Trusting God in Your Work

Another Lord’s Supper sermon on contentment.  Please turn to Psalm 127:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.  


Here we have a wisdom song that has to do with the common stuff of life.  Just glance over and note these familiar words: build, house, labor, city, watchman (ok, that word isn’t familiar but the idea of protecting our goods is), bread, sleep, children, womb…and if you were living when Solomon wrote the psalm the arrows, warrior, quiver, enemies, gate would also be commonplace.  

The song focuses on work and answers the question: what work lasts?  Can we come to the end of our days having participated in permanent work?

The song’s opening lines suggest the possibility, maybe even the likelihood, of wasted effort.  Building a house and guarding a city…creating and maintaining…the two basic thrusts of all work…in vain.  

What’s worse than effort that ultimately is pointless, futile?  You might remember Sisyphus from Greek myth – a man condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down just before he crested the hill.  

Vanity – futility – has a lot of different looks.  Maybe you set about building a house and you can’t get any momentum: the local building supply keeps bringing you the wrong materials, the weather doesn’t cooperate, your contractors don’t show up.  You just can’t get this thing done…

There’s another kind of futility when you get the house done, and it looks pristine, but unbeknownst to you, the foundation cement is bad…and it’s only a matter of time before cracks start showing up.  Shout out to Stafford Springs! 

And then there’s the futility of completing the house, and it remains a beautiful structure, but inside the four walls is stress and arguing and all kinds of ugliness.  

Building a house denotes not just building a structure but also establishing a home: putting down roots, raising a family.  For that venture to truly succeed, it’s crucial, and by that word I mean necessary, for God to build the house.  

That God is necessary for a good building and a proper guarding doesn’t imply that we don’t have to work.  In the past, there have been times when Christians, in the name of God, decided to quit working and just think big thoughts.  The extreme version of “let go and let God.” 

No, we work.  We work alongside of God.  Though God’s work is almost always participatory and hidden.  What I mean is: you don’t say, I’ll take care of the excavating and the foundation and framing and then God is coming with the plywood and wrapping and then I’ll do the roof shingles and drywall and then God will do trim and finish.  

Or, to use the city guarding imagery.  I’ll take the 1st and 3rd shift and God will take the 2nd and 4th.  

No, we are involved in every stage of the building.  And at every stage, God either builds alongside (underneath) us, or He doesn’t.  If He doesn’t, our work is in vain.  If He does, our labor is not in vain.  

There are reasons to wish to build apart from God.  I don’t want anyone bothering me…controlling me.  

It’s also possible to claim – even fooling yourself – that you are building alongside God but in actuality you’re not.  

Whatever you’re thinking is or isn’t, one thing is true: You can’t build successfully apart from God.  And no one has what it takes to hold things together apart from God.  

V.2: Even if you have the work ethic, the will power, to awaken early, go to bed late, focus focus focus – without God It is in vain.Your diligence and will power and focus can’t make up for God’s absence.  

On the other hand, when you’re a partner alongside of God – and if you work alongside of God you’re not a distant colleague but beloved – you can afford to work reasonably.  Sanely.  Proportionately.  For the most part, you’re getting a good night’s sleep, instead of eating the break of anxious toil.  With God you’ll be able to eat and drink in peace and rejoice in the work you’ve been given to do.  

So…there’s the way to contentment – trusting God in your work.  Realizing that He’s behind and before and alongside the work.  Ahhhh.  The One who doesn’t need sleep allows for you to sleep…and work will still get done.  

You’re working, yes, but the output is not proportional to just your input.  You’re guarding, yes, but not fretfully.  Because God.  

The second half of this psalm seems to leave behind the topic of building and guarding, and speaks of children, specifically sons.  At first reading, we wonder: why the change of topic?  And then we get it: the psalm’s second half is an application of the truths from the first half being worked out.  

Spelling that out: yes, the arrival and tending of children have something to do with our work, but from start to finish it’s God’s contribution to our work that allows for this wonderful thing called a human being.  

And this three-verse meditation on children functions in another way: we’re exposed to some principles of how to partner with God.  What that looks like.  

What does it look like to work alongside of God?  How do we enter into the contentedness of trusting God in our work of building and guarding?  Four brief points:

·      Be involved in God’s work.  

You’re not to summon God to the project of your choosing.  Rather, you work alongside of God in the projects of His choosing.  Childbearing and child-rearing are the will of God, entailed in some of the very first tasks God assigned.  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…”  Generally speaking: grow up, get married, get pregnant.  

Be involved in God’s work.  Sometimes God is not building and tending alongside of you for the simple fact that He wants nothing to do with your project.  A lot of folks are on a project of self: self-exaltation, self-fulfillment, self-discovery.  God, come and make my project successful.  This is completely backwards.  

Perhaps a bit more subtle way of sluffing off God: have you heard of those mom-and-pop stores in big cities that pay the Mafia to leave them alone and occasionally protect them?  People try this with God: they’ll give God a few “religious” coins – go to church this week, volunteer a few hours etc – so they can pay him off and then get back to doing life as basically their project.  

God sees through that.  We’re not bringing God onto our projects.  We work alongside of God, but not as peers.  God’s the foreman, or the architect.  His projects under His direction.  We build God’s building.     

Let’s keep going: what does it look like to work alongside of God?  How do we live in the contentedness of working trustingly beside God?

·      In your work notice the products that are all out of proportion to your work.  

The birth of a child is the perfect illustration: you do a little something in a moment and then out pops (ok, nine easy months later) this noble creature: a human being appointed for glory, for high responsibility, for eternal life.  What a gap between our contribution and what comes afterward!  Take note…this is of God.  

This kind of thing happens all over the place.  You work for some hours and save your money and as a result you’re able to buy a car: a machine that if you lived for 200 years you’d never be able to think of and manufacture by yourself.  God’s behind that…acknowledge Him…thank Him.     

And if you say: I accept that I can’t make a car.  But that car I bought isn’t from God, that’s Ford I have to thank.  Well, I can’t take time to respond thoroughly, except to simply state that God has been our dwelling place in all generations, and all goodness and advancement throughout time has come down from Him.  

So…what does it look like to work alongside of God?  You become proficient at identifying grace: results that – yes – often come after some labor of yours but are too stupendous to derive solely from you.  How much thanksgiving and joy there’s to be had!  

Continuing: What does it look like to work alongside of God?  To trust Him unto contentment?

·      Name the products as God does.  

Some moments, perhaps even over long periods, children don’t seem like a heritage from the LORD…a reward.  Rather they’re a pain, a drain, loss of freedom.  I recall a few years back noticing whenever I walked through the Watertown MA Target there’d invariably be a kid throwing a tantrum.  Now, I have something to say about allowing your kid to throw a tantrum.  But leaving that aside: what if in that moment I walked up to the mom: a heritage from the Lord, right?  

Just because you’re working alongside of God, and even when there is real progress being made – in some or several moments that might be clothed in frustration, drain, steps backward.  

Let God interpret, describe, name… the work, the new situation that has opened up.  For example, what we might instinctively label as “devastating setback,” he calls “refining fire.”  

God is there beside you; He does good work.  Don’t give up. 

·      Categorize the products as God does

What does it mean to work alongside of God?  Sometimes…often it means that you look at things differently than the world does.  Not because you’re a contrarian or a maverick but because God is providing you another angle.  

For instance, the world often looks at children as inconveniences.  Or children are decorations to make me look more attractive.  

{Read vv. 4,5}

How about this angle?  In God’s design, children, specifically sons (that’s the word the ESV translates as “children”), are instruments to be thoughtfully formed and shaped and – should it become necessary – shot out against enemies.  Just the presence of sons, like arrows in a quiver, give your foes something to think about.  Raise boys to a point.  Among other considerations: raise boys that are effective, competent, rugged, and – if the situation ever should call for it – dangerous.      

What are children for?  Let God answer that question.  

Your other work, what is it designed for?  Let God answer that question.  

So…again…working alongside of God – yes – but not as equals.  He’s the Foreman giving instructions, assigning definitions.

God builds as you build.  God gives you children; you play a part alongside Him in that creation and forming.  

God guards as you guard.  The sons you and God have built fashioned become the means of God’s protection.  

And so it goes.  What you’ll notice is that often what you build alongside of God becomes the very means by which God protects you.  That’ll bear some more thinking, and I encourage you in that.  


You might have heard the phrase, “Let Go, and Let God.”  But that’s not quite the way to contentment in your work.  Rather, work hard, work hard – yes; but also work trustingly alongside of God.  Trustingly, not fretfully… the kind of trustingly that allows for a deep sleep.  

What would that look like?  You work on His projects; not the ones He hasn’t assigned to you.  You look for and acknowledge great things from Him – FAR greater than what you could do as sole worker.  You label things as God does.  You categorize as God does. 

So… let go of working on your own and let God take the lead in your work.  No, in HIS work!  

Lord’s Supper

Now we come to the Lord’s Supper.  How can we traverse from this psalm to considering our Lord’s crucifixion?  We’ll do it by asking an important question: 

What is God doing?  What is He working on?  

The great work that God has been doing in the earth is described as a house building.  And this psalm hints at that great work.  Note three words in this psalm: Solomon.  House.  Beloved.  

Solomon grew up around the word, house.  His father, David, had told the Lord that he intended to make a house for Him.  A place where God dwelled, where heaven and earth came together.  A temple.

The Lord replied to David, not you will build me a house, but your son = Solomon.  But because you honored me by wanting to build me a house, I’ll build a house out of your descendants.  

Of course, what David meant by house was temple.  What the Lord meant by house was a great dynasty that would culminate in the birth of the King of kings.   

These two ways of understanding house came together in Jesus Christ.  Jesus: the house where God dwells, where Man and God come together, where heaven and earth meet.  Jesus the temple.  

And Jesus, the descendant of David who by His resurrection is declared to be that promised King of kings.  

In fulfilling his promise to David, God brings man into His work of building a house – that’s the history of Israel from David on.  

But in the crucial moment of that work, only one Man joins God in that great house building – Jesus Himself.  And in that moment, the work of house building involved a work of house destruction.  The temple of Jesus’ flesh was destroyed at the crucifixion.  

But that, so a new house-temple could be raised up out of the ashes.  The resurrected Jesus is a new living house, and in the construction of this new house-temple men and women boys and girls – joined to Jesus in sincere faith – are living stones that together with Jesus are being built up into a greater and greater house, a holy temple that fills the earth.  

About these living stones of this new house of God.  Those joined to Jesus are united to his death.  Jesus’ shed blood cut a new covenant between God and man, whereby God forgives our sins. Those in Christ are in that new and everlasting covenant with God.  They are forever beloved of God.  

These beloved by God – those in Christ, those under the blood of Christ, involved in a renewed covenant –they’re not just forgiven, saved from God’s wrath… but also brought into partnership.  They join God in His work.  

How to describe that work alongside of God?  That work is, as it were, sprinkling the blood of Jesus throughout the earth.  Bringing the victorious news and implications of Jesus’ crucifixion to all peoples. Building up the house of God, the Body of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit.  

Those brought near to God through Jesus, the beloved of God, working alongside the Triune God.  In this work they still need sleep; He still doesn’t.  

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

And now we come to that Table where we honor the cornerstone of God’s great building project: Jesus Christ.  And we remember the suffering unto death that permitted our sins to be forgiven, to be brought to God and to become partners in the great work that God is doing throughout the world.

As the bread and wine are distributed, I’d suggest you do three things:

1)    Noticing and thanking God for the grace which – while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Brought us back to God.  You talk about a lack of proportion between our works and God’s!

2)    Recalling that God has brought you into His projects: child-rearing, ordering and developing your section of the planet, doing justice, showing mercy.  But also the work of redemption through Jesus.  Re-committing to joining God in this work.

3)    Look around and notice your partners in this redemption work, and pray for your partners in the gospel.

I’ll ask Tom to thank God for the broken body…

I’ll ask Jack to thank God for the shed blood of His Son…

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