For today's teaching, Derek turns to the book of Ephesians to establish certain standards of conduct for employees that the New Testament clearly lays down. The words are addressed to slaves (or in modern terms, we could say "servants" or "employees." What responsibility do we have in experiencing favor on the job?
It’s good to be with you again, sharing with you out of truths that life has taught me, truths that have made the difference between success and failure in my life and can do the same in yours.
In my talk yesterday I dealt with situations in which we need guidance from God. Today I’m going to deal with a specific problem that confronts particularly those who are in places of employment, those who are employees. My theme is, “How to Find Acceptance in a Work Situation.”
Most committed Christians who seek to lead lives of righteousness that glorify their Lord experience some degree of strain or tension in situations where they have to work with or under people who are not believers and who may perhaps be actually hostile to the Christian faith. In some cases in such a situation there is actual opposition or even persecution.
Does the Bible have any guidance for Christians who find themselves in such a situation? I believe that it does. I say this on the basis of my own experience in such situations.
For our first promise today we are going to turn to what I would call a negative promise, a promise that promises something that we actually wouldn’t choose if we had the choice. Nevertheless, it’s part of the total promises of God’s Word and we have to give heed to it. 2 Timothy 3:12 says this:
“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (NAS)
That’s a promise. You might say, “Well, it’s not a very pleasant promise,” but it’s part of our total inheritance.
Remember, our inheritance is all the promises of God, both the ones we would like and the ones we wouldn’t like. But it’s important to understand that they all go together; that we cannot separate one from another and say, “Well, I like the pleasant promises but I don’t like the unpleasant.” It’s very important to see this because when we are in a situation where we are genuinely living godly and we are persecuted for it, it’s very comforting to know that it’s part of our inheritance. God has made provision for it; He understands it; there’s nothing going wrong; we’re not out of the will of God necessarily, but it just goes with being a Christian. So, in what I’m going to say to you today, I’m not promising you that you’ll never be persecuted. In fact, on the basis of clear Scripture, I can promise you that if you will really live a godly life in Christ Jesus, there will be times when you’ll be persecuted for it. Nevertheless, I believe God has certain answers to such a situation and that God can work it out both for His glory and for our good.
First, I think I need to establish certain standards of conduct for employees which the New Testament clearly lays down. We’ll turn to Ephesians 6:5-7. These words are addressed to slaves (or we would say today in modern society, servants or employees; although of course, some of the conditions of slaves were much more stringent than those of modern employees). But this is what the New Testament says to employees, to servants, to slaves:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men...” (NIV)
Now, certain things we are required to show in our conduct towards our employer, our master. We are required to show respect and sincerity and whole-hearted service. And the principle behind this is that in that given situation, our employer, our master, is God’s representative to us in our situation. We have to see in him the one whom God has for that particular situation, in that particular time placed over us, and our attitude and response to that employer is, in fact, a mirror of our true attitude and response to God Himself. If we show no respect for our employer, if we seek to cheat, if we seek to serve short hours and give shoddy service, that’s really our attitude toward God. We might not dare to show it openly toward God, but the attitude that we show to our employer is an indication of our heart attitude toward God. Once we realize this, it’s going to make us the kind of employees that employers will be happy to have around.
The next thing that I need to emphasize on this goes closely with what I’ve said, is the importance of faithfulness or trustworthiness. Proverbs 20:6 says:
“Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?” (NAS)
That was true about 3,000 years ago. I would say it’s even more true today. I am an employer myself. I have a lot of friends who are businessmen. I move in those circles many times, and I would say the question today really is: Who can find a trustworthy man? There are not many of them anywhere. The whole trend of modern society is toward indiscipline and irresponsibility, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find employees who are truly trustworthy. My conviction is that any employee in any situation, who truly proves himself trustworthy is going to be valued and is going to be approved by his employer in due course. It may take him time to prove himself, but when he does so, he will be valued. Again, in Proverbs 28:20 it says:
“A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” (NIV)
So, if you are a faithful man or a faithful woman in your place of employment and in your attitude towards your employer, God says you will be blessed. Even if your employer doesn’t bless you, God will see to it that in His own way and time you get blessed.
We’ve looked at the negative promise, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” We’ve examined some of the standards that the Bible sets for employees. Now I’m going to turn to the positive promise and this is one that I specifically proved in my own experience. It’s found in Romans 14:17-18:
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (NIV)
Notice what the kingdom of God is. It’s not a set of rules about what you’re to eat or what you’re to drink, or what places of entertainment you’re to attend, or any kind of set of legalistic, religious rules. That’s not where it’s at. As a matter of fact, I find that religious legalism tends to turn people who are not Christians off. It doesn’t attract them, it repels them. But the real life of Christianity is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Holy Spirit, it’s not possible.
And then, notice what Paul says about the person who is serving God in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He’s pleasing to God and approved by men. In other words, men will recognize the quality of his life and, even if it’s grudgingly, they will grant him approval. Now I can really say that I proved this in my own experience.
In World War II, I was a soldier in the British Army and after I’d been in the Army less than a year I experienced a very wonderful conversion to Jesus Christ. My whole life was instantly, radically and permanently changed. My fellow soldiers just couldn’t understand the change they saw in me. At first they would say, “He’s become religious,” and I would correct them and say, “No, it’s not religion; I’ve been saved,” and that they didn’t understand and they disliked. However, God gave me grace to lead the kind of life that was consistent with what I was saying about my experience. And I noticed after a while that I began to earn their respect. One thing that I discovered was never compromise about your faith at the beginning in a new situation. For instance, if I was moved into a new barrack room, the first night I would deliberately kneel down by my bed and say my prayers. Not because I think it’s essential to pray kneeling down, but just because I wanted to let everybody in that barrack room know where I stood. And though there was a kind of coolness at first and hesitation, I found in the end those men respected me. And later on, when we were in situations of danger in the North African desert, at one time our company was cut off behind the enemy lines (which is something that easily happens in desert warfare), some of those ungodly blaspheming men came to me privately and they said, “Corporal Prince, I’m glad you’re with us.” In other words, they felt I was a kind of insurance policy for them. They knew God was with me, and if God was with me, then it would rub off somehow on them; and, as a matter of fact, remarkably it did. Our company had a remarkable record of safety and protection during the period that I was with them in the desert.
So there is an example of how serving God the right way can gain you the approval of men, even if they don’t want to join you in your faith. And this is stated elsewhere in the Bible. For instance, in Proverbs 3:1 and 4, God says:
“My son, do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart, [they] will win [you] favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (NIV)
Favor with God and man is promised if we will walk in obedience to God’s commandments.
There are some remarkable examples of people who’ve proved that in the history of the Bible. Joseph was in jail but the Scripture says, “God gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” Daniel was an exile in Babylon but it says, “God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the official.” In other words, no matter where you are, if you walk right with God and please Him, God will give you favor with man.
Our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing with you some promises from God’s Word that relate to one of the most important choices a man or a woman ever has to make, the choice of a mate, a wife or a husband.