Christians in the Profession of Arms

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I had the privilege this morning of attending a cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U.S. Army.  The Governor of our state was there.  I got to sing the Army Song with him and about hundred military and civilian personnel who are proud to work at Fort Leonard Wood.

It is hard to believe the U.S. Army is 242 years old.  This is not a typo.  Occasionally I forget that the Army was established on the 14th of June, 1775, one year prior to our declaration of independence on the 4th of July, 1776.  If my math is correct, in my nearly 30 years of federal service (20.5 as military; almost 9.5 working in a civilian capacity), I have been serving the Army for about 1/8 (or 12.4%) of the U.S. Army’s history.  What a blessing it has been to serve!

I have shared in a previous article about how I personally have experienced God’s presence in government work.  However, I do not believe I have focused much on my time as a Soldier.

Joining the Army in 1986 was a huge answer to prayer.  There were days that I wondered what the heck I was doing, but they were few and far between.  If I had the power, I would not change a thing.  Most days, I sensed God’s presence.  There were ministry opportunities everywhere we were assigned.  I always knew that I was at the right place at the right time to live out my Christian faith.

I know there are a variety of viewpoints in the Body of Christ as to whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to serve in the military.  Last year, I enjoyed watching the movie “Hacksaw Ridge” which tells the true story about a conscientious objector during WWII.  As a combat medic, he single-handedly saved an unbelievable number of lives in one horrific battle in the Pacific without even carrying a gun.  In a similar vein, I knew a brother from my church who attended a Promise Keepers Conference with me about 25 years ago.  He was a civilian employee at Fort Hood, just like I am now.  Through much soul-searching and study with some believers who taught a pacifist approach, he decided to leave his job.  I did not agree with his decision, but I respected him as a brother in Christ.

To say that all Christians need to avoid career fields such as law enforcement or the military is dangerous.  Ironically, it is only because of the sacrifices of our military throughout our country’s history that has kept this country free which allows us all to practice our religion, express our convictions, and choose our own career path.

I found a couple of quotes from Martin Luther in the book Callings by William Placher that shed some light on the issue of Christians serving in the military:

“When I think of a soldier fulfilling his office by punishing the wicked, killing the wicked, and creating so much misery, it seems an un-Christian work completely contrary to Christian love. But when I think of how it protects the good and keeps and preserves wife and child, house and farm, property, and honor and peace, then I see how precious and godly this work is; and I observe that it amputates a leg or a hand, so that the whole body may not perish.  For if the sword were not on guard to preserve peace, everything in the world would be ruined because of lack of peace” (pp. 218-219).

Romans 13:4 also provides some supporting fires on this idea, where the Apostle Paul teaches the church to be in submission to authority.  You may ask, “Even the secular Roman government authorities?  Even the corrupt ones we have now?”  Yes.  And yes.  Why?  Paul writes they are “God’s servant, for your good. . . He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  Paul says that authorities are God’s servants.  Sometimes that means taking appropriately violent means to bring order out of chaos.

Later, Placher reminds us of what John the Baptist had said at the Jordan River: “When soldiers came to him and asked what they should do, he did not condemn their office or advise them to stop doing their work; rather, according to Luke 3 [v. 14], he approved it by saying, ‘Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’ Thus he praised the military profession, but at the same time he forbade its abuse” (p. 220).

Having served on active duty for 20 years, 6 months, and 17 days, I can honestly say that I am grateful to have had the opportunity. I am one of the rare Soldiers who did not serve in combat, so I never had to do those things Luther mentioned above.  But I would have gladly deployed if I had been assigned to a unit that was ordered to go.  I would have willingly laid down my life for my fellow Soldiers, and would have done whatever duty called me to do in defending this great country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Serving in the military was, and is, godly work.  And God is definitely present in it.

My prayer is that my short post will encourage those who have also served in the military, their families that supported them, and others who enjoy the freedom we have because of their service.

What Nehemiah Shows Us About Work and God’s Presence

There is a great narrative in the OT that highlights the deliberate, not coincidental, biblical connection between God’s presence and human work.  I call this Immanuel Labor.  Seeing this theme repeated throughout the Bible helps us to understand the theology of work, how God works through His people to accomplish His purposes.

Stevens, in Work Matters, reminds us, “Nehemiah was like Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Mordecai, worshipers of Yahweh who were placed in extraordinary positions of trust by pagan rulers” (p. 67).  Being a government worker myself, I can relate to them.  (See previous article of God’s presence with me in government work.)

This account in Neh. 3-6 describes how the Israelites returned from exile, and under Nehemiah’s inspired leadership rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  A few things are worth noting.

First, Nehemiah makes it clear that it was a unified effort between Yahweh and His people.  Note that the people worked with all their heart (Neh. 4:6), demonstrating what Paul commanded in Col.3:23.  If we observe the context, we see that Yahweh had already worked in their hearts.  Nehemiah’s heart was broken when he first heard that the wall was broken down (1:3-4).  Later, on his initial secret reconnaissance of the wall, he went out at night with a few others.  He said that he did not reveal “what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem” (2:12).  God initiated the work in hearts internally so that His people could work with all their hearts externally.  He still works that way, doesn’t He?

Second, In Neh. 4:9, we read that they prayed to God and posted guards.  This illustrates quite well what we see in Ps. 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”  Before they even began, they totally depended on God’s protection.  They believed, as Nehemiah did, that God’s hand was upon them (Neh. 2:8, 18).  The people merely continued the prayer that Nehemiah had offered earlier (1:5-11).  Then they went to work, with half performing guard duty and the other half doing the construction (Neh. 4:16, 21).  God’s presence enabled them to be co-workers with Him, which brought them success in rebuilding the wall, despite heavy opposition from the enemy to destroy, distract, and discourage God’s project.

Third, God’s hand of protection and strength that Nehemiah and his team of wall-builders depended on daily enabled them to complete the job in record time.  Nehemiah had boldly stated to those opposed to the project at the beginning, “The God of heaven will give us success” (Neh. 2:20).  Also, Nehemiah encouraged his workers to remember the Lord’s great and awesome power (Neh. 4:14).  Moreover, Yahweh actively frustrated the plans of the enemy (Neh. 4:15), demonstrating once again that He worked with them.

Beckett, in Mastering Monday, zeroes in on the key verse of this amazing story, “When the final stone was set in place a remarkable reaction occurred: ‘When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God‘ (Neh. 6:16)” (p. 78).  God and His faithful co-workers worked together on this wall.  Everyone involved on the inside and all who watched it from the outside knew without a doubt that this was a divine-human effort.

Stevens instructs us on one of the important lessons of this story: “We are providentially placed by God in situations where we can make a difference, whether these differences are small or great.  God enlists each of us in a compelling project from which we must not be diverted.  ‘I am carrying on a great project,’ was Nehemiah’s perspective” (p. 70).  (See Neh. 6:3).  In his faith-filled and Scripture-informed mind, he was not just called to replace stones in a wall.  He was restoring a Kingdom for God’s glory!

As God’s chosen people, through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and the transforming work by the Holy Spirit, when we individually and collectively go about doing God’s work, both inside and outside the church, we are doing the same.  We are expanding the reign of the King who owns it all anyway.  (See Ps. 24:1.)  Beckett echoes this truth: “If what you and I are doing is God’s will, it qualifies as a ‘great work,’ whether it is cooking dinner for the kids or designing a bridge to span the Amazon River” (p. 78).

 

Losing and Regaining our Sense of God’s Presence

This is a follow-up to an article I wrote almost two years ago, about experiencing God’s presence.  I felt compelled to write this as I was faced with my own sinfulness and need of grace.

I honestly believe that all Christians have experienced not only an overwhelming sense of His presence, but also a disturbing loss of His presence.  I know I have.  Some of us may have experienced this loss occasionally or for a short season.  Others may have functioned in this state for quite some time, or may never have truly felt it.  So, what happens when we, through deliberate and/or unconfessed sin, drift away from God’s presence at work (or anywhere else for that matter)?  How do we get it back?

I have several things to share that might bring some encouragement and hope.

God does not leave us, condemn us, or give up on us.  Ps. 139:7-10 says that He is always present with us.  Paul states, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  At the end of the chapter, he concludes nothing in this world can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39).  Nor does He completely stop using us in our work.  (Remember, he can even use an unbeliever to serve His purposes.)  But as for believers, we know that He prefers to use cleansed vessels: “he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim. 2:20-21).

I have observed from my own experience when I have drifted away for a short time, the first thing I notice is that the joy of the Lord diminishes until I repent of and confess my sin.  This lack of joy and energy negatively impacts my relationships with co-workers, subordinates, and superiors, and significantly reduces my creativity and productivity on the job.  David, the man after God’s own heart indicated the same thing: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4).  But once I repent, confess, and rest in God’s grace and forgiveness, the joy returns, I begin to sense His presence again, and I am strengthened for work.  (See Ps. 32:5.)

It was said of Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God, “When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: ‘I can do nothing better without You.  Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.’  After that he did not feel guilty about the sin” (p. 11).  He was a man of simple faith, who understood well the fundamental truth of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Knowing that I have been called by God to be a co-worker with Him in whatever task He has placed in front of me, to integrate my faith at work, at church, and at home should motivate me towards holy behaviors and attitudes.  When by faith and obedience I abide in Jesus Christ (John 15) and am filled with His Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), I can be fully confident that God will work through me to love my neighbor and bring Him glory with maximum results.  This is my single-minded objective: I do not want to get in His way; I want to get His way in me.

As we grow in maturity in the power and filling of the Holy Spirit, we should experience more and more consistent victory over sin.  But we can never rest in that.  The minute we get proud of our efforts and progress in our own spiritual growth is the minute we will lose our humble second-by-second dependence on God.  And then we can fall so easily. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).

As I reflect on the changes I have gone through over the last 40 years: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, I realize that our tendency to fall into various temptations and sins goes through seasons.  For example, some of the sins I struggle with now in my late 50’s I also struggled with in my 20’s.  But maybe I struggled less during my 30’s and 40’s.  It is almost like a cancer that is in remission and then comes back with a vengeance.  Just because I no longer deal with a particular sin now does not mean that I won’t deal with it in the future.

We always have to depend on God to continuously transform us in the power of the Holy Spirit into the image of His Son.  It is not about perfection; it’s about direction.  We won’t be sinless, but we should sin less.  We will never arrive, but we must pursue God’s holiness.

When we are supernaturally able to walk in His presence at work on a consistent basis, we will see over time how His purposes unfold in our life.  That is what I desperately want to experience.

Paul’s Partnership with the Church

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Last time, we discussed the power of the Holy Spirit, and how He worked on the Day of Pentecost.  This third member of the Trinity worked directly in and through Peter to deliver a powerful sermon and in the hearts of 3,000 men and women who heard Peter’s message, enabling them to respond in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  These new believers, joined with the early church in the power of this same Holy Spirit and strengthened by biblical teaching and fellowship, effectively spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, which includes the places where you and I are residing right now.

Let me reflect on God’s partnership with Paul and the church in the proclamation of the gospel, which illustrates well the concept of Immanuel Labor, God’s presence in our work.

In Acts 14:21-28, we read that at the end of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to continue their ministry.  Verse 26 says they were committed to God’s grace “for the work they had now completed.”  However, in verse 27, we see that they “reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”  Luke emphasizes that Paul gave credit where it was due, stating that it was God who truly did the work.  But not all by Himself.  God had worked through Paul and his associates as His co-workers to spread the good news.  Paul refers to himself and his team of ministers as “God’s fellow workers” (2 Cor. 6:1).  This dual partnership was both vertical (God and Paul) and horizontal (Paul and the church).

On the vertical side, God working in Paul, Paul readily acknowledges that his competence to fulfill his calling as an apostle came not from himself, but his competence was given directly by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:5-6).  Later in this same letter, we read that in Paul’s weakness, God gave His all-sufficient grace and strength (2 Cor. 12:9).  Paul was fully confident that God, who began a good work to recreate Him in Christ, would continue to sanctify him to complete that work until Jesus returned (Phil. 1:6).  (See also Phil. 2:13).  God must first do a work in us so that we are fully prepared for Him to work through us.

Looking now at the horizontal level, we see a clear picture of Paul’s partnership with the church in his epistles.  He was thankful, prayerful, and joyful for his “partnership in the gospel” with the church in Philippi (Phil. 1:5).  In Phil. 2:22 and 25, Paul mentions two of his co-workers – Timothy, who served with him “in the work of the gospel”, and Epaphroditus, his “fellow worker”.  (See also 1 Thes. 3:2, where Paul refers to Timothy as “God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ.”)  At the end of the book, he lists a few other “fellow workers”, such as Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement (Phil. 4:2-3).  These were mutually beneficial relationships.  Paul needed them and they needed him.

In a similar manner, in 1 Thes. 1:2-3, we read that Paul thanks God for the church in Thessalonica, specifically remembering their faithful work and loving labor, which he described in verse 8: “The Lord’s message rang out from you . . . your faith in God has become known everywhere.”  His relationship is so tight with this local Body of Christ that he gets a little emotional, as a father would his own children: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thes. 3:9-10).

What I want to leave you with is that Paul illustrated well the concept of God’s presence in his work.  God worked in and through Paul individually, but did not leave him there.  Paul worked with others, who also had that same relationship with God, Who worked in and through them as well.  Horizontal divine work combined with vertical human work.

This ties in well with God’s plan of redemption to work in and through His covenant people:

  • As articulated in the Creation Mandate to Adam to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it in Gen. 1:26-28
  • As found in the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant to bless all the families of the earth in Gen. 12:1-3
  • As given by Jesus to His disciples prior to His ascension in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations in Matt. 28:19-20

Just like Peter, Paul, and the early church, God has chosen to work powerfully in us and through us to accomplish His work, the expansion of His Kingdom.  We are a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9).  When we work with God individually as His co-workers, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we make a powerful team!

The Work of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

This past Sunday, my wife and I attended church at Redeemer Fellowship in downtown Kansas City with our son and daughter-in-law.  We always hear great preaching every time we go; this was no exception.  Here’s a link to the sermon.

The message was on Acts 1:6-8, where Jesus tells His disciples of the upcoming outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  This narrative about the power that the Holy Spirit would bring to these early Christ-followers clearly demonstrates the idea of Immanuel Labor, God’s presence in our work.  It also shows that work has intrinsic value, since God Himself is one who works.

Pastor Key reminded us what the Prophets and Jesus had said about the promised Holy Spirit and what He would bring to God’s people.  He mentioned Ezekiel 37, where we read in context of the account of the valley of dry bones that the Lord would put His Spirit “in you” (v. 14) and that His dwelling place would be “with them” (v. 27).  In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that the Father would give the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, who “lives with you and will be in you” (v. 17).  His constant voice would teach and remind them of what Jesus said (v. 26).  He would guide them in the truth (Jn. 16:13).  Since Jesus was physically about to leave His disciples, both in John 14-16 and in Acts 1:8, He wanted to assure them they would have the very presence of His Father and Himself with them at all times so that they could know Him, follow Him, and remain faithful to fulfill their calling.

I forgot the preacher’s exact words, but in effect, he reminded us that the mission of the early church at that time was too great in terms of magnitude and extent for them to accomplish in their own strength.  It was too high and too far.  The Roman Empire offered much resistance to the gospel, and even today, the flesh, the devil, and the world are still too strong for us to take on alone.  Also, it was absolutely unthinkable that Christians in that Jewish anti-diverse culture would be able to take the gospel message of life in Jesus outside the relatively safe confines of Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

The kicker was when the preacher pointed out that it was only due to the Spirit-empowered efforts of the church over the centuries that we were able to hear and respond to the gospel right there in Kansas City, which to the early church was “the ends of the earth”.  I was blown away when he said that.

This profound sermon on this powerful passage highlighted to me again that God is a worker, which implies that work has value.  Sometimes, the Triune God works by Himself; often He will work through His children, the church, as His co-workers.  Those who were created in God’s image and subsequently re-created in the image of His Son by the power of His Spirit were called to work with Him, in His presence, and with His power to expand His Kingdom.  This is indeed Immanuel Labor.

This partnership between the Holy Spirit and the church is just one phase of the operation.  The next phase I want to address next is between Paul and the church, as they partnered together in the power of the Spirit to spread the gospel.

For Such a Time as This

I just learned that no less than eight states have cities by the name of “Providence”:  Rhode Island, Utah, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, and even Missouri.  I was born in one of them.  It is a very important word to me personally.

This word was the focus of chapter nine of R. Paul Stevens’ book, Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture that I have been reading during my lunch hour at work.  What I read today really struck me.  I’d like to share a bit of it now.

Stevens declares confidently: “At some time or other every one of us feels that we are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. . . We’re tempted to think that if we were only somewhere else or doing something else, we could be useful and deeply satisfied.  But the reality is that God has a providential purpose for our lives right where we are.  And the Creator has been involved behind the scenes, as it were, in all the details of our everyday experiences as well as in our life-long work trajectory” (p. 72).

The Old Testament saint that best illustrates “providential work”, as Stevens titles his chapter, is Esther.  As he begins to unpack the narrative, he asks several relevant questions, the first one being: “Can God work through a pagan empire?” (p. 73).  The answer is, of course, a resounding yes.

When Esther is informed about a plot to eliminate the Jewish people in the land, her uncle Mordecai tries to persuade her to intervene on their behalf.  He knows that God will inevitably deliver His people once again, with or without her.  But because she was chosen by the king to be his queen, Mordecai makes this bold statement that is the central point of the story: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Wow!  Those words give me chills.

Stevens poses that for us, just like it was for Esther, our jobs can be seen as providential.  He has two main points to discuss about God’s providence.

He states, “First, providence means that God is involved in our work and workplace for his own good purpose.  We can see divine providence in apparently haphazard events and choices made by human beings. . . Divine providence asserts the directional and purposeful character of human history and personal destiny.  It means that God is even more interested in our life-purpose that we are. . . Such an understanding of God providential ordering of our lives should stimulate our confidence, gratitude, and faith” (pp. 75-76).

Stevens continued: “Second, providence means that where we are is not accidental.  Providence means that our birthplace, family background, educational opportunities, the talents and abilities we bring to the workplace, even our physical or emotional disabilities, are not accidental but part of God’s good and gracious purpose for us.  Esther was strategically placed to be an influence” (p. 76).

I was floored when I read the words in the second sentence, regarding providence and one’s birthplace.  You see, I was born in the city of Providence.  Not only that, but I was the result of a problem pregnancy, conceived by two young college students who thankfully did the right thing and, by the grace of God, allowed me to live and be born.  When I look back on my life, on the things God has enabled me to do and the family I have raised with my bride of 36 years, I know that God had a purpose for my life.  I was not an accident.  Now you understand why this topic is so important to me.

Let  me try to make it person for my readers also.

I have a song to share with you.  It was performed by Wayne Watson nearly 20 years ago, but this powerful song still carries a punch and brings tears to my eyes.  The title is “For Such a Time as This”.

You can watch a performance from about five years ago on YouTube here.  Here are the lyrics:

Now, all I have is now
To be faithful
To be holy
And to shine
Lighting up the darkness
Right now, I really have no choice
But to voice the truth to the nations
A generation looking for God

Chorus
For such a time as this
I was placed upon the earth
To hear the voice of God
And do His will
Whatever it is
For such a time as this
For now and all the days He gives
I am here, I am here
And I am His
For such a time as this

You – Do you ever wonder why
It seems like the grass is always greener
Under everybody else’s sky
But right here, right here for this time and place
You can live a mirror of His mercy
A forgiven image of grace

I can’t change what’s happened till now
But we can change what will be
By living in holiness
That the world will see Jesus

I hope that everyone reading this knows that God has a plan and a purpose for you.  You are not where you are by accident.  He wants to use you, in big and small ways, to bring glory to Him.  Rest in that fact, and look for daily opportunities at work to speak up and be heard, with your actions as well as words.

 

Doing the Unpleasant Tasks

“I fought the lawn, and the lawn won!”

I don’t know how many times I have said that, usually right after a tough time mowing our backyard.  This is probably my least favorite chore.  It’s hard work.  I don’t like to sweat or get wheezy.  I do not like fighting the tall grass, hoping there are no bunny nests hidden inside.  I don’t like the dust it kicks up in late summer.

I just finished mowing the backyard before dinner tonight.  I am glad it is done, but I really did not want to tackle it this evening.  I have more important things to do.  Ironically, doing this unpleasant task gave me the idea to write a short article on this important subject.  I have not addressed this topic yet, and I know exactly where to put it in the book on the theology of work I am currently writing.

So, what is your unpleasant task?  If you are a student, it might be the final you have to study for or the term paper you have put off for weeks.  If you own a business, it is probably tax season.  If you are a teacher, it might be grading papers or dealing with behavior problems.

In the interest of building up the body of Christ with a little more knowledge on what God says about how we should work, I will attempt to contribute something positive about how to think biblically about doing unpleasant tasks.

First, the thought occurred to me as I was mowing was that sometimes these unpleasant tasks are labeled as such because they contain aspects that fall into the “thorns and thistles” category.  You know what I mean.  Gen. 3:16-19 outlines the curse that God put on labor – both women’s and men’s labor.  The ground was cursed, not the humans. Work was going to be much more trouble than anticipated to say the least.  It was originally designed to be physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually challenging, but now it just makes us want to curse.  The things I dislike about mowing apply here, especially when I consider that there are thorns and thistle-like substances that still need to be weed-whacked.  And I am out of whack!

Secondly, perhaps these tasks that seem unpleasant to us are such because they fall outside our giftedness.  For example, a road construction worker might be more into abstract thinking than concrete . . .  But seriously, there are tasks that fall into the realm of our basic responsibilities that do not line up with our strengths.  Most young dads would find it unpleasant to change a diaper.  For me, it was an opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter, sons, and grandson.  I was meeting their physical needs for comfort and cleanliness (and everyone else’s olfactory needs).  (Flashback to Lazarus, after being in the grave for four days: “He stinketh!)  It may just take some time to develop new skills or it may never be something we naturally are good at.  Yet, we must do them occasionally in order to survive.

Whatever we reasons we struggle with these hard jobs, there has got to be a way to help us see these tasks from God’s perspective and figure out how to do them “with all our hearts, as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23).

I don’t think that there is a Christian alive that does not understand Jesus’ basic teaching that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31).  But, do all of us realize that sometimes when we work we can actually do both at the same time?

When I mow my lawn, I am sacrificially loving my wife, my closest neighbor, which is something that God commands me to do.  I know that if I truly love God, I am to obey His commandments.  So, when I choose to submit to the Lord and do this unpleasant task with all my heart, I am loving God and my neighbor.

Another biblical way of looking at facing and doing these unpleasant tasks with personal courage is that they, like any other trial we face, are opportunities to trust God.  We can pray for wisdom, and He promises to answer (James 1:5).  When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, a quite unpleasant task, whether we are dealing with the impending death of a loved one due to serious illness, or a sudden death due to an accident, or a peaceful passing due to old age, God is with us.  In our weakness, He gives us His all-sufficient grace and strength (2 Cor. 12:9).  At the very least, we get to develop a servant spirit, which is highly valued in the Kingdom of God.

The next time you have to do an unpleasant task, you might want to see it and tackle it from a better biblical perspective.