Strengthened with his power - a New Year reflection

This year’s New Year Bible reflection picks up the theme of work and productivity and focuses on how each of us can face whatever tasks or work await us in the year to come, whether your 'work' and 'tasks' are paid or voluntary, at home or away, at church or with family, serving or caring.

So much to do... so little time?

Compared with the rest of the G7 countries, the UK performs poorly on worker ‘productivity’ (the amount of ‘stuff’ we get done in the working day).

As we reflect on the year that has passed, we may see areas of our lives where we wish we had been more productive. For example:

  • At work the lofty goals for projects don’t seem to be achieved as we had hoped.
  • At home the list of tasks done is offset by those that have accrued or been put off.
  • In our spiritual lives we may think that little progress has been made, and see more that we strive for.

How was your year?

Why not take a moment and write down your thoughts and feelings. Use the headings of work, home and spiritual life if that helps you. Do include somewhere any task or activity that takes up time (like washing the dishes or making coffee at church).

Three perspectives from the Bible

Today’s culture places a significant burden on our hard work and productivity as the route to happiness. By inference, any failures are our fault. If we succeed, we will be revered and respected by those who see what we have done, and if we fail we will be ignored and maligned…

The Bible gives us a helpful and refreshingly different picture.

1. Not working for ourselves, but the Lord...

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 1:23-24 (NIV)

We should take note that the verse above says 'Whatever you do'. Any definition of 'work' here must include paid and voluntary service, loving and caring for others, serving the church and also the mundane tasks we all do. The biblical view of 'work' does not begin when we get a job and end at retirement; God's concern is broader.

The Bible firmly places 'work' as a normal part of life; we cannot avoid it or escape it, yet the passage warns us that we shouldn't find our meaning in it either.

While our reasons for working might be to pay the rent, put food on the table, manage the home or care for others, the Bible instead tells us that the primary reason for our work should be worship. We're working for the Lord.

It matters a great deal how we work; perhaps it matters less what our work is.

Whether we are the greatest or the least where we work, whether we work for money or not, whether our work is in the home or away, whether our work is seen or hidden, let us strive to remember whom we truly serve, and seek to please him above all else, working with all our hearts.

Man working on belt

2. Not for our own glory…

Wooden cross

Any list of the most influential Christians must surely include the apostle Paul. What advice does the successful, influential church leader and planter, give us?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NIV)

God has assigned to each one of us and to our churches their tasks. In all the business and activity, all of the service, all of the sacrifice and effort, we need to recognise that our identity is not in our work.

It is God alone who gives the growth.

If we make our work about us, we will be puffed up with pride at our achievements or crushed by our failures, and may look down on the work of others.

If we make our work about what God does in and through us, seeing every victory as God’s handiwork and grace, and seeing every failure as an opportunity to depend more on him, we will be humbled and turned outward in thanks and praise to him.

3. Not with our strength…

Our work as a charity takes a great deal of thought, prayer, giving and hard work from a whole range of people, and we’re so grateful to all who support us. We are particularly aware of the need for funding to sustain and develop our work.

Yet we must remember in times of need that we don’t have to be self-reliant.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1: 28-29 (NIV)

Whatever tasks or work awaits us in the coming year, and whatever trials we go through along the way, our hope is not in ourselves.

Our hope is that Jesus would work his strength powerfully in us.

Praying hands

A closing prayer

Loving Heavenly Father, we pray for your provision and blessing for the year to come. Please help us to keep our eyes fixed on you and on the things that really matter. Please give us wisdom and discernment to know where and how we can best serve you through all we do. May your mighty strength work through us for your glory alone.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

A closing song

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