Is Work Our Life? (workLife series #2)
Jason White



Work is a big part of our lives, but is work our life? How do we handle the pressures of comparing ourselves to others, proving ourselves through our work, and earning our identity through achievement?






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Last week, we started a new message series, on on work, and the importance of work, the work that the Lord calls us to we, if you weren't here, we tried to look at God's word to gain a little bit of a Biblical sense perspective of how valuable the work is that the Lord calls us into and that he created work and that He created us to work. And so work is good. It's not something that we should shy away from. It's not something that we just do to pay the bills. It's not something that we do just to be able to retire when they get to the real life, it's important and it it adds value into this world that God created. And that it's, it's really an expression of Him and His life in us and through us and brings worship and glory and honor to him as we enter into the work that he calls us to. Last week, I shared with you how I felt like the Lord was going to be calling me and open up the door for me to be in vocational ministry right outside of college, but that he really revealed to me that the calling that he had on my life at the time, was to teach and to coach and to work in the school system and to view that as my ministry. And so one of the things that I was hoping that you would see, and if you were here last week, you know, we talked about this is that sometimes we we highlight the the work of ministry, the work of missions and things inside the church and going around the world in a vocational sense to tell people about Jesus from the work that he calls the rest of us all to do, and how really, if the Spirit lives in us, and He guides us into the work that he's called, for us to do, whatever that is, whether that's a job you're getting paid for, or being a stay at home mom or dad or your work and your family or your home, or any of those kinds of things. That that it's it's all spiritual, that we can't divided into to Sacred Work and secular work that if Jesus is in it, it's all sacred, and that it is all valuable. And so as soon as the Lord kind of opened my eyes to that, man, I just dove all in to teaching in coaching. I mean, I wanted to do it with everything that I had. And I wanted kids to come to know Jesus and I wanted their families to come to know Jesus and, and I wanted them to learn to the value of working hard and to work together as a team and to accomplish goals. And, you know, I was young and had a lot of energy, and I wasn't married yet. And so I just poured my life into my work, day in and day out in all of the above building relationships and trying to set goals and get better. But after about three years of doing that, I look up and found myself in a very frustrated place. The news headlines said something to the effect of Corsicana, Tiger tennis team has first losing season in the history of their program. That wasn't very easy to read, pouring everything that I had into it. And here I am, the guy that has the first losing season, it really bothered me, really began to play in my head over and over and over again. I started thinking about what other people must think of me what a failure, what a loser, why they hire someone so young, right outside of college, to coach all of our kids, that kind of thing. And I remember sitting down at the tennis courts one day, and it was bothering me so bad. I literally began to cry. I mean, tears began to flow. And I was just, I was angry, and I was frustrated at God, I was always mad at him saying, Lord, you're the one that called me into this. And I felt like this was supposed to be a ministry and that, you know, this is from you. And I look around and there's there's all kinds of other coaches who aren't even Christians who aren't even telling other people about Jesus and, and they have good teams, they get to experience success. And so you're the one who called me all into this only just to fail and to be a loser and for everyone to think that, you know, I'm a failure in what it is that you called me to. And so I'm, I'm crying out to Him, and I'm just so frustrated. And I just begin to get this deep down drive. That I had to do whatever it took to get better, that I had to do whatever it took to succeed because I hated I hated that. feeling of frustration and loss, I hated that feeling of feeling like a failure and thinking that other people were looking at me as a failure. And so I was already putting a decent amount of time into what it is that I was doing. And I cranked it up a whole nother notch. And I began to work them even harder. And I began to spend, you know, a lot of hours outside of practice, I began to spend every single summer doing whatever it is that we could to try to get better because I had to get better. This was my identity. This defined to me, this was my life. Now. I don't know if you've ever been there with your work. But that can be a really exhausting place to find yourself. To feel like you have to succeed no matter what to feel like your work defines you. To feel like this is your life. It's all wrapped up into one thing, this is who you are, your work and what you accomplish in your work. It's stressful, it's lonely, it is all consuming sometimes. And it can happen to a lot of us because it seems like with the place that we live in the culture that we live in within the United States of America, and probably really around the world defines us by our achievements, defines us by our titles, by our accomplishments through work, quite honestly, some of you grew up in households like that some of your own parents defined you by how well you achieved in school, what college you would make it into what job you got, after you ended up getting out of school. Quite frankly, some of you are still trying to earn the love of your parents through what it is that you achieve at your work. Even today. Maybe some of you have parents who aren't even still yet here. But you find yourself still wondering if you've done enough in your career, if you've achieved enough, if you've gotten to the point where they would be proud of you. And you're working at it and you're working at it and you're working at it to make sure that you can convince yourself that that is true about you. Others of you may not have grown up in a home like that, but you certainly could look around and see how the world defines success and, and values other people who achieve in the work that they do and the accomplishments that they have and thought something like I've got to get there, I've got to be successful, I want to be someone I want to make sure that I matter in this world, I want to be someone that I can be proud of all I want to be happy I want to be fulfilled and we chase after him, we chase after it. And even when we get it, we can't stop because we might lose it right. And it becomes this never ending cycle of trying to find our life and our identity through our work. Some of you may even be retired at this point. But because your work was your life and the way that you defined yourself, you don't even know who you are anymore. You don't know how to define yourself because you don't have work in your life. So again, last week, even though we were trying to highlight that work is a big part of your life that God does bring value into this world. It's a way to bring him worship and in honor Him as your creator in the work that he has a calling on for your particular life. And but here's the deal, while work is a big part of your life. Work was never meant to actually be your life may be a big part of your life, but it was never meant to be your life. Look at First John chapter five. Verse 12, says whoever has accomplished a lot through work has life. So it says it doesn't say that doesn't say that it says whoever has the sun referring to Jesus, whoever has the sun has life. Whoever does not have the sun does not have life, the world may try to convince you to convince us that life is found through achievement, that it's found through influence. It's found through titles and careers. But the truth is, is that life is found in a person. Life is found in Jesus Christ because Jesus is the source of life itself. The same John who wrote what he wrote here in First John, chapter five, verse 12, wrote the Gospel of John, and look what he says in the very opening lines of his gospel to tell other people about Jesus. He says, In the beginning, was the word a reference to Jesus and, and the Word was with God and the Word was God He was with God in The beginning, he says through him all things were made without him, nothing was made that has been made. And look at verse four. He says, In Him in Christ was life, and that life was the light of all man can you can try to find life through your work through a title, through your career, through your performance through your achievement, but it will never be truly fulfilling or satisfying life. It's all a counterfeit, because Jesus and Jesus alone is the life I mentioned to you earlier how depressed I was, and how I was literally crying because of just finding myself in this place of failure and feeling like I had to, to achieve and get better to experience real life and an identity and be someone who other people would value and see a significant Well, eventually, the hard work pays off. You know, I mean, I put all those hours in all the kids were working hard. And and we finally achieved. I mean, there was a year where we finally out of the 225 schools that play Team Tennis and that were a part of our classification, we were ranked as high as number four in the state, and it felt so good to be pretty much at the top to go from, of course Ghana has first losing season ever to of course, Ghana has the highest ranking that they've ever achieved in the Team Tennis season, right? And so I'm, I'm looking at it, and I'm, I'm happy and I'm, I'm feeling the success, and I'm thinking about how other people must now be thinking about me and our team being a success. And then the next season started. Guess what happens when a new season starts. You start all over your, oh, no, no wins, no losses, you're not ranked anymore, you just are nothing. You got to prove yourself again, right? Now the pressure is on to make sure that you get back there. Because now that you've been there, if you don't get there, that's going to define you for being less than what you want to work. And it's a never ending cycle that did not bring the ultimate fulfillment did not bring me the everlasting life that I thought it was going to bring me it just brought more pressure to perform and maintain that status, which is exhausting, and all consuming. Our work is good. It's given to us by God. It is important. But it was never meant to define your life. Jesus is your life. Your work was never meant to be your identity. Your identity is to be found in Christ. Here's what ultimately happens when we tie our identity and our life to our work. Either we we fail, and we have nothing to stand on. Right. Andrew introduced the song, the firm foundation and Christ is our foundation, right? Well, when we make work our foundation and we fail through performance at work, then we have nothing to fall on. We have no foundation left. It's just shattered, it's cracked, and we fall and sometimes we fall into despair. If you read my Friday email I told you I came across a story online about a guy who was a lawyer and he had built his whole life on being a lawyer and being a successful lawyer and he began to fail and lost a case or two and other people began to gripe and complain about his work. And one day while he was trying to get ready for work, he just curled up while the shower was running on the bathroom floor in the fetal position. It just began to sob and weep uncontrollably in depression and despair because his life was tied to his work, his work, life was falling apart. And he couldn't make sense of who he was any more. Maybe some of you have been there. Maybe you're there right now. When we tie our life to our work and our identity to our work, and we fail, this is what happens. Sometimes we succeed. Like I mentioned earlier, one of the things you have to maintain it and try to it's exhausting to try to keep up with it. But the other thing that can happen with that is you fill up with pride, a lot of Judge mentalism look down on everyone else you got to find everyone else and how they're not achieving as well as you are because you've got to make sure that in your mind, you're continuing to convince yourself that you're of more value and worth than they are because you've achieved more than they have. It's all an attempt to continue to justify ourselves. elves. Look what Paul says in Romans chapter three in verse 20, though he says, For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in His sight. Verse 24, he goes on and says, all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Little bit later, verse 28, For we maintain that a person is justified by faith, apart from works of the law. Now in context, Paul was referring to the law of Moses here. But really, it goes above and beyond that, and applies to this whole worldly system. This whole worldly system of justification by performance, justification by works justification by achievement in life, but Paul teaches us that we are not no matter what the world says. No matter what your mind tries to tell you, sometimes, you and I are not justified by our performance to the law, or any system of achievement, that we are justified by Jesus and Jesus alone through faith. It's something he gifts to us, He is the one who brings our status and worth he is the one who defines our identity. I've gotten the pleasure of hanging out with one of our members is one of our Sunday school teachers, Larry Robins a number of times in, in Larry has told me his story about what it took for the Lord to reveal some of these truths to him. And it was a hard thing for him to have to go through. Larry was a pastor felt that calling on his life to be a pastor to shepherd a congregation to point people to Jesus to introduce people to Jesus and that they might receive His forgiveness and gain eternal life in him and he poured his life into it. And he was serving his congregation and in preaching and pastoral doing pastoral care, and just immersing himself into the work that God had called him to do. But all of a sudden a few members in the church got disgruntled about some things and they began to complain and when things didn't go their way, and when they didn't get their way they began to badmouth him and they began to ruin his, his name, they begin to ruin his reputation, they begin to know really just do a lot of evil things which unfortunately can happen in the church. Larry found himself without a job and he didn't know how to make sense of his life anymore. He was a pastor, this was his identity. It felt like the Lord called him into this, why would he let this happen? Why would he let him fail? In this particular way he was hurt as any of us would be. He was confused. He was angry, he became bitter. He didn't really know what to do with his life. But around this time, Larry was introduced to a counselor through what was it the time exchanged Life Ministries, which is now part of the network 220. It's all based on Galatians 220, where Paul says, I've been crucified with Christ and I no longer live that Christ lives in me. And now the life that I live in this body, I live by faith through the Son of God who gave his life for me. And this is a network of counselors who, who teach and counsel all on the foundation of Christ being our life, just like scripture says He is just like he said that he is that when Jesus said he came to offer abundant life, and then stood before people and said, I am the resurrection, the life and all of these things about Himself being the life that he really meant and meant them and that the life was found in him. And through this counselor, Larry began to have his eyes opened to see a number of things that he had read a number of different times in Scripture, but just jumped off the page at him in a different way. And for the first time, he was truly learning about how Christ was his life, how his identity was not being found in being a pastor, but in Jesus and in Jesus alone, and that no situation no circumstance that ever happened to him, could take away the life that he had, or the firm identity that he had in Christ already. And it just radically changed his life. Larry is now teaching one of our Sunday school classes in here and if you walked into his class, you would hear him passionately talking about how Christ is your life, highlighting and pointing you towards all the scriptures, and all of the things that talk about this, this union that we now experience with Christ who is life himself, and how that redefines who You are, brings you your identity and all that you will need in him. I read to you earlier how, how John talks about this, we read in verse four of chapter one, how he said In him was life and that that life was the light of mankind. Just a few verses later, in that same section of the opening lines of his gospel, he writes this beginning of verse 12, to all who did receive him. So so there's a moment where you can receive Jesus into your life through through faith are all those who believed in his name, it says, he gave the right to become children of God who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. In other words, birth, determines identity. Birth, determines identity, not achievement, not performance, not title, not status, not like not influence. Birth, determines who we are. And John says that when we come to believe in Jesus, we are reborn spiritually into God's family, this becomes your primary identity in just being a child of God. When Jesus was baptized, what did God the Father say to him, when he came up out of the water, this is my son, this is my child, in whom I am well pleased, I am so well placed in him, just because he's my kid. This was his primary identity, to just be God's Son, this is your primary identity as well, in the moment that you say yes to Jesus, He doesn't just forgive you of sins, He comes to indwell you and adopts you into His family, no matter what you do from that point, high. matter what you don't do, from that point on will not change that because you didn't earn your way into this family. You were birthed into this family, you were birthed into this family by God. There was nothing you did in and of your own to get you into this family. There's nothing you can do to get yourself out of this span, which is good news. That's why John could also write like we said earlier in first, John five, whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. And so if you've received Jesus into your life, you need to know and get two things across today that I'm trying to make sure that you see, number one, you are in union with the one who is life itself. I mean, you you take that right, Jesus described as the life right. And when we say yes to Jesus, He comes to dwell in us and unites to us spiritually. Get that image in your head, don't lose that. It is not Jesus up here in you down here. It is, Jesus left the glory and riches of heaven gave his life for you, so that when you say yes to him, he could come dwell in you, and the one who is life itself. You are now in union with How could your work at any more life to you if you're in union with the one who is life itself. No matter how hard you work, no matter what you succeed in, no matter what title you end up having one day, you can't get more life than you're getting from the union you experience with Christ each and every single day, no matter what you're doing or not doing. Your complete in him you have the life. Secondly, in him, is how you're born into God's family. In Him, you're his son in whom he is well pleased. This is your new identity, you have a new spiritual DNA, you are not who you once were. You are different, you have been changed. And now guess what? You are free from the bondage of this world of having to perform through your work, to get life or earn an identity. You're not always going to feel that way. world's going to still come try to convince you that you'll get more life. You'll really find the identity and the true identity if you will accomplish more on what it is that you do. But it's all a counterfeit, lie. No matter how much you succeed, you will not add more life than you already have. And no matter how much you fail, no matter if you get demoted. You get fired from your job. You fail as a stay at home mom or Dad, you won't have less life, you won't have a different identity at that point. Same identity, same amount of life, nothing's changed. This is the gospel. This is good news. Now a lot of us will hear that. And when it applies to work, maybe think, okay. If our identity secure, if we have all the life that we'll ever have, no matter how much I achieve in my job, then doesn't really matter if I work very hard at it doesn't really matter if I work hard to succeed or not succeed. The apostle Paul was pretty secure in his identity. He's the one who wrote about how for him to live was Christ. He was his life. The apostle Paul was writing in Colossians, about his calling, and his work. The End of Chapter One, he was telling them about his calling and work as a church planter and a disciple. And here's what he says in verse 29. That's why I work and struggle so hard. It's why work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ mighty power, that works in me, Paul says, I am working hard. Christ is my life, my identity is secured him, but I am working hard not to earn more life, not to not to earn more of an identity that I already have, because it's freed me so much up just to step into the work that God's called me to do and to be compelled by the power that's inside of me, Christ, working in me and through me. And so that's the answer to this question. The same is true of you with the work that he's called you into, it doesn't change you working hard in it, it doesn't change you necessarily trying to get the promotion or a different title or achieve in your work. We just don't do it to get more life. We don't do it to earn our identity. We rest in a secure identity and life that we have in Christ, and we enter into it with him working powerfully in us and through us to accomplish what it is that he wants to do in us and through us. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. continued to struggle off and on when we would achieve and didn't achieve. But I'm so thankful that Lord finally did open up my eyes to see it. But the moment I did, we didn't stop working hard. We continued to set goals, we continue to try to be the best that that we could be is Christ work in us and through us. But at the end of the day, no matter whether we won or lost, I was able to rest well. I was able to have peace, I was able to still experience the life of Christ in me. And let me tell you that as a freeing place to be it's a freeing place to be now don't get me wrong, there's still times where the mind mindset of performance, the performance mindset, we kind of creep back into my mentality. Satan's pretty good at that he's a master deceiver. Jesus even told us in John 1010, that the thief did come to steal, kill and destroy, to try to rob us of the life that we have in Christ. I think that's why it's so important to know the truth. To renew our minds to the truth that we have life in Christ, that our identity is secure in him. So I guess I just asked you today where are you with work, your life and your identity? Is your work your life? To ask it another way is your work. Your God? To try to find your life through your work is for work to take the place of him and for it to be your God. Are you struggling with trying to find an identity based on what you achieved through your work, the influence you have being an entrepreneur, any or all of the above. Jesus is inviting you to experience him as your life to experience him as your identity. And to be free from the bondage of this world that says you have to achieve through your work to be someone who matters. My hope and my prayer is that if you've received Jesus into your life, you will know it and you will experience Him as your life and your identity. That you'll be freed up to step into the work that he's called you to not me but you and to enjoy it to work hard aren't in it, to allow him to accomplish whatever results he wants to accomplish in and through you. My hope and prayer is that if you don't know Jesus, and work is your God and something else is that you're trying to use to find life and meaning and status and identity in that you will know today that no matter who you are, where you've been or what you've done, his grace is available to you. Your life can be transformed and changed in an instant. If you will humble yourself before Him and just say yes to him today. Let's pray.