Blog - Grasping Vocation
Work Takes My Mind Off GodSaturday, November 26, 2011
Imagine the difficulty in doing your work wholeheartedly if you’re afraid focusing on the job distances you from God. To think that way pits your work against your walk with God. It seems as if the job competes with your faith for your attention.
A few weeks ago, Leroy Hurt and I invited Christians to gather to articulate for pastors in our area what they face as believers on the job. Thirty-two from the work world and eight pastors spent the morning of Saturday, Nov. 12, in the forum. We seated them four per table, with most tables including one pastor and three from the workplace. One at each table agreed to take notes.
The format was simple. Every ten minutes we flashed one of eleven discussion topics on the screen up front. Example topic: "Feeling spiritually isolated in my workplace.” Those from the workplace had ten minutes to describe concerns or questions on the topic. The note-takers recorded nearly 150 responses.
One of those responses suggested that the believer made a habit of trying to escape workplace sounds with Christian music: "You try to shut it out of your head with hymns.” Although I was unable to speak with the person who voiced it, that concern reminded me of a worry I’ve heard from other Christians.
The idea goes something like this: The workplace surrounds me with all kinds of distractions such as interruptions, crises, and vulgar language. In addition to all that, getting the work done requires me to concentrate on the task at hand. This means I can’t keep my mind on the things of God. The job environment keeps drawing me away from thinking about Jesus.
What is the answer? Can these two realms—seemingly at odds with each other—be reconciled? An example from the work-life of Daniel may begin to point the way. In chapter 8, after a period of focusing intently on a message from God, Daniel "got up and went about the king’s business” (Dan. 8:27). By setting his mind on government work, did Daniel lose contact with God? No. His spirit remained in communication with God even while his mind concentrated on his job.
If God has placed you in the working world, learn to trust his power to keep you even during those times when you’re thinking about the work. As a believer, you’ve learned to trust God’s saving power. You also need to learn to trust his keeping power. Jude 24 refers to God as "him who is able to keep you from falling.” And I Cor. 1:8 promises: "He will keep you strong to the end.” A hymn expresses that same truth: "Moment by moment, I’m kept in his love, moment by moment I’ve life from above.
Several activities go on in your body without your having to think about them. For example, your heart goes on beating while you’re concentrating on driving your car. In a similar way, the relationship between a believer’s spirit and God continues even when you’re writing a report, training a new employee, or studying for a test.
Jesus prayed, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Clearly, Jesus wants his people in the world—including the work world. But while we’re there with our minds zeroed in on the work, we need to trust God to protect and keep us.