1 Kings 18:1-18 – Faith at Work

Obadiah Takes the Prophets to a Cave by Dutch engraver, Caspar Luyken (1672-1708)

For three years no rain fell in Samaria, and there was almost nothing to eat anywhere. The Lord said to Elijah, “Go and meet with King Ahab. I will soon make it rain.” So, Elijah went to see Ahab.

At that time Obadiah oversaw Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the Lord. In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.

Ahab sent for Obadiah and said, “We have to find something for our horses and mules to eat. If we don’t, we will have to kill them. Let’s look around every creek and spring in the country for some grass. You go one way, and I’ll go the other.” Then they left in separate directions.

As Obadiah was walking along, he met Elijah. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down, and asked, “Elijah, is it really you?”

“Yes. Go tell Ahab I’m here.”

Obadiah replied:King Ahab would kill me if I told him that. And I haven’t even done anything wrong. I swear to you in the name of the living Lord your God that the king has looked everywhere for you. He sent people to look in every country, and when they couldn’t find you, he made the leader of each country swear that you were not in that country. Do you really want me to tell him you’re here?

What if the Lord’s Spirit takes you away as soon as I leave? When Ahab comes to get you, he won’t find you. Then he will surely kill me.

I have worshiped the Lord since I was a boy. I even hid one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in caves when Jezebel was trying to kill them. I also gave them food and water. Do you really want me to tell Ahab you’re here? He will kill me!

Elijah said, “I’m a servant of the living Lord All-Powerful, and I swear in his name that I will meet with Ahab today.”

Obadiah left and told Ahab where to find Elijah.

Ahab went to meet Elijah, and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, “There you are, the biggest troublemaker in Israel!”

Elijah answered:You’re the troublemaker—not me! You and your family have disobeyed the Lord’s commands by worshiping Baal.” (CEV)

Obadiah was the overseer in charge of King Ahab’s palace in Samaria of ancient Israel. To put it mildly, Ahab was a rascal. Old Testament stories frequently and purposefully contrast characters so that we will easily discern ethical differences between good and evil. Here we have a clear contrast between the godly and faithful Obadiah and the downright wicked royal couple of Ahab and Jezebel.

Whereas Obadiah was trying to preserve life and went to great lengths to do so, Ahab and Jezebel were doing everything in their sinister power to destroy life. The entire drama plays out like an episode of House of Cards. Ahab and Jezebel were a real king and queen who were thoroughly selfish and evil in all their dealings. Ahab, enabled and emboldened by his pagan wife, did away with the true worship of God and established the worship of Baal in the land of Israel. 

This did not mean, however, that God was absent or inactive. Rather, the Lord was working behind the scenes to undermine the systemic evil in the kingdom through his servant, Obadiah, who was devoted to God. Obadiah was neither a prophet nor a priest. He was simply a man working in an ungodly kingdom, doing the best he could to serve the Lord. 

Elijah may have had the prophetic voice and power, but Obadiah was the backstage administrator, daily cobbling together a living for hundreds of people without any support from the royal pain-in-the-butts.

Our ordinary everyday vocations and jobs have been ordained by God to use us where we are. Instead of lamenting our limitations or wishing the situation were different, we all have an opportunity for God to work through us in our current positions and stations in life. 

Every one of us has the daily opportunity to integrate our faith and our work through connecting biblical ethics to concrete applications at our jobs; seeing our workplaces as mission fields; interpreting our work through a Christian worldview; discerning our vocation as a calling from God; and, knowing our work is a means for God to transform and sanctify us.

So, how do you view your job?  How might you connect your faith and your work?  How does what you do reflect the nature and character of God?  In what ways do you think God wants to use you in your workplace?

Sovereign God, you cause nations and institutions to rise and fall; you set up leaders to rule and put them down.  Take my life and my work and use it in redemptive ways that glorify the name of Jesus and exemplify the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Work from a Christian Perspective

 
 
            With the Labor Day weekend upon us, it is good for us to reflect on the importance of our vocations.  One of the things that can often get lost in the rig-a-ma-roll of church ministry is the need for pastors to equip people for facing their jobs with a Christian perspective and worldview.  In other words, reflecting on the nature of work and the worship of God is not an ancillary enterprise, but a vitally necessary part of what the church can do for the world of business.
 
            How do you view your job?  How is work viewed in the Bible?  How can you connect your faith and your work?  Work itself is viewed positively throughout Scripture.  It was part of the creation mandate (Genesis 2:15); it ought to be respected (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15); and, it is a service to God (Colossians 3:22-25).  In other words, work itself is intrinsically good.
 
            Our faith commitments and our workaday jobs are meant to be integrated into a seamless unity.  They were never meant by God to be separate without one affecting the other.  There are opportunities every day for Christians to live out their faith in the marketplace.  Every job has its ethical challenges.  Not only do we have choices to make about steering clear of shady deals, avoiding cooking the books, and staying away from dishonesty, but we have the opportunity to help create policies that provide well for others, guide others into responsible work habits, and foster positive relations throughout the organization.
 
            Our jobs are also our mission fields.  God has sovereignly placed us where we are for the purpose of expanding his mission.  God desires to reach the lost, and he wants to use you to draw people to Jesus Christ.  This can be done in a myriad of ways, from speaking openly about your own faith commitment, to showing sensitive hospitality, to living above the fray of any company cultural muck around you.  Evangelism never has to be forced because we serve a God who has given his Spirit to do the kind of work that we cannot.
 
            Finding meaning and purpose in our own jobs and vocations is a must in today’s society.  Never has job satisfaction been so low throughout many American corporations and businesses.  A big reason for this is the paucity of interpreting our work through a Christian world and life view.  To see our particular vocations as a real calling from God, just like any calling that a pastor or missionary would have, is a must in today’s business environment.  Without this view we simply flounder and live for the weekends with no connection to what God is doing and wants to do on the weekdays of work.
 
            The work we do gives us the experience of personal transformation.  If you have never thought the thought that your Christian sanctification can come through your work, then I just now put it in your head.  Let it stay there and ruminate awhile.  When we work with a team of people in a common purpose in community and fellowship, it has the ability to change us for the better.  Learning new tasks, developing new relationships, and carving out new work disciplines helps foster personal change and brings fresh creativity to other spheres of life.
 

 

            One of the things that churches can do to help employees and employers is to highlight people within their congregations who are doing good work.  Feature such persons in a testimony about their work and what they do, or interview them so that others can see how God uses them on the job.  We all need help with our vocations because there are continual challenges, frustrations, conflicts, and moral decisions which need to be made on every job, no matter what or where it is.  It only makes sound spiritual sense for us to bring our jobs to the fore and give them the attention they need.  Let’s all work from a Christian perspective so that the church is built up, the world is blessed, and God is glorified.

1 Kings 18:1-19

            “Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the LORD.  In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.”  Ahab and Jezebel could have starred in the series House of Cardsby just being themselves.  They were a real king and queen who were thoroughly selfish and evil in all of their dealings.  Ahab, enabled and encouraged by his pagan wife, did away with the true worship of God and established the worship of Baal in the land of Israel. 
 
            But this did not mean that God was not active.  In fact, the Lord was working behind the scenes to undermine the systemic evil in the kingdom through a person, Obadiah, who was devoted to God.  Obadiah was not a prophet, a seer, or a priest.  He was a man working in an ungodly world, doing the best he could to serve the Lord.  Just because he was not Elijah did not mean that God couldn’t use Obadiah in the scheme of his will.
 
            Our ordinary everyday jobs and work have been ordained by God to use us where we are.  Rather than lamenting our limitations or wishing the situation were different, we all have an opportunity for God to work through us in our current positions and stations in life.  Every one of us has the opportunity every day to integrate our faith and our work through connecting biblical ethics to concrete applications at our jobs; working evangelistically and seeing our workplaces as mission fields; interpreting our work through a Christian worldview, and discerning that our vocation is a calling from God; and, knowing that our work is a means of God transforming and sanctifying us.
 
            How do you view your job?  How might you connect your faith and your work?  How does your job reflect the nature and character of God?  In what ways do you think God wants to use you at your workplace?
 

 

            Sovereign God, you cause nations to rise and to fall, leaders to rule and be brought down.  Take my life and my work and use it in redemptive ways that glorify the name of Jesus and exemplify the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Faith and Work

 

         
 

          For many of us the holidays offer a break from normal routines.  A break from work may be just the time to do some reflection on work itself.  I have had a lot of jobs in my life, from white collar to blue collar, from the exciting to the repetitive and the mundane. I wish I could say that I have always had a positive attitude about all my jobs, but the reality is that I have had jobs I hated, and have done work that left me feeling completely dehumanized.  One of the potential tragedies about church ministry is that there can easily become a secular/sacred dichotomy in which my normal work-a-day world has no relation to my faith; there can become a large spiritual gap between Sunday and Monday.  It behooves church leaders to bring some solid teaching for parishioners as to how to deal with living for God in any kind of employment.  The following are some things I have found to be helpful in not only coping with work, but in thriving as a Christian in my jobs.

First, a Reformed perspective on work has been tremendously helpful for me. The Reformers, like John Calvin, eliminated the long held medieval distinction between sacred work and secular work. They elevated all vocations into a calling blessed by God. All work is significant because God himself engaged in the work of creation. Work also involves, for the Reformers, worship. That is, we worship God through obedience to him in our jobs; our attitude makes work meaningful. Work, furthermore, provides a context for our continual learning about God. Our job, if we let it, can cultivate godliness, moderation, perseverance, and self-control. Thus, any job has the potential to transform us.

Second, we have opportunities to integrate our faith and work so that we don’t end up having a working world and another world outside of work where the two never meet. David Miller in his book God at Work offers four ways of bringing our faith and our jobs together: connecting biblical ethics to concrete applications in the marketplace; seeing the workplace as a mission field to reach the lost; finding meaning and purpose in work through a Christian worldview; and, using my job as a means of personal change through working with others in community and fellowship.

Yes, all work involves a certain amount of toil and difficulty. But seeing it as the possibility of sharing in the work that God wants to do on this earth can help us in those times when we feel like we are going nowhere. In a day when the level of satisfaction for so many in their jobs is low, we need to recover looking at our vocation from a more biblical point of view. If we can adopt this outlook it can be the means of transforming society for the better and bringing glory to God.