At Work & Theology 101

Finding Purpose in Your Work Means Joining God in His

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Last week I began this series asking us to remember the ancient rhythms of work inherited from centuries of Christians living out their faith in the workplace.

These five lessons include personal purpose, stewardship, justice, modesty/generosity, and being Christ’s representatives.

While the list could be extended, research by myself and my colleague, Dr. David Miller of Princeton University’s Faith and Work Initiative, has found these five to be central in the lives of Christians as they seek to live out their faith in the workplace.

This week we will focus on how in work we find purpose for our lives.

A Lesson from Death Valley

For years Death Valley, California has been a source of scientific intrigue.

On the floor of Death Valley sit hundreds of boulders, some weighing in excess of 700 lb. These rocks don’t behave like rocks. They mysteriously slide across the desert floor, in some cases traveling over 3,000 feet.

There have been many guesses as to why these rocks move: strong winds, earthquakes, and even UFO’s (no kidding).

But it wasn’t until scientist Richard Norris decided to sit by the rocks that the real reason emerged.

At an elevation of 3,700 feet, rain runoff from the surrounding mountains creates two inches of standing water on the valley floor, then freezes. When conditions are right, the wind causes the rocks to “sail.”

It wasn’t until someone stopped and took time to observe what was happening that this phenomenon made sense.

These rocks, much like our lives, have a force driving them. If we sit and watch, we will find God is the mysterious force moving within our lives.

Three Ways God Calls Us to Join Him in His Work

God is setting out to redeem the world, and he chooses the everyday lives of men and woman to carry out his plan – really! God calls us to join him, and this calling historically has happened in three ways.

The first is our personal calling into work that is sacred.

God intended all work to be a sacred gift, but for many centuries only religious work was considered sacred. The German Reformer Martin Luther (Catholic scholars later agreed) believed scripture declared everyday work to also be a holy calling. How?

Christians believed the right work helps us become ourselves by drawing out our gifts and talents. And, because God gives these gifts and talents, he gets involved in calling us into the right job, place and role. So, we can use those gifts and return thanks to him, the giver of gifts (Ephesians 2:10; 4:1b-2).

The second is our calling to heal the world. God calls you to use your gifts in the whole arena of your life: Family, friends, schooling, church, hobbies, recreation and public life.

The third is our calling to be the people of God. Truth be told, many of us may never find a job allowing us to bring out our best self, and we spend most of our energy just taking care of our family (1 Timothy 5:8), with little left for the world outside. But, God calls us to be part of his workings in history, and even if we never find the right job, or right roles, even if we never are able to fully help heal the world as we desire, we are part of God’s work in history.

Our life story is tied to his, and this means our end will be glorious. We only have to be faithful in what we have been given (Philippians 3:16).

Steps Towards Joining God in His Work

First, don’t give up on finding the right kind of work, place, or role that allows your gifts and talents to be used to their fullest. God gave you those gifts to use, and when you use them and return thanks, you honor him.

Second, find ways to use those gifts and talents to serve the world through your work, or outside your work.

Finally, if you are out of fuel and can barely crawl back to your house after a day of work, remember you are part of a bigger story. God is moving history to bring about his kingdom.  All he asks is that we live a life of integrity and belief. Mother Teresa was fond of saying, “Jesus does not call you to be successful, but to be faithful.”

Don’t guess at the strange movements in your life. Stop, sit alongside your life, and understand the forces driving you.

When you do, your poor guesses will show themselves, and you will realize you are part of something much bigger, a God who is acting in your life to bring his kingdom.

Stop and sit alongside your life, and you will see God moving rocks as big as mountains. You will know it is his work, not the work of UFO’s!

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  • Angie

    Ewest, I really enjoyed reading this post, especially the steps to joining God in his work. As a young adult that I am continually praying that I will find the right type of work to use my gifts and bring God glory. I have really enjoyed using those gifts in the other parts of my life. Each day I know that God is using me, whether in my work, or personal life.

    You wrote a very meaningful post!

    Angie

  • I love the quote from Mother Theresa. The world puts so much pressure to be “successful” and by its standards. God wants our faithfulness and our work is a great place to exercise that faith.

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