasta-yogurt tastes, but we have had a lot of it.
Dorothy Sayers has an essay called “Why Work?” Dorothy Sayers was one of the inklings with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. She says this:
The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly – but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.
She (the church) has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred. Forgotten that a building must be good architecture before it can be a good church; that a painting must be well painted before it can be a good sacred picture; that work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work.
“What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.” It isn’t just that the ultimate hero of the universe made great tables. It’s that the ultimate hero of the universe made great tables as a part of becoming the ultimate hero of the universe. Jesus did carpentry for thirty years.
Now, Jesus was a tecton, and that has been interpreted as carpenter. It may actually mean stonemason in this area. Nazareth was a big stone work [area]. The principle is the same.