Posted by: SandreS | July 28, 2009

Suffering: Paul’s Example

Yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me (Acts 20:34).

Work is so much more than a way of making money. It is the opportunity for God to live out His life in us. Labor is a part of His plan for us. Ultimately God is our employer, as we really work for Him.

Even Paul, the apostle to the nations (Romans 11:13), labored working with his own hands.

And labor, working with our own hands … (I Corinthians 4:12).

Paul walked away from his “dung” religion. He counted it all a “loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7). It was ecclesiastical waste. In the process he lost his “professional ministry.” Paul took up making tents for a living (Acts 18:1-3). He thereby taught us the divine value and purpose of work.

We, too, are “tentmakers” of sorts. That is, we work with our own hands to make a living. “Tentmaking” finds its own unique form in each of us. It matters little in the divine perspective of things what the particular details of our own “tentmaking” involves. The important thing is that we are “tentmaking.”

One occupation is no higher or more pleasing to God than another. All work has meaning when it is done for the Lord. The life of God in us makes all things we do sacred.

Although Paul made his living making tents, that is not what defined his life. He was not “Paul, the tentmaker.” No, he was defined by heaven in light of his divine calling and vocation: “Paul, the apostle.” He just made tents so he could do the work of an apostle.

As believers, we are to regard our “secular” work as divine“as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 6:5‑8; Colossians 3:22‑24; Titus 2:9-10). Thus, each believer’s vocation is indeed a high calling of God (Ephesians 4:1). As William Carey (1761-1834) would say, “My business is preaching the gospel, and I cobble shoes to pay my expenses.”

Often the man who teaches God’s Word is looked down upon, as if he were not genuine, if he is not religiously “salaried.” It is amazing how the tables have turned. The fact is that Paul was not for “hire.” Rather, he was the bond-slave of Jesus Christ, making his living as a humble laborer.

Witness Lee brings his own testimony,

Paul worked with his hands at making tents in order to support both himself and those who were with him. He worked in order to help his young co-workers. This indicates that Paul’s way was not that of today’s clergy who make a profession out of preaching – Life-study of Acts, p. 479.

Paul reminds us that we, too, have a heavenly vocation. He implores us to “walk worthy of the vocation” wherewith we have been called. We must not confuse what we do to make a living with the purpose of our lives. Our occupation is just the context in which we carry out our divine calling. The circumstances of our earthly labors are but the backdrop of God’s working in our lives. They are the stage of the Master Performer.

Every believer has been called into “full time” ministry in the context of personal daily life. We are all self-employed full-time servants. Every area and every aspect of life belongs to Him. No matter what the circumstances of life are around us, regardless of what earthly occupation we may use to supply our needs and those of others around us, we have a divine vocation to which we have been called.

We have the wonderful opportunity of living our lives for the Lord, serving Him in the context of “tentmaking.” More often than not, this context can have the appearance of a monotonous, daily routine; but the very life of God running its full course in our day-by-day circumstances will make our lives anything but monotonous and routine.

For yourselves know how you ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought [i.e., nothing, or, for free, without payment]; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample [i.e., example] unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (II Thessalonians 3:7-12).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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