New Hope Notes

Work With Me

Pastor Jon Burgess
March 6, 2016 - W1610

This message opens with a video presentation with Pastor Burgess and his wife Cyndi in the restaurant called Z-Pizza, an establishment owned and operated by Cesar and Karen Llarenas. They create delicious hand tossed pizzas using all natural and fresh ingredients. Through this video you will see an extremely faithful and dedicated couple who in spite of a very major setback came through with their belief in our Lord God. Their story will follow shortly.

 Pastor Jon Burgess:

As we continue on our XFactor series, we are going to start off this message at Z-Pizza. We are being hosted here by long-time members Cesar and Karen Llarenas. We are excited to be here because this is where God wants us to be. In fact the name of this message today is “Work With Me”.

Now let’s picture ourselves where we work. It could be a wonderful place to work or it could be someplace we barely can endure. However, our work place is where we spend most of our time. We really don’t spend much time at church, in fact, God is not only limited to an hour and a half at a weekend service. He actually wants to join us at where we work and He wants to be a part of us at work. Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 6:7:

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…” (Ephesians 6:7)

In other words, as we work we should be putting Him first even at our workplace. So when we are wholeheartedly serving at our workplace to the glory of God then we aren’t defined by the numbers on our paychecks or by how the boss is treating us. In fact if we recall our study in Daniel, he had the worst boss ever. Daniel’s “boss”, King Nebuchadnezzar insisted that his advisors, magicians and prophets had to interpret his dream otherwise he would kill every one of them including Daniel and his friends. He also set some impossible restrictions to this task by not even telling anyone what his dream was. But instead of panicking, Daniel and his friends all knelt down in prayer and fasting. Daniel and his friends invited God into their workplace. God gave them the interpretation and here is what it says happened in Daniel 2:

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering of incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.’ Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all of its wise men.” (Daniel 2:46-48)

So not only were their lives spared but Daniel even got a promotion. So by putting God first in our workplace great things can happen. We can start by praying for the people at our workplaces. Work becomes an intersection for our faith and our fellow employees and employers. It becomes our crucible where our faith is truly tested.

We may never see them come to hear a sermon on Sundays, but through our lives and examples at work they will see Jesus and how, that even during the difficult times, we are able to endure things because of our faith in God. In fact here is the first point:

1. Work is where the world sees the stories in the storm.

This is where God shows who He is by how we are walking in our faith during those really difficult times. Our faith is the collision or the intersection between our occupation and your vocation. Our occupation is where we get our paychecks but our vocation is what we are designed to do.

For example, the Apostle Paul’s occupation was tent building but his vocation was church planting, and ministering and sharing the gospel with the gentiles. Where did that put him? He was often put in prisons. We see him in the book of Acts at one point being taken captive on a ship during a storm, where, like Daniel, he did not panic, he too prayed and in the following verses we see how hearts were changed in spite of the storm:

“Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” (Acts 27:33-36)

They were watching this one man and saw his faith in spite of the storm, and everyone turned their hearts and eyes towards God. Just like us, God has us living out our faith in the middle of the storm with a lot of onlookers. We aren’t working where we are by accident, it’s by Providence. God put us there so we could show our faith through the storms because of the presence of God in our lives. He even lets us break bread with them and as we show thanksgiving to Him, we are able to bring God to them in the workplace. Just like Paul did. After all it is with these people that we spend most of our time with. In fact, that’s why we are at this place called Z-Pizza because today we are going to break some bread (or crust) together with Cesar and Karen.

Zpizza restaurant has been around for several years. There has been many intersections and collisions in the stress of just owning and running this business. Cesar shares that he tells his employees their ministry is how they make the pizza. He says he teaches them that when they make the pizza really well then people will see this and see what a great product they put out. But, on the other hand people will also see when they don’t put their heart into it. So both Cesar and Karen insist that their employees strive to do the best job they can whatever their task may be, even if it’s just cleaning the tables. But they also strive to share God to the secular world they service. Why? After all this pizza place is not a church, but, Cesar says, first and foremost, that this is not their business, it is God’s business. He owns it and so they set their heart and mind to know that everything they do for this business is all for God and not themselves.

On October 31st, Cesar came down with a condition called endocarditis which is an infection on the heart valve. The doctors had already even given up hope and at the end of the two weeks began counseling Karen into removing the life supports. It was a time of difficulty where the only thing Karen could do was cry out to God.

Because of Karen’s strong, enduring hope and faith in God Cesar improved miraculously. He came off of dialysis on November 30 and after 30 days in ICU and another 2 weeks in the hospital he was able to be moved to a rehab center for two months. Cesar is a living testimony and is now happily throwing pizza dough again at Z-Pizza. You can see his passion for not only his business but also for God. He came out with no cognitive damage, he never became paralyzed and is able to speak and function well. This is truly the story in the storm. Though they are not totally out of that storm, things were made well by the miracles of God. The world sees pain and struggle but through their struggles the world can see how they came through it all by their faith and hope in God.

So like Cesar and Karen, through our stories God can work His ultimate masterpiece, His plan of redemption shines through our lives just as long as we are willing to work for Him. As we read here in Ephesians:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8-10)

Nothing else, not good looks or good hair or even good makeup saves us, it is by God’s grace we are saved. There is no good outside of God. With that thought in mind:

*There is NO room for the stained glass saints.

Stained glass is only good for those who are inside the building, but there are a lot of people outside of the stained glass that need to see and hear God. We should not limit God to what is just inside the church. He wants us to go out beyond the church to spread His gospel and that one place where we spend most of our time is our workplace.

2. Work is where we join in with what Jesus was already doing.

It doesn’t matter where we work or when we started working there, God was already there. He was already working in the hearts of our fellow employees and customers because Jesus has called us to the same ministry He was called to. This is what it says in God’s word:

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does. Yes, and He will show Him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.’” (John 5:19-20)

You don’t’ just work for the paycheck, there is a divine purpose to your occupation. We are working for that higher purpose and that purpose is for God. God has already prepared things before we even got there, we just need to continue to work like unto God. God wants us to show up to wherever we work with the same expectation that God is going to be there with us also because He has people He wants us to meet, people that He died for. These people need to know that God is real. There are people praying right now who want to know God, so let them see Jesus through us. God has already prepared them for us, we just need to be willing and faithful to continue what He has already started. Just be careful not to leave God out of it and claim it as our own though because:

*There is NO room for the Savior complex.

There is only one Savior and it is not us. For as it says in Ephesians that we read earlier,

“…not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:9)

When I graduated from Bible college, I thought that I was going to save countless souls almost all by myself. But 6 months later I found myself up at 4:30 am stocking milk in an independent little grocery store. What happened to this mighty call on my life?

Sadly, it took me a year and a half to wake up and see that the ministry God planned for me was staring at me all that time, right in front of my face. My time in the Santa Ynez Valley was more fruitful in the backroom of the El Ranch Market then it was at the pulpit of my parent’s church because I came into that church with a savior complex. God is the Savior not me and I needed God to scrub that attitude off of me.

That’s when my perspective changed. I began to see every vendor, from the Pepsi guy to the milk guy to the Pepperidge Farms guy and cheese guy, as people that Jesus died for, I took that savior badge off of me that said bring me all your sorrows, your grief and I will pray for you. When I started seeing that I was working as unto the Lord right there at that small store, I stopped yearning for that bigger ministry. This was my ministry to share with my fellow employees, vendors and customers. This was real. I got rid of the savior complex and invited the Savior in through serving, I even saw a few people actually come to Christ.

So I am here to encourage you, that wherever you are working, that is your pulpit. Just don’t do it with a savior complex. You don’t need to save them, you just need to meet them at the point that Jesus is at with them. As you serve them eventually they will see Him.

3. Work is where we discover what to do with what we’ve been given by grace.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

*There is NO room for bland, boring or blank space evangelism.

The thing is we don’t want to portray God as being the bland, boring face that many put on in their evangelism. No, we want to portray God as someone everyone will strive for. It’s like the pizza. We want them to yearn for Him. We don’t want to keep Him hidden in the box, we want to share the goodies with them. God has given us gifts of grace and talents to show them who He truly is. He is the God who we should all thrive for because of all the goodness; healthy and fresh and wholesome things He has for the people He puts in our lives whether in the workplace or wherever we are at a time and place He wants us to be.

I encourage you to read Daniel 9:1-19 and pray for the people you work with and for, and pray until something happens. Be a light for God in your workplace today and in the days to come.

1) Write down the names of five people and pray for them.

2) How can you be an instrument of God in your workplace?

3) What kind of storms have you been through and how did you handle them?

4) How did Daniel handle all that he had to face in the foreign land his people were banished to?

5) How did Paul manage to face his storms?