2‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord not for men...it is the Lord Christ you are serving’Colossians 3:23We will all spend a significant, if not the significant part of our lives working; whether it is working in a paid role or working to look after a family. We will all work.And yet, so often our theology of work – i.e. what God has to say about work – is hazy and inadequate. And so we live as divided people. We have our Christian faith for mornings, evenings and weekends. And we have our work lives for all the rest of the time. And as we struggle to connect our faith with our work - Every day we all face the same struggle; will we take God to work, or will we leave him at home - so we become more and more divided people. Frustrated people. We imagine a pecking order of ‘holy jobs’, with vicars and missionaries towards the top and bankers and accountants towards the bottom.But this is not how God wants us to be. This is not a Chrisitian way to see our jobs. And so let me begin with this openning verse. What this reminds us is that God wants us to give ourselves to our jobs 100%. What might this look like?
310 Phrases to help you see God at work where you are.
4‘Work is good (for you)’ ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ Genesis 2:15 ‘Cursed is the ground...through painful toil you will eat of it’ Genesis 3:17We must start by understanding that work is not some dreadful temporary imposition into our life. We must start here, because like any journey if we start in the wrong direction we will end in the wrong destination. Often, we assume that work is a bad thing that we should seek to minimise at all costs. It isn’t. God created work. It is good.Therefore:If you have a job you are blessed by God; we are inclined to grumble about the very fact of work. We think that the blessed life means sitting on a beach drinking a Pina Colada. That is a lie. Our holidays are only holidays because we work the rest of the time. When I meet people who are retired and who endlessly holiday I don’t see them overflowing with blessedness.So, when you do work you are receiving blessing; working with others, making a difference, being in teams, earning money, using your brain, and so generally job satisfaction – these are all because work is good3. But, we must keep in mind that work is good but not easy; commuting, computers crashing, power struggles, redundancy, stress. All these remind us that whilst work is good, it is tarnished. And when these ‘bad’ things happen to you, it reminds you that things are not right today and they will be right tomorrow. I believe in heaven we will work. It will be more like the carlsberg advert thanSo, work whilst good, is no longer safe. We must learn how best to honour God in this good but tarnished environment.
5Q. In what ways do you struggle with your work? e.g. I just don’t want to work. This is unavoidable.I have a terrible commute – this is
6‘Your office belongs to God’ The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters’ Psalm 24:1-2 ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence’ Psalm 139:7 ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth’ John 14:15BELONGS TO GODPart of the problem with the way we divide up our lives is that we divide God up also. So we accept that God is in some places. Here of course and probably in some parts of our home. But definitely not in other places. Perhaps the hardest place for us to allow God to be is our offices. For in these places we are often most unlike who we really are. We are wearing the thickest mask you might say.Imagine that everything in your office is stamped ‘Belongs to God’Spirit - And, furthermore, if God has commanded us to do whatever we are doing for him, then we must believe that he will enable us to do this. That he will equip us to do what he wants us to do. God’s Spirit lives in us wherever we are. That makes you are very special and powerful person to God. For you are going into places, perhaps you are the only Christian, and certainly you will be one of only a few, who carry God into the office.
7Q. How can you bring more of His Kingdom into your office? A few practical ideas:Have anything at work that will help you claim your office for God; a Bible, a prayer diary, a favourite verse, a computer password, a screen saver.Pray as you go – ‘please help me draft this letter, please help me with this difficult phone callAn office prayer meeting or bible study - e.g. Diana Parker and asking for a prayer meeting
8‘Know the system’‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’Matt 22:21‘But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine and he asked for permission not to defile himself in this way’Daniel 1:8Our offices are (and are increasingly becoming) places of worship. People are worshipping the gods of money and success and power and career. We must resist doing the same. This means that the culture within our offices is a culture of worship. We must challenge this culture.Know the systems that are in place- When questioned by Jesus, he made it clear that we must give to the authority what belongs to the authority (in this case taxes) and give to God what belongs to God i.e. We must not muddy these lines.Know when the system needs to be challenged – Daniel no doubt had lots of decisions to take about what he would or would not do as a Christian. Here was one such example. And it was a risky stance for him to take. Humanly speaking he was better to eat choice food than be a vegetarian.Daniel was a spear head, a leader for Shadrach, Meshash and Abednego join his leaveDaniel was a trend setter, a culture changer for we read later on that the guard stop serving the choice foodJesus spoke about our being salt and light wherever we are. We are to be salt and light in the systems of our offices to preserve goodness and dignity and to shine light on the dark things we see in our offices.
9Q. What are the systems in your office. Which areas can you challenge? For instance –Time off for lunch – 15 years ago people took a lunch break. Now it is not the norm but the exception. You are entitled to have a break in the day. You will work better if you do. You will feel better if you do.Spend time with colleagues – the gods of the office drive us apart from people. They make people objects who are there simply to achieve targets. When I was at Withers, I tried to establish a tea slot each week. I tried to have lunch with people. I tried to listen to my secretary.Think about the culture of your office. Where is the idolatry.
10‘Be willing to say “no”’ ‘..we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’ Daniel 3:18Systems want us to conform to them. Sometimes that is fine. Other times not. Once we have analysed the system we can then know our boundaries within it.Our boundaries are the places where we have to say NO.Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were asked to do something they could not do; to worship a statue of Gold.We must know what our boundaries are before we are challenged on them.
11Q. Where are your boundaries? (Priorities?)To answer this question you also need to think about your priorities. For priorities form boundaries. For our boundaries are formed by our priorities.For exampleThere may be some things that we cannot do. I was never asked to draft a pre-nuptial agreement but if I had been asked I would have said no.E.g. DM and saying ‘No’There will be times when we cannot stay in the office. We have a prior commitment. We can graciously say I am sorry I need to leave now. In fact I found that people would respect us for it, when the reason was genuine and necessary.E.g. AP and saying no
12‘Keep repenting’‘choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’ Joshua 24:15 ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ Luke 9:23Our key priority is GOD. And he will also directly set some of our boundaries.Every day we go into our offices we are being asked to make a choice, ‘chose this day whom you will serve’ We must keep on choosing to serve God with our lives.Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing the “Ninety-five Theses” to the door of Castle Church inWittenberg, Germany. The very first of the theses stated that “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willedthe entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”1This is why having some sort of time with God each day, preferably each morning, is so vital. For it refocuses you on the only safe master. The only safe place you can serve. This protects you from going down all sorts of wrong roads and it makes you a better employee!
13Q. What do you need to daily turn from Q. What do you need to daily turn from? Where are your particular weaknesses?
14‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’ ‘Give everyone what you owe him’ Romans 13: 7Promotion and prioritiesThere is a tension here. Work is good and God wants us all to thrive in our work. On the one hand that means ‘go for that promotion’. But be under no illusions here. Every higher salary brings with it higher commitment. A higher salary will mean you working harder. Even if it doesn’t actually mean this, you will feel obliged to. You cannot earn more and more and expect to work less and less. This may be the place God wants you to be for longer and to be more committed to.But remember that system that you are a part of.
15Q. Can your family life, your spiritual life, your social life take more work commitment?’ ‘Can your family life, can your spiritual life, can your social life take more work commitment. The answer might well be no it can’t.So consider carefully each possible promotion and job move. Pay and status are not the only parameters. This is about your priorities in life. If your priorities are outside of your office then don’t go for more money. Go for more time! This will buy you freedom.
16They are watching‘At this the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent’ Daniel 6:4It is important to let people at your work know you are a Christian. Easy ways are when talking about what you did on Sundays or what you are doing in the evening.And be sure that as soon as people know they watch! I found this time and time again. The danger is that we think that people are not watching so we get discouraged in our Christian witness. But they are watching, only mostly they are watching silently.And God has put you there on purpose. Remember Paul in his speech to the Areogapus; ‘and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should life’Just like that speed camera; silently and often we don’t notice until the flash goes off!
17Q. Who is watching you? How can you show them more of Jesus? e.g. The odd comment here and there when it came to use of office stuff for personal things (telephone, internet, stationary)e.g. The office quizThe greatest mistake we can make is to assume that we can just blend in. We can’t and shouldn’t.And make the most of any opportunity you get to show your faith. Tea and coffee making for others is normal.I am talking about for instancelistening hard, and doing something entirely out of keeping with the office system.Paying for someone's lunch not just going to get it!Perhaps one of the most costly things you can do is drinks after work....e.g. D and the book -
18‘Your time will come’‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much’ Luke 16:10 ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is.....patience’ Gal 5:22Don’t be impatient!Consider Joseph. For much of his early life he was in obscurity. His time came.Consider Daniel. He also had to wait for God to elevate him to a position of power.John Stott says, ‘the only way up is down’There is this unattractive and deceitful spirit around these days that says that getting to a place of influence and power is easy and if we are not in it today then today is not the day we should be living for.
19Q. ‘God is as interested in our means of travel as our destination’ Q. ‘God is as interested in our means of travel as our destination’. How are you travelling?‘God is as interested in our means of travel as our destination’. We are usually more interested in our destination!Be faithful where you are today. And trust God for tomorrow.
20‘Win respect’‘Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom’Daniel 6:3‘Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.’1 Thes 4:11-12This relates to the last slide. We need to get ourselves into positions. As my Father used to say to me, ‘make yourself indispensible’ This is built up over time and is hard work. There are no short cuts.e.g. After 3 years working at Withers I was asked to co-lead the youth work at my old church. How could I do this? The only way was to work less as a lawyer. I knew that if I was going to have any hope of getting them to agree to this I needed their highest respect. I needed to be an excellent employee. This was my strategy. And with much prayer and careful timing I managed to take off a day every other week. It was of course God’s grace. But it was his grace working through me also. A year or so later I went down to a four day week. This also spoke of my faith because, of course, everyone knew why I was working differently. It was because of my faith. It challenged the assumptions about career that everyone around me had so blindly bought in to.
21Q. How would your colleagues describe your work?
22‘Find somewhere to pray’ ‘And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly’ Luke 22:44There are times and days and seasons when you have to pray and pray. I found that the best place for this was the loo!