“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
A wave of relief washed over me as I pushed the “Send” button. One more blog finished, sent on to my staff to be edited and posted. An odd thought occurred to me: I’ve been writing at least a blog a week for the last six years—I wonder if it really makes any difference?
This is a question that we all ask about our work from time to time, especially when things are difficult or we are in a rut.
Over a decade ago, my friend and brother in Christ, Admiral (Retired) Tim Ziemer, was asked by President George W. Bush to run the President’s Malaria Initiative. The stated goals of this U.S. executive-branch effort were to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent across 15 high-burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the subsequent ten years, I am sure there were many days, as he traversed washed-out roads in sweltering tropical heat to visit remote clinics, that Tim wondered if his work was ever going to make a difference. I am also sure there were days when he encountered even greater challenges in the halls of Congress and thought to himself, “Why am I doing this?”
In a 2014 New York Times article in which Tim is dubbed the “The Malaria Fighter,” he muses about his work:
All my ex–flag-officer colleagues work for Beltway bandits. They play a lot of golf, go up and down the Chesapeake in their boats. At reunions, they’ll give me grief. “Hey, Z, you still saving the world?” And I’ll say, “Yep, still saving the world.”
Despite his playful understatement, Tim Ziemer understands the notion of calling as well as anyone I know. He realizes that, for that season of his life, God had called him to fight malaria as his vocational calling. His response to that call was to be faithful—to do the work, day in and day out, using all the skills and talents given to him and do the best job he could do regardless of the problems, setbacks, or disappointments.
In his Jan 18, 2017 farewell message to his colleagues, Ziemer celebrated the fact that through the work of his small team, more than 6 million people are alive today in Africa who would have died of Malaria. Who knows, one of those children might grow up to be the next Nelson Mandela.
Faithful Obedience that Impacts Generations to Come
As we move into Advent, I want to tell you about another government employee whose work had a huge impact. His name is Daniel and he worked for King Nebuchadnezzar in ancient Babylon.
While most of us know the story of Daniel, one of his jobs is often overlooked. King Nebuchadnezzar assigned the prophet Daniel to the high office of “chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners” (Dan. 5:11). In other words, Daniel was appointed Chief of the Magi.
Why is this important?
As Christmas approaches, we will see images and hear stories of the “Wise Men,” (or, as they are often called, Magi), traveling from the East, following a star in order to pay homage to Jesus Christ, the newborn king. Many scholars believe that these Magi were Persians from Babylon.
Have you ever wondered what led the wise men to undertake the thousand-mile-plus journey to Bethlehem?
How did Babylonians know about Jewish prophecy at all, and what led them to believe that this particular star was the one that would lead them to a great, newborn king?
The Magi must have had an unmistakably clear astronomical/astrological message to urge them on such an ambitious quest. In Matthew 2:2, the Magi indicate that they saw something in the night sky that was so significant it convinced them to make the lengthy and dangerous trip to Jerusalem.
How could some celestial event inform the Magi that a king of the Jews had been born?
This is where the prophet Daniel comes in. Not only was Daniel chief of the Magi, but his prophecies became known throughout the ancient Near East. Even the Romans were aware of his prophecies of a coming king of Israel.
The Magi of the first century would have most certainly studied the writing of Daniel and possibly other Jewish writings Daniel likely referenced, such as the book of Isaiah. This connection between Daniel and the Magi may help to explain why almost six hundred years later, the Magi in question expected a Jewish king to arrive in Judea near the end of the first century B.C. It is likely that the Magi followed the star based on their study of the prophet Daniel’s writings.
I would assert that the work done by Daniel may have helped the Magi, centuries after Daniel’s death, connect the dots between a light in the night sky and the “Light of the World.” (Explore this connection further in my seminary research paper here.)
Does What You Do Impact the World?
Now, you may say, I am no Daniel or Tim Ziemer, but you have no idea how God may use the work he has called you to do nor the impact it might have a year from now, ten years from now, or even much further into the future.
We need to rest in the knowledge that:
…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
That work includes even the most mundane thing you will do today; this work will not be wasted.
On that note, I think I will go write another blog post…
Editor’s Note: Read more about the eternal impact of your work in How Then Should We Work?
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Photo source: Wonderlane