In Matthew we read a parable about workers in a vineyard. God calls people at different ages and different stages in our lives. What hour are you in? How do you handle the stage of your calling?
[Dan Preston] Since recently passing the one year mark here of working in the ministry, some folks have asked me and said, “So what do you think? Has it been what you expected it will be?” And I say, “Well, honestly, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew that it would be much, much different than being an engineer. So in that sense it was exactly what I expected: much, much different.” One of the great blessings in serving in this capacity has been the opportunity to sit and counsel with several people counseling for baptism. It’s really a wonderful blessing and opportunity to be able to do that, to help someone come to that most critical crucial decision in their life. It’s nice to be able to sit with people, get to know them, talk one on one.
Got me to thinking anyway about my baptism. It was the fall of 1994, I had just started college. I was at a church social one Sabbath evening over at the old Post 72 American Legion hall, some of you remember meeting there. And I was talking to a friend outside and there was a deacon there. And this friend had just gotten baptized and he was talking about the decisions that he had gone through, and the things he had thought about. And we just got to talking and I made the comment, I said, “You know, I wouldn’t mind getting baptized, but quite honestly, I just have way too many things in my life I have to fix first.”
And he and that deacon both looked at me and began laughing. And I thought, “Well, that’s kind of cruel. I mean, I’m kind of pouring my heart out here telling you that I’m not perfect,” because I guess I assumed I was hiding that pretty well, the fact that I wasn’t perfect. And the deacon laughed and he said, “Dan, baptism isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.” And that’s when the light kicked on for me. I began counseling for baptism, was baptized early in 1995. Now for some of you, early 1995, being baptized then, you might think, “Wow, that was a long time ago. This guy has been to church for a while.” But there’s also quite a few of you who think, “Wow, 1995, what a newb. I’ve been baptized 20, 30 years by that time.”
And that actually brings a scripture to mind. I’d like to turn to Matthew 20. Matthew 20, and we’ll start in verse 1. I’d like to read the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Matthew 20, we’ll start in verse 1. It says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now, when he agreed with the laborers for denarius a day,” which was the going rate for a day’s wages, “he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right, I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, you will receive.’”
Now just a quick note on time-keeping here, the first hour of the day there really would have been or when the day started was roughly speaking 6:00 a.m. So the third hour would have ran around 9:00, sixth hour noon and so on. So the eleventh hour would have been around 5:00 p.m., and quitting time would have been approximately 6:00. You know, this is long before electricity, cell phones, alarms, things like that, so basically you work from can see to can’t see, right? So more or less from 6:00 to 6:00.
Picking up then in verse 8, said, “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.” So they received a whole day’s wage. “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the heat of the day.’” They were feeling a little bit of jealousy that they had done all the hard work and everybody was being treated the same here in terms of pay. Verse 13, “But he,” being the landowner, “answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good? So the last will be first and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.’”
When I read through this parable, I stop and ask myself, “What hour am I in?” What hour are you in? When I was baptized 20 years ago, I felt very much like the guy who was hired in the eleventh hour. You know, maybe 10 years ago, I feel like, well, now I’m the guy hired in the third. Maybe now somewhere the middle of the day, I don’t know. In other words, as time goes on, and the number of Feasts we’ve kept, the number of Passovers we’ve observed begin to stack up, we go from being newbies in keeping God’s law to being aged veterans so to speak. And while we were all once the person hired in the eleventh hour, we might look at someone today as that being hired in the eleventh hour. I think that’s something we can reflect on and keep in the back of our minds, we take a look today and examine our roles as laborers in God’s vineyard, our roles as laborers in God’s vineyard.
Let’s start by looking at the lesson that Jesus Christ was teaching here. It might seem obvious, but let’s just note what it says in verse 1. It says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner.” This is very clearly about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. With that established, at first glance, some might say, “Well, this is unfair.” Detractors of Christianity often cite this parable as saying, “Well, you know, God just chooses willy-nilly. He’s not a fair God.” Too often, defenders of Christianity might answer that with something like, “Oh well, you know, this is an analogy and all analogies break down after a while.” And that’s true of analogies, but note this is not an analogy, this is a parable. Analogies do break down, I heard a few that didn’t quite work out.
A guy said, “You know, my wife is like a cell phone. She loves to be held, she loves to be talked to. But if I press the wrong button, I get disconnected.” Another one I heard was, “The boat glided gently across the water, exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.” “John and Mary had never met. They were exactly like two humming-birds who also who had never met.” “Her vocabulary was as bad as, well, you know, like whatever.” And one more says, “The plan was simple like my brother-in-law George. However, unlike my brother-in-law, George, this plan might actually work.” No offense to all the brother-in-laws named George out there.
So analogies do break down, but again, this isn’t an analogy, this is a parable. A simple definition of a parable is a “story that’s told to teach one specific lesson.” A modern parable you may have heard, it’s generally attributed to Thomas Dewar, is this. It says, “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open.” The idea being, you know what? We have to be open to receiving new knowledge. Of course, we have to be careful of the knowledge we allow in our mind. But, you know, our mind has to be open so that we can learn. A parachute has to be open, so that it will work. This modern parable isn’t saying, “You know what? Our mind is exactly like a parachute in every way. It’s made of silk, it’s got strings tied onto it, you know, we keep it in a bag in our back.” No, it’s not. It’s just a simple parable to say this one specific point, and that’s what Jesus was using here, was a parable. He was not trying to summarize every teaching about the Kingdom of God into one single story. He was making a point, a singular point, that inheriting the Kingdom of God is not dependent on the amount of our work. It’s dependent on the grace of the landowner, of God himself.
Ephesians 2, let’s turn over here and note something, Ephesians 2. You might keep your finger in Matthew 20, we’ll be coming back. Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version×, Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version×. It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” salvation is through God’s grace. It is a free gift. Verse 9, it says, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” You know, if it was the works, if we earn really high honor, and somehow we could say, “Well, that’s how I was saved because I worked so hard,” we’d start bragging about ourselves. Verse 10, it says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Many people will skip over verse 10 because verse 10 is a reminder that we are to walk as Christ walked, that we are to keep the commands. Some would try to misuse this verse to say that all God’s laws are done away, or are unnecessary. But the point is here that salvation is a gift.
So that’s the first thing to think about this parable, it was teaching this specific point. The second thing to consider about it, is the landowner being unfair? Notice back in Matthew 20 what we’re told in verse 13, Matthew 20:13 Matthew 20:13But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do you no wrong: did not you agree with me for a penny?
American King James Version×, so the landowner answers and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?” They agreed I’ll work all day if you give me this. That’s exactly what they agreed to. The others that came along later, the landowner said, “Well, I’ll just pay you what’s fair.” By strict letter of the contract here, although there probably wasn’t a written contract, the landowner could have thought, “You know that guy that came on on the last hour, he worked really hard, I want to pay him 10 denarii.” It wouldn’t have been wronging the first guy because that’s what the first guy agreed to.
At baptism, we enter into a covenant just much as these folks had. In very, very simple terms, at baptism, we agree to live our lives in a truly repentant way, to live in a way where we try to overcome sin. That we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord, our Master, our Savior and High Priest. That we will obey His commands, and that we’ll trust Him, that we give our life to Him. God says He will give us His Holy Spirit and give us eternal life. A very, very simplistic view of that covenant. The new contract that was made later in the day to the folks that came along could have been different than what was made to the first guy, it has no bearing. Now the spiritual application, of course, is the contract is no different, the reward, the gift, is no different, and that’s the principle that Christ was teaching.
Let’s turn over to Proverbs 11 and notice something about this God’s amazing graciousness. Proverbs 11:24 Proverbs 11:24There is that scatters, and yet increases; and there is that withholds more than is meet, but it tends to poverty.
American King James Version×, this is a proverb teaching us a principle, but I think it certainly reflects God’s giving attitude, God’s heart. Proverbs 11:24 Proverbs 11:24There is that scatters, and yet increases; and there is that withholds more than is meet, but it tends to poverty.
American King James Version×, it says, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.” The principle here is to give is to gain, to withhold is poverty. Do we want God to withhold eternal life from anyone? Of course not, I don’t think any of us have that thought at all.
So why then did Christ give this parable? Back in Matthew 20, Matthew 20:15 Matthew 20:15Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good?
American King James Version×, we’re given the answer. Matthew 20:15 Matthew 20:15Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good?
American King James Version×, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” It’s a rhetorical question. God can give eternal life to those who He will. He’s not unfair in doing that, He wants to give that gift. Now, at this point, I would mention that we are talking about the free gift of salvation, something that we cannot earn. We cannot earn it. The Bible does show us though, that we’re expected to do things with what we are given. The parable of the talents certainly shows that. We know that not all positions in the Kingdom of God are going to be the same. We’re told the 12 disciples will be judging the 12 tribes. So obviously we’re not all going to be judging the 12 tribes. But the subject of this parable and of this sermon is not our reward, our position. Rather the point is this gift of eternal life is not dependent on length of service.
Consider this, relatively speaking, where are we compared to Abraham, Moses, David, others we read about in Hebrews 11? What about the apostle Paul? If you were looking at a very large timeframe, you might say that he was the guy hired in the sixth hour. You and I, whether we were baptized 50 years ago, 5 years ago, or 5 minutes ago, relatively speaking, we’d all be in that eleventh hour. I think that kind of puts it into perspective. God is gracious, God is generous.
2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×, you don’t need to turn there, but it reminds us that God is not willing that anyone should perish. We understand that those not called now will have an opportunity in the second resurrection. We can summarize Christ’s teaching from this parable in this way: don’t be jealous of God’s generosity. In a modern-day vernacular, “Don’t be all jelly.” And I don’t mean a little blue guy with the white hair that sings the song, you know? Don’t be jealous of God’s generosity. Our first role then as a laborer is not to be jealous of God’s generosity, rather be thankful for God’s awesome generosity. Be thankful for God’s awesome generosity. Eerdmans Concise Bible Handbook puts it this way. He said, “The remarkable thing about this parable is the landowner or God’s generosity, not his unfairness.” “The remarkable thing is God’s generosity, not any sense of unfairness here.” Mr. Phelps mentioned in the sermonette earlier, James 1:5 James 1:5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.
American King James Version×, God gives liberally—the wisdom, the knowledge—to all who seek to find him. So rule number one, be thankful for God’s generosity.
With that in mind as the principle that Christ was teaching in this parable, that salvation is a gift, I believe there are a couple other lessons we can begin to draw out here from this story to help us think about our roles as laborers now. Notice something about these laborers back in Matthew 20:6 Matthew 20:6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and said to them, Why stand you here all the day idle?
American King James Version×. Matthew 20:6 Matthew 20:6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and said to them, Why stand you here all the day idle?
American King James Version×, he said, “At about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’” We’re given more insight into the actual conversation at this point that went on between the vineyard owner and those that were hired.
The reason those fellows were hired in the eleventh hour, same reason those hired in the first hour, they didn’t have a job. They didn’t have a job. You know, in that point in time, if you didn’t have a job to support yourself, to feed yourself, to put a roof over your head, there were no social or economic programs in place to help you out. You could quickly find yourself in trouble, starving to death, dying of exposure. There was only one hope for all of these laborers, and that was that someone would come along to hire them. There’s only one hope for all of us, that hope is Christ. None of us, whether we were called 50 years ago or yesterday, had any hope for eternal life of our own will or works.
Paul explained, or rather Peter explained this same thing before the Sanhedrin, again put your marker in Matthew 20, something I forgot to do, and let’s go to Acts 4:8 Acts 4:8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
American King James Version×. Acts 4, let’s start in verse 8. Peter was giving a defense for the healing that God had performed through him and John just prior to this. The Sadducees specifically had come to them, greatly disturbed at what they had been teaching, and they wanted to know, “Hey, by who and what authority are you doing this?” So Acts 4:8 Acts 4:8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
American King James Version×says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole.’”
Peter was on fire at this point in his message. He was really laying it down. Verse 11, he said, “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” As a reminder, some chose to reject it. We heard about choices earlier. Verse 12, he continues, he said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There is only one way to salvation, that’s through Jesus Christ. Reminded over in Romans 5:9-10 Romans 5:9-10 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×, you don’t need to turn there, we’re “justified by His blood” and “we’re saved by His life.” There was only one way for these laborers to get work—that was to be hired. There is only one way for us to salvation, that’s through Jesus Christ.
To be quite honest about it, no one sitting in this room was the first person to read a Bible and figure that out, none of us were. All of us at some point in time walked through that door, perhaps in American Legion hall, perhaps in a public community hall somewhere, walk in spiritually speaking, blind, miserable, and naked, see a group of people standing around and say, “This… this is a church?” Perhaps you were one of the first people, that same person, who after overcoming initial shock of not seeing the steeple or crosses all over inside, began to think as people talked and as you heard sermons, you heard messages, thinking, “Wow! These people have it together!” And now maybe as laborers in the field after a few years, you realize, you know we know better, we don’t have it together.
But you know what? We’ve been around long enough, we’ve seen God working in our life. We can help those people walking through the door to say, “You know what? We’re not perfect. No one is. But God can make a difference in your life. God’s spirit can give you eternal life. This is the only way.” This leads us then to our second role as laborers in the vineyard. We are to be encouragers. We are to be encouragers. We can help those who are new entering into the harvest, maybe someone keeping the Feast of Tabernacles for the first time that says, “Now, what’s this Feast thing? Where are we meeting then?” Or says, “Eight days? How am I supposed to get off of work for eight days? What am I supposed to do with my kids? How do I get them out of school?” We can be encouragers, we can share our stories, the things that we’ve gone through, how we came to be where we were. Maybe someone is asking, “I don’t know if maybe I’m ready for baptismal counseling or not.” And we can encourage them, you know, talk to a minister. Because if you’ve got those kinds of questions, it’s time to at least ask.
James 1, getting ahead of myself a little bit, encouraging one another is a role that we play as firstfruits. So one of the questions that may come up is, what exactly is a firstfruit? James 1:16 James 1:16Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version×, James 1:16 James 1:16Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version×. Dr. Dunkle just covered this earlier this week in ABC, so this should be familiar territory to all the students. James 1:16 James 1:16Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version×says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning away.” Eternal life, that’s as good and as perfect a gift as there will ever be.
Verse 18, it says, “Of His own will,” again quoting back the vineyard owner, he was able to choose, it’s by his will. “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” He chose us at this point in time. A very simple definition then of a firstfruit is this. Firstfruits are “those people in God’s plan who are called now in this age and are having their minds and attitudes changed to become like Jesus Christ through God’s spirit working in them.” I’ll say that one more time, firstfruits are “those people in God’s plan who are called now in this age, having their minds and attitudes change to become like Jesus Christ through God’s spirit working in them.” Very basic definition of a firstfruit. This parable that seems to be directed at the attitude of those already hired, seems to point back to firstfruits. Why is that important? Why is that important to us?
One of the many jobs that we are to be actively doing as a part of God’s Church is listed for us in Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×. Matthew 28, I’m going to read verses 19-20, commonly referred to as “the great commission”, Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is a simple summary of the expectations that Christ left behind for disciples, and by extension what He left behind for us, the work He expects for you and I to do, something that must be carried out not for a while, not till we get tired, not till we feel like we’ve earned our stripes, but to the end of the age. It’s the basis of what you read on the front of the podium here, “Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People”, that’s a part of what we do. The methods, the media, those things may change over the years, time, technology change, but that gospel message has not changed since day one.
Relatively speaking, the apostles, they were hired far earlier in the day than you and I. And while some of their specific work may have included writing these letters to form the New Testament, to form the Bible that you have in front of us, we all carry on in that same general work of preaching the gospel, preparing the people. So the third role then as a laborer in the field, as firstfruits, we have work that we are to be doing. As firstfruits, we have work that we are to be doing. Like the laborers that were in the vineyard, there’s work to be done here and now. Christ talked about this to His disciples in John 4, John 4:32 John 4:32But he said to them, I have meat to eat that you know not of.
American King James Version×.
John 4:32 John 4:32But he said to them, I have meat to eat that you know not of.
American King James Version×, backing up just a little bit, verse 31, we see that the disciples thought that Christ was hungry. And He answered them, He said, “’I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’” They thought He was talking about physical food, that He had snacks hidden somewhere or something like that. But He says “no,” you know, He’s using food as an analogy for work. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they already were white for harvest!” Christ is pointing out to the apostles, look, there’s work to be done right here, right now, these fields are ready.
Verse 36, He says, “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows, another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Now most likely this is kind of pointing back to the work that John the Baptist had been doing most recently before them. The point is that the Church of God is made up of laborers that are hired in all different hours of the day. We are currently reaping that which was sown by those who came before us. We pray that in the future others will reap where we have sown. God gets the credit, of course, 1 Corinthians 3:6 1 Corinthians 3:6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
American King James Version×reminds us of that: “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase.”
The labor in the preaching of the gospel is something that’s our part of what we do as a Church, that’s part of the role that we play. We, of course, in no way take the place of Jesus Christ. But as we read earlier in Matthew 28 and Ephesians 2, there is certain work that was left behind for us to do. We are to be champions of the gospel message. We don’t ever want to have an attitude that we’re trying to hoard this and hold this just to ourselves. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples knew that they couldn’t just sit around, just wait for Christ to return and do nothing. They knew there had to be work.
We were reading earlier in Acts 4, let’s go ahead and go back to Acts 4 and continue the story there in Acts 4. Peter and John were later arrested for preaching the gospel. They were threatened and they were told, “Okay, fine, you got away with it. Just don’t do it anymore.” How did they respond? Acts 4:18 Acts 4:18And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
American King James Version×, he says, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.’” He put the onus back on them and said, “Really? Is that what you’re gonna say?” Verse 20, it says, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” They knew they had to. They had this powerful sense of preaching the gospel, of doing work. It wasn’t just a job, it wasn’t just a favor they were doing Jesus Christ, it was much, much more than that to them. It was a part of who they were.
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, we won’t go there, but the apostle Paul defends the ability for a pastor to be able to draw a salary for doing the work. But in the middle of that, he points out, “Woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel.” He’s saying “money, no money, it doesn’t make any difference. This is what I am meant to do, this is what I must do. I must do the work.” He understood that, he knew that, it was a part of who he was. Preaching the gospel, preparing a people, that’s part of who you and I are.
Paul recognized an additional role that he had to do as a laborer. He knew that as a laborer, it was not just about doing the work himself, it was about those who would do the work later on. This leads us to our fourth role as a laborer in the field. Before we say what that is, let’s turn to 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy, notice what Paul had to say here, what was if not his last very nearly his last letter that he would write to Timothy who he loved so much, who he had such a special fondness and relationship for. 2 Timothy 1:13 2 Timothy 1:13Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×, he says, “Hold fast” hold on for dear life. “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was commanded to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” He was telling Timothy, “Don’t stop, don’t let up. Never give up, never give in.”
Later chapter 4 verse 1 of 2 Timothy, he says, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” Paul says of exclamation, “You coming behind me, preach the word!” Our fourth role then that leads out of that third role of doing the work, we need to set up others for future success. We need to set up others for future success.
When I first started my engineering career as a co-op, I went to the University of Cincinnati, they have a co-op program where you while you’re still in school, you work for one quarter, they were on quarters at the time, you work for one quarter at a company and then you went back to school for another quarter. I had interviewed, gone through the process, found an employer that I really wanted to work with, really enjoyed interviewing with the guy that I thought I was gonna be working with, got hired on. The day came for the first day to go in, and I walked into his office all excited and ready to go. And I didn’t even get all the way into his office and he gets up from behind his desk and he comes over here and says, “Oh, Dan, I’m glad you’re here. I want you to meet the guy you’re gonna be working with.” So right off, this is a shock, I thought I was gonna be working for him. He walks me out into the main office area, out into the cubicles there, and he introduces to this fellow who looked at me and kind of bleary-eyed on a Monday morning and said, “Oh, hey, how you doing?” “All right.” “Okay, I’ve got something you can get started on.”
And he proceeded to take me into the copy room. At that point in time, we didn’t have…that company didn’t have a big scanner. It had just one full-size printer that would print full-size drawings. These were 24x36 inch drawings, so pretty good size. And part of the job of the engineering team was there, whenever anything got changed, we had to update all the drawings and distribute them. Some got sent out for Microfiche, you’ll have to Google what that is later on. Some then got distributed physically to people. And there were seven different people that got drawings. This particular change was a small change on the product they made, the part number on a screw or something had changed, pretty insignificant. The problem was they used that screw on 200 and some products, and there was a drawing for every product, and there was a build of material with that part number on it. Somebody, guess who that was, had to make seven copies each of 200 drawings. And you didn’t just scan this in, hit seven, and let it print out seven. You scanned it in one at a time. I stood at that copier for about three days before they finally came got me because I think they were afraid I was ready to quit.
But you know what I realized later on? If I hadn’t been doing that job, the fellow that I met that I had never met before, no idea I was going to be working for, he would have been doing that job. So by me doing that, that freed him to work on something else. He went on to work on a project to fix an issue, a design issue with another product that that company had. By him doing that, that freed up a senior product designer who had been working on fixing that design issue. He was able then to go on and work on developing a new product, one that ultimately wound up being very successful and was very important to the company’s bottom line. It affected not just him, everyone at the entire company. One of the basic things that you learn in any sort of management class is in order to go forward, in order to retire, you need to have someone who can replace you.
Individual roles and responsibilities can vary over time. Ours may as our role changes, whether we’ve been there for 50 years, 20 years, 5 years. Christ alluded to this in John 14 when He was giving some of His final instruction to the disciples. John 14, we’ll start in verse 2. By the way, shortly after I stopped being a co-op at that company, they got a new printer that just scanned it all in, did it all electronically, so times change. John 14, starting verse 2, Christ speaking to the disciples says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also.” I’m going to take you with me. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Christ in his three and a half years with the disciples had left them a trail of breadcrumbs, how to go forward, how to preach the gospel.
Verse 12, He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” Christ did the work that He did here on earth to prepare us for greater future works, to prepare His Church for success. He goes on to tell them not only that He’d tell them what to do, but He left them a tool that they needed, that of course being the Holy Spirit. He expected them to be successful. The Church will be successful in preaching the gospel, in preparing the people.
Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×, this was mentioned this past week in the Bible study, Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×, Christ speaking to Peter says, “I say to you that you are Peter, and on this house,” excuse me, “and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Nothing is going to stop the work that must be done. It will carry on with workers hired at the first hour, the sixth, the ninth, the eleventh, whatever hour we might be in. The Church today has a responsibility to be about our Father’s business just as Christ was. Part of our business, part of our role, is laying out success for those who follow behind us.
What hour are you in? Does it make a difference? Certainly in terms of salvation, no. But I think we can recognize that we as laborers play many various roles with various amounts of experience, from different skill sets that we can use to help our fellow laborers. Each of us has a part to play in this work that we have been hired to do by the vineyard owner. If we were hired at 6:00 a.m., pass on the wisdom that you’ve learned, how difficult it was the first time you went in to your boss to tell him, “I need to take two weeks off.” Maybe practical ideas, how did I handle my little infant son the first time I took him on a plane to go to the Feast? Things like that. Maybe helping with little ones trying to fast for the first time. As parents and grandparents, those are things we can pass on.
If you’re hired at noon or 3:00 p.m., it’s likely you’re at a point in time in life where you have much ability to do much of the physical work that is done by the Church today. There’s things that people who have been around since the first hour can’t do anymore. It’s time for those others to step up and help in ways that they now have the ability to do. There’s also a unique role that those in that range might play, and that is they may be able to help bridge some of the gap between those hired at the beginning of the day and hired in the eleventh hour.
A couple weeks ago, one of the ABC instructors, they understood both the former and the present use of this term, but they used an example of the word “wicked.” In his day, that meant something terrible, horrible. He did a survey of the class, most of them answered and said, “Yeah, that means really good, really awesome.” Two very different meanings. Sometimes we don’t know how to communicate with one another. Sometimes we need help in being able to bridge that gap. If you’re the person that’s hired at 5:00 p.m., chances are you bring an enthusiasm and an excitement that maybe those of us who have been around a while and need a little help to be stirred up. Perhaps you can share with us new ideas, new ways to communicate, to preach the gospel. Perhaps you can show us how to use our cell phones, and I say that kind of jokingly, but all too seriously.
All too often, I have to ask my kids how do I do something, and they say, “Well, just give me the phone, dad.” It’s funny, but it’s true. We can help those who have been around see “this is the value of the media communication that we do today, this is how the gospel is being preached.” The Church is now and has always been made up of laborers called at many different hours of the day. Let’s be of our Father’s business, grateful for His awesome love, encouraging one another along the way, stepping up to do the work of preaching the gospel and preparing a people, and working to pass on what we have learned to future generations. And may we all truly rejoice, awaiting the awesome gift of salvation.