You Can Fail at Your Job: How to Glorify God in Your “9 to 5” Part 2
You Can Fail at Your Job: How to Glorify God in Your “9 to 5” Part 2 – by Brady Tarr
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.“
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
“In whatever you do, do it for God’s glory” is a basic theology that connects our last discussion on work (http://www.clsnet.org/membership/publications/e-devotionals) with this one.With a better understanding of some of the reasons why our work matters, let’s now turn to the “Therefore” section in which we consider the practical implications for how we live in light of God’s design for work.
Our Work Matters, THEREFORE, How We Work Matters.
1)Our work should be ‘good’
After each day of Creation, we read “and God saw that it was good” after Day 6 “and God saw that it was VERY good.”As ones who are imaging and representing God, we should seek to do that which is “Very Good” in our dominion over creation. Our work is to be Good.We should aim for a level of diligence, excellence and quality in our craft that befits the God who has seen fit to entrust us with it. This truth should help you fightslackavism at work – doing the least that you can do to get by.If you are a creative, seek to represent the “Good, True & Beautiful.”If you are in professional services, seek to represent a care and concern for the needs of your clients.”In your work, work as God’s image bearer and ask Him to make you a worthy representative in doing work that is “good”.
2)Our work should be for service to others
Whatever job, title, or role you play, your position is that of a servant and thus your posture should be that of a servant.Paul says in Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” In talking about government authorities in Romans 13, Paul says that they are God’s servants who serve others by governing.So how are you serving in your job?Do you see yourself as a full-time, paid servant?Let’s consider especially what it means to serve our direct authority, our bosses.Now, I know it’s easy to serve bosses who are “good”.But, what about bosses who are difficult?Serving them with respect means that on the one hand you should be careful about complaining about them and on the other hand, you should consider how you can free them up to do their jobs and make their work a joy and not a burden.Pray for them and their families, pray that God will change your heart and give you a desire to serve. Not because that person is particularly worthy of your service, but, because God has placed them in authority over you – and so you are to serve them as though you are serving Christ.
3)Managing provides a unique opportunity to serve as a shepherd
If God gives you authority in the workplace, he gives you the opportunity to pastor/shepherd those under your care.Paul tells masters to “treat your slaves in the same way” (Eph 6:9) – by serving them with enthusiasm. If you manage, you are a servant to those who are under you.Consider how you can be a good steward of that relationship, building into the person, “discipling them” maybe not in spiritual things, but as a worker, and in life.Give yourself to their good.As Christian bosses, being good workplace mentors/coaches should be in our DNA since we are each called to do this in the spiritual realm.
4)We Work as Christians (Our primary identity is as Christians)
We so often ask in our culture: “What do you do?”But, our identity is not fundamentally our Ethnicity (Jew nor Gentile); our Gender (man or woman); nor our Status or Job in Life (slave nor free) (Col 3:11). But, our identity is first and foremost in Christ. These other types of identities are ones that our culture says are so important and our hearts want to put justification in, but as followers of Christ we are to identify ourselves in all that we do as Christians.Our hope and identity must be found in Christ and in no other external characteristic not matter how good or worthy a thing it might be.My temptation is to over-identify myself in my job, making it the first identity I want to be associated with.For others of you, this same tendency might cause you to under-identify yourselves with your jobs, perhaps out of a sense of disappointment in what you do. But, when we do either of these, we are using our work for our purposes more than as a Christian – i.e. for God’s purposes.And so, all sense of identity that we gain in our work must be subservient to the identity we find in Christ as our work flows out of that primary identity.If we find our primary identity in anything other than Christ, that “other thing” is nothing more than an idol.
5)Work is one of several stewardships
You have several stewardships that you are called to be faithful in; from family to neighbor to church member to citizen.And, another effect of the curse is the scarcity of resources, including time…there never seems to be enough time to do what we “need” to do.We need godly wisdom as we think about faithfulness to all our stewardships, remembering that they are all assignments from the same Boss-and he does not want us to neglect any of them.There is a lot of grace here for us to determine how to order our lives.I like how Solomon gave us one clear parameter in Proverbs 23:4: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.”And, we’ve already talked about the other parameter: we are to do work that is “good.”There is no law here, so we need to exercise godly wisdom in evaluating our work in connection to our various stewardships, and recognize that a godly response for one might be to dial it up at work while a godly response for another might be to dial down.If you are in a job that consistently is “wearing you out” as you try to be faithful to the “good”, talk to a reliable pastor or friend and strongly consider if this is a place that God would have you and ask tough why questions.
6)Providing for your family is a good thing [Work to Keep Ambition in Check]
Paul writes in 1 Thes 4:11: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” and in 2 Thes 3:10: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” and Solomon says in Proverbs 12:11 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” It glorifies God to work as a means to provide for your family.You can take satisfaction, and work with all your heart as for Christ, in a job that provides for your family, allows you to be involved in the church and in the lives of others, but might not be the most personally fulfilling or financially lucrative.It’s a good thing “to lead a quiet life.”Fight our cultures “all growth is good growth” mentality and pray that you grow increasingly satisfied in living with ambition in check.
7)Success is not measured in comparison to others but in faithfulness
A great thing about being Christians is that we don’t have to sit around, enslaved by comparing ourselves to others.God’s standard is not to be #1, it’s to be faithful.Just as the benchmark for pastors is faithfulness, so are we measured by faithfulness in the workplace.It doesn’t matter if you are a 5, 2, or 1 talent person; the gospel frees us from comparing ourselves to others, and allows us to celebrate the success of others. For those of you here who struggle with perfectionism, hear God’s gracious calling to faithfulness and not to perfection.
We don’t need to be a slave to the idol of self that tries to put ourselves above others to feel good or validated.
8)”We prepare the horse for battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31)
As an ambitious, impatient, competitive sinner, Proverbs 16 is one of the best chapters in the Bible for me because it reminds me of a simple fact: God is Sovereign over the results of our work.In this chapter, we read that Man “Plans…Commits…and Casts” but that it’s the Lord who “Replies…Determines…and Decides.”And, we see this pattern over and over again in Scripture.What a wonderfully freeing truth!The God of the Universe, the God who has all things in His hands, has even the outcomes of my work in His hands.An unofficial motto that I have adopted for my work is “Work Hard, Work Smart but Trust God.”The Results are in God’s hands.Do you have a lot of anxiety about your work and whether you’re performing?Consider how much you are trusting in yourself vs. in God for the results.
9)If God allows, you should do what you’re good at
Not everyone was born in the US, went to a great school, lives in a huge economy, and has the freedom to choose their work.Not everyone has this luxury.But, if you can, you should do something that you’re good at.Similar to how God has gifted those to serve in the church, so He has gifted those to serve in the world.God equips some to practice law, some to govern, and others to lead his people in the church.What gifts, skills and talents has God given you?What energies and interests has He blessed you with so that you can be a blessing to others? Parents, be thinking about how you can nurture the gifts and skills of your children, helping to shepherd them even to the place where they can be of use to others for the Glory of God.
10)God is accomplishing more than we see through our work
In our work, God is doing things in us and is growing us, even when we are sometimes unaware of the specifics of his work in us.And, He’s also doing things in those around us, even if you can’t see it.Our workplace is an arena where God is sanctifying us and conforming us to the image of His Son.Our work is not just about the widgets that are being created or whether the case is won or whether you pass the test.It is about those things.But, it’s also about what the Lord is doing in our lives as we produce them. Paul writes in Eph 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”In our work, we are doing some of these “good works” which God has prepared to use in our lives and in the lives of others.If you are in a really bad work situation or if you are underemployed or unemployed, while you can certainly work to change your circumstances (I Cor 7:21: “if you can gain your freedom, do so”) while you are in the midst of your trial, trust in God and know that he has “good purposes” for you in it.
11)Your workplace is a mission field
We also have a wonderful opportunity to see work as a mission field, an arena in which to live out the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20).There are a number of organizations that help Christian’s get jobs in other “closed” countries which allows them to minister to people groups internationally. But, for those of us who work here in the US, we have mission-fields and are around unreached people groups everyday in our workplaces.CLS is a ministry that is designed to help Christian attorneys and students minister to the other attorneys and students in their “people group”.Please pray and strategize with us as we seek to impact these “people groups” through the gospel of Jesus Christ.I’d encourage all of us to take a first step of “putting God on the table” by making it clear, as soon as appropriate, that you are a follower of Jesus Christ and that it’s normal for you to talk, pray, and live as such.
12)Your work contributes to the support of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel to all nations
Through our work, God is not only accomplishing all these good things, but also providing for the support of this local church, the spread of the gospel around the world, and the relief of the poor.It’s like this amazing cherry on top!Consider this.If you give 10% of your salary to the local church, then 6 minutes of every hour you work is furthering gospel work.Lord willing, if you work 8 hrs tomorrow, almost 1 hr of your time is supporting direct gospel work!
13)You work so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labors
In His kindness, God even allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labors.Moses writes in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is God “who gives you the ability to produce wealth”; and Paul writes in I Tim 6:17-19, that God “provides us with everything for our enjoyment,” and Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 says “it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor…. this is a gift of God.”We serve a generous God and so even as he allows us to enjoy what he has given us, we should also consider how we can be generous to others.And we must always remember that the love of money (and the things that money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10).
Ok, so there are 13 observations about how we are to work.And, all of this brings us to one last observation: Christ’s Work for Us Matters Most:
14)You can fail at your job
Even in light of all this Biblical teaching on work, you CAN fail at your job.You don’t have to do what your parents or family think you should do or achieve some level of greatness.You don’t have to hang on to a job that is spiritually discouraging. You don’t have to be the best at your job or the fastest to be promoted.If you are not doing well in your job, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you as a person.If you work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord, You can fail at your job!Let me explain.
As Christians, Christ saves us by his work, not ours. Regardless of your success or failure at work, God will still love you.Our work is important but it won’t save us – only the Gospel – Christ’s Work for us will.This is not a license for sloppiness, but should rather lead us to have an open handed posture with the results, as we trust in what God will do with and through us.We need to hear this so that we can be FREE from worry, anxiety, pride, bitterness, and joylessness.Our work should be “good” – so we should beyond anyone else be the best workers, because we work for God’s Glory.But, we should also have the most Freedom in our work – and not to be bound by it.This is an amazing truth: because we work for the King, we work with the energy, ethic, and focus that befits the King.But, because our King owns it all, we can have an open hand in both the role we play and in the results that are accomplished through us.This truth gives us the theological ammo we need to fight the Idol of Failure and the Idol of Success.You can, in essence, pry your hands off the plow, while still pushing harder on it (push with your hands open).
Our hearts will be provoked to praise God when we realize that if we are in Christ we are freed from being slaves to work, slaves to the opinions of others, slaves to money, or slaves to some form of idolatry.Through the work of Christ we have been freed to work with an excellence that befits our great King and with the open-handed trust that only He can redeem it. We must never forget that the redemption of both our heart and our work is fully dependent on the work of Christ and not our own (Eph. 2:8-9).
By J. Sebastian Traeger and edited by Brady Tarr
FREE Audio book download:
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
Please download and listen to this audio book on your way to work or with your family.It will cause you to meditate on the holiness of God which will help you better understand that God we serve is worthy of all our glory and praise.Blessings to you all!
FEEDBACK… I welcome any feedback regarding these devotionals.Feel free to speak your mind.
Father, please cause our minds and thoughts to be consumed with a reverent awe of you and the work of salvation that you accomplished through Jesus Christ. May you help us where we are weak in our faith against sin and unbelief. Thank you for your grace and patience with us. Help us to forgive in such a way that models how we have been/are forgiven by you as undeserving sinners. Amen.