Our world tethers so much value to the work that we do in our careers and jobs. It’s one of the first questions we ask the people we meet: “What do you do for a living?” It’s the part of our lives that consumes the most amount of time, limiting our time with our friends and family, doing hobbies, or serving our churches. When we hate our job, it affects our sense of purpose, identity, and value. It can make waking up in the morning feel daunting. It fills us with “Sunday Scaries” and makes it difficult to live in the moment, fight for joy, and pour into other parts of our lives.
Maybe you feel trapped in your job and a career change simply isn’t possible. Maybe you need the encouragement to seek God’s calling for your life. Maybe you just need to hold onto your job for this season but are struggling to get through it. I’m so glad you’re here. My prayer is that this article will encourage you and help you find purpose and peace.
My own journey through my years of working as a teacher has been a challenge. For a long time I struggled to even admit that I didn’t like my job. I felt like a failure and everything I had worked for was for nothing. After this realization, it became difficult to persevere and show up each day. I was filled with anxiety over what my future held, what my purpose was. I kept a mental list of all the other jobs I could turn to when I finally left, except the idea of leaving was just as anxiety and fear-provoking. Leaving my job would result in feelings of failure and loss of identity, and very practically, income. I lived in seasons of worry over God’s will for my life, seasons of persevering, and sometimes seasons of contentment, if nothing else. This is the journey I have walked through and often still have to go back and walk again in order to find strength, peace—and most importantly, God’s purpose—through my job.
Part 1: Am I supposed to be here?
Scripture: Jonah 1-3; Jeremiah 29:11-14
Jonah and the giant fish is one of the most common Bible stories taught in Sunday school; probably even well known in secular contexts, as well. But did you catch why Jonah was in the belly of the fish? In Jonah 1:2, the Lord says to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But did Jonah go and follow the command from the Lord? No! He tried to flee to Tarshish instead, acting in disobedience to God.
First, the Lord pursued him while on a ship by creating a storm, leading Jonah to be thrown off the boat by the crew when they learned his disobedience was the cause of the storm. And that led Jonah to be swallowed by a great fish as seen in Jonah 1:17. But what Jonah did next is particularly crucial to the story: he prayed. He sought the Lord. Most of the prayer describes his life when he walked away from God’s call: “out of the belly of Sheol I called” (Sheol is Hebrew for the place of darkness where the dead are). “The flood surrounded me…the waters closed in over me to take my life.” Then, Jonah submitted to the Lord. He said, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.” In chapter three, we read that Jonah did as God had called him to do: he led Nineveh into repentance; he literally saved the city from the disaster God had planned for them if they did not repent.
God’s will, especially God’s will for each of our specific lives, is a highly debated and complex topic, which is not my goal for this article. The Bible is clear that God’s will for every single one of his children is to love him and love each other, as reiterated by Christ himself in Matthew 22:36-39. Beyond that, many would argue that our choices are up to us, on the condition that they are harmonious with loving God and loving others. However, as evidenced in the lives of many characters in Scripture, such as Jonah, and the lives of some Christians today, some people may be called to specific types of work. This God-given work may be our jobs and careers, or perhaps it’s the work that takes place outside of our hours of employment. For many of us, however, God asks us to do his will in the mundane, everyday, work in our lives.
Now read Jeremiah 29:11-14.
This is a well-known verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But when this verse is quoted, it often stops there, pulled from its rich context. The book of Jeremiah describes Israel’s disobedience; their turning away from God. This is why I wanted you to read on. Verse 14 says, “I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” The Israelites were in exile when Jeremiah sent this letter from the Lord.
Sound familiar? Jonah was banished to the belly of a fish, and the Israelites were exiled from the place that God had for them. In their disobedience, they were banished from walking into the blessings that the Father wanted to lavish on them. What step did the Iraelites, like Jonah, have to take? Let’s look back at verses 12-13. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek with all your heart.” These verses bring me to emotion: the Lord is calling us to simply seek him! If you seek him, you will find him, and he will hear you. He’s just asking you to come.
- Take some time to reflect and pray: Do you feel that God is calling you to any specific type of work? Can this work be done within the realms of your current job? Can it be done in your church or other ministry after work hours? Do you feel like you are actively walking in disobedience, like Jonah intentionally getting on a boat to a city different from the one God asked him to go to?
- If you’re reading this article, it’s possible that you’re like me and desperately desire a different calling. I hoped and hoped that God had actually designed me for a different line of work and that was why I was unhappy in my job—I wasn’t actually fulfilling his will for my life! But when I really considered God’s will, I saw that he had so graciously presented this job to me (which I had been praying for for years), and once I was in it and the dust settled, I found myself saying I didn’t want it anymore. After months of sitting in this discomfort, I eventually came to peace knowing that my kingdom work—God’s will for me—was simply in the mundane parts of my job, and even though I didn’t enjoy my job, it was a space where I could love God well, and as a teacher, had more than enough opportunities to love others. Please be wary not to jump to the conclusion that because you’re unhappy in your job, God must have other plans for you. Do the heart work of discerning obedience (or disobedience). It starts with running towards him, not away like Jonah did. Take the Lord’s calling in Jeremiah 29:12-13, “call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek with all your heart.”
- Conversely to feeling called elsewhere, can you detect any sin in your current work? Is there something about your job that does not honor God? Are you holding onto your job for the sake of greed, pleasing man instead of God in pursuit of worldly success? Are you able to battle this sin while continuing in your current position or is it the job itself that has sinful values?
- Recommit to seeking the Lord out in prayer, ask for clarity over if this job is within his will and purpose for your life. This is not just a day-long endeavor, it could take weeks or months, or more of praying over this.
Part 2: Why is this what I’m being called to?
Scripture: Jonah 4, Ephesians 4
We’ve established that as long as we are doing God’s will to love him and love others, and we aren’t ignoring any other specific calls, our jobs are an opportunity to do kingdom work. Before doing our reading today, think about your job: what makes it so hard or distasteful to you? Is it exhausting—whether emotionally or physically? Is it challenging in a way that you are not equipped for? Do you struggle to work with the people you interact with? Does your work feel purposeless?
Back to Jonah’s story! We left off with Jonah eventually going to Nineveh and leading the people to repent so God did not destroy the city. Now, read Jonah 4.
This was not the part of Jonah I remember learning about in Sunday school. When I read Jonah 4:1, I had to re-read it: “But it DISPLEASED Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” Jonah, you just saved an entire city from destruction because of their evil ways. How can you be unhappy about this? When I stop to think about myself, though (an often humbling practice when reading the Bible), I can see myself in Jonah. I waited a year for my current position, and when I finally got hired, I felt certain that the Lord had his sovereign, faithful hands all over it. As I mentioned, I am a teacher, which is a career full of purpose and rewarding moments. I literally get to love the little children as Jesus did in Mark 10:13-16. But so often, I feel myself asking God to take this cup from me. I find it draining (emotionally and physically), my patience leaves me, and I often feel pulled in too many directions. Jonah was angry at his calling, and I am often angry at a job that God so graciously gave to me.
Jonah then explains his anger. He says, “for I KNEW you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” On the surface level this expression makes it seem as though Jonah feels angry that he had to do the work that God would have done without him. Have you ever felt this way? Have you wondered, if God is the gracious Lord, why does he need ME to share the gospel, bring people to church, and love the way he does? In further understanding of this text however, Jonah’s disappointment with his calling is because he didn’t actually believe that the Ninevites were worthy of God’s salvation. The Ninevites were not Israelites, God’s chosen people—they were Assyrians, a longtime enemy of the Hebrews. Jonah could have believed the Ninevites were not worthy of God’s salvation, leading him to run away from God’s calling for his life. Search your heart; do you feel that the people you serve are not worthy of God’s graciousness through you? All people were created in his image and are worthy of his goodness.
For hours, Jonah sits in his anger, eventually getting angry again at a plant that the Lord provided Jonah for shade and then taking it away. So, God responds to Jonah: “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left hand, and also much cattle?” God used a plant to illustrate to Jonah that even though Jonah did not create or take care of the plant, he cared that the plant died; he pitied it. How much more does God care for the people created in his image, love them, and point them back towards God?
If we have the capacity to care for mere plants, how much more should we care for God’s own people? I often have to remind myself that my students and their families and my coworkers are all created in God’s image, God loves them just as much as he loves me. Not only that, but because of the Holy Spirit in me, I am able to show the love of Christ to them. 1 John 5:2-3 tells us, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” The commandment to love others should not be burdensome if we are living according to the Holy Spirit in us. Furthermore, the Jonah Scripture says that the Ninevites “do not know their right hand from their left hand.” God is saying, “Jonah, they were lost! I chose you to go bring them my message of salvation.” So many people we are surrounded by in our jobs do not know the love of Christ and we have been commanded to show it to them (Matthew 28:19). Every day I have 23 children placed in my care. My job tells me to teach them, manage their behavior, and get them to reach standards and benchmarks, but my heavenly Father simply tells me to love them.
Read Ephsians 4:7-16
These verses are a beautiful illustration of how God has designed his children to utilize their gifts to function together as a body for the purpose of growing in Christ. Verse 7 tells us that we were each gifted with grace. Later in verse 12, this gift is for the purpose of ministry, “for building up the body of Christ, until we ALL attain to the unity of the faith.” The passage ends with this: “when each part is working properly, makes the whole body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” EACH part—that’s you and that’s me. By grace you have been designed to work as a crucial part of the body of Christ. But each part must be working properly. On this side of heaven, we don’t have God’s entire vision of the body. We can’t fully see the kingdom impact we have. Jonah didn’t understand why God chose him, but because of his obedience, God saved the souls of 120,000 people.
- Take a step back and look at your job, especially the people you work with. Consider ways you could be furthering the kingdom in your position. How can you contribute to the body so that “it builds itself up in love”?
- Think about people with whom you interact in your job, do any names come to your mind as people who may especially need to experience the love of Christ as exemplified in one of his children? How can you be intentional about demonstrating his love?
- What are your strengths and gifts? Are you able to use those in your job? Do you feel that you are being utilized to leverage your gifts well?
- Perhaps if you feel uncomfortable, exhausted, or like you’re fighting an upward battle, you aren’t working within areas of strength. Consider how you can incorporate your strengths into your current position.
- Pray that God will use your gifts to further his kingdom and that you would be a functioning part of the body of Christ. Our gifts are not for our own glory, but for his.
- Think back to Jonah one more time. Even in his anger, grumbling, and wrestling with God, God used him to save an entire people. Be encouraged that even on the days we hate our jobs, are tired and weary, or have a bad attitude towards our work, God’s spirit is in you and He can, and does, use you to further his kingdom.
Part 3: Work isWork
Scripture: Genesis 3:17-19, Ezra 4, Genesis 2:15, Isaiah 65:17-25
I remember a college professor once telling my class that he never thought of his job as a teacher as “going to work,” he just always “went to school.” He loved education so much it never felt like work to him. And of course, there’s the popular saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” There are lies all around us saying that work doesn’t have to be hard, and maybe some are lucky enough to love their jobs so deeply that it doesn’t feel like work, but the reality is that man was called to hard work and labor. Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humans have been cursed by sin. The Lord told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:17-18). Man was created to work in the garden, but after the Fall, this work was doomed to be hard work—always working against the thorns and thistles. Our work on this earth feels just like that: hard, grueling work, and it is the result of our sin.
Read Ezra 3-4
This story takes place after the exiles of Israel have returned to Jerusalum and are in the process of rebuilding the temple. However, in Ezra 4, we see controversies and opposition to the rebuilding. First, Israelites who were not exiled approached the exiles wanting to help in the rebuilding. However, Zerubbabael, the head of the rebuilding, believes that it is just the exiles who were called to build the temple, leading the other Israelites to be angry at the exclusionary vision of this temple, when the prophets prophesied that the temple would be for people of all nations. Even though the exiles were eager to rebuild the temple, working to create a place for God to be with his people, their hearts were still not in the right place. Heart work is hard work. Even if we have good intentions in our jobs, if our hearts are not always ready, those intentions might not come into fruition. God’s work can still be done through you, as we saw with Jonah, but perhaps you won’t experience the joy that comes with accomplishing God’s will because of the posture of your heart, as we also saw with Jonah.
Furthermore, King Artaxerxes was made aware of the rebuilding and was advised about the former Jerusalem being disobedient to kings and if they rebuilt the temple and walls of Jerusalem, King Artaxerxes would not be able to control them. Therefore, the king ordered the rebuilding to cease. The Lord’s work comes with opposition in this world. Our world lives in sin, which is in direct opposition to God so when we do his work, we will also likely come into opposition. I think of people in ministry—pastors who experience burnout, missionaries who are homesick and discouraged, even some dear friends of mine who lead a beautiful ministry that leads so many to the Word of the Lord, experience hard seasons that the work seems to be too much, unbearable, and uncomfortable. The work of the Lord comes with challenges, but when we approach it with a pure heart, we can experience the joy and fruit of being God’s hands and feet.
Read Genesis 2:15 and Isaiah 65:17-25
The first Scripture describes Adam’s purpose in Eden: to work and keep the garden. He was created to work. The Isaiah passage prophesied about the New Heaven and the New Earth—our final resting place in the presence of God. It describes what we will do in heaven: “ They shall build houses and inhabit them, they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain…” Our beginning and our end is in work. We were created to work and in our resting place we will work. As we saw in our first Scriptures, after the Fall our work was made to be difficult, grueling, always against us. But we have hope in the New Heaven and New Earth, that we will work and it will not be in vain, but we “shall long enjoy the work of [our] hands.” Our home is not here on earth, but in heaven. We can find our peace and comfort in Jesus while on this side of heaven, not in the things of this world, like our jobs, houses, or even some of our relationships. The dread and discomfort in our jobs is just another fallen part of this world that reminds us to fix our eyes on Heaven instead of seeking comfort here.
- One of the lies our world tells us is that we should be happy here, proliferating the “YOLO” or “you only live once” narrative and therefore we should only do things that make us happy. But as Christians, that’s not what we believe. Does it give you peace to be reminded that this is not our home, we are not designed for comfort in this world? The first time a friend of mine brought this perspective to my attention, it was a huge shift in how I felt about my job. I was seeking something that would be easy and comfortable, but she made me realize that I’ll never completely find that while I’m on earth. So instead of eagerly maintaining a list of jobs I think would make me happy and comfortable, I instead set my mind on Heaven, knowing I will find my ultimate rest there.
- If this heaven-focused perspective does not bring your peace, joy, or comfort, consider why. Are you still looking to the world to satisfy your desires rather than the eternal presence of your Creator? Are you worshipping and seeking comfort and earthly happiness as an idol?
- Talk to people in your life who seem to enjoy their work. Ask them about the hard parts of the job. What do they wish could change? Do they feel tired by their work at the end of the day? Every job has parts that will feel like work, perhaps having honest conversations with others about their jobs will shatter your “greener on the other side” mentality and remind you that no job is perfect in this fallen world.
Part 4: When I Don’t Know How to Continue
Scripture: Exodus 16:1-36, Matthew 6:9-13, John 6:25-40, 1 Chronicles 27:16-24
I don’t want to ignore the true suffering that many of us experience in our work. Some jobs are draining, perhaps physically, mentally, emotionally, or all of the above. Maybe you’re at a point that you just don’t know how to continue. I remember mornings when I would walk into my empty classroom, day after day, and just weep before the students arrived. I didn’t know how I could get through another day, much less the rest of the school year. I have endured weeks and months of coming home, falling onto the couch in exhaustion just not sure how I could make it through the week. Even if you are encouraged in the promises of heaven, another day can still feel just as daunting.
Read Exodus 16:1-36
To set the scene, the Israelites have been freed from slavery and led out of Egypt by Moses. The Lord is speaking through Moses to establish the Israelites as his holy people. He has instructed them in how to live in a way to honor God. Now they are beginning their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. This journey will end up taking the Israelites forty years to complete. Forty years of wandering. Forty years of living a nomadic life, which must have been tiring, uncertain, and probably even scary. (Side note: does forty years of wandering resonate with you? Maybe a career of forty years?) At the beginning of this chapter, we find the Israelites leaving Elim and not too long into their journey, what happens? They get hungry. It is noted several times that they “grumble,” which reminds me of myself as a child on long car rides…and maybe how I feel on my way to work on Monday mornings. In verse 2, it reads, “the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” But further down in verse 7, Moses tells the people of Israel, “in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” Moses is pointing out to his people, it was the Lord who brought us out of Egypt, it was the Lord who is leading us to the Promised land, it is the Lord who is faithful, so really, you’re grumbling against the Lord, not just us.
I remember feeling convicted about this soon after I had started a new job—the same job that I felt the Lord’s hand all over in providing for me. When I found myself complaining about my job, my bosses, my coworkers, my students or their families, I felt convicted that I was essentially telling God, “Thanks for the job, but really, you couldn’t have worked these things out for me?” Isn’t that what the Israelites are saying, “you brought us out of Egypt only to starve us?”
And speaking of Egypt, did you notice what they said to Moses? In verse 3, they say “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full.” What they’re essentially saying is, “Yeah, maybe we have died at the hands of the Egyptians, our slavery, and even by God himself, but at least we had plenty of food to eat!” They would rather have been in slavery with full bellies than hungry in the presence of the Lord. This reminds me of the words in Hebrews regarding Moses’ faithfulness in rejecting his Egyptian royal status in order to lead God’s people out of Egypt, “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith, he left Egypt not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:26). Moses knew that it was better to suffer in the presence of the Lord, even if that presence is reproach, than to have all our earthly needs met and be completely without him. It is better to be without and be with God than to have it all, yet not have him.
Finally, the manna. So the Israelites grumble in their hunger and the Lord hears them. So he speaks through Moses that he will “rain down bread from Heaven and the people shall go out to gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather up daily” (verses 4-5). So they grumble and they get bread from heaven. Every day they get to witness a miracle: food appearing in the desert. But the Lord was intentional with how he fed his people. He provided manna for them each day with the dew, and each day the Israelites would go out to collect “as much as he could eat” (v.18). “They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” This reminds me of Jesus feeding the five thousand, except in that case the disciples got to witness God’s abundance displayed. It is written in John 6:12: “when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’” In that case, Jesus, the very Kingdom of God is among his people. There is an overflowing, abundance of food—symbolizing the abundance that will take place in the Kingdom of God. The Israelites are still witnessing a miracle in God making food out of nothing, but this time, they aren’t learning God’s abundance, but that God provides exactly what we need, as we need it. This is a hard thing for us as humans: planning a meal for ourselves, or for others. How much is enough, will there be too much leftover that will go to waste? I don’t want people to leave hungry. But God knows exactly what we need and exactly how much, and the Israelites had the privilege of witnessing this miracle every single day. But at first, they still didn’t quite understand. In verse 19, Moses says, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” Moses specifically instructs the Israelites not to save any for the following day, but they do it anyway and it goes bad. Why did they disobey Moses? After all, he is relaying the Word of the Lord directly to them. But remember, these are the same people grumbling to the Lord for being taken out of slavery. They are wandering through the desert, they are tired and hungry, they are lacking in faith. You see, they don’t fully understand God yet, but hopefully soon they will realize that the same God who brought them up out of Egypt, the God who parted the waters for them, is the same God who will provide food for them, homes for them, land for them, he will bless them among the nations and their Messiah will come through them.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord will display his glory, his faithfulness to them, but this is only the beginning. Their God will provide for them faithfully, and through manna, he is asking the Isrraelites to put their faith in him, to take only what they need, to not hoard it, because they have faith that he will provide for them the next day too. That same God is our God who provides our needs, too. He provides our strength, our patience, our kindness, our self-control, and our love. It is new every morning. Every morning, God is asking us to come to him to get our fill. We cannot use just a little bit of our strength one day in hopes of conserving some for the next day. I’ve found that sometimes I’ll have a great day of teaching one day, full of patience and grace, only to have an awful day the next day. Why is that? One day I’ll come to the Lord, asking for patience and I will see his faithfulness in providing that for me. Then the next day, still feeling pumped from the day before, I’ll neglect to come to him, once again, humbly asking for him to provide what I need for that day. God is asking us to come to him each day for our needs, living our day out using the strength he gave us, trusting that he’ll renew us again the next day. He is asking us to be faithful each day, because he is faithful to us.
Read: Matthew 6:9-13, John 6:25-40
Ah, the Lord’s Prayer. Some of us recite this prayer in church from memory without considering the meaning of the words. I, for one, as a child recited this each week in church, and never fully understood the verse, “give us this day our daily bread” (v.11). I thought about it being literally about bread. After our reading in Exodus, we should begin making the connection to the daily manna that the Israelites received. In teaching his disciples to pray this way, Jesus is asking us to come before the Father to ask him to supply us with our needs. When we look even closer at this short verse, Jesus’ instruction is to ask for our daily bread. This reminds us of our constant need for Christ and his provisions. Just like Moses instructed the Israelites not to save any manna for the following day, we are instructed to approach the Lord each day and request exactly what we need for that day alone, not for the following day, not for the whole week, but one day at a time. It reminds me of what Jesus speaks about just a few verses later in his Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). Lamentations 3:22-24 encourages us similarly: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I will hope in him.” God is able to give all that we need, but he is asking us to request it daily, which deepens our dependence, relationship, and fellowship with our Father.
Let’s take a look at what Jesus tells his followers in John 6:25-40 (this part is learned from Katie Noble’s Pray Like This devotional, Week 6, Day Two). This passage takes place just after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus calls out those tracking him down that they are following him just so he will continue to feed them. He says “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do you work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Then the people ask him what they need to do to be doing the works of God. Their hearts are still set on actions to be done or not be done in order to achieve salvation, but Jesus simply replies that they must believe in him. The people respond by testing Jesus: “What works do you perform? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” In other words, they’re telling Jesus, “Moses gave our forefathers bread to eat, so our Messiah must also give us bread.” I can only imagine Jesus shaking his head here. “Truly, truly, I tell you,” he continues, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Jesus is the bread of life. Our daily bread. Our Father nourishes our bodies, he provides us our needs, but more than that he is giving everyone who is feasting on the Son eternal life: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” Think back to the Lord’s prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Everyday we’re praying, “Give me Jesus.” Are you praying for your desires and needs only as if Jesus is a genie in a bottle, or are you also chasing after Jesus’ heart, a relationship and communion with him? God knows and provides our needs, better than we know our own needs, but he desires our hearts. And the more we give him our hearts, the more they will resemble the Son’s, the more his Spirit will live in us. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the Fruit of the Spirit, what we grow into as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The more I am in relationship with Jesus, the more I am able to experience and exemplify love, joy, peace, and patience at work, which are so important in my job!
Read 1 Chronicles 27:16-24
At first glance, this passage may not seem to fit in with our topic, but this passage actually gave me great peace at one time, and many times since then, when I find myself becoming overwhelmed at work. This passage is describing military divisions and the leaders of the different houses. In verse 23, it says “David did not count those below twenty years of age.” Hm, that’s strange since in the verses before this, the Scriptures were explicitly stating that each division had 24,000 men in it, so one would think the number of men was significant. But it continues to read, “for the Lord had promised to make Israel as many as the stars of heaven.” This is the promise the Lord gave to Abraham, and then to his son Isaac. To Abram, the Lord said, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). In Genesis 26:3-4, the Lord says to Abraham’s son Isaac, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring the land all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
Now, generations later, we see David abstaining from taking count of the men in his army below the age of twenty because of that promise. The Lord promised Israel that they would be great, that they would inherit the land. By counting his men, David would be relying on his own strength, the strength of men, of his army. But God has promised this to him, so he doesn’t need to review and count his men to make sure they are prepared, that they can defeat their enemies. God can defeat their enemies with far fewer men than humans think is strong enough. By opting not to count his men, David was displaying his faith in the Lord to deliver him and fulfill his promises, and he was relying on the Lord’s strength instead of his own. The next verse says, “Joab the son of Zeruiah began to count, but did not finish. Yet the wrath came upon Israel for this, and the number was not entered in the chronicles of King David.” Joab did not display the same wisdom as David, at least not at first. But it was already too late and the Lord disciplined Israel for Joab’s lack of faith and reliance on the Lord.
I found peace and strength in these Scriptures in a season when I obsessed over my to-do lists, checking things off, and adding new items (even if I had already done the thing), just so I could feel the accomplishment in checking it off, even re-writing my list when it became overwhelming. I have found myself in other seasons of relying on the strength of coffee to get me through the day. There’s a plethora of things we use and get our strength from, but the Lord is calling us to rely on his strength. 2 Corinthians 12:10 says this, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Our stuffing, exhaustion, challenges, lack of joy in our jobs should lead us to Jesus, and we need to lean on him for our strength and joy.
- Think about your complaints about your job, your boss, your coworkers, and clients. Are you grumbling about them? Or is some part of your grumbling about God like the Israelites in the wilderness? Is part of you saying to God, “look at what you gave me, it’s awful! You couldn’t have given me something better?” If this feels convicting to you, take time to reflect about it and repent.
- When do you feel closest to God? Is it when you have everything you need? Or is it when you feel weak, when you’re struggling?
- Do you find yourself chasing after the things that God can give you over God himself? You will notice the difference in your fruit if you are truly seeking after Christ, the bread of life, not just seeking after him for what he can give you.
- Write down examples from your own walk with Christ when you have witnessed God’s faithfulness in providing for you, answering prayers, in your life and the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ around you. This will give you hope and increase your faith when you have bigger prayers.
- What do you use as a crutch for strength? To do lists like me? Coffee, naps, gossiping and complaining? Do you perhaps use comparison to others’ weaknesses to make you feel better about yourself, “at least I’m doing better than that person…”? Do you seek out your co-workers to vent and complain rather than seeking Christ? Seek God to find your strength instead of the crutches we lean on to get by.
Part 5: For His Glory, Not Mine
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Happiness is not one of the things God promises us. Gulp. That’s hard for us to swallow. God does promise to bless us and give us joy. But that does not equate to earthly happiness. One of the biggest shifts that took place in my process of learning how to not hate my job came when I realized this job is not about me and it’s not for me. It is about God and it is meant to glorify him. I believe my job is a gift he gave me, an answer to previous prayers, so I need to, at the very least, see it as a way to honor him.
Read: Luke 2:1-20
This is the nativity story, the birth of Christ the Savior. Something interesting about this story is that there’s only about two verses specifically regarding Christ’s birth, and more than ten verses about the shepherds. The shepherds were an important part of the story. Shepherds were typically outsiders, often alone with only the company of their flock. They slept around animals and were considered to be in a lowly, humble position in society. But God chose them to be among the very first to share the news of Jesus Christ’s birth. Now, be honest with yourself, if you had just received a message about a savior being born, by the terrifying presence of angels, would you abandon what you were doing and go seek out the baby they had told you about? Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t. The shepherds, however, accepted the heavenly (they literally heard the heavenly singing) invitation to find this baby in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Verse 17 says, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” They went and worshipped the baby Jesus, but they didn’t keep it quiet, they made it known to others what the angels had told them.” This points back to verse 11 “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds shared with others, this is our savior. But others didn’t understand. Mary understood though, it says “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Many people may not understand your faith. When someone at work asks you what you did over the weekend and you share that you went to church, they may question why you didn’t sleep in or go to brunch instead. Others may not understand why you don’t gossip during lunch, or speak poorly of your boss. They may not have yet received the Lord’s grace to understand the gospel. But maybe, even if it’s just one person to tell them, they will. Maybe just one person will see that your faith sets you apart. Perhaps someone will notice that your work isn’t for selfish, worldly gain, but for a higher purpose. Doesn’t that make our work out in the world, even if it’s a 9-5 desk job or a restaurant server worth it? That others may witness the Lord’s goodness? I think it does. I think that makes an entire lifetime worth it. In fact, that is a calling all of us have. Jesus calls each of us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) We have the same calling to make disciples whether we’re the pastor of a church or the IT guy at a large company.
Let’s continue. Verse 20 says this, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them.” So these shepherds witness one of the most incredible moments in history, the presence of our heavenly father in the form of a humble baby, who had come to save all of mankind, and then they GO BACK to just being a shepherd! People do far less and then they quit their day jobs, write a book and find glory in lesser things that what the shepherds experienced. Yet they went back to the mundane work of shepherding, but this time, glorifying and praising God. When we meet and follow Jesus, our lives are eternally changed, our destinies are changed, our behaviors are changed. For most of us, however, that doesn’t mean we quit our jobs and become a pastor or join a touring worship band, unless you truly sense that calling, as we mentioned in part 1 of this article.
For most of us, it means continuing in our lives, day to day, but this time, changed as a reborn child of God. If you feel like your job is purposeless or completely separate from the glory of God, remember, God brings purpose to the mundane, just like he gave purpose to the shepherds. God infuses purpose into our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies, our homes, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be. Knowing Christ may not change our day to day lives, but it does change who we are. Jesus spoke to his followers about what it should look like to be his disciple living it out in the world. In his sermon on the mount, he said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We are called to shine differently than others. We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. Our jobs may not be glamorous, fun, exciting, even enjoyable, but through our jobs we should be honoring and glorifying the Lord.
- Are you using your job to witness to others? To act boldly in your faith even while others are watching? Do people you work with know you’re a Christ follower?
- What can you do to make your work your mission? Can you be more intentional about listening compassionately to others, walk away from or even dismiss gossip, or perhaps start a prayer group?
I hope you find encouragement in this, friend! I hope God has opened your eyes to see how important your work is. I hope you have found meaningful Scripture to encourage you on the hard days. I hope you are able to see your job in a new light, with a new purpose. This process, though, is not linear. For example, even though I experienced seasons learning and growing through each of these parts, I wouldn’t say this is the order I experienced them in. I continue to have to go back to part four when I just don’t know how to get out of bed and make it through the day, on the days that I just don’t want to do the work. But as I mentioned earlier, and perhaps you’ve heard elsewhere, heart work is hard work. Maybe your brain understands the Scripture but your heart is still grappling through it. Stay in that struggle, wrestle with it, pray over it. Just remember, your job does not determine your value or worth, your job is not your identity, God does.
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter
Jill lives in Cincinnati with her husband, John. She is an avid brunch hostess, former marathon runner, lover of the Lord, and kindergarten teacher. Some of her favorite things include coffee dates with friends, long walks and talks, traveling to new places, and skiing.