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The start of the year is a great time to refocus and catch God’s heart for our lives.  Many people make resolutions, make lifestyle changes, take holidays as well as those who start new jobs or new courses.

We’ve been talking about Occupying your Occupation at the start of this year at church – getting a vision for a significant part of our lives, and reframing it from just work to being on mission.

God has placed us in our workplace, our classes, our circles of influence on purpose and with a purpose and when we catch His heart for these spaces in our lives we can see significant things happen.

Its been about 19 years since I drove into Auckland in my little red dihatsu charade.  I had no job, no place to stay but a crazy sense of adventure and God’s leading.  Within 2 days I had a place to board and started combing the newspaper, old school, for jobs.  It was my first experience with recruitment agents and interviews and when I got my first real job. However it didn’t take long for reality to hit.  My manager was interesting and had an interesting way of processing stress aka she didn’t.  My workmates were also interesting and it was a learning curve.  I have a distinct memory of bursting into tears in the line at the movies with a group of friends, including Tony, who was just a friend at that stage, as my manager had called me into her non sound proof office and yelled at me for 20 minutes about a mistake that I had allegedly made.  I say allegedly because as the yelling processed I was concerned that I was completely unaware of what had happened and what I had done until I realized that this incident had happened the week I was actually in the South Island at a wedding.  Yes, I was not at work or even in the right Island to be making mistakes at work.  Awkward.  When I told my friends I wanted to quit my wise “just friend” Tony asked me what God was saying about it.  Honestly, I just wanted God to agree with me but He did have other plans.  I was to stay, learn, grow and be His ambassador to those I worked with.  Even my super stressed and stressful manager.  It began a 10 month season of God working on my character, my heart and relationships.  After I left one of my workmates, a guy who was gay, said I was the only real Christian he knew and he thanked me for showing him real care and genuine concern, minus a bible bashing over his head.  About 10 years after I had left he then contacted me because his best friend had a brain tumour and was going to die.  He asked me to pray because God was real for me.  Pressure.  Amazingly and thankfully his friend recovered and he contacted me again to say WOW, a miracle had happened!

I learned a lot at at my first real job.  I learned that often our work is not about just the job we do, but about what God is doing to us and through us.  Our work is sometimes about the people we work with and that God positions us with lost people to demonstrate His grace and reality.  Every part of our life is part of the bigger story that God is telling throughout history.

 

It’s often a misconception that God is only interested in church ministry.  That that’s the mission.  That if you have a calling it is to be a pastor or missionary.  That if you love God and are going hard after Him then working for a church is the be all and end all.    But God calls people into all walks of life and He anoints and empowers them.   Both are vital in the mission to reach the earth, to see lost people found, His kingdom come.  In fact as a staff we want to flip things on its head and say that you guys out in the marketplace, in the class room, in the workforce, you guys are the frontline of ministry, of reaching the lost, of demonstrating the reality and grace of God, and we are here to serve you and equip you and empower you to step out and see God step in.

Everything is spiritual, everything matters to God.

 

The cosmic, gargantuan 24/7 Kingdom of God cannot be shrunk down to a few hundred people singing songs in a nice building for an hour every weekend.

This is why we have to go to war with sacred/secular ideology—because it compartmentalizes God. We have our God box and then our work box and our rest box and our entertainment box; we cut our life up into tiny little pieces. God becomes a time slot in our daily routine, a building we go to every Sunday for a few hours. God is effectively shut out of the bulk of our lives instead of been in every part as He wants to be and should be. Being a follower of God should permeate and influence and shape every facet of our life.  Abraham Kuyper, “There is no inch of creation where Christ does not rule and consequently no dimension of our lives in which he is not present.”

 

1 Corinthians 10:31:

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

 

Our behaviour is influenced by our perceptions.  How we perceive our world will influence how we interact in it.  Perception can transform it from ordinary to extraordinary.  It can take it from day job and pay check to mission from the King of Kings. It can take it from occupation to occupation.

 

 

Stats say that the generations onwards from about Gen X will have 5 or more careers throughout their working life and more important than workring their way up through the company and getting the gold watch for 40 years service is meaning, purpose and satisfaction.  Meaning can be more important than the paycheck, the working conditions and future direction.

This year the key to occupying your occupation is about finding meaning, vision and God’s heart for what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with.   Vision will give you that sense of purpose for greater things and keep you going in the of every dayness and the challenges that some workplaces present.

Lets look at how vision plays a part in Nehemiah’s life.  Nehemiah and Ezra are two books of the Bible, written about the same thing, at the same time, from the perspective and role of two differnet men.  Ezra looks at the reoccupation of Jerusalem from the perspective of a spiritual leader but this morning we are going to look at Nehemiah, a leader yes, but more of a working man example of what it means to occupy while we occupy.

When we first met Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1 we meet a man serving the king as cupbearer.  Modern day barista maybe?

He meets some people from Israel and his heart is moved by the destruction of Jerusaelm and more importantly how this is affecting the people in the land.  His heart is moved.

 

  1. LET YOUR HEART BE OCCUPIED 

 

The first point about having vision and meaning in your workplace, that will transform it from ordinary to extraordinary, is to let your heart be occupied by the heart of God for the people in our world.   In our classes and workplaces we often work with other people, be it other employees or customers, or suppliers.  People that God loves.   When we allow God to speak to us and we get our heart in gear and we care about these people we begin to step out to make connections with them.   We don’t have to be Dr Phil in our staff room but genuine questions and conversation can be powerful.  Our world is so busy and it can be the norm to clock in and clock out without making a real connection to the people we spend a significant amount of time with during the week.  In this ultra social media connected world people are more isolated than ever.  Imagine the possibilities and potential of making connections, real ones. As the saying goes, People want to know how much you care before they want to know what you know.  Spoiler alert, Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and the first thing he does there in Nehemiah 2:12-13 is to survey the walls.  He takes a donkey and does a tiki tour round at night to examine the broken down places, the breeches.  When we engage our heart we are opening our eyes to the broken down places and hurts in peoples lives.  God is in the business of restoration and rebuilding and the agents of change are you and I, not just on Sunday, but on Monday, Tuesday and so on.

God will give you wisdom and grace and exactly the right words to say at the right time.  Often we shrink back from difficult conversations or the potential for difficult converstaions because we are concerned we’re going to be out of our depth.  My motto has always been step out and let God step in.  There have been so many conversations about yes, difficult things, where I felt like I was in over my head and at that moment God will drop a great answer into my heart and mouth.   As I would talk to my gay workmate he would bait me and test me and God would be there with an answer.

 

2.BE OCCUPIED WITH KNOWING GOD 

There’s one thing I know for sure—when you spend time with Jesus, you will want to reach people with His love. Jesus’ heart overflows for the lost in the world. And as you follow after Him, He will send you out to make an impact on others! Jesus told His disciples this very truth—that if they would follow Him, He would make them fishers of men. And today, He gives you that same call! —Christine Caine

When Nehemiah heard the news about Jersalem and every step of the way throughout the book of Nehemaih he prays.  He allows God to engage his heart and He allows God to fill Him.  As Christians we don’t walk into our office, store, classroom, factory, meeting alone.

Revival begins with us.  It begins with us loving God with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength – all our time, all our priorities, all our agendas, all we are.  It begins at the throne of God, into all the earth.

When we are filled we overflow.  The bible says what the heart is filled with the mouth will speak of.  You will talk about what youre into and interested in.

When you’re close with God its also easier to access His resources – His gifts.  Now I’m not saying they’re dependant upon “our works” – reading the bible, prayer etc, but I know for myself that it is easier to flow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit when I am in close relationship with Him.

Rick Warren says: “Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence.”

 

3.OCCUPY WELL

 

It doesn’t say how long Nehemiah served the king but there was an obvious high degree of credibility that Nehemiah had with the king for the king to a) notice something was wrong and b) grant him such favour to go and rebuild the walls.  Service to others is service to God.  Serving our places of employment with integrity is a massive key we all need to apply.   Be the best worker at your business.  Work hard.  Be honest.  Set an example.  Blow them away with the way you pour yourself out.  It opens doors.   Serve well.  Occupy well. Our work, whatever it is, is serving people, and we should serve as if we were serving Jesus.  Whatever you did for the least he said, you did for me.

Ephesians 6:5-9 says Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.

When I was in hospital 2 years ago I witnessed an amazing example of this.  I shared a room with an 84 year old lady who when she arrived had the most perfect hair and a pink frilly old lady nightgown.  She was elegant and refined.  And had broken her leg horribly and was in a toe to thigh cast.  While there a orderly came to care for her, give her a wash etc.  This orderly was brisk, brash and even was “cant you do that” when it came to washing her face and doing her hair.  Even though the curtain was closed begween us I could sense the discouragement and emotions of this elderly patient beside me.  She felt like a bother, worthless.  Contrast this to the orderly who came in the next day.  She chatted brightly with the lady and had powder and did her hair and freshened her up and made her feel like a princess.  I could sense the difference in my new friend.  She was served and loved.  The nurses commented on how pretty she looked when they did their rounds and she beamed.  What a difference.

I encourage you to be like the 2nd orderly in your workplace.  To serve so that whatever you do – as it says in the bible, whether you eat or drink, do it to honour the Lord.

Let your good deeds shine so that when people see it they give glory to God.

Think about it like this too: Our work counts in both time and eternity because God is looking for faithfulness now, and the only way to demonstrate faithfulness is within this physical world.  Serve well.  Occupy well.

 

4. OCCUPY THE WAR ZONE

This series paints the picture that we are occupying enemy territory.  That we are strangers and aliens in a foreign land.  That we are called to establish a different kingdom here on earth.  His Kingdom Come.

In that train of thought our 4th point is to be aware of the war zone.

In Nehemiah we read about the people who were unhappy with Nehemiah and Ezras work to rebuild Jerusalem.  They fought back and tried to distract, discourage, and destroy the mission they were on.  At one point Nehemiah responded to their skirmishes with these simple words – I am doing a great work and cannot come down.

You are doing a great work.  But the enemy will throw things at you to distract, discourage and destroy what you are doing in your family, classroom, workplace.

Nehemiah had the people building the wall with one hand, and holding their swords with their other – a great picture of how we conduct ourselves in the world around us.

The Bible says

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 [a]We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Often those false arguments originate within us.  Our greatest enemy lies between our two ears.  We need to constantly renewing our mind with the truth in the Word of God so that we can rebuild the walls and broken down places in our own lives and thoughts.

Things like insecurity, fear, doubt all seek to sabotage our sense of identity and calling, weakening our resolve to step out and diverting us from who God wants us to be.

This was a real challenge at the home ideas centre as I felt that I was walking into a war zone sometimes, dependant upon the mood of my boss.  Literally.  I learned to rely not on others opinions but upon what God said about me.  I learned to not let my emotions kick back when things were stressful, or people were yelling.  I learned how to emotionally prepare myself to deal with people who were not like me.

 

Our other weapons are the wisdom God gives us, the way we allow God to transform our character, been rooted and grounded in the identity we have as sons and daughters and prayer to name a few.  We are not victims or defenceless but have the ability to see mountains move and atmospheres change

 

 

 

Dedicate your work to be used for God’s purposes. Whatever you want God to bless, you give to him first. Dedicate it, consecrate it, hallow it, and then God will bless it.

  1. Start working enthusiastically.
  2. Understand who you really work for.
  3. Concentrate on building your character.
  4. Care about the people you work with
  5. Exceed what is expected of you
  6. Expand Your Skills to SUCCEED at Work
  7. Dedicate your work to be used for God’s purposes

from Rick Warren

 

 

 

 

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