Lesson 2 - Growing Closer to God Through Labor

Sometimes we might think like this, "I'm all for growing closer to God if...
...it doesn't cost too much"
...it doesn't take too much time"
...it doesn't cause me to sacrifice anything"
...it isn't too much work."

We may not be bold enough to say these things out loud, but our actions prove them to be true. Here is the truth, though, anything that allows us to grow closer to God takes hard work, it takes time and money and may cause us to sacrifice things we want. As a matter of fact anything worth having takes work!

In this lesson we will explorer how our labor will allow us to grow closer to God. How keeping our hands and minds busy in service blesses our lives and draws us into a deep relationship with Him. The church needs labors and God saved us so we could be one of them (Ephesians 2:10).

Growing Closer to God Through Labor
James 1:19-20
19 You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20 for a man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.

This section of scripture sets the stage for the thoughts that will follow. Here James is saying "don't run your mouth, don't get mad, don't be dirty, and listen to the Word!" Why? So you will be saved. These verses are "heavy" and yet simple, mainly because they let us know the real "meat" is coming. They cultivate our minds for the teaching that will follow. So listen closely since your soul depends on it.

James 1:22-25
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.

Many of us have all heard lessons about the "coat rack Christian." The member who walks in the church building, takes their Christian coat off of the foyer coat rack, goes through classes and worship services, and before exiting the building take of that coat and hangs it on the coat rack. If you are an "in the building Christian" only, you aren't fulfilling what God had planned for you. Look again at the end of Ephesians 2:10 speaking of God works Paul writes, "which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." God has a plan, you are part of that plan, and your soul as well as the soul of others depends on you completing His plan.

James says we are to be "doers" of the word. This commands action. We live in a world where scriptures representing our faith are painted on plaques and posted on social media in beautiful fonts. This is fantastic, but it is merely a start. We must be the kind of people who write these words on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and actively live them out in our physical lives. Don't be a catch-phrase Christian. Our faith must move us to action! Satan wants our Christian lives to be as shallow as possible. When we paint and post verses it feels so good, but we must be willing to back up these assertions with tangible action.

Be blessed in what you do. James says that when we labor for God, He will add His blessing to our labor. This means whatever we can do will be multiplied many times over by His power! Too often we think, "what can I do," or "I am not good enough to do _____?" Isn't it great to know that even if we can only to do little, when God "mixes in" His blessings the results can be incredible. Then, based on this success, we can grow our abilities and become close and closer to God as we discover there's is nothing we can't do with heavenly help (Philippians 4:13).

James 1:26-27
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Our religious faithfulness is judged by whether we are active in service are not. When we do not serve, our religion is "useless." Look at what the verse says, shut up and put up! Close your mouth, and get busy. When we are not busy about the Lord's work our focus can slip and we may lose sight of what is important. In 2 Thessalonians 3:11 we see an example of some women who were not busy and started gossiping (and this is NOT limited to women). I have noticed in my own life the less busy I am, the more I complain about others. There is a saying that says "I wish my sin bothered me as much as your sin bothers me." If I am busy about God's business I won't have time to get involved in yours.

So what should be do? Make SMART goals.

S - Specific * Your goals should be focused and specific. Not a generic, "work more," "study more," "pray more." Instead, "I will ready one chapter of the Bible per week and a year." Or, "I will pray before I get out of bed in the morning, and as I get into bed at night for 6 months."
M - Measurable * Your goals should be something that can be easily measured to see if they are being accomplished or not. If you see progress it will motivate you!
A - Applicable * Your goals should apply to your overall desires in life. Since our biggest overall goal is heaven, our goals should be focused on activities that will help us get there.
R - Realistic * Your goals should be something you can successfully do. Sure, they can stretch you some, but they must be realistic. So instead of, "I am going to memorize the entire New Testament this year," how about, "I am going to memorize the BE Attitudes this year."
T - Time sensitive. Set a deadline and stick to it. Otherwise you will put them off,..... forever.

God has made His will for our lives abundantly clear. Christianity is a life of active service. Head down, pushing hard, sweating, straining, and loving service. A lifestyle shaped by this realization will be one with little room for complaints, gossip. and glory seeking.The results of this effort, because of God's plan and assistance, will have a positive impact within the church and through-out the world. Let's all resolve to be part of this effort together.