Labor Day: Now But Not Yet
Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians
September 1, 1996
Introduction: We have worked hard in this country and so we have set aside a holiday to commemorate American labor and to enjoy the fruits of it in an extra day of rest. But Labor Day for the Christian is the day Jesus comes, and that is the Day toward which we labor. We labor now because Labor Day has not yet arrived.
2 Kings 22-23 background: (review from last Sun. eve service)
King Josiah set it in his heart to serve God. He was the last real king in Judah before the advance of events leading to the Babylonian captivity.
So he set about to repair the temple - something he knew how to do.
In repairing the temple, the Book of the Law was found.
He was convicted further about God’s righteous requirements.
Therefore he inquired of the Lord through prophetess Huldah about what else he should do.
She responded that he would be blessed in his humility before God.
But that basically it was too late for the nation - that God would indeed bring disaster and lay waste to both the place and the people (2Ki. 22:18-20).
This did not prevent Josiah from pursuing his zeal for God.
He reconfirmed the peoples’ part of the covenant God had previously made with them and set about to clean up the temple and the land and the priesthood from idolatry even though God said it would all be destroyed.
Josiah worked for God even though it appeared to be futile.
He himself would die in peace because of his zeal to work for God even though it appeared his work would make no difference in God’s judgment upon the nation (2Ki. 23:26-27).
Lesson: even though it may be too late for the nation, it is not too late for us as individual believers. We must continue to do God’s work to the end. There may be a picture of the rapture here and a lesson for the present day church of true believers in our own nation. We cannot slack off nor give up in proclaiming the coming of Christ’s kingdom.
Labor Day is now but not yet. We are to labor now even though we will not fully reap the fruits of our labors yet.
Why must man work at all?
Is work a curse?
Does God really need us anyway?
God the Creator is a worker.
God created man in His own image.
Therefore man was created to be a worker - that is, a coworker with God. Man’s work is an extension of God’s work.
Therefore the nature of work is good, not evil.
Work was given to man before the Fall (to work and care for the Garden, Gen. 2:15), not after the Fall.
Therefore after the Fall it was not work itself that became the curse, but the fruit of the work that was cursed - it would become harder (Gen. 3:17-19) outside the Garden.
Work itself was not imposed as a punishment. It was the ground that was cursed, not the task of cultivating the ground.
Therefore the dignity and value of work was not removed.
(Gen. 5:29 He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”)
If God had wanted to punish man through work, the best thing He could have done would have been to take away man’s work entirely. The fact that God wants us to work proves we have value to Him because He could do it all without us.
Sherman and Hendricks, in their book, Your Work Matters to God, state the following: “In all seriousness, work is a gift of God’s grace. In fact, after pronouncing His devastating curse, God sends man out of the Garden to work the land outside the Garden. He sends Adam and Eve away in order to prevent a worse fate. For had they eaten from the tree of life, they would have lived forever-but that would have meant living forever in sin, separated from God. There would have been no way for God to have recovered them. (Death then is a blessing just as the chrysalis is to the butterfly.) So sending them out of the Garden is a tribute to God’s grace. But notice that He sends them back to the work He originally gave them, to their occupation of farming (planting seeds). This is also grace. Thus man remains a coworker with God.”
So if it seems your work for our Christ and for His Church is sometimes going nowhere, never fear. Even in the face of our nation that seems to be heading in the wrong direction morally, never fear. If we continue working for Christ, whether His return is near or far, never fear. As long as we are working for Him, we are doing what He wants us to do even though it may be too late for our nation as it was for Israel. We will be blessed in continuing on, we will end our days in peace, and we too are promised not to have to live through the worst of what God will bring upon the disobedient (tribulation) because we are promised the rapture. But again, that is not cause for quitting. It is cause for a renewed effort of holy zeal for God’s house just like King Josiah. Who knows what individuals we may yet take with us. The impending destruction is cause for renewed effort.
The Situation In The Thessalonian Church
A. The geographical, political, and influential position of Thessalonica.
B. Paul’s first visit there on his second missionary journey.
C. Paul’s second visit there on his third missionary journey.
D. The situation was hostile and the believers there, mostly Gentile, had little chance to gain maturity through discipleship.
E. Paul wrote his first letter to comfort them and his second letter to correct them.
F. A major theme in both letters is work in the context of future events - namely, the return of Jesus Christ.
II. The Thessalonians were tempted not to work because Christ’s return may be close at hand: time was short so why try?
III. The Thessalonians were tempted not to work because Christ’s return may be far off: time was plenty so why rush?
IV. The Thessalonians were even tempted not to work because Christ’s return had perhaps already come: time was past so why continue?
A. 1Cor. 15:58 context
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 ¶ Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
B. John 9:3-5 context
3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.
5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes.
7 "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
C. John 6:27-29
27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
28 ¶ Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
D. John 4:34-35
34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
35 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.
E. John 17:4
2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
F. Illustration: Persian Legend