Monday, November 27, 2006

Spurgeon on Faith and Work - Living an Industrious Life

Long before Tim Keller made it cool to talk about integrating Christian faith and work, Charles Spurgeon preached on the topic from Galatians 2:20. Over time, I plan to post excerpts from his sermon on the topic of faith and work. I think you'll find his comments to be insightful and instructive to us.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Before discussing the topic of faith and work, Spurgeon's reminds his listeners that the effect of saving faith does more than secure our eternal destiny - it ought to make a practical difference in the way we live.

"My brethren, true religion has as much to do with this world as with the world to come; it is always urging us onward to the higher and better life; but it does so by processes and precepts which fit us worthily to spend our days while here below."

Spurgeon extends this point with a wonderful phrase -

"Faith is a principle for present use...".

In his sermon, he makes several points about faith and work, starting with this notion, often missed by Christians in the marketplace today - saving faith leads a person to an industrious life. Here's what Spurgeon said about this -

Faith is but an empty show if it produces no result upon the life. If a professor manifests no energy, no industry, no zeal, no perseverance, no endeavour to serve God, there is cause gravely to question whether he is a believer at all. It is a mark of faith that, whenever it comes into the soul, even in its lowest degree, it suggests activity. Look at the prodigal, and note his early desires. The life of grace begins to gleam into his spirit, and its first effect is the confession of sin. He cries, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." But what is the second effect? He desires to be doing something. "Make me as one of thy hired servants." ...One of the signs of the return of his soul's sanity was his willingness to work, although it might be only as a menial servant in his father's house.

Spurgeon's point on this matter is clear - saving faith produces fruitful activity in the life of the believer. It energizes a person and creates the motive for work

"...faith is such a useful thing to men in the labour and travail of this mortal life, because it puts them into motion and supplies them with a motive for work. Faith does not permit men to lie upon the bed of the sluggard, listless, frivolous, idle; but it makes life to appear real and earnest, and so girds the loins for the race. "

Spurgeon references Jesus' example with the following words -

Does faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him, suggest to the redeemed man that he should be industrious and active? Assuredly it does; for it sets the divine Saviour before him as an example, and where was there ever one who worked as Jesus did?...His was stern labour and sore travail: the zeal of God's house did eat him up, and the intensity of love consumed him. He worked on until he could say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Now, it is no small thing for a man to be roused by such an example, and to be made a partaker of such a spirit.

From my perspective, it's interesting to note how hard work is lost as a Christian virtue today. In our effort to guard against selling out to the world, I wonder if Christian labor hasn't been relegated to the background of Christian living. In general, we no longer view a life of labor as virtuous nor do we intruct our children on how to work hard for the glory of God.

I wonder what Spurgeon would say about that?

4 comments:

Gideon Strauss said...

This is great stuff, Andre - thank you for blogging on it!

Mark Goodyear said...

"In our effort to guard against selling out to the world, I wonder if Christian labor hasn't been relegated to the background of Christian living."

What an insight! We separate ourselves from the world, and in doing so reject some of the good things the world learned from Christianity--like a good work ethic.

Sure, the world perverts the chrsitian work ethic into workoholism, but in rejecting the idolization of work we've gone too far and rejected work itself!

How many times have you heard preachers talk about getting your priorities straight--then they put work at the bottom of the list?

andre said...

Mark

I'm grateful for a number of groups seeking to bridge the gap between work and faith and the organization you work for is one of the best.

Thanks for your work there

I think there is some semblance of a movement afoot that is motivating and mobilizing the christian worker to make a difference in the workplace. It'll be exciting to see what God does in this area.

Andre

andre said...

Gideon

Sorry for not getting your kind comment online...I was traveling and somehow missed your comment.

Andre