I (Robert) have a thing about steam trains!
My dad was an engineer – the official title for locomotive drivers in those yesterdays of steam trains.
I’ll never forget the day he took me – just a ‘little fellow’ in short pants – down to the local, large city rail station and explained about the, to me, ‘huge monster’ that was technically called the engine. And then being lifted up onto the platform, his working domain. What a thrill, and such excitement for a small boy.
Dad explained the controls, how the engine operated. It was a cold morning but the heat from the blazing firebox quickly warmed physically – my heart was already on fire with curiosity. I had stared at the huge wheels, now I gazed at the control levers, so much bigger than little me, so heavy looking, and back at the tons of coal in the tender. I was elated to be on that platform.
There’s something special about riding in a train, even if it’s only in the carriages. But to be on the platform with your dad…that’s a different kind of excitement completely. The wind, the resounding whistle, the openness, smoke (even the dirt!), rattling rails, unique rhythm – even today when I occasionally catch sight of the rare steam train thundering along a railway line, I stop and watch with bated breath!
Being about the Father’s business
That childhood memory goes back decades to when it was customary for boys to follow in their father’s footsteps. What dads did for a living became their sons’ careers (at least number one son).
Now I loved my dad but I didn’t pursue a career in the railways. If you like, you could put it this way: I wasn’t about my father’s business (common with so many for decades).
But – even as my dad’s train-driving took people to special destinations, though using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given me to explain scripture clearly, I delight to take people to glorious destinations in God and to grow in their Christian experience.
Maureen’s dad was also an engineer – of a different kind. A precision engineer, he created classic meaningful items, also working with intricate machinery in a large world renown engineering plant. For example, it’s D-Day memories next month…during WW2, surrounded by special branch officers, he worked on secret plans.
Now Maureen also didn’t follow in her dad’s footsteps but she inherited his creative genes and in a unique way communicates God’s word and truths in the most down-to-earth realistic fashion.
Jesus’ example – ever busy about the Father’s business
Jesus, by contrast, is the one person who can lay claim to continually being about his Father’s business! In fact, right back in childhood he stated emphatically what his adult intentions would be – ‘I must be about my Father’s business’ (Luke 2:49).
The gospels depict that Jesus never lost sight of that goal. Even when he was weary and hungry, he put aside natural desires for refreshment in order to share the good news with those who wanted to hear and receive from God.
Such was the case in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Sychar. Afterwards, when his disciples urged him to eat, Jesus gave a remarkable reply: ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’ (John 4:34).
In Luke 9:60 (Mge), he directed his followers – us – to follow suite: ‘First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!’ Later, he added, ‘You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business’ (Acts 1:7Mge).
A family business
As God’s children, this includes us today!
Despite ridicule, investigations and plots by the Pharisees, Jesus boldly declared to his disciples, ‘As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work’ (John 9:14). He was specifying that the Father’s business is a corporate, family work that involves every Christian, everyone who follows him, that the Father is the missions-minded God.
The Greek word for work is ergon, variously translated business, work(s), deeds, miracles and so on. In John 10:25, Jesus affirmed that he did his works and miracles with the direction and approval of his Father, and on his behalf.
John 14:12 then becomes an outstanding scripture as Jesus declares that if we truly believe in him, we too will do what he had been doing. In fact he asserted that we would ‘do even greater works than these.’ Again, the expectancy of Christians mightily serving God as he boldly did.
Shortly afterwards, Jesus was able with clear conscience to look heavenward and tell his Father, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:1,4). Finally, as he gave his life on Calvary’s cross in order to redeem humankind, he exclaimed triumphantly: ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30).
The picture painted by scripture is clear – Jesus, the Son of God, was completely sold out to following in his Father’s footsteps, being about his dad’s business despite personal cost and sacrifice. He constantly did and said those things his Father desired of him. In doing so he ‘brought God to earth’ – displaying his nature, love, concern, power, understanding, compassion and grace!
The example of Jesus is unmistakable. Equally unmistakable, he has given us authority and a command to carry on his work while it is still day, before Satan’s darkness fully falls on planet Earth. And with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (whose coming churches celebrated last Sunday) to do so in even greater measure and power than he did! (Luke 24:49).
That in itself, when we think of what Jesus accomplished perusing his Father’s business, is challenging and mind-blowing!
- Pope Francis: ‘Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.’
- William Griffith Thomas: ‘He is the greatest influence in the world today. There is … a fifth gospel being written – the work of Jesus in the hearts and lives of men and nations.’
- Thomas Keller: ‘Do you realise that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?’
- Mother Teresa: ‘We do the work of Jesus and with Jesus. It’s not a matter of praying some times and working others. We pray the work.’
- Albert Schweitzer: ‘Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.’
- Billy Graham: ‘God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.’
We have a question…
Are we about the Father’s business? Are we really following on from Jesus and bringing glory to God on Earth? Are we doing ‘greater kingdom works’ (whatever that may be that God has planned for us) while it is still light and the Light of Life is still shining in this dark world?
And what is the Father’s business for each of each of us? All we have to do is to ask him! (Matthew 7:7). Christians have the enabling of the Holy Spirit to help us!
May we all be kingdom involved and, if not, definitely begin to be, whatever the cost… especially after last week’s Pentecost Sunday celebration of God’s kindness in giving his Spirit for our supernatural assistance.
Personally we have no difficulties with the fact that neither of us have been about our earthly father’s business, but each of us continues to plan being able to say when we stand before the Lord: ‘Yes, I have been constantly about my heavenly Father’s business.’
Bob Mumford once said that in the final analysis all that matters is that we were not ‘men-pleasers’ but Father-pleasers.
(Scripture emphases ours)