For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Before we can appreciate how some of our work might physically last into eternity, we need to first grasp what God’s Word says about our pending judgment.
Because today’s passage and others make it clear that it’s not just our souls that God will judge. He will also weigh every person’s actions, thoughts, and words—including those of believers! And since we spend such a huge portion of our lives working, we can assume that much of our accounting to the Lord will focus on our vocations.
To be clear, the judgment today’s passage is referring to has zero bearing on our admission into the Kingdom of Heaven (see Romans 8:38-39). But it does influence our eternal rewards—a fact Jesus made clear to his disciples when he said...
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
In this series, I’ve sketched out what I believe to be a biblical, God-honoring approach to planning. First, we saw that we are called to “Commit to the LORD whatever [we] do,” including our planning (see Proverbs 16:3). Second, we’re called to “listen to advice” from others (see Proverbs 12:15). Third, we’re commanded to recognize our ultimate lack of control over our plans (see James 4:13-16). And today’s passage shares the fourth and final principle of this series: As we plan, we’d be wise to remember that regardless of the outcome of our plans, “it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
This truth enables us to do two things.
First, it allows us to plan more confidently. The nature of planning is that it is risky. Whether you’re planning a budget,...
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
As we’ve seen throughout this series, planning is a good, God-honoring thing to do. But today’s passage reminds us that planning without recognizing our ultimate lack of control over our plans is arrogant and “evil.”
I’ve had to repent of this sin recently. A friend of mine was asking me what I’ve been working on and I said, “I’m working on a new book that will come out in October of next year.” This is a textbook example of the evil planning James is...
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)
I’ve been the fool in this Proverb more than once. One example, in particular, comes to mind. A few years ago, I was running a rapidly growing tech startup and planning to hire our first full-time sales rep. Like any good entrepreneur, I took the time to draft a document detailing the type of person I thought we needed for the position. And with that plan in hand, I went out and hired someone we’ll call Michael who perfectly fit my description.
The only problem was that I neglected to ask my existing team what they thought about my job description. Shortly after Michael started, members of my team came to me asking why I hired someone with Michael’s experience when what we needed most was someone with an entirely different background. They were right, of course, and eventually, we had to let Michael go. If I had simply asked for input on my hiring plan on the front end, I could...
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)
You and I are always planning something at work: projects, marketing campaigns, hiring strategies, budgets, goals—the list goes on and on. God’s Word frequently extols the wisdom of planning (see Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 24:27; Luke 14:28). But it also gives us a lot of instruction for how to plan in a God-honoring way.
Today’s passage is a great example: You and I are called to commit our work and our planning to God. To ask him to lead and guide us as we make decisions about the future.
Why is this so important? Beyond the fact that God commands it, let me share two reasons.
First, committing our planning to the Lord is wise because he knows the future and you and I don’t. As God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you.” Now, this was spoken specifically to the Jews living in exile, but it is also true for us. We...
So the wall was completed…in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
While detained in a concentration camp in 1941, Olivier Messiaen, a Christian and renowned composer, cobbled together a few dilapidated instruments in the camp and miraculously composed a masterpiece called Quartet for the End of Time. Years later, when an esteemed pianist sat down to master Messiaen’s wordless music, she was an ardent atheist. “But as she pored over the music and tried to comprehend what Messiaen was trying to say, it had a profound effect. ‘Little by little,’ she said, ‘I started believing.’”
That story powerfully illustrates a truth we see in today’s passage from Nehemiah: Excellent work can preach a powerful sermon about the glory of God! While...
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Paul is crystal clear in today’s passage that Christians are called to expose darkness. To, as pastor Timothy Keller says, “bring every dimension of life…under the rule and law of God.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that we hold non-Christians to the same standard as Christians (see 1 Corinthians 5:12). But we can still expose darkness and fight for kingdom principles without appealing directly to “the rule of God” with our non-believing co-workers. Why? Because as C.S. Lewis says, Christian or not, “human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” Your co-workers likely agree that discrimination, fraud, and lying are wrong, even if you don’t quote the myriad of Scriptures that call these things sin.
So if we aren’t going to...
…when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. (Nehemiah 4:7-9)
Nehemiah was leading the people in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, but they were met with considerable resistance and threats (see Nehemiah 4:7). How would Nehemiah and team respond? Today’s passage provides the answer: “we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (emphasis mine).
The word “and” is the key to appreciating this text. Nehemiah and company didn’t just pray. They didn’t “let go and let God.” They trusted in prayer and the abilities God had given them to...
Then I [Nehemiah] said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
As we saw last week, Nehemiah was a Jew in exile, working for King Artaxerxes of Persia (see Nehemiah 1:11 – 2:1) when he heard that his ancestral home of Jerusalem had been destroyed (Nehemiah 2:3).
Decades before Nehemiah heard this news, another Jew, Ezra, led God’s people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 6:14-15). But today’s passage shows us that when Nehemiah made it to Jerusalem, the rest of the city remained “in ruins.” So Nehemiah led the people in the “good work” of restoring and renewing the city...
I [Nehemiah] took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Nehemiah 2:1b-5a)
Scripture commands that we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV). But what in the world does that look like at work? Today’s passage helps answer that question. But first, some context.
Nehemiah was a Jew in exile, working faithfully as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia (see Nehemiah 1:11) when one day, he heard that Jerusalem, “the city where [his]...