My Devotionals

Subscribe

Did God finish Niggle’s painting?

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Last week, I recounted the depressing first half of Leaf by Niggle, the short autobiographical parable written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Niggle was an artist who spent many years working on a painting of an enormous tree. But tragically, Niggle died only having completed a single leaf which was soon forgotten, along with Niggle himself. 

Here’s the second half of the story: After his death, Niggle was sent to the afterlife where we find him riding a bicycle through a heavenly countryside. Suddenly, something caught Niggle’s eye that was so extraordinary, he simply fell off his bicycle. Tolkien writes: 

“Before [Niggle] stood the Tree, his Tree, finished…‘It’s a gift!’ he said….He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves...

Continue Reading...

New Series: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Work That Lasts Forever

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18)

J.R.R. Tolkien had a serious thing for trees. So when a neighbor cut down one of his favorite trees in 1943, Tolkien was furious. But his anger was about much more than the loss of the towering evergreen. Tolkien saw the “lopped and mutilated” tree as a metaphorical preview for what he feared for his “internal Tree”—his life’s work, The Lord of the Rings.

By this time, Tolkien had spent more than a decade toiling away at his magnum opus, but he was still a long way from completing it. World War II was in full swing in Tolkien’s home of Great Britain, and while the fifty-one-year-old was at no risk of being drafted into service, his experience as...

Continue Reading...

What Bodily Resurrection Means for Our Work

1 corinthians on work May 10, 2021

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)

Bodily resurrection was a big deal to Paul. So big that Paul dedicated the longest section in his letter to the Corinthians to this topic. 

Why does physical resurrection matter so much? Because without it, Paul says our faith is “useless.” And I would argue our work is as well.

Unfortunately, the false teaching Paul was combatting here is still alive and well. Today it appears in our caricatures of heaven as a glorified retirement home where disembodied souls float around doing nothing but relaxing and singing for all eternity. That false vision is a distortion of what theologians like Randy Alcorn call “the intermediate...

Continue Reading...

Home Runs and Hard Work

1 corinthians on work May 03, 2021

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

In reading Paul’s letters, one thing about the Apostle jumps off the page to me: Paul worked incredibly hard. You can see this in today’s verse as well as 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 6:5, Colossians 1:28-29, and 2 Thessalonians 3:8.

Why did Paul work so hard? Because as Paul makes clear in today’s passage, hard work is part of a believer’s reasonable response to the gospel. “[God’s] grace to me was not without effect,” Paul said. And so, he “worked harder than” all the other apostles.

Just like Paul, part of our response to the gospel is to work diligently on behalf of our Savior’s agenda. That’s why Paul commands us in Colossians 3:23 to follow his example and “work heartily as for the...

Continue Reading...

Meet the Parents and the Dignity of Work

1 corinthians on work Apr 26, 2021

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

This morning’s short passage offers two startling truths.

First, while it’s natural to say that we are drafting an email, delivering a presentation, or waiting tables, it is actually God who is working through us. “In all of [us]…it is the same God at work” (verse 6). 

Second, because it is God who works through us, all work has dignity and meaning. This can be easy to forget in our culture which looks to work as the primary card in our never-ending game of one-upmanship.

A comical example of this is found in the movie Meet the Parents. Pam is introducing her fiance Greg to her family. First, she introduces Dr. Bob, followed by “the world-famous plastic surgeon,...

Continue Reading...

Why Paul Refused to Be a “Full-Time Missionary”

1 corinthians on work Apr 19, 2021

In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast….To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:14-15, 22-23)

While the Apostle Paul’s work as a church planter is well-known, it’s easy to forget that he also chose to work as a tentmaker (see Acts 18:2-3).

Today’s passage makes this clear. Paul says he had every “right” to work as what we might call a “donor-supported missionary.” But he didn’t. Why? Paul chose to work as a tentmaker in order to “become all things to all people so that by...

Continue Reading...

Will God consider your work “gold” or “hay”?

1 corinthians on work Apr 12, 2021

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:8-15)

Today’s passage is one of the richest on the topic of...

Continue Reading...

New Series: 1 Corinthians on Work

1 corinthians on work Apr 05, 2021

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Have you ever felt less than “influential” at work? Or felt like you were “lowly” or lacked the right “noble” family or pedigree for your career? Have you ever lacked the wisdom you need to do the work God has called you to do? 

...

Continue Reading...

The Ultimate Incentive for Your Work Today

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you….Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip….Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple. Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests? Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your children from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you...

Continue Reading...

How Our Work Reveals Jesus’s Kingship

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)

We’re in a four-week series exploring what Easter means for our work. Two weeks ago, we saw how Easter gives us an...

Continue Reading...
Close

50% Complete

Join 100,000+ Christians who receive my weekly devotional every Monday morning!