Knowing who you are: Labourer

Colossians 3:17-24 (ESV)

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


Hello everyone. How are you? Isn’t it a privilege to be together as a church? With such an emphasis placed on the risk of gathering at the moment – it makes you consider what you value.

For those that don’t know me my name is Jonathan. I am married to Tahnee and we have two kids, Lucia (6) and Otis (3).

We live on the Northern Beaches. The Northern, Northern Beaches for those that had been following the news over Christmas. Not quite in Avalon, but pretty close. Watching the locations listed on the health website over December/January was like playing a game of bingo – but one you didn’t really want to win.

I understand if that makes people up the front here feel a bit uncomfortable – wondering why Yosia has brought a super spreader to church today.

We postponed this visit twice now. Originally I was coming in May 2020, but by then COVID lockdowns were in full swing. Then we’d planned for January during your Pastor’s sabbatical, but then the Northern Beaches outbreak happened over Christmas and everyone learned where Avalon was on the map.

We got used to a lot of strange things last year didn’t we?

  • No Handshakes – greetings have gotten so awkward. Do we touch, do we not?
  • Working from home – making sure that webcams don’t get accidentally left on while you’re getting dressed.
  • Trying to remember to brush your teeth! The number of times when I’ve gotten to the end of the day and asked, did I brush my teeth today? I’m worried 2020 has given me a cavity.

All this to say that it’s a privilege to be in church with you. Under circumstances where we are told not to gather for our own safety. This is a reason that we should. To worship our God and to read his word, so let’s do that.

We’re going to be in…

Colossians 3:17-24 (ESV)

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Knowing Who You Are


There is a lot here that we could talk about. And I want to give some context to my message today. I am a big fan of expository preaching. I think there are many advantages to staying with a passage, speaking about its context. Speaking about how to interpret it. And speaking about how to apply it as Christians. When you do that. It’s pretty hard to say something that the scripture isn’t actually saying.

Most of the times I visited that’s what I’ve tried to do. But today we are doing things a bit differently. And I wanted to be clear and upfront about that otherwise you’ll be scratching your head wondering when am I going to hit the middle section of this passage which talks about the rules for Christian households. When is he going to talk about wives and husbands? I’m not.

We’re going to start here in this text. We’re going to keep coming back to this text. We’re going to end in this text. But we’re also going to go to some other places.

Ok? I wanted you to be prepared for a more topic driven message.

The inspiration for this actually came from a book recommended to me called “Knowing Who You Are” by Malcom Gill. Malcolm is a New Testament lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, and in his book he walks through 8 images that the New Testament writers have used to help us understand our identity in Christ. 8 metaphors that keep reappearing in the New Testament that are illustrations of the Christian life.

If this interests you, I’d recommend reading the book. He unpacks the Christian imagery of:

  • a Pilgrim,
  • Citizen,
  • Farmer,
  • Athlete,
  • Steward,
  • Soldier,
  • And the one we are going to look at today – the labourer.

That’s the housekeeping done.

  • Talked about COVID
  • Not covering the guidelines for Christian households
  • Instead: Looking at how the Christian life is a bit like being a labourer.

Let’s pray.

Labourer – Unskilled and Manual

The Christian Life… being a follower of Christ, is a bit like being a labourer. It feels like a strange comparison for me to make, doesn’t it? Sounds like I’m saying that being a Christian is hard work. When we imagine labourers we think of effort, perseverance, sweat, toil, grinding away.

If I were to ask you to describe activities you associate with your Christianity; you’re probably going to tell me about; going to church, prayer, and reading the bible.

It’s unlikely that you’d start telling about; doing your weekly grocery shop, how you earn money, or the time you dug a hole.

Those things do not feel very spiritual, but we all have to do them. This necessity to work that we all have. Surely that has more to do with our sinful world than it does Christianity. Why do I have an everlasting pile of laundry that never seems to get any smaller? I want to blame our sinful world for that. You know who didn’t have any laundry? Who in the bible didn’t have to do laundry? Adam and Eve! Running around naked, no laundry, that was paradise.

Work Intended to be Good

But the Bible paints a different picture of work, as part of God’s original plan for us, as significant and holy. And you don’t have to read very far to see this plan. Actually back in the pre-laundry times of Genesis Chapter 2 we can read about work.

Genesis 2:7-9,15

7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
(jumping to v15) 15  The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.


I have to be honest, I hadn’t really considered that Eden needed a gardener? That’s not the picture of paradise that I had in my mind. I thought the plants must have trimmed themselves. The lawn was self mowing. Plants required no fertilizer. But in Genesis chapter 2, Adam is given work BEFORE the fall.

Why does that matter? What implications does it have for us?  What does verse 15 tell us about God?  (15  The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it) This is where I want us to dwell today. That labour is part of God’s original plan for us, that it is good, that it is meaningful.

And if we can recognise that, then the work (or the study) we do on Monday becomes just as significant as the church service we attend on Sunday. Work and labour, although tedious, although repetitive, although difficult – can be meaningful and purposeful because we know God has intended it for us.

Working for the Lord

And when you understand work that way. When you have the perspective that God intended labour for our good, you are able to speak like Paul does in our reading from Colossians 3, 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. and in verse 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,


The incredible joy of being a Christian is that everything we do can have purpose and meaning; because we know we are doing it for the Lord.

Hot Mona Burger

I’ve used this analogy at RSI before, but I love it.Tahnee and I live on the Northern Beaches. Near where we live, some of the chicken shops will sell what is called a Hot Mona. If you haven’t had one, you need to. It’s a portugese chicken burger with cheese and chilli sauce. They are amazing. People move out of the area and suffer regret that they can’t get them anymore. The Northern Beaches may have been locked down but at least we still had Hot Monas (although you have to hunt around a bit more for them these days).

Burgers may not be your thing. That’s ok. You can insert something else that works for you. Coffee. Some nice crispy Korean fried chicken. Watermelon. I don’t know what it is. You pick.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy a Hot Mona. It’s common grace. You and a non-christian can both order one, sit down, eat it, and walk away agreeing “that was a delicious burger!”

Christian Enjoyment

But as a Christian, my enjoyment of one doesn’t have to end with the burger itself. I can enjoy a burger in a way a non-Christian just can’t.

  • I can be amazed at how creative God is to design taste buds. When I put food in my mouth I can taste it, God designed that.
  • God spoke chickens into existence and said that they were good.
  • God gave us intellect to work out how to turn milk into cheese
  • And He gives people the creativity to combine flavours which has resulted in the Hot Mona.

When I start thinking that way, now I’m no longer just eating a burger, I’m appreciating and attributing worth to God. My eating has turned into an act of worship.

The same is true for work. Whatever task we find in front of us. Our focus doesn’t have to end with the work itself, but can flow past it to focus on our God. And when we do that, any work we find ourselves doing, no matter how hard, can become an act of worship.

Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


The Builder and The Fisherman

So the Christian life is a bit like a labourer because God intended work to be a part of His good creation. But how else can the illustration of a labourer help us reflect on what the Christian life is like? There are many occupations in the New Testament that we could look at for inspiration, but two that we are going to think about today are, the builder and the fisherman.


Both jobs I have never actually had. I was thinking about the most labour intensive job I’ve ever done. It was as a kid I got a job peeling the labels off VHS tapes. Someone figured out that if they bought old video cassettes, and got a bunch of kids to take the labels off they could sell them again as blanks. Me and a friend sat there all day and just peeling label after label after label, until we had a huge ball of labels to play soccer with.



That’s about as close as I’ve got to being a labourer. Thankfully my lack of experience is ok because we’re going to let the Bible give the illustrations. Jesus in a very famous parable uses the imagery of builders to talk about the Christian life. We’re going to read from Matthew 7.

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Sermon on the Mount

This will be a very familiar scripture for anyone who grew up in church. But briefly for context, we’re right at the end of The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has been preaching an incredible sermon on topics like:

  • Being salt and light
  • Anger
  • Lust
  • Divorce
  • Oaths
  • Retaliation
  • Loving your enemies
  • Giving to the needy
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Anxiety
  • Judging others
  • This is when he teaches the golden rule!

And Jesus wraps all this up by saying… if you hear these words of mine, but DO NOT put them into practice, you are like a foolish man who builds his house on sand.


If you’re like me… if you have a type A personality… if you are task orientated… have a tendency to be self righteous… (how many faults should I list)… There is a temptation with this parable to think the difference between the wise man and the foolish man is what they do.

That Jesus is telling us to be like the wise man and do the right things. To love our enemies, avoid lust, give to the poor, return evil with good, and tell the truth! The wise man is the doer, and if we can just do what Jesus is telling us to do, our house will stand.

But in the illustration that Christ uses, the difference is not the men’s labour. Both men build a house. Jesus clearly thinks that a foolish man can build a house too.

No, the difference is not what the men do. It’s what they put their trust in. The wise man trusts a rock to hold his house. The foolish man trusts sand.


Here I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the Gospel.

Those that hear the teaching of Jesus and put it into practice, do so, because they believe who Jesus is. That he is the Son of God. That the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. That he died upon a Cross and rose again. That he offers to trade his righteousness for our sin.

If you believe who Jesus is you will put your trust in Him. Like a wise builder who trusts a rock to hold his house, the Christian puts the words of Jesus at the very foundation of their lives.

That type of trust will have an impact on how you spend your money, whom you marry, how you relate to your employer. The natural outworking of trusting in Christ is to put his words into practice.

Jesus becomes the foundation of every part of our lives.


The alternative according to Jesus is foolishness, like a man who builds a house trusting sand. It’s building a life having left Christ out. Replacing him with our own wisdom, with wealth, education, morality.

These things are like sand. None of them can bear any weight when it comes to our salvation. They will eventually give way and sink. Wealth can’t make you right with God. Education can’t make you right with God. Morality can’t make you right with God.

Only putting our faith in Jesus Christ can make us right with God. In faith, accepting his offer to trade. His righteousness for our sinfulness.

The Christian is a bit like a wise builder in that we build our lives trusting in Christ.




I mentioned at the beginning that what we are exploring together is the value of biblical illustrations. In this case the labourer as a type of metaphor for the Christian life. Metaphor can be really helpful. Anyone who has ever preached, can testify to the value of a well placed analogy.

Of course we have to acknowledge that analogies and metaphors are not scripture. But they can be useful in the way they help focus our minds on biblical truth.

To Live is Christ

There are a few metaphors that I’ve heard in my Christian life that have been really helpful to me. I remember many years ago reading a book called To Live is Christ to Die is Gain by Matt Chandler, it walks through the book of Philippians. I wanted to share a quote from that book, but see if you can spot the illustration here. Chandler writes…

This is why the mature Christian is reasonable. Because, as Paul says, “the Lord is near,” even in a desperate situation like the one I described. Because in that moment, here’s what I had at the ready: the knowledge that the God of the universe, the God who rescued and saved me, is not Himself powerless at all in that moment, is not at all surprised or shocked by that moment, is not reeling one bit or trying to figure out what to do in that moment. The God of the Bible is not an ambulance driver who shows up after the wreck and hops out and thinks, Okay, let’s do some triage here. The God of the Bible does not show up after the accident and try to fix it. That’s not what He does. He’s there. He knows.


The story he is referencing was a time that his wife went to check on their sleeping 1 year old, only to find him having a seizure, blue in the face and not breathing. They call the ambulance and are told only one parent can jump in the back. In the book Matt is describing the moment where the ambulance leaves with the paramedics ressusicating his son. He’s trying to jump in his car to follow behind, but it gets away from him. His wife isn’t answering her phone. He doesn’t know where they went. He doesn’t know if his son is going to be ok.


I remember reading this and thinking – wow that is really heavy – I hope that never happens to me!

I tell you what, it wasn’t that long after Lucia’s first birthday. That it got to about 8 oclock in the morning and Tahnee and I were cheering thinking she’s sleeping in, this is amazing! I got up and thought I’ll just check on her. I go into her room and she really doesn’t seem like herself. She’s all lethargic and floppy, pretty unresponsive. I scoop her up to bring her into our bed and she does this huge vomit. Crying, unable to sit up (that was the scary bit), something is definitely wrong for her.

I had never called 000 before. The ambulance arrives. Paramedics are amazing but they seem overly chill when it’s your child involved. They leave to take her to the hospital.

I remember driving trying to catch up to the ambulance and feeling desperate, trying to find the right words to pray. One of the only things I could muster was – God you don’t drive an ambulance. This did not surprise you today.

It helped. It brought my mind back to scripture.

  • Psalm 139 – in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
    Lord you have a plan for Lucia, you know what her days will be like. I can trust you.
  • Deuteronomy 31 – He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
    Things are not out of control, you haven’t left or been distracted. You are with us.
  • Colossians 1 – …all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    That final one has been particularly helpful to me more recently. That King Jesus is watching and reigning over this situation. He is not absent. He is actively involved.

I share this to say that storms will come. When they come, they test our foundations. So what are they? When you receive that phone call, or that diagnosis, or experience suffering, something goes wrong, we need that solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Nothing else can bear the weight.

God does not drive an ambulance.



Okay, I said there were two examples that would help us explore this illustration of Christian life being like a labourer. The builder and the fisherman. We’ve covered the builder. The second, is found in Matthew 4:18-20


Matthew 4:18-20

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.


Here we have Jesus walking beside the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake, did you know that?). And he sees Peter and Andrew fishing.

Fishing as Recreation


In our context we don’t think of fishing as labour. We think of it as recreation. Especially in the part of the world that we live in.

If you tell someone you’re going fishing you’re probably going to evoke imagery:

  • a beautiful boat
  • maybe on the harbour
  • fishing rod in one of those holders so you don’t have to hang onto it while you sip your drink

Fishing as Labour

But this is not the type of fishing Peter and Andrew were doing. In biblical times fishing was an occupation that required hard work and patience. Fishermen didn’t use bait, and rods, with drink holders. Their approach was basic.

  • They’d use a heavy net about 7m wide, with lead on the edges
  • Fisherman would gather their net up on their arm and throw it out into the water from a boat
  • The net would open up and kind of parachute down trapping some fish inside (maybe).

That’s how Peter and Andrew would spend their day. Casting their nets out into the lake and slowly dragging it back on board hoping to have caught a few fish.

Fisher of Men

It was monotonous work with mixed results. But this is the type of fishing we need to picture when we read in verse 19

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.


So what does it look like for modern day Christians to follow Jesus and “fish for people”? How is the Christian life a bit like being a fisherman in the way that Andrew and Peter were?

Our Part of the Lake

One of the main responsibilities we have as followers of Christ is to cast the net of the gospel as far, and as wide and, as often as we can. Christians are a bit like fishermen because we articulate the gospel regularly and in whatever places they find ourselves.

With those we come into contact with every day. With our colleagues, with our family, with our sports teams, with our fellow students, with our barista.

Holy Spirit’s Work

Because here’s the thing, we never know who will respond to the gospel message, but we must do our best to make sure people hear it.

Both fishing and sharing the gospel require effort and patience. There are many accounts in the Gospels where seasoned fishermen let down their nets, only to catch nothing. And so, the great commission is not a demand for results, but a call to cast the gospel net as wide and as often as we can.

Relying on Others

When was the last time you talked of Christ in an everyday conversation? Are you in the habit of sharing the Gospel?

Sometimes we think if we could just get our friend to come to church, meet Pastor Yosia, hear our worship music, maybe then they’ll become a Christian!

But the Christian is a bit like a fisherman in that they don’t depend on others to do their fishing. God has placed you in a specific part of the lake. Cast your net, throw it big and throw it frequently. And let the Holy Spirit be at work through you to draw people to Christ.


Thinking back to our modern day view of fishing as recreation. Which involves a rod and bait to lure in fish. Sometimes we misinterpret our responsibility to proclaim the gospel as a responsibility to sell the gospel, to convince people, to package it in a way to make it more acceptable.

But 1 Corinthians 1:18 warns us that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Because of that I really think it’s ok that things get a little awkward. Sharing with someone who thinks what you are saying is ridiculous, it’s not typical, it feels a bit uncomfortable.

But if we want to experience the joy of seeing someone caught up in the grace and forgiveness of God, we have to speak.

The hardest part is starting the conversation. And here’s my encouragement. The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of people you interact with every day. He is. So speak the Gospel to them!


I was thinking of examples of pointing at Christ in everyday conversation at work. What’s one of the first questions you get asked on a Monday? How was your weekend? It was great. I went to church and listened to a message about how a Christian Life is a bit like being a labourer.

Do that a couple of times and you may stop hearing that question anymore. That’s ok! It’s casting a net.

At the Church my family goes to, we ran an Alpha Course. So to prepare for it our Pastor asked us to set alarms on our phones for 11am every day and to pray when it goes off. I remember a young guy in the congregation talking to me about it because his coworkers began to notice and ask: Why does your alarm go off at the same time every day? He could have said: to remind me of something. But he didn’t. He leaned in to the awkwardness and ended up inviting his coworker to Alpha. That’s casting a net.

Tahnee was scrolling through Instagram and a band she follows was asking people for their most controversial ideas. She messaged them and said: the bible is true, God is good, Jesus saves. The band replied. You’re crazy. But then they posted her reply to their 20,000 followers. That’s casting a net.

I’ve found myself locked in a type of faith conversion tug-o-war between myself and a Jehovahs Witness that knocked on my door 5 years ago. I’m constantly bumping into her and her family in my neighbourhood. Oh you want to talk about Jesus? I love talking about Jesus!

Cast the net of the gospel. In your workplace. In the grocery aisle. At uni. In your zoom call.

The Christian life is a bit like a fisherman because we persevere to share the good news of Jesus Christ in every context we find ourselves.

Matthew 4:19 says And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.



As I end this message, what should we take away? We’ve been talking about our identity as Christians. What does the Christian look like?

Our main reading was out of Colossians 3. But if you start back in Chapter 1, Paul makes the point that we all started out as enemies of God. That was our identity. In our minds and in our behaviour we opposed him. Our identity was hostile towards him.

But through the death of His son, God has reconciled us to himself and made us blameless and without accusation. Those that put their trust in Jesus Christ have been given a new identity.

That new identity, it looks a bit like being a laborer.

So three things that we’ve touched on and I hope have encouraged you.

  • Work was part of God’s good plan for us.
    1. God gave Adam meaningful work to do in the garden before he sinned.
    2. The joy of a Christian is everything we do can have purpose and meaning; because we know we are doing it for the Lord. Whether it’s eating a burger or digging a hole.
  • A Christian is a bit like the builder who built his house on the rock
    1. The wise builder is wise not because he built a house, but because he put his trust in the rock.
    2. We are not made righteous by what we do, but by what we believe.
    3. Our faith in Jesus is a sure foundation, which will impact all other aspects of our lives.
    4. When we experience suffering, when challenges come. Christ is that sure foundation, on Him we can stand.
  • Our new Christian identity is a bit like the New Testament fishermen.
    1. We’re called to cast the net of the gospel, as far, and as wide, and as often as we can. With the people we come into contact with everyday.
    2. The results will be mixed, and it’s ok to be awkward.
    3. But let it become a habit, to make sure people have the opportunity to be caught up in the grace and forgiveness of God.

All this to say…

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Discussion questions:

  1. What is the Biblical view of work (labour) and how can it be a mean of worship?
  2. What is the difference between the foolish and wise builder? How does it relate to our works?
  3. List out the different ways we can “cast the net” in our daily lives.
  4. How does the storms (sufferings) in our lives help us to share the gospel?
  5. Explain how the gospel empowers us to be labourers in Christ. 
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