Blog - Grasping Vocation

Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 10

Friday, May 28, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 9)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD USES WORK-RELATED STRESSES TO FORM CHRIST IN YOU

Jesus tells us, “In this world, you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33). Much of that distress occurs in the work world. Is it possible that encountering that trouble is one of God's reasons for sending us into that world?

By the end of my first year as a state employee, my job was making me miserable. As the young and creative editor of the agency's magazine, I brimmed over with ideas for stories and articles. But most of those concepts went down in flames. Eager to create a magazine piece, I would meet with the boss to announce the birth of my newest inspiration. Inevitably, he found a way to send my brainchild to the wastebasket. After months of this, in frustration, I began working on a project that I hoped would be my “parachute” out of that office.

In spite of this mounting pressure, God did not endorse my parachute plans. A struggle developed between what I wanted and where I sensed his Spirit was leading. Finally, I literally went down on my face before God and turned everything over to him—job, house, car, family. . . my life. And it was then that I asked him to fill me with his Spirit. I stayed on in that job for another year, and remained a state employee for another ten years. That was the first of many workplace stresses God used to press me on toward maturity in Christ.

In his book, The Other Six Days, R. Paul Stevens includes a footnote in which he says, “For [Martin] Luther there is a cross in the workplace. One's daily work is the situation in which the Christian's sinful self must be put to death within and by the demands of daily life in vocation.”

But the sinful self would rather parachute than die. Our local newspaper recently ran a half-page article titled, “10 Signs It's Time to Quit.” Among those  signs: Your co-workers are annoying. Your boss is a nightmare. You get no respect. You're not valued. You feel stifled. According to this author, it's all about you. God, of course, has a different agenda for each Christ-follower. Paul summarized that agenda by writing that God has predestined us   “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).

Peter, writing to slaves who worked for cruel bosses, urged them to “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering” (I Pet. 2:18-25). He reminded them that the work of Christ required him to suffer. (According to Heb. 5:8, even the sinless Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.”) Think of how many people in the Bible were shaped by pain in their workplaces. Jacob ran smack into wage dispute issues when his boss (who happened to be his father-in-law) cheated him ten times (Gen. 31:7). Joseph got falsely accused of sexual harassment on the job (Gen. 39:2-20). Envious co-workers managed to get Daniel tossed to the lions (Dan. 6). These stresses simply presented each man with the choice: either depend on self or die to self and trust God.

As believers, many of us would like to think we're in the work world mostly to change others. Yet God must first get the plank out of our eyes before he can use us to deal with the specks elsewhere. As part of his plan for doing that he sends us to work to face the “lions” of disappointing reversals and difficult relationships. From what I've seen, many if not most of the stresses, tests, and trials we meet arrive through our work—whether that work is paid or unpaid. James offers us believers this counsel: “. . . when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2, NLT). That's another reason to (as William Diehl says in his book title) Thank God It's Monday.

How have you seen God's shaping hand at work in the difficulties you've met at work?

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