Sunday morning we are going to be looking at what many people throughout history have called “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13. But as we will see Sunday, it should better be called “The MODEL Prayer”, because it really is a model that Jesus gave us; it is not so much “His” own prayer, as it is OURS to learn how to pray from.
But there IS a prayer that we can rightly call “The Lord’s Prayer”, and that is found here in John 17. Many believe it to be the greatest prayer that has ever been uttered in human language, and I don’t know how you would dispute that. It is an amazing prayer, from the lips of Jesus Himself just before He went to the cross, with such incredible insights about Himself, and us, and the mission God sent Him on. We should probably spend a whole series going through this prayer together verse-by-verse some time.
But for now I want us to focus on just one verse that stuck out to me as I have been reading this chapter this week; it is :4, in which Jesus prays:
“I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.”
Jesus Himself prayed these words, and they were true for Him. But I also believe this is a great verse for ANY of us to make our own, for any day or for any span of time in our lives. We want to be able to pray to God: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You gave me to do.”
There are several ways this verse applies to each of us, and can guide our prayers and our actions:
I. First of all, it reminds us that God has given each of us a work to do.
God had given Jesus some specific assignments when He came here to earth:
— He had to fulfill a number of scriptures with His life and ministry
— He was to teach us God’s word
— He was to live as an example so that we could follow “in His steps.”
— And He was to die on the cross as a payment for our sins, and rise again to be our Savior.
These are things that Jesus was given to do, that NONE of us have been given. We don’t fulfill the scriptural prophecies; our lives aren’t perfect examples; and we did not come to die as a substitute for anyone’s sins. We have not been given the assignment that Jesus was.
And yet, each of us HAS been given a work to do from the Lord — and it is different for each of us:
— Jesus had His assignments from the Father;
— Paul could write in I Timothy 2 that he had been called as “a teacher, and an apostle, and a preacher to the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
— And I Peter 4:10 says, “As EACH ONE has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” In other words, “EACH ONE” of us has received some job assignment from the Lord, and just like Jesus, we should be able to say: “I accomplished the work which You gave me to do.”
Each one of us needs to consider that: am I doing the work which the Lord gave me to do?
A. We might consider first of all our work for the Kingdom of God.
I Peter 4 says that God gifted each one of us to serve Him in His Kingdom work in some way: Romans 12 says some as preachers, some as teachers, some as servers, some as helpers, some as givers, or leaders, or encouragers. We have each been given given different gifts and abilities by the Lord, and we are supposed to be USING them for His Kingdom work in His church. Are you doing that?
— If you have the gift of teaching, are you teaching?
— If you have the gift of serving, have you plugged into a place where you can serve?
This is that time of year when our Nominating Committee is searching for people to teach Sunday School classes; and our Ministry Directors are looking for people to serve in various places.
— I know Dr. Amanda needs a couple of people to replace La’rel and Luke in the Good News Club at Glen Alpine Elementary on Tuesday afternoons. Some of you may be gifted by God to do this kind of ministry — are you doing the work God gave you to do? Maybe you need to visit with Dr. Amanda about that. (There’s an impt. Training Sat if you are …)
— David Burleson told us Sunday that Burke Ministries needs people to help sort clothes, and serve meals, and just show up and encourage people. God has called some of you to do that very kind of thing — are you doing it? Maybe you need to talk to David, or Diane, or Dot, about serving.
— Next Wednesday we’ll be adopting students to pray for, and write a note during the year and encourage them. Many of us can do that. Plan to be here next Wednesday and “adopt a student”, and encourage and pray for them.
There are all kinds of ministries and opportunities to serve — the question is, are you doing the work God assigned to you in His church?
B. But we also need to understand that this goes beyond what we often think of as our “church work” to our life’s VOCATION. Very few of us are called to spend our full time working in God’s church or in ministry. But that doesn’t mean that we are not to glorify God by doing the work that He has called us to do in our every day vocation.
There has been a wrong idea regarding CHRISTIAN VOCATION that has been prevalent in much of Christianity for the last generation or so. That idea is that there are only a “few” “Christian vocations” — pastors, music ministers, missionaries, etc., and the rest of us are “just” in “secular work” — and that has often been understood as being somehow of “less importance”, and as if it doesn’t matter to God how you do that “secular” work.
But the truth is, God has called ALL of His people to glorify Him through their work. Jesus said here, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” — and so each of us are to be able to say the same thing — and NOT just in our so-called “church work”, but in everything we do — including our full-time vocation.
There is a very real sense in which EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A FULL-TIME MINISTER, in whatever field God has called you to serve. There is no false “dividing line” between “sacred work” and “secular work.” If you are a Christian, you have been called to sacred work, every day, in whatever you are doing. You are to glorify God in it.
Karen Swallow Prior is a professor of English and Literature at Liberty University, where Alex Brittain and Luke Hensley are both going this fall. Cheryl & I listened to some of her testimony on Eric Metaxas’ podcast on our trip to Indianapolis last week. Like many of us, Karen Swallow Prior grew up in a good Christian home, and she was saved at an early age, and she felt called to serve the Lord in some way, and glorify Him with her life. But she said in the church she grew up in, the idea was kind of that the only way you could glorify God with your life as a woman was either by becoming a pastor’s wife or a missionary. But she loved to read, and she loved literature, but there was nothing really “Christian” that you could do with that. But as she grew up, and grew in the Lord, she discovered that you can glorify God in ALL KINDS of vocations, not just full-time ministry. And today she lives out her faith by teaching English and Literature at Liberty, pointing students to God through great Literature, and influencing young minds for the Lord there. And she has written books that help point people to the Lord through history and literature.
So in a few years, Karen Swallow Prior will hopefully be able to look back on her life and say: “Lord, I glorified You by accomplishing the work that You gave me to do” — NOT as a pastor’s wife or as a missionary, but as a full-time English teacher.
And the same thing can and should be true for most of us too. Most of us here are not in full-time Christian ministry. God may call some more of us to it; He does that. But He will also keep most of us in so-called “secular” vocations, to glorify Him there. BUT FOR THAT TO HAPPEN, WE HAVE TO HAVE THE MINDSET THAT WE ARE WHERE WE ARE IN OUR VOCATION TO GLORIFY GOD — in the same way that a pastor or minister does in his church:
— Our schoolteachers should seek to come home from school every day and say, “Lord, I glorified You by accomplishing the work that You gave me today” — I exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit as I taught kids; and I witnessed and ministered to families. (By the way, we are having several more individuals and families ask about joining the church and taking our “Discovering the Ridge” class. I spoke with another new family this week, and I asked them how they came to our church — and they said their child had been in Kerri Phipps and Eric Davis’ classrooms a few years ago, and they knew they went here! See, our teachers are doing God’s work through their vocation!
— I think about Tommy Sain. Tommy teaches a Sunday School class, and occasionally preaches for us & other churches — and he is a good preacher and teacher — but his best work for the Lord may not be anything he does in a church building, but in his barber shop, as God literally brings hundreds of people through there every week, whom he has opportunities to witness and minister to. And he does. Tommy is glorifying God by accomplishing the work, the vocation that He gave him to do.
And that’s what the Lord wants each one of us to do. Ephesians 6:7-8 says whatever our job is, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord.”
God has given every one of us the assignment of glorifying Him through our vocation. The question for you is: are you doing it? Through your school-teaching, through your service, through your business, through your homemaking, whatever you do — are you glorifying God through your vocation?
In other words, as a Christian, a “successful” day for you will be different than it is for someone else. Some other businessman may say, “This was a great day — because I made a lot of money.” And a Christian businessman needs to make money too; it’s his livelihood! — but he has a different “bottom line.” It’s not all about money to him — it is about glorifying God.
See, that’s the “bottom line” for the Christian, that whatever we do all day long, that at the end of the day, we can pray this part of Jesus’ prayer: “I glorified You on the earth (today), having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.”
Let’s ask God to help us live and serve in such a way that we can pray Jesus’ prayer at the end of each day — and like He did, at the end of our life!
Read John 17 and pray as God leads you
Specifically: ask God to 1) show you the work He has for you, both in the church, and in your vocation; and 2) help you to glorify HIM in what you do.
(Maybe you have started some works, but are not “finishing” it; not really doing all He has called you to do in it; ask Him to help you do what you are doing — in your ministry at church, and in your vocation — in a way which will glorify Him.)
Pray this same prayer for someone you know: child/loved one — a great prayer to pray them: to find what God has called them to do, and glorify Him in it.
CLOSING SONG: “In my life, Lord, be glorified.” “In my work, Lord, be glorified …”