J. C. Ryle’s Word to Ministry Workaholics

I came across this quote from J. C. Ryle while working on a sermon from Mark 6:30-34. His application is needed for those who work obsessively in Christ’s church.

Let us note the words of our Lord to the apostles when they returned from their first public ministry. “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

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The Gospel Changes Our Relationships


Each Monday I’ll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church “Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians”. This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church’s website

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 3:18–4:1, ESV)

A man in his family ride in to church on Sunday morning. They go off to their respective classes. The man in a SS teacher so he teaches his class then goes to the worship service where he serves as an usher. The man an his family is well respected in the church and they are on many committees and wield great influence. After church the man gets in the car and on the way back begins yelling at his children for not cleaning their rooms before church, mocking them, belittling them, and domineering over them. He gets home and isolates himself in a room ignoring his wife and his children as he gorges the afternoon with television.

That night he approaches his wife hostile and angry over the amount of money she’s spent on groceries that month and the two get into a huge fight over their finances. She gets angry at him for spending to much on hobbies while he gets angry at her for not making as much as she does. The two spend the rest of the evening not talking to one another. At work the next day after yelling at the kids some more because they weren’t ready on time he goes into work. His boss is on vacation this week so he spends the morning goofing off with his employees and just letting calls go to VM. During lunch he gathers around his co-workers as they tell stories about their boss to poke fun and demean him. They spend the remainder of the afternoon gossiping about some other employees then clock out. He goes back home. Gets angry at his wife again as she doesn’t have dinner on the table yet. He refuses to help with the dishes or get the kids into bed for the night. He goes to his room, shuts the door, and checks out. The next day, rinse and repeat.

Unfortunately this fictional story I just told is a far to common reality in our churches. We have men, women, and children, who are quite adapt at playing the Christian part while in the building, but when their faith comes to their private and personal relationships there is often a breakdown. We might be able to fool our pastor our SS class and our friends at church about our faith, but those who know us best - our spouse, our children, and our co-workers - can spot a hypocrite easily.

Paul today addresses that the Gospel impacts our most personal relationships. If the Gospel isn’t changing the way you think as a husband or wife, or a father or mother, or an employee or boss, then you either have some serious immaturity and blindspots in your life or you may not know Christ at all. The Gospel changes our most personal and daily relationships from family to work.

1. The Gospel in Marriage Relationships (3:18–19)

2. The Gospel in Parenting Relationships (3:20–21)

3. The Gospel in Work Relationships (3:22–4:1)

The Gospel and Productivity

The chains of efficiency seem to be lifting us up to increasing demands for productivity. Many are looking for that golden bullet that will help them get more things done in a shorter amount of time. We pick up new productivity books or leadership conferences or scan blog posts for tips and tricks to turn our lives into well oiled, productivity machines. If you are like me, chances are you have experience the pressure and demand of your responsibilities. It is a good thing to work and to be productive, but yet I am fearful that the zeal for productivity, success, and checking off tasks puts an enslaving yoke around our necks.

Work and Productivity are Good

As we develop a theology of work and productivity the Scriptures clearly outline them as good things. Work was around before the corruption of sin entered into the world as Adam tended and cultivated the garden. As you read the Gospels you see Jesus productively teaching, preaching, and healing. His ministry and schedule was one few could bare. You even see the apostle Paul laboring and toiling for the spread of the Gospel traveling, writing letters, preaching, planting churches, and training leaders. Work, productivity, and busyness are not bad things. The Bible doesn't just praise a man or woman with a work ethic, but it rebukes the lazy. Paul commands the church at Thessolinca that if a man is unwilling to work, to not let him eat. (2 Thess 3:10)

So if work and productivity are good things how does the Gospel speak into these areas?

1. Work from Christ's Finished Work

As we begin working and laboring in our jobs, careers, or tasks we most always remember the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is for us in our passion for efficiency to begin to add to the work Christ has finished. In our work we are not proving ourselves to God or earning our salvation and redemption. Knowing that we work out of joy and thanksgiving to the glory of God frees us from becoming productivity slaves.

2. You are Only Human

Human Beings are finite creatures and must rest. There is a reason God designed us to spend a third of our lives sleeping. We are weak and require rest. This is one of the reasons God has given us the Sabbath to rest and remember that we are finite creatures.creatures

No matter how many productivity techniques you master or your ability to keep your inbox to zero, you will require rest. You are not a machine but a human being. Your work will have ebbs and flows of extreme productivity and then periods of lack of focus and clarity. Part of being human means that there is sometimes an unpredictable element to our work not only because we do not know what each day will bring, but because of our often unpredictable emotional strength and will.

3. Work for the Glory of God

It is easy to turn our work into a selfish personal quest. We work long hours to increase our sales to increase our lifestyle. We exhaust ourselves earning a promotion so we can feel superior and important. So often our motivations for hard work are selfish. Yet the Scriptures tells us that whatever we do we do it for the glory of God. We work diligently in our work place seeking God's name to be praised in our productivity. Although hard work will often increase your salary or earn you that promotion, those things must be secondary to our God given purpose of bringing glory to his name.

4. Work Hard for the Kingdom of God

Sometimes in life there will be seasons when we over work. Yet this is not always a bad thing. As we look at the Scriptures and see the pace of Jesus ministry or of the missionary Paul it is good to spend ourselves serving others in our work. The desire for hard work and productivity is a good thing if we channel it to focus on God and His Kingdom. We must find balance in our lives and always keep a proper perspective on our priorities, but it is good to be spent for the glory of God. It is good not to waste our life in laziness and self-indulgence, but to work hard for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the spread of the reign of Christ through justice.

Remember the finished work of Christ, work hard, be productive, remember to regularly rest, and spend your life for the glory of God.