At Work & Theology 101

A New Year, A New Perspective on Faith and Work

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The plans of the diligent surely lead to advantage. 

Proverbs  21:5

In the mid-sixties there was a successful television series called Run for Your Life.

Actor Ben Gazzara plays a lawyer who is told by his doctor in the first episode that he will die in nine to eighteen months. Gazzara’s character decides to do all of the things he has never had time to accomplish.

The program becomes a series of plays in which this lawyer meets a wide variety of people, from bums riding the rails to orphans. He becomes a man who seems to be looking for something while the clock is running out:

I would suggest Gazzara’s character is really looking for significance, and to find what is really important in life. In each encounter he tries to find answers by looking more at who the people are, rather than what they have accomplished.

As we look forward to 2013 and consider our goals and New Year’s resolutions, how many of them are built around what we want to accomplish as opposed to who we want to become? To which approach is our significance tied?

In his book The Call, Os Guinness writes of an amazing truth:

The truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.  

Guinness differentiates between our primary and secondary callings. Our primary calling is to become a disciple of Christ. This is not some list of “to-dos” we can check off.

Primary calling is about a significant, transformational process that is happening to all Christians as the Holy Spirit shapes their characters to the likeness of Christ. Theologians call this process sanctification.

Guinness goes on to suggest that with everyone, everywhere, and in everything we should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Christ. Our primary calling “to be” should lead without fail to what we do. These two are inseparable.

The thing to remember is that who we are drives what we do, not the other way around.

It is through these secondary callings “to do” that we fully integrate God’s primary call into all areas of life. For followers of Christ, these secondary callings should lead us to find our unique life purpose, in order to use our particular gifts and abilities to their utmost for God’s glory in four distinct areas:

1. Our families.

2. Our churches.

3. Our communities.

4. Our vocations.

As we think through our goals for this next year, we should not leave out “character goals.” These goals are vital to our growth as a spouse, parent, child, friend, boss, or employee. Try asking yourself these questions:

1. What would I like to become?

2. What one thing would I like God to change in me?

3. What character quality – if developed – would make me a better parent, sibling, friend, etc.?

However we answer these questions, we need to see the importance of what we are doing from a different, eternal prospective.

The Apostle Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award unto me on that day.

Paul had this larger perspective, that of seeing everything he accomplished flowing out of his relationship with Christ.

Christians need to reject our culture’s insistence that the ends justify the means, and that at the end of the day the only thing that matters is what you have accomplished. This is truly the road to ruin.

We are each “running for our lives,” so in this new year let us, as Hebrews 12:1 exhorts, throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

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