How Your Work Can Shape Your Faith
How Your Work Can Shape Your Faith
I love the story in the Bible about the launch of Jesus’ ministry and how He goes about selecting the early disciples. The book of Matthew recounts the selection process in chapter 4, verses 18-22. In one case, with Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew, Jesus interrupted them at work with a bold invitation. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 NASB). Can you imagine being at work and a stranger comes along with an invitation to follow Him? Jesus changed the course of their lives by altering the way they thought about their profession. Why fish for fish; let’s fish for people!
I think Jesus offers that same invitation to people today. A new way to think about work. Why sell to people when we can serve people, why build a company when we can build a community, why provide insurance for this life when we have an assurance for the next one? Just like the message of Jesus changed the purpose and direction of the lives of those early fishermen, I think He wants to change the purpose and direction for each of us. Why work with a short-term focus when we have the opportunity to work with an eternal one?
Over the course of my own faith journey with Jesus, He has used the work environment to teach me 3 powerful lessons that continue to refine my personal relationship with Him today. In each case, the lesson wasn’t clear as I was going through it, but over time, I have seen the impact it had on my desire to do what those early disciples did; follow Him.
When I opened my own retail business several years ago, our team was fortunate to experience early success. All the principles I had bought into around hard work, dedication, planning and focus seemed to be paying off. We were winning. Unfortunately, after a decline in the economy and a series of questionable decisions, we found ourselves in a difficult business season. Our sales were declining, and our expenses were growing. You don’t have to be a business genius to see where this was headed. We were in trouble and there was no easy way out of the situation. Despite the fact I was working hard, planning as best I could and collaborating with our team to get things back on track we could not fix the issues. I realized during that season of work that I wasn’t in control. God taught me a powerful lesson in surrender. I was doing everything the world around me said to do, but nothing was getting better. When I finally let go of the illusion of control, God led us to a sale of the company and a relatively pain free exit.
Unfortunately, the business exit left me unemployed with an uncertain future. Then one day, the phone rang. A friend of mine needed a little help with his business and he asked if my business partner and I could do the work. We jumped at the opportunity to take on the project and get back to working. Once the project was completed, we received another call for some new work. Month after month we had new opportunities for work that turned into the foundation for a consulting business. For six years I co-operated a retail consulting firm specializing in consumer research and sales education. During those six years, we never once made a sales call or did any marketing work. The work just kept coming. During that season, God taught me the power of His provision. I knew the Bible talked about God being the ultimate provider, but truthfully, I never knew what it meant. This season of work showed me how God was capable of taking care of everything, including my income. Over and over again, God provided for us in numerous ways.
After several years as a consultant, one of my largest customers offered me an opportunity to join their team. I remember the anxiety of going from entrepreneur to employee, but I loved the organization and I knew they were headed towards a bright future. As my newfound role of team member began to unfold, I had a few opportunities to talk about faith in the workplace. I distinctly remember a lunch with two co-workers where the topic of faith came up. As I shared my story of surrender to Jesus and trusting that His way of living is a better life, one of my buddies was very intrigued. Later that week we met to discuss it in more detail and he ended up surrendering his life to Christ over coffee. It was during this season of work where God opened up the door for me to more boldly and directly live my faith at work. Although I had never been one to hide from my faith in Christ, I definitely wasn’t someone who would lead with my faith. The Lord showed me His power when I was willing to proclaim Him, and it made a huge difference in my work. I found greater purpose and meaning in my work and I experienced God’s grace on a regular basis as more and more people came to know Him.
I am not sure if you are in a season where surrender, provision, or the power of proclaiming your faith is what God is doing in your life right now. However, just as Jesus reframed the work the early disciples were doing, He is ready to reframe the way you think about your work. Consider which of these three lessons God is taking you through and thank Him for loving you enough to invite you to be “fishers of men.”
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