Theology 101

Four Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me at Graduation

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While I graduated in the last century, the things that are important don’t really change because they are based on eternal truths. Since I wrote on this topic two years ago, l have had time to reflect on my answers. And after a lifetime of work, here are four biblical truths that I wish someone had told me when I graduated.

1. 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 in 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. 

Watch next: Freedom to Flourish video (2.5 minute watch)

2. 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. 

Watch next: Fulfillment video (2 minute watch)

3. The Slight Edge of Faithfulness

Over twenty years ago, I heard a speaker named Jeff Olson give a talk on something he called the slight edge. The idea resonated with me, and ever since then it has had a significant influence on my life. I have come to realize it is a basic biblical principle woven into the fabric of creation. Like gravity, it works whether you believe it or not.

Success, Olson suggested, is not achieved by a quick fix, quantum-leap method offered by our fast food culture. Instead, success comes by doing the small things we know to do over time.

The good news is that these small things are easy to do; the challenge is that when doing them, it doesn’t initially seem like we are making much progress. But if we continue over time, the cumulative effect will generate significant results.

If this is true, why are so many people unable to reach their goals in life? It is simply because the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do.

An idea similar to the slight edge is found in the book of Proverbs in the comparison between the ant and the sluggard (Prov. 6:6-11). In this passage, we are encouraged to avoid the path of the sluggard and instead study the ways of the ant. The ant does the small things that are easy for him to do day after day.

Another similar principle found in the scriptures is the idea of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7-8, Prov. 11:18, 2 Cor. 9:6, Lk. 19:20-21, Matt. 13:24, 1 Cor. 3:6-9).

This biblical standard can be summarized in three simple statements:

  1. You reap what you sow.
  2. You reap more than you sow.
  3. You reap much later than you sow.

The farmer doesn’t sow one day and expect to reap a harvest the next. He must continue to work the land throughout the cultivation process before he sees the fruits of his labor.

Both the apostle Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews use the idea of a race as a metaphor for the Christian life (At. 20:23-24, 1 Cor. 9:23-25, 2 Tim. 4:7, Heb. 12:1-3). The race we run is not a sprint but a marathon.

We must get up every morning, lace up our sneakers, and run the best we can. Some days the wind is at our back and everything seems easy. Other days, the wind is in our face and it seems like our entire run is uphill.

Regardless, we are called to run the race every day—to do the work that God has set before us no matter how simple, mundane, or commonplace it may seem (Eph. 2:10).

Faithfulness is the key to living the Christian life, and nowhere is that more important than in the work we do. As Oswald Chambers writes in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest:

…if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God.

Through slow, faithful, daily acts of obedience and by God’s grace we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is how we are empowered to successfully impact the culture around us.

4. 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. We don’t teach this in the church, but we should.

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