“Freebird – Protection” by Rick Shurtz

At Gateway Church in Austin, we began our series Freebird: Live Free. Work Free.

In Austin, find a Freebird Small Group here.

Apply what you learn with these Next Steps.

You can watch the message Rick Shurtz shared at our McNeil Campus at  www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

Here are notes from yesterday’s message:

“When our jobs lack purpose, and when they also lack pleasure, we lean heavily on the need we have for protection.

There’s something very powerful about this need we have for protection. It’s the trump card that dictates a great deal of our lives and what keeps us from doing what we’d really like to do.

The desire for protection belittles us. It mocks us. It makes us question our courage, and if you’re a person of faith, it makes us question our faith.

Scripture so clearly teaches that God is our protector, but often we struggle to trust Him.

Consider Psalm 23:1,4 –

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

God doesn’t want us to worry about our wellbeing. He’s the protector. He’s the provider. He’s the one who is going to take care of us.

At the same time, consider this very strong exhortation in 1 Timothy 5:8

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

God entrusted us with responsibility, and too often we neglect it.

How does this actually work?

Our deep desires for protection, pleasure and purpose, the primary place these desires are satisfied are in God.

We trust in God for protection, we look to God as our ultimate pleasure, and our ultimate purpose is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

We are spiritually and practically naïve if we stop at this point because we have many things in life God uses for our protection, pleasure and purpose – one of which is our job.

As we look at how our spiritual lives intersect with our work lives, you will be amazed by how much God talks about this secondary protection in our lives.

Consider the following:

“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring abundance.” – Proverbs 10:4

“The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.” – Proverbs 12:27

 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” – Proverbs 12:24

“If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” – Ecclesiastes 10:10

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” – Proverbs 22:29

Scripture strongly teaches the value of work, effort, diligence, and even developing skills.

When we become excellent at our trade, opportunities will increase for us.

If you’re a leader, or a teacher, computer programmer, or whatever it is that you do, get good at it. If you get good at it, opportunities will increase. With increased opportunities comes increased satisfaction, and you can open doors for others.

So there’s this theme in Scripture.

God values the work.

  • God talks about it.
  • God gives wisdom toward it.
  • God expects it.
  • For some reason, God wants us to do it.

Have you noticed that work is often viewed as a problem.

  • Work gets in the way of time with family.
  • Work gets in the way of doing things we enjoy.
  • Work gets in the way of doing something that matters.
  • And on and on we go.
  • And to be sure, obsessive work can in fact be all of these problems.

But when we look at Scripture we don’t see work viewed as a problem or something that gets in the way of life. We see work as something we do as a part of life.

Listen carefully to what Scripture says about making money. If you want to know how to make money, what’s at the bottom of it all, listen carefully to this passage:

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8:18

You hear that?

  • God gives us abilities to make money.
  • God gives us opportunities.
  • God gives us skills.
  • God gives us insights.

The making of money is a spiritual adventure.

Consider this other passage:

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7

God’s people are hauled off. They’re dragged away from their homes to another city. And God essentially says, “You’re going to live here for awhile. While you live here, it would be in your own best interest to pray for the city in which you live. Pray for it, because when it prospers, you’ll prosper with it, so pray for the city where you live.”

God has an interest in that, and he has a great interest in his people being influencers in their economies for the good of all.

God empowers work.

My work, my provision, my opportunities, they are dependent upon far more than I can control.

Think of it like this, I can be the absolute best fisherman on the planet, but if there are no fish in the lake, it doesn’t matter how good I am.

You and I, our wellbeing is dependent upon things far outside our control, like the company we work for, or the economy in which we live, and God tells us to talk to him about those things, because he actually has the power and the authority to do something about them.

We need to seek God for opportunity. God wants us to talk with him, to seek him, to call out to him, to ask him to give us ideas and opportunities, and favor, and to give us an economy that is functional.

God wants us to engage the world around us, but he wants us to engage it spiritually, so we can experience him practically.

When God is my Shepherd, I trust him for His protection. I trust him to lead me to what I need for my needs to be met. He’s my God. He’s my Shepherd.

Too often we take God out of the equation, and live as if this is the verse:

I am my shepherd. I shall not want. – Me 23:1

If this is the case, then how liberated are you?

I’d suggest, not free at all. I’d suggest, we feel enslaved to that job. Because it’s our everything.

  • We can’t step out.
  • We can’t take risks.
  • We can’t go for it.
  • We can’t let go of that.
  • If we let go of that, we’re alone. We’re left to ourselves.

The result? We become…

  • People-pleasers
  • Workaholics
  • Risk-averse

We have to, because to lay off work, or to disappoint people, or to take a risk and fail, it’s all on us.

But what happens when we turn this back and we read our Psalm as it’s intended?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1

We have a living, breathing faith in a God who tells us he will shepherd us.

When God is our God, we’re empowered to lead liberated lives. I can hold this job with an open hand, not with a white knuckled grip.

I no longer have to live in fear at my job because I’m not alone in providing my protection.

One of my favorite passages on this is Matthew 6. Hear carefully what Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-33

God knows what we need, and He loves to provide for us.

The sad reality is, though, that many of us live as practicing atheists. We believe God exists, but we don’t live as if he exists. If we believe God exists, and we genuinely put our trust in him, then it dramatically affects how we live.

The person of true faith lives boldly. They know God is their ultimate security, so they step up and step out, and they do things they wouldn’t do if it weren’t for the comfort and strength they take from that line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It’s a liberating a powerful way to live.

God’s got your back.

What would it be like to feel liberated and free in what you do, confidently taking on new challenges, new opportunities, developing new skills, and attempting new feats?

What if we were ever-increasingly became that kind of force in this world? We would become a group of people praying for our city, praying for our economy, praying for opportunity, developing our skills, and watching and listening as God encourages and exhorts us along the way.

That’s a powerful and profound and liberating way to live.”

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