TEXT: Exodus 28:36
This afternoon, with the Lord's help, we'll start a new monthly study on the Puritans. The Puritans have been called many things-not all of which are flattering. To most people Puritan means fanatic, hypocrite, or persecutor. Someone has defined a Puritan as "A man whose greatest fear is that someone somewhere might be having a good time".
But is that how they were? It isn't. The Puritans had a remarkably positive outlook on life. The early ones were criticized by the Catholics for being too.jolly! Their hymns, for example, were scorned as Geneva Jigs. Rather than denying life in this world, they wanted to sanctify it. Our text served as a motto for them,
Holiness unto the LORD.
Were the Puritans perfect? Of course not. But they were good examples. Their way of life is worth learning. And, for the most part, following.
On the third Sunday afternoon of each month, I hope, we'll look at one aspect of Puritan life. Though I'll draw from many sources, we'll follow the outline of a fine book by Leland Ryken. It's called,
The Puritans as
They Really Were.
If you don't have a copy, I encourage you to get one-but not mine!
Today's topic is The Puritans on Work.
When you hear the term, Puritan work ethic, what comes to mind? Ryken says it is.
"Used today to cover a whole range of current
ills: the workaholic syndrome, drudgery,
competitiveness, worship of success,
materialism, and the cult of the self-made
Is this how the Puritans really were? Did they work impossible hours, neglect their families, worship money, and look down on people who weren't successful?
They didn't. In fact, the picture we've drawn of the Puritans looks a lot more like us than it does them! It is we who work ourselves to death on jobs we hate to buy things we don't need while our children grow up alone or in daycare.
When it comes to working, we have a lot to learn. The Puritans can help us.
THE SANCTITY OF WORK
The first thing to say about the Puritan view of work is also the most important: They believed that all work was God's work.
This means that God's Work is not limited to being a pastor, a theologian, a Christian school teacher, or a missionary nurse. Every job is equally sacred! Here's a list of quotes,
"If we look externally, there is a difference
between washing dishes and preaching the
Word of God, but as touching pleasing
God, none at all" (William Tyndale).
"The action of a shepherd keeping sheep
is as good a work before God as a
minister in preaching" (William Perkins).
"This is a wonderful thing, that the Savior
of the world and the king above all kings,
was not ashamed to labor, and to use so
simple an occupation. Here He did sanctify
all manner of occupations" (Hugh Latimer).
If the Puritans were so godly, why would they equate washing dishes with preaching the Gospel? Here's why: Because every job is a Divine calling. In other words, flipping burgers is no less a calling than pastoring a church.
"God doth call every man and woman
to serve Him in some peculiar employ-
ment in this world.The Great Governor
of the world hath appointed to every man
his post and province" (Richard Steele).
"A vocation or calling is a certain kind of
life, ordained and imposed on man
by God" (William Perkins).
"God is the General, appointing to every
man his particular post.God Himself
is the author and beginning of
callings" (William Perkins).
This means we don't stumble into our jobs, but God gives them to us. And because He gave us the job, the job must be sacred.
This is what the Puritans believed. But is it true? It is-the Bible says so. The key passage is Colossians 3:22-24,
"Servants, obey in all things your masters according
to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men pleasers,
but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever
you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward
of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ".
The people spoken to here were not serving men, but the Lord. What were their occupations? Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers? No. They were slaves. They were plowing fields, milking cows, slopping pigs, washing dishes, and cleaning out chamber pots! Yet their jobs were God's Work!
If all work is sacred, three things follow:
with contentment. Contentment is no little
part of your homage to that God Who hath
placed you where you are" (Cotton Mather).
would have His gifts improved to their
best advantage" (Cotton Mather).
fall out with his calling" (Cotton Mather).
The first two points cannot be denied. But the third-some think-is arbitrary and legalistic. Is it wrong to bounce from job to job? Inherently, it isn't. But there are often sins behind the constant moving. What are they? Cotton Mather says,
"Many a man, merely from covetousness and
discontent, throws up his business".
William Perkins adds two more,
"Ambition and envy.when we see others placed
in better callings and conditions than ourselves".
To the Puritans, all work is good, because every job-from curing cancer to sweeping floors is from the Lord.
THE GOALS OF WORK
The Puritans differed from us-not only on the sanctity of work-but also on its goals. What is work for? Most people would say it's for money. If they had enough money, they'd never work again. Others are a little nobler than that-they work for the love of it. Or to support their families. All of these things are legitimate. We need money; we need something to do with ourselves; we need to take care of our loved ones. But as necessary as these things are, they're not the highest goals of work. William Perkins writes,
"Must we not labor in our callings to maintain
our families? I answer: This must be done:
but it is not the scope and end of our lives.
The true end of our lives is to do service to
God in serving man".
The two chief goals of work, therefore, are: (1) the glory of God, and (2) the welfare of other people.
The Puritans have a lot to say on the first goal-but you've heard about that a million times. Mather says,
"A man ought to pursue a calling
so that he may glorify God".
Let's spend most of our time on the second point-working for the welfare of other people. In the 1960's there was a strong emphasis on Public Service. Many young people joined the Peace Corps and other groups to help the poor, and so on. Now, let's not be romantic about those days. A lot of men were joining to avoid the draft or to show off or to meet girls!
But having said that, I wonder if we haven't gone to the opposite extreme? How many students do you know who are going to college in order to help others? Very few. The most popular majors are the big money ones! Business, computer science, engineering, pre-law, pre-med, and so on. There's nothing wrong with these things, of course-they too can be of great public service. But how many people are studying them to be of public service? Not many, I suspect.
The Puritans thought otherwise. Here are some quotes,
"We must labor, not for our own good,
but for the good of others" (John Preston).
"The public welfare, or the good of the many
is to be valued above our own. Every man,
therefore, is bound to do all he can for others,
especially for the church and commonwealth"
"We may not aim only at our own, but at
the public good. Therefore, faith will
not think it hath a comfortable calling
unless it will serve, not only its own turn,
but the turn of other men" (Cotton Mather).
To these Puritan quotes, Leland Ryken adds,
"What is noteworthy about such statements
is the integration among God, society, and
self that converges in the exercise of one's
calling. Self-interest is not totally denied,
but it is definitely minimized".
The Puritans, therefore, worked-not mostly for money or prestige-but for God and other people. In doing that, they were but obeying the Two Great Commands,
"You shall love the Lord your God
with all of your heart, soul, and mind.
And your neighbor as yourself".
If this is what work is for, you've got to choose your work carefully. Richard Baxter says,
"Choose that employment or calling in which
you may be most serviceable to God.
Choose not that in which you may be most
Rich or honorable in the world, but that in
Which you may do most good.
"In choosing a trade or calling, the first con-
sideration should be the service of God
and the public good, and therefore, that
calling that most conduceth to the public
good is to be preferred".
WORK AND SUCCESS
How did the Puritans view success? They came to America with nothing, and within a generation or two, created a society that was well off financially. Many of them became rich. And not only in America. English Puritans often did well, and so did their counterparts in Scotland, France, the Netherlands, and other places too.
Did they attribute their success to their hard work or thrift? No they didn't. They saw it as a gift of God.
"In our occupations, we spread the nets,
but it is God who brings into our nets
all that come into them" (Cotton Mather).
"Neither covetousness nor hard work
can make men rich, since God alone
blesses with success" (Robert Crowley).
Two modern Puritan scholars put it this way,
"Calvinism does not tech an ethic of self-reliance,
as the work ethic does. It is instead an ethic of grace:
whatever tangible rewards come from work, they
are the gifts of God's grace".
"No direct correlation exists between wealth
and godliness. It is not riches, but faith
and suffering for the Gospel that are
signs of election".
This means: When the Puritans did well-and they often did-they didn't congratulate themselves; they thanked God, James 1:17.
It also means: They didn't look down on poor people as being stupid or lazy. Richard Baxter says riches are given to some so that they can,
"Relieve our needy brethren".
RULES FOR WORK
Finally, we have two rules for work.
The first is Work Hard,
"Religion does not seal warrants to idleness.
God sets all His children to work.God will
Bless our diligence, not our laziness"
The second rule is Don't Work Too Hard,
"Take heed of too much business" (John Preston).
How do you know when you're working too hard? Philip Stubbes says,
"Every Christian man is bound in conscience before
God not to allow his immoderate care to surpass
The limits of true godliness".
In other words, if you're working too much to pray or read the Bible or take care of your family or come to church, you're working too much.
Richard Baxter says the same thing in another way,
"Take heed, lest under the pretense of diligence
in your calling, you be drawn to earthly-mindedness,
or excessive cares or covetous designs for rising
in the world".
Well, there you have it: The Puritans on work. How did they see it? They believed all work was sacred-from preaching the Gospel to changing diapers, every job matters. Including yours. They also believed the goals of work are the glory of God and the good of other people. They believed success depends on God's grace-and not just our efforts. They believed we work, work hard, but to remember work isn't everything.
We might not agree with every detail of their vision, but they got the Big Picture right! This is what work is and what it's for.
Now go to work tomorrow morning as though you believed it.
By Guest Contributor,
Pastor Michael Phillips
Michael Phillips is a pastor at Grace Baptist Church-Fremont. Serving since 1983 as the primary teacher at Grace Baptist, his special interests are Biblical Theology, Redemptive-Historical Preaching, and Church History. He is married to Gladys and they have three adult sons.
Christ is our very present help, as believers. Psalm 46:1 says "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
In times like these, when trouble is evidenced by a pandemic like COVID-19, we must do well to ask if this is our only time of trouble. Are we only in trouble when there's a virus with no present cure? When there are floods all over the country? When the future of this world is uncertain and we don't know when things will go back to normal? Or if indeed things will go back to normal. Is it only then that we are in trouble? That we are needy? The answer is no.
What we see and experience in floods and disease is as a result of that which has made us poor even in spirit. Sin. Sin is present with us daily. In ourselves and outside ourselves. Sin is present within and without.
One thing we all must acknowledge is that sin cannot be fought in our own strength and because of this, we need help from without. We need Christ. Just as we needed Him at the time of our regeneration and salvation, we need Him now as we go through sanctification.
We are always needy of mercy and grace. Since we have a very present trouble (sin). Isn't it great that our God is a very present help? Isn't it great that in His Word we see Christ being able to help them that are tempted because He Himself has suffered being tempted (Hebrews 2:18)?
Hebrews 4:15-16 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (ESV)
Brethren, we have the Lord Jesus, a very present help for us and we sure do have a great need. Let us go to Jesus Christ daily and have our everyday needs met by Him.
By Mercy Chepchirchir
In these recent months we have seen all that is scary to us. The destructive locust swarms have swept through the eastern and north-eastern part of Kenya and yet still threaten to go towards western Kenya - something that the locals fear with tightened stomachs. There is the Corona virus which has by now infected over 800 people and killed over 40 people. And then there is the warning of an alleged terror attack by Al-shabbab targeting one of the five-star hotels in Nairobi. These are horrifying things to think about, and yes, we are living in a terrifying world.
The question that usually lingers in the mind of many in times like this is, “How do I avoid being a victim of the locust invasion, the Corona virus, or a terror attack? Indeed, the question on how to avoid all this turmoil is essential, but still, answering that question instills fear within and inmost cases this escalates to paranoia. The more important question to ask would be, “Where is the source or the cause of these predicaments?” A good scientist will say, “Know the cause, know the cure.” Getting to the root of the matter is finding the cause of that matter, then uprooting the thing by its root. What is the source of the locusts, the Corona virus, the men and women who have sold themselves to terrorism? The answer is simple and yet complex in nature. These things are a consequence of the current order of the universe, that is, the source is the fallen nature of the universe itself. But who has subjected it thus? God has. The Apostle Paul declares,
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the Children of God.” (Rom 8:19-21, ESV).
God didn't just create things and leave them there without control, or to their self-determination. God is the one who holds all that is on earth and in the heavens by the word of his power (Hebrews. 1:3). He sustains everything in the sky and on earth (2 Peter 3:7). God keeps the clouds and sends forth thunder (Job 38:33-37). God feeds the hungry young lions (Psalms 104:21) and even the birds in the air (Matthew 10:28-30). If humankind is the best of His creation (Genesis 1:25-26), and He has given us everything He created (Genesis 9:3), how much more will He take care of us? God also directs all that is on earth and in heaven. He makes sure everything on earth works by his command and obeys his word (Mark 4:41). He commands even that single insect to do his will, and it obeys (Isaiah 7:18). He also sends them in swarms, and they do as he pleases (Psalms 78:45; 105 35). It is God who gave everything life, and He is the only one who can take life from them (1 Samuel 2:6). And as long as the earth remains, everything including plants, seasons and animals will continue to exist because God has promised so (Genesis 8:22).
Take a look at the lives of some individuals in Scripture who experienced this first-hand and pay attention to the words of God concerning them:
Observations from these examples: God indeed can bring calamity to men as means of judgment just as he declares in Isaiah 45:7, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things”, and in Amos 3:6, “…does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” Yet in the above-mentioned examples we see God using calamities and suffering to His glory and not as a condemnation of sin. They are indeed images of the curse that is upon the earth and yet at the same time are used to the glory of God. Understand that God does no evil (Lev 19:2; Job 34:12 Hab1:13; Eph 5:5-6; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 1:5, 3:3, to name a few), but He will use those things that seem or are evil to His glory. It is a difficult thing to come to terms with but this is how God has revealed Himself in Scripture.
God has always used His creation to make a point to the people of the earth. He uses all that He created because they are His, He is more powerful than they, and so He can do with them as He pleases. The best example is when God brought locust to Egypt when pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel go (Ex 10:4). He not only brought locusts to the Egyptians but also frogs and other pestilences. The question shouldn't be whether God causes, knows and determines all that happens. The question should be, how are we to respond when things are as ugly as they are now? By saying God is the one who orchestrated all things to happen, it does not mean that he does them from a selfish point of view. God is not an egocentric, narcissistic sadist whose intention is to enjoy seeing humankind in pain. God, by nature, is good (Matthew 19:17), God is loving (John 3:16). And we know that God works all things together for good to all those who love Him. All things include even the horrible situations we are facing today. God is working the locust invasion, the Corona virus pandemic and also the terror threats good to those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Think of God as a movie writer and director. He puts all those horrible, tragic scenes in the movie building up to a more beautiful breath-taking moments at the end of the film. We know the end of the movie God has written and is directing. We are spectators and benefactors of the beautiful ending that is to come. The glorious moment when we will be complete as Christ, perfect without blemish. When we will gain that holiness — without which no one can see God. How do we make sense of these? God uses His creation to show us the sinfulness of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, not only did their actions affect man but the entire creation as well. The creation is groaning waiting for that day when all will be made perfect again. Whenever God sends natural disasters, they should remind us of how bad sin is and how we should eagerly await the coming of the Messiah when all things will be made new (Romans 8:7-12).
God shows us His mercy and enduring patience towards us through these natural disasters. Remember, sin is not sin if it does not go against the only true God. One sin is reason enough to justify God to wipe out the earth and all that is in it, for God is holy and eternal, and so going against the holy and eternal one will require an eternal punishment (Dan 12:2; Matt 25:41, 46; 2 Thess 1:9; Rev 20:10). But, because of His new mercies every morning, He reminds us of His divine, justified and holy wrath. He does so through illnesses for our purity; He strikes those whom He loves to keep them from sin. He does this as a father would do to his child who he loves (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:5-11). God does punish those He loves (Hebrew 12:6). He did it with the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). He can and will do it to you and me when we disobey him. All natural disasters are a thunderclap of divine mercy (Luke 13:1-5). Remember, He does so because He loves us, and He is purifying us.
Lastly, God brings all these predicaments as a judgment upon those who reject Him and give themselves to sin. Herod exhorted himself before the people of Jerusalem to the point that the people exclaimed that Herod talked like a god. God struck him down because he did not give God the glory (Acts. 12:23, Romans 1:27). During Noah's time God wiped out the wicked people by a massive flood, one that the earth has never seen and will never see (Genesis 6:6). When Sodom and Gomorrah practiced all kinds of sinfulness (Genesis 9:23-25), He poured down fire and burnt the entire city.
In all these, God has caused the most glorious of things to us. He has caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3). We are born of God, and so we believe because now we can see God with unveiled faces. He has given us the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12-13). Are you a child of God? God created you, sustains and directs you. He is the one who is calling out to you by name. Believe in His Son Jesus Christ today, and you will be saved. Regardless of the situation, the locusts or the Corona virus, we are in Him and we wait on Him. We wait for the day He will come and take away this mortal body and give us the immortal, one that will never get sick, tired, hungry, angry or be in fear but always in awe of who God is. That is our end.
By Guest Contributor.
Waiting is a difficult thing for most if not all people. When waiting, at least three things are bound to happen: first, you succeed in waiting patiently and faithfully until you receive your object; or, secondly, you give up waiting; and, thirdly, you seek your own way of receiving your objective. As believers, when we are waiting upon the Lord and He seems to delay, the evil one will readily offer us a shortcut. Isaiah 40:30-31 is familiar to many. The context of these two verses is about God strengthening the feeble and the faint-hearted, then it goes on,
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV).
These two verses have always been used to warn the youth against relying on their own strength. Well, no objection to that, but the truth is that the text is addressing the whole nation of Israel, indeed the whole world! Notice that verse 30 says, “even youths (inclusive) shall faint”, and not simply, the youth (exclusive of the aged) shall faint. The word “even” here denotes inclusivity.
Nonetheless, much more can be said about the youths in this passage, especially those who trust in their own sufficiency and are so confident of it that they do not seek God for His grace. Many young people are strong but are apt to think of themselves stronger than they are. But even they shall faint and be weary of waiting, yea, they shall utterly fail in their services, and under their burdens they shall soon be made to see the folly of trusting in themselves. But (thank God for “but”) those that wait on the LORD, who make conscience their duty to him, and by faith rely upon him and commit themselves to His guidance shall find that God will not fail them. They shall find grace sufficient for them: they shall renew their strength as their work is renewed. In the midst of challenges they will be refreshed, they will overcome their burdens and mount up with wings like eagles, so strong, so swift and heavenward, in the strength of divine grace.
The roots of waiting are often bitter, but the fruits are sweet! We are all waiting for something or someone. And as you wait you are not using a stopwatch for your life. Time is always ticking away and never waits for anyone. You may be aging and jobs are not forthcoming, you need to wait. You may be seeking for a spouse or having gotten one, you are planning to marry after some time, you also need to wait! COVID-19 is here with us and the whole world has been greatly affected. We are forced to stay at home, no travelling, the government has declared a curfew, soon or later there may be a lockdown, we need to wait! How can we wait without wasting away? We can learn from King Saul’s mistake in 1 Samuel 13:8,
“He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering for him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt sacrifice here to me, and the peace offering. “And he offered the burnt offering.”(ESV)
Saul was not willing to wait for the appointed time when Samuel would come. He ran out of patience of waiting upon God’s appointed time. As soon as Saul finished to offer the burnt offering Samuel came. What do we learn here? God may appear to delay, but He comes at the right time, the appointed time. In other words, God does not delay whatsoever. Delay is not one of His attributes. This is encouraging to me; I hope it is to you as well. We have often said, “God’s timing is the best”. I trust you believe it. Indeed God has perfect timing, never early and never late. It requires patience and a whole lot of faith but it is worth the waiting.
Waiting involves several elements. Here are three: The first one is obedience and in the case of Saul it was clear, “Samuel said to him, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.’” (1 Samuel 15:22 ESV). The second one is endurance or tolerance. I like football and there is a type of training session meant to build one’s endurance. The training involves doing very rigorous physical exercises without touching the ball such as carrying heavy loads or a heavier teammate. This kind of exercise helps to prepare you to face a physically stronger opponent. During waiting you will meet tough moments but endure until you can pull through. The last one is patience - some Bible versions will call it longsuffering and it constitutes the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:22). If we have the Holy Spirit, then, we must wait with patience upon the LORD in all circumstances. He is mindful to such, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26 ESV).
These are perilous times brethren, let us wait upon the LORD. Let us trust the LORD in whatever circumstance we find ourselves as this will mark us out as true Christians. Be obedient to God and the governing authorities that we have in place. Be patient. Persevere knowing that our present situation is not worth comparing with the future glory we have in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke Remmy Wasike
Remmy Wasike is one of the deacons in church and a student of Theology at Kisumu Reformed School of Theology.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)
Over the past month, God has taught me a lot about being patient and gracious during evangelism. I have been trying to reach out to my classmates with the gospel and, to be honest, it has not been easy. My attempts would often be met by misinformed scriptural confrontations and unwholesome talk that would just leave me discouraged as I saw my efforts bearing no fruit. But, in these low times, God has been impressing upon my heart the urgency of the gospel and has reminded me that I too was a sinner and He was very patient with me. These subtle reminders have kept me going and renewed my desire to see my friends get saved whenever I have faced the roadblocks of discouragement.
I realized that it is easy to take the high seat and adopt the “I have done my part” stance whenever we meet opposition when sharing the gospel with those around us. It is indeed easy to forget the truth that it is God alone who can change the hearts of men and that our part is to only faithfully share the gospel with every opportunity we get.
And you will be hated by everyone because of my name but the one who endures to the end will be delivered.(Mark 9:13 ESV)
Through all this, the burden in my heart for the lost world has always abided, and step by step the Lord has helped me to be more intentional in reaching out and praying for my friends who are yet to come to the knowledge of the truth. And I have found out that I struggle less whenever I call on God for strength, courage, and utterance. The amazing thing is that this experience has inspired me to seek to deepen my walk with God each day through the study and meditation on His word.
By Daisy Adina
Daisy Adina is a student at the University of Eldoret pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Education Arts (English Literature).