Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work by Russell E. Gehrlein. Westbow Press. 282 pages. 2018
Immanuel Labor is an excellent book on the subject of work, and a welcome entry into the growing library of books that help us to integrate our faith and work. In Part 1, the author looks at biblical and theological foundations. In this part, he writes that God created people to be His coworkers in expanding His kingdom on earth and that He is present in the work of His children in order to meet the needs of humankind and bring glory to Himself. In Part 2, he builds on what he discusses in the first part and gets practical. The author is a seminary graduate and his passion for this subject comes across on every page.
A main point he makes is that of God’s presence in the midst of our work. He writes that when he chooses to focus on the fact that God is present at work, it changes the way he performs his tasks, which enables him to fulfill His purposes. God is present whenever and wherever we find ourselves working. If God has called us to do ordinary work, and if it is work which He wants done in the world, then He will indeed be present in it.
I enjoyed the author sharing how he has experienced God’s presence as a government employee over the past thirty years. His desire is “to see ordinary workers who consistently integrate their faith at work experience God’s presence so that it becomes just as natural as experiencing His presence while reading His Word, praying on our knees, worshipping during a church service, or standing on a mountaintop”.
In this thorough treatment of work, the author covers many aspects of work, always backing up his points with scripture. He covers whether there will be work in Heaven. He tells us that many aspects of human work will continue in the New Jerusalem. He covers how a Christian is to work, telling us that we “work in proper relation to and in total dependence upon each member of the Trinity, allowing God to work in us and through us for His glory and for the good of His creation”. He writes that we are to obey our bosses just as we would obey Christ. I appreciated his look at the work of a mother from Proverbs 31 and how the Sabbath is critical to our understanding of a theology of work.
The author is well-read on the subject of work, and quotes from several excellent books on the subject. I appreciated his vulnerability and transparency as he wrote about his own job experiences.
He tells us that there are no perfect jobs, that all jobs will have thorns and thistles. God puts his people where they need to be at the right place and time for His glory.
The author tells us that God has placed us right where we need to be and that He has empowered you with all the skills you need to do this work for His purposes and glory. We must shine the light of Christ in dark places and become part of His work to bring common grace to all who are made in His image.