by Preston Hagaman
Work. To some this word is dirty, connoting toilsome labor and difficulty. Many simply dislike the subject and long for a life of leisure and ease where work is no longer required.
I recently attended a dinner where I listened to a group of recent college graduates bemoan the difficulties and hardships of the adult world they now found themselves in. They longed to stay home playing video games, watching sports and allowing their wives to support the family.
This is the attitude of far too many young men today. They dread work and avoid it like the plague. As each Sunday afternoon draws to a close they lament the start of a new work week and spend the next five days living for the weekend.
Sadly, the majority of life happens Monday through Friday, not on the weekend. The impact of the gospel in our lives should extend far beyond our weekends. The gospel impacts all of life, which includes our work.
In speaking with a number of young Christians in non-vocational ministry roles, I have found that many fail to see their work as meaningful. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of Christians sitting in churches today, work in the business world. They get up each morning and punch the clock at a regular everyday nine to five gig. The gospel should be as formative an influence on our work in corporate settings as it should on the life of a person in vocational ministry.
Ephesians 4:11-12 states that, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” These two verses provide us with an understanding that the work of the minister is to equip the saints, that’s you and me working a normal gig, for the work of ministry.
What does that equipping look like?
First and foremost, the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry is the preaching and teaching of the gospel. The gospel has implications on all of life, including our work.
What does living out biblical manhood in the marketplace look like? It means that we actively strive to apply the implications of the gospel to our work. For today’s purposes we will focus on two implications that impact our work directly, identity and relationships.
The gospel declares that my identity is found in Christ.
My identity is not found in my work. While my work is important, it is not the foundation of my identity, which frees me to be diligent in my labor without being consumed with the pursuit of a position or a pay grade. Because of the gospel, I am free to get after it and bust my tail because I no longer find meaning, significance and worth in how I perform but instead find them in Christ. In Christ I have been set free to work for His glory not my own.
The Lord calls me to do my work excellently. If I do it with a poor quality or attitude I am not honoring the Lord with my work. Just as the pastor is to honor the Lord with his pulpit by preparing and studying throughout the week, I am called to honor Christ where He has placed me.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. captured this sentiment perfectly when he said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
What does this look like in my daily work?
I would often stay late in the office to get that one thing done that I couldn’t leave for the next day or stay up till all hours of the night answering email. What I thought pointed to an area of strength in my life actually was pointing to an area of weakness.
This unearthed some poorly ordered work habits and led to me writing resolutions for how I would approach some of these areas of disorder well for the glory of God and the good of my family. Since email was my biggest distraction throughout the day, I decided to begin by creating seven resolutions to govern how I would read, construct and disseminate email. These resolutions included things such as sending email only when it was the best medium for a specific communication and emptying my inbox three times per day.
The gospel declares that my worth is found in what God in Christ thinks of me.
I don’t have to worry about the perceptions of others; I can treat them with the dignity and value they deserve as image bearers. As Tullian Tchividjian would say, “Because in Christ I already possess all that I need, I am able to serve and love others without needing anything in return.”
Like many of you, I do not serve in full-time vocational ministry at a church or parachurch organization. I work as an academic advisor for a university. However, while I do not work in vocational ministry, my vocation is my ministry.
This was hard for me to understand early on in my career. For whatever reason, I always felt I had to earn the approval of others or justify my value to the team I was on. To be honest I was far too wrapped up in the perceptions of others and it was making my professional life a struggle, not a joy.
It wasn’t until this truth penetrated the deep recesses of my heart that I began to view those I work with as people I am there to serve instead of people I need to impress or get something from. The gospel reoriented how I interact with others. Instead of needing something I seek to give and serve. Whether I am meeting with a potential student, returning student or staff member, I desire for all interactions to be full of grace, love and truth.
Do I come anywhere close to doing this perfectly? Not a chance.
I fail all the time. When I fail, I own it and ask the other party for forgiveness.
It is remarkable the number of great conversations that are birthed out of owning my part and asking for forgiveness, not simply stopping at “I’m sorry”.
If you desire to impact your workplace for Christ, there is tremendous opportunity in this simple concept. Leading with your shortcomings and failures stands in contrast to the culture at large. People simply don’t acknowledge or dwell on their failures and problems. If you want to stand out and have an avenue to start a discussion about your faith in Christ, be known as the guy who owns his mistakes and asks others for forgiveness.
The gospel reorients all of life. It is the beautiful lens through which we see the world. The specific outer workings of the gospel in your life will be different from mine, and that is ok. At the end of the day, what truly matters is that you and I aren’t weekend Christians, but allow the implications of the gospel to bear weight in our lives Monday through Friday, just as much as on Sunday mornings. In doing so we will honor Christ, experience the joy that comes from walking with Him and point others to the source of that joy.
I encourage you to join with me in leaving weekend Christianity behind.
Preston serves on staff at Dallas Baptist University and is blessed to be married to his wonderful wife, Hannah. Preston and his wife have been married for a little over a year and are members of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX. Preston regularly blogs at artofhusbandry.com. You may follow him on twitter.
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