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Isaiah 41.8-10 ESV
8 But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Labor Day weekend is filled with different activities for different people. I can remember our camping trips growing up, where my family along with a few others would take over conjoining campsites at Lake Lanier Islands or Vogel State Park. It was exciting because it was a break that we all needed in order to re-orient and get ready for the big Fall push. We didn’t start back into school until after Labor Day back then and when we started back it was all about school, sports, work and embracing new routines.
Trips like that are very intentional because they’re weekend-long “deep breaths,” meant to help us charge ahead into what’s coming. It’s a good feeling, going into the long haul on the right foot. Having the right footing is what enables us to keep going, so that we have a firm place to stand, to walk, to run.
Now, labor is a part of life, I think we all know that. But labor isn’t an unholy curse. The Scriptures actually teach us that labor or “work” is holy, the very thing God gave us to do before Adam and Eve fell from grace. It was only AFTER Adam and Eve fell out of relationship with God that work became draining instead of sustaining.
The work given to the first couple was to bring life to the garden, and therefore life to them. They were to tend the garden and keep it. After they sinned, work looked like this:
17b cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
And so, labor became truly hard. It took on a draining quality. Without God and His blessing, work is now pain. But God is not an abandoning God. If there is anything we learn from history and Scripture, it is that God is a God of provision. He works for us, drawing us back into relationship with Him, and bringing fruit to our labor when we can’t produce on our own.
In fact, the entire record of Scripture, from start to finish, is God’s laboring for us and with us. He chases His beloved people through the pages of history and Scripture. And there is no greater picture of a labor of love than that of God’s work through Jesus Christ. For in Jesus, God has gone beyond working on our behalf; He has chosen to work with us. As God became man in Jesus Christ, He subjected Himself to the same curse, the same pain, the same sweat that pours down from our labor and efforts.
So, let’s get down to business: think about your labor (work, school, family,etc.). Do you know that God is truly with you? A large part of knowing that God is with you in your labors is by making your work as much about Him as it is anything else you are doing. God brings life and fruit to our work. This is the result of a restored relationship with Him. If there is little to no fruit in the things you are laboring over, you must ask and be honest with the question, “Where is God in my labor?” God should be in your work, in your school, in your family. If He is not, then He has not been included.
The frustrations we experience in our life are a result of a cursed ground and a broken relationship. But through the restoration that comes through Jesus Christ, there is fruit again! With Christ at the center of our lives, we can experience sustaining work rather than draining work.
Are you sweating in your marriage, wondering why there is little fruit? Put Christ back at the center. Do you feel like your school is Godless? Put Christ at the center of your actions and interactions in the hallways. Do you feel pain in your job and wonder why there is dead end after dead end? Put Christ at the center of your dealings and let Him be your strength through the long hours and over times.
Folks, God must be a part of everything we are doing or we’re just spinning our wheels. Better pay checks and frequent time away doesn’t heal relationships or bring life to your work. Only Jesus can do that. We’re looking at life without the right prescription. It’s time to get new classes and see our labor through eyes of God. There is fruit to enjoy if we will engage a labor of love, a Jesus-center labor.
Don’t you want your work to give you life? Don’t you want your efforts to have real, sustaining fruit? It doesn’t matter what you do, whether a career, an in-between job, or a part-time gig. All of life is to be infused with faithfulness so that God may be glorified and His name made known to others. We bear the fruit of salvation when we do that. People are given life and life abundantly when Jesus is a part of all we do.
Remember, that God never stops working for you, He never stops watching over you. The Psalms remind us that God never slumbers nor sleeps (121.4). Our text today teaches us this, saying, “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41.10). God is in the sustaining business. That is His labor for you, His labor of love. He sent His Son to DIE so that you could have life. Will you have it? Will you have that life He died to give you and will you give it to others? Don’t labor in vain. Don’t labor for pain. Labor for the fruit of Jesus in your life and in the life of others. Amen.