Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
When I read John Piper’s 1997 book of short readings A Godward Life, one of the meditations “Lord-Focused Living at Work” particularly resonated with me, and has to this day. In the meditation, Piper looks at Ephesians 6:7-8, and tells us that Paul says that our work should be done as work for Christ, not for any human supervisor. For years, when I still carried a portfolio (we carry laptops now), I kept a laminated copy of that article in my notebook and shared it with many, including my supervisors.
Even back then I was striving to do my work primarily for the Lord, not for advancement, accolades, or a higher performance rating. But other than Piper’s article I didn’t see much out there in sermons, books, etc. to continue my journey of integrating my faith and work. Today it’s much different. There is a plethora of resources available and I’d like to point you to some.
The best book I’ve read on the subject and the one that has most motivated me in this area is Tim Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, which I read in late 2012, while recovering from sinus surgery. Theologically rich and yet still practical, this book started my dream to establish something similar to Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work in my community.
In the summer of 2013 I had a Calling, Vocation and Work class with Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Bradley Matthews at Covenant Theological Seminary. In the paper I wrote on my vocation of leadership:
“My aim as a leader is, as John Piper has written, to make my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation. I look to joyfully magnify Christ, to make him look great, in all I do. I agree with Tim Keller when he writes that my daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped me to do it.”
I went on to write: “The Bible has a high view of work. Keller writes that in the beginning God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work was a part of the pre-fall Garden. Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place as His representatives. Work is a way to serve God through creativity, particularly in the creation of culture God invites us into His work. John Calvin said that God was a worker, and as a result, so are we.”
I have become interested in the subject of calling. The best book on this subject that I’ve read is The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness. I read that book for the first time in Dr. Phillip Douglass’ wonderful Spiritual and Ministry Formation class, my last class in seminary. Guinness tells us that there is no calling unless there is a caller. In defining calling, he writes: “What do I mean by ‘calling’? For the moment let me say simply that calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”
He writes that calling will remain a mystery unless there is something or “Someone” to whom we are responsible to and that if there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work.
A new book directed to a mass audience on the subject of calling is The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. I just finished that book and will post a review soon. It is very readable and a good introduction to a more secular view of calling.
So what am I doing now about my calling and integrating faith and work? Here are a few things:
- I’m participating in a book club with colleagues at work reading books to help us integrate our faith and work. Thus far we’ve completed The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger and are currently reading Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.
- There is much being written on the subject of faith and work these days. I read a number of blogs each week on this subject and share a number of links that I think may benefit others in the blog.
- There are a number of helpful books on the subject of calling and integrating faith and work. I have read several and plan to read more. Some that I have read and can recommend to you are:
- Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung
- Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch
- Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary
- Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller
- God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
- Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God by Michael E. Wittner
- How then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work by Hugh Whelchel
- Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman, Reggie McNeal, Steven Garber
- The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness
- The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler
- The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
- The Marks of a Spiritual Leader by John Piper
- The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber
- What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman
- Calling, Vocation and Work by Bill Pence
I would encourage you to pursue your calling, do your work for the Lord by integrating your faith and work.