The Value of Work
When Nehemiah was building the wall around Jerusalem, a short statement is recorded, which should speak volumes to us about the value of work.
Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. (Nehemiah 3:5NKJV)
I once lead a discipleship training school for a missionary training organization. On one occasion, we accepted a student from a foreign country who had been a spiritual leader in the church there. In his culture, he did not serve others, they served him.
We built a two-hour work duty into our daily schedule. When there was a prayer meeting or teaching session, our foreign student was one of the first to arrive. When it came to work duties, he was difficult to find. One Saturday, we had a work day where I labored with the students on a very dirty job. Coming back from the work detail, this student looked into my dusty face and said, “very practical Christianity.” When he said this, I thought to myself, he is finally starting to get it. I had been teaching in the school about having a servant’s heart, with very little response from him. It’s not so much what we say that counts, but what we do. Christianity is more readily caught than taught.
God rebukes the Tekoite nobles. The commentator Matthew Henry says that “they would not come under the discipline of being obliged to perform this service. They thought that the dignity and liberty of their rank exempted them from getting their hands dirty and serving God.”
The action of the Tekoites makes it evident they believed specific tasks had more value than others. Our work has value because God has called us to do it, and we are a person of value doing it. Yes, satisfaction comes from completing a task and doing it well, but that is a separate issue from value. God places no more importance on the CEO of a company than a maintenance worker, if they are both doing their jobs for him. We should not seek to get value from our work but to bring value to it.
In my discipleship training school, changing roles from a leader to one who did manual labor did not change my value. I took on a different role but my value was constant. We are valuable because we are made in the image of God and bought with a price. On that work day, I brought value to that job. I didn’t derive my value or the lack thereof from it.
The Tekoites were operating in the ways of the world, which says you have worth according to what you do. God does not see big or little people; he sees people. He majors on why we do what we do, not what we do. Whatever task God has called you to do, it has great value if you are doing it for him. Such will free us from the bondage of the Tekoite nobles, who look to people rather than God for their acceptance.
It never devalues you to do what God has called you to do.
Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.
Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be. You will get through today one step, one moment at a time. Your main responsibility is to remain attentive to Me, letting Me guide you through the many choices along your pathway.
This sounds like an easy assignment, but it is not. Your desire to live in My Presence goes against the grain of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Much of your weariness results from your constant battle against these opponents. However, you are on the path of My choosing, so do not give up!
Hope in Me, for you will again praise Me for the help of My Presence.
We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. — Romans 8:28 AMP
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. — Psalm 42:5 NASB
I lived with abuse and depression from a young age. I tried to commit suicide twice — at the ages of fourteen and fifteen.
In 2004, a friend who had just buried her teenage daughter called me and asked if she could come over. I was surprised because this was not a close friend; the last time I had seen her prior to her daughter’s funeral was about ten years earlier. I agreed to see her because I thought she might want me to pray for her and her family.
She brought me a copy of Jesus Calling and explained that she had felt compelled to buy two copies and give one to me. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that she needed to get this book to me. I accepted it graciously, but I had no intention of reading it. I laid it on my stack of other books people had given me. Apparently, they saw I was a mess and wanted to help by giving me “self-help” books. I had endured domestic violence throughout my whole childhood and then for twenty-eight years of my marriage because I feared God in an unhealthy way. I grew up in the belief system that I was supposed to submit to abuse. God knew all about my life, and He also knew I needed to take baby steps out of the paralyzing darkness I lived in. I needed His gentle guidance out of the bondage I was in.
Jesus Calling is short and to the point. I don’t have the patience to read through long chapters to find what I need, and only God would know that. The book sat on my nightstand for a few weeks. I’d thrown away all the other books I’d been given, but for some reason I’d kept this one — without reading it.
One day, after returning from a women’s conference where I had just realized that submitting to abuse was not God’s way, I broke. I felt like I was going to lose my mind. I went to my husband and told him what I had learned at the conference, but he didn’t show much interest in it. I went into my bedroom and locked the door behind me, planning to kill myself. My earlier suicide attempts — overdosing on pills — had been unsuccessful, so I decided to use a gun this time.
As I reached for my husband’s gun that was on top of the closet shelf, I looked down and saw Jesus Calling on my nightstand.
I picked up the book and opened it to August 31, which states: “Your fragility is not a punishment.” But the way I read it was: “I am not punishing you.”
I broke down and cried because, for my whole life, I’d felt that God was always punishing me for every single mistake I ever made. I felt like any bad thing that happened to me — and a lot of bad things happened in my life — was God punishing me. But only God knew what was in my heart, and He knew I needed to hear that He was not punishing me. I cried and had my very first real conversation with God. I was angry, but happy at the same time. I had been feeling like a robot — just going through the motions of living — but suddenly I felt alive. I’m so grateful that I kept my copy of Jesus Calling and the Lord used it to keep me from killing myself!
I have bought countless copies of Jesus Calling for my own personal use, only to end up giving them away. I stopped writing my name in them because I knew that before long the Lord would send someone for me to give my book to. I honestly don’t know how many I have bought and given away. My granddaughter was so excited when I gave her the kid’s version of Jesus Calling. She told me she loves it and reads it every day.
Life is hard, and I need Jesus to help me every day. I lived half of my life believing in lies, but now I believe in Jesus — the Truth — and He set me free through His truth (John 8:32).
Embracing the Grit That Leads to Beauty
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame …” Romans 5:3b-5 (ESV)
Do you like getting your hands dirty?
My middle child certainly does. A naturalist at heart, she digs up and collects all manner of grimy stones and pebbles, or “special jewels” as she calls them.
So, when last Christmas approached, my husband and I thought a rock-polishing kit would make the perfect gift for her. With youthful enthusiasm, she tore into the box and pulled out each part. Her joy warmed our hearts — until we began to read the instructions.
A quick scan brought the painful truth to light: This was going to be a process.
Our daughter held the rough rocks in her hands while we pulled out the dark metal container that would house them for weeks on end. Carefully following the directions, we tossed the rocks into the container, added some water, and shook in a packet of gritty, black sand.
Then, we waited.
Hour after hour, day after day, these rocks spun and clunked around in that container. For weeks, they tumbled in the dark, surrounded by cold, muddy water. Every time I went to the basement, I could hear them grating around — quite honestly, the sound grated on my nerves!
And yet … when the spinning came to an end, and we’d washed the sullied water away, out came sparkling, beautiful jewels. Our daughter squealed with delight!
I rolled those jewels around in my hand, and deep emotion rumbled in my soul. I’ve spent more than a few seasons feeling like one of those rocks, endlessly tumbling in the dark and the grit. I wonder if you have too.
The weeks and months roll by and still the marriage grates at you.
The difficult job — or lack thereof — sands down your nerves.
Your child’s illness cuts places in your heart that feel like they’ll never heal.
The bitter grittiness of sheer loss tears at every inch of your soul.
And you wish for all the world that the pain would go away. When we’re tumbling in the dark, covered in grit and mud, it feels impossible to see any glimmer of purpose and hope.
But oh, dear one, God is up to something so purposeful in the midst of hard places! The pain that feels useless? It is anything but in His Kingdom. In Romans 5, Paul encourages us with the truth of what all that suffering is accomplishing in our lives:
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame …” (Romans 5:3-5).
Not a single ounce of your suffering is wasted in God’s economy. Our enemy works to grind us down with gritty circumstances, but God uses the same circumstances to forge endurance and character in us if we’re willing. Like those rocks, the grittiness doesn’t remove beauty in us — it reveals it.
And when it does, a stunning, steadfast hope bursts forth. This hope stands secure and will never fail or leave us hanging. What an incredible promise!
You may feel stuck in an endless cycle of grittiness, but take heart: God is polishing you. In the dark, He is fashioning you into a beautiful jewel, ready to reflect His image and walk into your future with hope.
Oh, that we would not despise the grit, mud and darkness, for these are the divine tools our Father uses to create in us a beauty that never fades. May we keep the faith, knowing that when all the muck is washed away, it will have achieved for us a “glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).