Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles
Bryan Chapell on Vocation. Former President of Covenant Theological Seminary, where I got my Master Degree, and current Senior Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church about an hour from our home, recently started a new sermon series titled “Mission at Work”. You can listen to the messages here.
The Realest Authenticity. Barnabas Piper writes “The truest authenticity, the best authenticity is humble. Authenticity without humility is a lie.”
- Books We Like: The Book the Faith and Work Movement Has Been Missing. Hugh Whelchel looks at three books that he would recommend.
- Are You Living a Great Adventure? Chris Patton writes “What great adventure is God calling us to join as we run our businesses? It will be different for each of us, but the same basic elements will be there.”
- Unsuccessful Leaders Work as Hard as Successful. Dan Rockwell writes “Lackluster leaders are unremarkable because they know too much and grow too little. There are other success factors like good fortune and talent, but every successful leader I’ve met is hungry to learn, grow, and adapt.”
- The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made. Dave Kraft writes that the biggest mistake he has made was allowing competence to replace character.
- When to bring it Up – When to let it Go. Dan Rockwell writes “Leaders who bring up every little failure, issue, or shortcoming are irritating nags. They can’t let it go.”
- Emotional Intelligence. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses how emotional intelligence allows us to connect with people.
- Make Tough Decisions Simple by Answering These 3 Questions. In this episode of the Andy Andrews podcast, he answers a listener’s question on how he comes to a decision when there are many different determining factors to consider.
- The Secrets of Success, Week Two: Personal Growth. In this second secret of success, John Maxwell writes “Here are two things you can do daily to help your personal growth. They are simple, but just remember, simple to understand doesn’t always mean simple to execute.”
- Secrets of Success, Week Three – Relationships. John Maxwell writes “The more you value and connect with the people in your life, the greater your potential to see great things from those relationships. The secret is making connecting with others a daily priority.”
- How Three Time Filters Impact Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “Some leaders make decisions with the past in mind, others focus on the present. Still others, perhaps the most dangerous, make decisions with the future in mind.”
10 Favorite Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
- Real work is a contribution to the good of all and not merely a means to one’s own advancement. Tim Keller
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can. Jonathan Edwards
What a pity it would be to have to tell God that we spent our life earning a living, and that’s it. Erwin Lutzer
- Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful to you, and adequate for you. You will never need more than He can supply, and what He supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present. J.I. Packer
- Surround yourself with people who acknowledge your progress and challenge you to be better. Dan Rockwell
- There are not two worlds—sacred and secular—but one world—created, fallen, and saved by Christ and which will pass thru judgment into glory. Bethany Jenkins
- A woman told me about getting involved in a Bible study that demanded strict commitment to the study of God’s Word. ‘You should make the Bible your number one priority,’ she was told. That meant getting up early and the very first thing in the morning doing Bible reading and having a quiet time with the Lord. She did this, but to her consternation every morning as she would start to read her Bible, the baby would wake up. She found herself resenting the interruption. Here she was, trying to spend time with God, and the baby would start fussing, demanding to be fed and distracting her attention away from spiritual things. After a while, though, she came to understand the doctrine of vocation. Taking care of her baby was what God, at that moment, was calling her to do. Being a mother and loving and serving her child was her vocation, her divine calling from the Lord. She could read the Bible later. She did not have to feel guilty that she was neglecting spiritual things; taking care of her baby is a spiritual thing! Gene Veith
- The church’s approach to intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: That the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. Dorothy Sayers
- The maid who sweeps here kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship. Martin Luther
Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003
Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.
This week we look at Chapter 8: Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5
- It would be a mistake to infer from the call to wartime living in the previous chapter that Christians should quit their jobs and go to “war”—say, to become missionaries or pastors or full-time relief workers. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the war is being fought.
- The war is not primarily spatial or physical—though its successes and failures have physical effects. Therefore, the secular vocations of Christians are a war zone. There are spiritual adversaries to be defeated (that is, evil spirits and sins, not people); and there is beautiful moral high ground to be gained for the glory of God. You don’t waste your life by where you work, but how and why.
- The call to be a Christian was not a call to leave your secular vocation. That’s the clear point of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
- Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?
- Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do.
- Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
- 1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
- When the saints are at work in their secular employment, they are scattered. They are not together in church. So the command to “remain there with God” is a promise that you may know God’s fellowship personally and individually on the job.
- One way to enjoy God’s presence and fellowship is through thankful awareness that your ability to do any work at all, including this work, is owing to his grace.
- This is the way God speaks to you through the day. He encourages you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He reminds you that the challenges of the afternoon are not too hard for him to manage: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He tells you not to be anxious, but to ask him for whatever you need (Philippians 4:6), and says, “Cast all your anxieties on me, for I care for you” (paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7). And he promises to guide you through the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
- 2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
- So if you go all the way back, before the origin of sin, there are no negative connotations about secular work. According to Genesis 2:2, God himself rested from his work of creation, implying that work is a good, God-like thing.
- To be sure, when God sends us forth to work as his image bearers, our ditches are to be dug straight, our pipe-fittings are not to leak, our cabinet corners should be flush, our surgical incisions should be clean, our word processing accurate and appealing, and our meals nutritious and attractive, because God is a God of order and beauty and competence. But cats are clean, and ants are industrious, and spiders produce orderly and beautiful works. And all of them are dependent on God. Therefore, the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power, and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence, and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.
- When you work like this—no matter what your vocation is—you can have a sweet sense of peace at the end of the day. It has not been wasted. God has not created us to be idle. Therefore, those who abandon creative productivity lose the joy of God-dependent, world-shaping, God-reflecting purposeful work.
- True personal piety feeds the purposeful work of secular vocations rather than undermining it. Idleness does not grow in the soil of fellowship with God. Therefore, people who spend their lives mainly in idleness or frivolous leisure are rarely as happy as those who work. Retired people who are truly happy have sought creative, useful, God-honoring ways to stay active and productive for the sake of man’s good and God’s glory.
- So the second way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry. God created us for work so that by consciously relying on his power and consciously shaping the world after his excellence, we might be satisfied in him, and he might be glorified in us. And when we remember that all this God-exalting creativity and all this joy is only possible for undeserving sinners like us because of the death of Christ, every hour of labor becomes a boasting in the cross.
- 3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.
- There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel.
- So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers.
- Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians.
- Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7).
- So the third way we make much of God in our secular work is by having such high standards of excellence and such integrity and such manifest goodwill that we put no obstacles in the way of the Gospel but rather call attention to the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. When we adorn the Gospel with our work, we are not wasting our lives. And when we call to mind that the adornment itself (our God-dependent, God-shaped, God-exalting work) was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and that the beauty we adorn is itself the Gospel of Christ’s death, then all our tender adornment becomes a boasting in the cross.
- 4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
- The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that, in our work, we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities and anxiety.
- Able-bodied people who choose to live in idleness and eat the fruit of another’s sweat are in rebellion against God’s design. If we can, we should earn our own living.
- How then do Christians make much of Christ in working “to earn their own living”? First, by conforming willingly to God’s design for this age. It is an act of obedience that honors his authority. Second, by removing stumbling blocks from unbelievers who would regard the lazy dependence of Christians on others as an evidence that our God is not worthy of following. “Work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We honor God by earning our living because this clears the way for non-Christians to see Christ for who he really is. Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. They waste their lives.
- Third, we make much of God by earning our own living when we focus not on financial profit but on the benefit our product or service brings to society.
- This is paradoxical. I am saying, yes, we should earn enough money to meet our needs. But, no, we should not make that the primary focus of why we work.
- In other words, don’t focus on mere material things in your work. Don’t labor merely with a view to the perishable things you can buy with your earnings. Work with an eye not mainly to your money, but your usefulness. Work with a view to benefiting people with what you make or do.
- So don’t labor for the food that perishes. Labor to love people and honor God. Think of new ways that your work can bless people. Stop thinking mainly of profitability, and think mainly of how helpful your product or service can become.
- You are not working for the food that perishes. Your goal is to enjoy Christ’s being exalted in the way you work.
- None of us in our vocations should aim mainly at the food that perishes—leave that to the Lord. We should aim instead to do the will of him who sent us. And his will is that we treasure him above all else and live like it.
- If we simply work to earn a living—if we labor for the bread that perishes—we will waste our lives. But if we labor with the sweet assurance that God will supply all our needs—that Christ died to purchase every undeserved blessing—then all our labor will be a labor of love and a boasting only in the cross.
- 5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
- So my point here is that, as we work, we should dream of how to use our excess money to make others glad in God. Of course, we should use all our money to make others glad in God, in the sense that our whole life has this aim. But the point here is that our secular work can become a great God-exalting blessing to the world if we aim to take the earnings we don’t need for ourselves (and we need far less than we think) and meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
- God clearly tells us that we should work to provide the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs.
- 6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
- But now I want to say that speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job. He has woven you into the fabric of others’ lives so that you will tell them the Gospel. Without this, all our adorning behavior may lack the one thing that could make it life-giving.
- Christians should seriously ask not only what their vocation is, but where it should be lived out. We should not assume that teachers and carpenters and computer programmers and managers and CPAs and doctors and pilots should do their work in America. That very vocation may be better used in a country that is otherwise hard to get into, or in a place where poverty makes access to the Gospel difficult. In this way the web of relationships created by our work is not only strategic but intentional.
- In conclusion, secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.