“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:34-35 Our view of labor is a reflection on our view of life. Most of us have a tendency to have a darker view of the word “work” than the word “play.” When I was a child, I can remember distinctly grumbling over having to “work, work, work…all day, nothing but work!” This was especially true of Saturdays when we trimmed the thick privet hedges that surrounded our back yard. Those privet branches were prickly, and they left little cuts on my hands, arms, and legs. So, I grumbled while I worked. Similar feelings crept into my attitude on the completion of Labor Day weekend, which signified the official end of summer and the beginning of another year of drudgery in school. Nor did I shed that attitude entirely upon entering my adult years…check me on any Tuesday at work after a long weekend (like Labor Day, for example!), and you might find my face a little irritable. Jesus had an entirely different view of work than that. He lived for work, He loved His work, He would give anything to finish His work. As a matter of fact, He did give everything to finish His work when He poured out His life for us on the cross. He delighted to do His work, most especially because it was not merely His work, but it was the work His heavenly Father had given Him to finish. Jesus delighted in doing the work of God as much as a lover of gourmet cooking loves a fine meal: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Our food provides us with nourishment, with fellowship (usually) and with pleasure. That’s exactly how Jesus saw His work. It gave Him nourishment to do God’s will. It was a reflection of His perfect fellowship with His Father. And it brought Him delight to see it through to its end. Even though that end meant His violent death on the cross, Jesus still did it for pleasure: “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus did nothing on His own…the work He did was only what He saw His Father constantly doing (John 5:17-19). And that work was His highest delight, because it glorified His Father and brought His sheep into eternal life. Twice in Hebrews, Jesus says to His Father, “Here I am!” The second time was the cause of the first. The second time: “Here I am, it is written about me in the scroll, I delight to do your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7; see Psalm 40:8). The first time: “Here I am, and the children God has given me” (Heb. 2:13)! Jesus presented Himself to God to do His will, then presented to God the fruit of His obedience…His children! The delight of the Son was to do the will of the Father and finish His work, and that work was to save the children God had given Him: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:38-39). For that work Jesus lived, and for that work Jesus died. Amazingly, though, He has given us a similar work: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Immediately after telling His disciples that His food was to finish the Father’s work, He challenged them to open their eyes and look at the harvest fields, ready for reaping. The disciples had just been into the Samaritan village to buy physical food, and they had left without making any eternal difference at all! They had not led anyone to Christ, they had not spoken the gospel, they had not healed anyone or demonstrated the love of God in any way, as far as we know. Their minds were on earthly food, and Jesus challenged them by saying “I have food to eat you know nothing about” (John 4:32)! He was calling them to a life of work in His footsteps and after His example…reaping souls for the Kingdom of God through labor in His fields. This is our “Labor Day,” as long as it is called “Today!” For Jesus said “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Let us labor for eternal fruit as long as it is day. Let us not be like the disciples who went to a town and bought physical food, and knew nothing of the eternal food that Christ enjoyed…working the works of God.
A Labor Day Meditation
September 1, 2020 • Andy Davis
Downcast Talking with the Risen Lord
4.20.21 Article • April 20, 2021 • Andy Davis
“They stood still, their faces downcast.” - Luke 24:17 How often I have wondered what it must have been like to stand with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Emmaus! How exciting it must have been to hear the sound of his voice, to see the look in His eyes, and to rejoice in His powerful resurrection. However, the two disciples who were chosen for that singular honor and place in history “were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). Therefore, their emotions were totally opposite from what they should have been. Their faces were downcast, and their words showed hopelessness for they said: “They crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” –Had hoped??— They certainly didn’t understand that it was in the crucifixion itself that Israel’s redemption occurred, or that their own salvation was now fully paid for, or that the very life of this stranger on the road was their ironclad assurance that an eternity in heaven was now their destiny. No, their faces were downcast as they stood talking with the risen Lord. Would I have been any different? Would you? The answer is found in how we receive the Bible. What’s amazingly clear is that, in the mind of Jesus, their whole problem was one of a faithless handling of Scripture! “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25)! Unkind words? Hardly! This was just what they needed to hear, for the Scripture was sufficient to lift their burdens and to answer all their grief. It is just as John had said about his own reaction to the empty tomb: “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). As much as we would like to imagine a personal physical encounter with the risen Lord, we would not have recognized Him any more than did these two disciples, if we are like them, “foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The Scripture is sufficient to lift our downcast faces, for it testifies plainly to an empty tomb and a risen Lord. Is your face downcast today? Are you suffering under the onslaught of overwhelming circumstances that seem to swallow up your joy? If so, let me point you to a diagnostic question that can bring healing to your soul: Have you read the Bible today and received what was necessary to lift your face, to restore your joy, to energize your service to Christ? These two disciples, before their eyes were opened and they recognized Christ, felt within their hearts the burning of Scripture clearly taught by the Master: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us” (Luke 24:32)? Does your heart burn within you as you read the Bible and feel its penetrating touch? If not, pray to God that he would “open your mind so you can understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Your mind is in God’s hand, since He made it. Simply pray the prayer of the Psalmist: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). God by His Holy Spirit will encourage you by the Scriptures so that you will not be downcast as you walk and talk with the risen Lord.
A Wide Variety of Trials
4.13.21 Article • April 13, 2021 • Andy Davis
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 1:2-4 There is a wide variety of trials through which God sovereignly causes us to go, because there is much work to be done in our souls before we are fit to be taken to heaven. Some of these trials are delicate little touches from God, accomplishing a subtle adjustment in our character or worldview. We may see these God-ordained trials as irritations—car troubles, losing a valuable piece of paper, minor physical ailments, accidentally deleted documents on the computer, a bleach spot on your favorite garment, etc. Yet does anything come to us “by chance”? Jesus said not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father (Matt. 10:29). Each of these minor trials is a perfectly measured touch from God, and James says we should count them as “pure joy,” because God is accomplishing his purpose in us. This is also true of intermediate trials, like major financial troubles, lingering and troublesome bodily infirmities, steady opposition from a co-worker or boss, loss of valuable property or possessions, etc. These are more aggressive treatments from the great physician of our souls, who desires to move more dramatically in us at that time. Though the direct cause and effect is sometimes hidden from us, yet there is a cumulative change in a Christian’s soul that God achieves by these means. Paul even goes so far as to say, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). Though these kinds of trials may not seem “light and momentary,” according to Paul that is what they are. And James tells us that we should count it pure joy whenever we face trials of “many kinds,” and that includes these intermediate trials. Though they be more irksome and grievous than those daily minor trials mentioned above, they have a significant role to play in our growth in Christ. Nor does this line of reasoning fall apart when we come to the most significant trials God brings us in our lives. Perhaps it is the death of a loved one, perhaps total financial ruin, perhaps permanent physical injury or disability, perhaps imprisonment or some other devastating event. These trials are the most powerful spiritual remedies in the bag of our spiritual physician, and He uses them only sparingly. Yet one must never believe that God has abandoned us to the devil at these times, for if God whispers to us in our pleasure, He shouts to us in our pain (C. S. Lewis). God wants us even then to “count it pure joy,” because our major trials are carefully measured out to us like a precise gram-weight of antibiotic and are brought directly to us under the loving hand of a compassionate Father. His ultimate purpose is to teach us perseverance so that we will be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Thus, without these trials of many kinds, we are “immature and incomplete, lacking something.” Perhaps we lack faith, perhaps we lack compassion for other suffering people, perhaps we lack detachment from this present transient age, perhaps we lack full and glad obedience to our heavenly Father. God knows what we lack, and every trial comes to us under His wise hand to accomplish this one purpose: the perfect maturity of the Church in Christ-likeness. So, by faith, we must count each difficulty in life as a celebration of God’s perfect plan. Soon this present age will end for us, and His work in us will reach its consummation. At that point our joy will also reach its consummation.
"Away with your book!"
4.6.21 Article • April 6, 2021 • Andy Davis
Obstinate: “What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?” Christian: “I seek an ‘inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away,’ [1 Peter 1:4] and it is laid up in heaven, and secure there, to be bestowed at the time appointed on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my book.” Obstinate: “Tush! Away with your book! Will you go back with us or no?” John Bunyan left the Church a remarkable legacy in his timeless allegorical account of the Christian life, The Pilgrim’s Progress. The work was written while he was in prison for preaching the gospel. In 1675, he was incarcerated in a jail located on a bridge over a river in Bedford, England, but instead of wallowing in despair at being separated from his wife and blind daughter, he redeemed the time by writing this allegory. It continues to bless the Church 325 years later, for it describes the entirety of the Christian pilgrimage from initial hearing of the gospel through conversion and into the journey of sanctification until the Christian reaches heaven. At the beginning of the allegory, a man named “Christian” begins to fear for his soul when he reads of the judgment of God over sin as recorded in a Book he reads. The Book can be no other than the Bible, for as he is reading it he becomes “greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read he burst out, as he had done before, crying, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’” He is soon led to flee his home in the City of Destruction, pursuing vigorously the salvation of his soul which the Book enjoins. Soon some townspeople join him and begin to mock him as he runs out of the city. Two of them come along with him to persuade him to return. Their names are Obstinate and Pliable, and Christian invites them to run with him out of the city. Obstinate refused and the conversation I’ve written out above occurs. In the written Word of God are both threats and promises, and we who are born under the judgment of God as objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3) would do well to heed them and flee to Christ. These words of warning and of hope in Christ are only found from Scripture, and therefore the essential issue is the attitude one has toward the Bible. The mocker, the unbeliever, is scornful toward the Scripture as a human book full of antiquated ideas and irrelevant stories from long ago. The world has long said to the Bible-believer, “Tush! Away with your book!” But the book will not go away. For Jesus plainly said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). It is just as Isaiah had said earlier, “All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall… but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). Theologian Bernard Ramm adds this testimony: “A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read. But somehow, the corpse never stays put! … No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What other book on philosophy or religion or psychology from classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every single chapter, line and word? The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions and studied by millions.” This Book will never go away! It is best rather to submit to its teachings and live the eternal life it promises through faith in Christ.