Some of us never really got any good advice nor had good mentors early in our careers. We were left to fend for ourselves and as a result, made many mistakes. After a lifetime of work, here are five biblical truths that I wish someone had told me when I graduated.
Your Work Matters to God—No Matter What You Have Been Called to Do
We started the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics to advance a free and flourishing society by revolutionizing the way people view their work. We believe the Bible’s timeless truths about the purpose of our work and how to make wise decisions with all that we have been given.
When Christians understand and live out the biblical meaning of work, then lives, societies, and nations will be transformed for Christ. We still believe this message is of utmost importance. God designed our work to bring flourishing to the communities he has called us to serve. See our introduction video, “Freedom to Flourish.”
What You Do Today is the Most Important Thing You Will Do for God
When I worked as the executive director for Reformed Theology Seminary DC, many students studied to become pastors believing that once they became pastors, God would be able to use them in a much more powerful way. That is just not true! When they become pastors, God will use them differently. But that work is no more important to God than what they are doing in the present. This is true for all of us.
Fulfillment comes when we work hard every day at whatever God has put in front of us. Even if it’s not your dream job or seems insignificant, fulfillment comes when we see the bigger picture of how our work combines with the work of others to bring about flourishing. See our video on fulfillment.
You Won’t Always Be the Smartest Person in the Room
Someone once said that pride is at the root of all the sins that so easily entangle each one of us. The biblical antidote for pride is humility.
The Bible describes humility very differently than our shared culture. Proverbs 3:5 gives an excellent summary of the Bible’s teaching on humility: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your understanding.” Jon Bloom at desiringGod.org writes:
In exercising faith — trusting fully in the Lord and not leaning on our understanding — we’re not setting aside our intellect. We’re resting our intellect upon the intellect of God. Nothing is wiser or saner. To do so is to allow him to direct our paths, which leads to ultimate joy and makes the journey itself, even when laden with sorrow, joyful (2 Corinthians 6:10). And it preserves for us all the pleasures God provides us in the world. To not do this is the height of foolishness and the path to misery.
Therefore, biblical humility must be seen as deep gratitude for God’s sovereign rule over his creation which includes His love for us. Humility is also essential in helping us identify our current flawed nature and false pride as humans living in a broken world. Biblical humility helps us guard against temptation. As the Apostle Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8, ESV)
Learn the Importance of Biblical Generosity
Years ago, I heard a speaker summarize the little book, The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. He said, “Learn to live on 70% of your income. Take 10% and put it in savings. Take 10% and use it to pay down your debts. Take the final 10% and give it away.”
Someone from the audience asked, “Why would I want to give away my money?” The speaker’s answer was simple but profound: “If you give away 10% of what you make, you will always feel that you have enough.” Biblical generosity is the cure for a culture that is subsumed by a scarcity mentality.
You Need to be Inspired
A source of great inspiration for me has been this acceptance speech given by Jimmy Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards. Valvano was a legendary basketball coach who later enjoyed a career as a sports announcer before being diagnosed with cancer in the early ’90s. He originally declined the invitation to go to that 1993 ceremony and receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award because he was so sick, but his friend Dick Vitale later convinced him to attend. He was in so much pain they had to help him up the stairs to the podium. There he gave the most inspiring 11-minute speech I have ever heard. Valvano died from cancer a month later.
I want to leave you with two quotes from his speech. At the beginning and end of the address, he defines what he calls a full day: “If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a full day.”
Then in the last line of the speech, he says, “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”