At Work & Theology 101

Working in the Presence of God

LinkedIn Email Print

What if we never had to work alone again? Christians are often taught to work for the glory of God, and there is no doubt this admonition is based in scripture. On more than one occasion in his letters, the Apostle Paul challenges his audience to glorify God in all their endeavors (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). The best way we can glorify God through our work is by seeking his presence in our work. Even in the Christian world, work is often thought of as something we do for God, but we forget that work is meant to be something we do with God. Rather than working only to receive his presents, we should work in such a way that we abide in his presence.

We Weren’t Meant to Work Alone

From the beginning, it was never God’s intention for man to work alone. In Genesis 2:15 (ESV), the Bible records that God put Adam in the garden in order to “work it and keep it.” God did not make Adam a character in a blank canvas, but the Lord had already created and fashioned a beautiful garden, and man’s job was to “work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:8 says the Lord had “planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” Notice it was God, not Adam, who planted the garden. Adam’s job was to “work it and keep it.” It might be said that Adam’s job was to water the garden the Lord had planted, and this signifies a cooperative partnership between the planter and the keeper. 

As the Genesis narrative continues, it takes a tragic turn as Adam and Eve succumb to the serpent’s temptation in chapter 3. The narrative records that the serpent approaches Eve first; notice the serpent not only questions God’s character to Eve, but he also questions God’s presence to Eve. He says to the woman, “Did God actually say?” In his conversation with Eve, the serpent refers to God in the third person in a possible attempt to fool Eve from believing God’s presence was with them. Had Adam and Eve paused to recognize God’s presence—even if they could not see him—they may have chosen differently. A lack of recognition of God’s presence not only causes them to sin, but it brings a curse on the ground they were called to work and keep (Gen. 3:17-19). Ultimately, God has to remove them from their workplace to protect them from themselves (Gen. 3:23).

The Importance of God’s Presence in Our Work 

We were never meant to work alone. God did not require Adam to create a garden all by himself, and neither does he require you and I to create and sustain the work he has called us to accomplish. God seeks a cooperative partnership where we enjoy his presence as we work together to advance his kingdom. In his letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). Paul and Apollos were ministers of the Gospel, but Paul was trying to convey to his audience that they were co-laborers with God. 

One of the great temptations in work and ministry is to become so busy doing things for God we neglect spending time with God. We think we are smart enough and skilled enough to work and keep our gardens, but we forget it was God who planted our gardens. In the busyness of working and keeping, we forget from where our foundation comes, and ultimately, we ignore God’s presence. A lack of awareness of the presence of God will drive us from the place we were meant to work and keep because we were never meant to work alone. 

As we carry on our busy lives, let us not forget who planted our workplaces. We might have started the company, but it was God who gave us the vision. The fruit of our labor is a direct result of a recognition of his presence. The more we acknowledge him in all we do, the more fertile the soil, and the more fruitful our work will be. Let us not work alone, because God’s presence is what makes the difference between the blessing and the curse. 

Further readings on At Work & Theology 101

  • At Work
  • Theology 101

Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel, IFWE founder and long-time executive director, passed away on Good Friday after a four-year battle with…

  • At Work
  • Theology 101

Hugh Whelchel, the founder and long-time executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, often described heaven as…