04 Oct How Can I Serve The Lord Through My Ordinary Job?
As a young Christian in college, I heard a speaker mention that Luke begins the book of Acts with a unique statement about his Gospel: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). The speaker pointed out that Luke is implying that Acts was his account of what Jesus continued to do and to teach through the church. I believe that it is the calling of every Christian to continue to do the work of Jesus in the world.
I don’t know your background, but I was taught years ago by well-meaning pastors, teachers, and campus ministry leaders, that the best and perhaps only way I could really serve God was to go into full-time vocational ministry. And yet, the majority of Christians are not called or gifted to do that. They have ordinary jobs they have to do. Could they also do Jesus’s work?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” God can and will use Christians with ordinary jobs to live out and tell His redemptive story among those they work with. My passion is to help Christians who work in jobs that are “secular” understand and experience God’s presence at work so that they can bring the light of Jesus to the dark places where they are called to serve.
How can we serve the Lord through our ordinary jobs? We can: 1) point people to Jesus through our words and good deeds, 2) participate with God as His coworkers to meet people’s needs, and 3) bring God’s presence into every sphere of life. Let us explore this topic further.
WE CAN POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS
In the Parable of the Sower, the farmer sows his seed (Matthew 13:3-9.) We understand from Jesus’s explanation later that the seed is the good news of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:18-23). We always seem to focus on the kinds of soil that the seeds fall on because that is Jesus’s main point. However, do we ever consider how the farmer sows the good news?
Perhaps the farmer sows the seeds of the gospel through ordinary Christians like you and me. Yes, God uses those who are in full-time vocational ministry to teach, preach, and share the gospel, but that is only a small percentage of Christians. The rest of us have already been scattered by God in every career field as His coworkers to be able to scatter the seeds.
We might not be gifted evangelists. We might not be able to talk openly about Jesus while we are hard at work, earning our paychecks. However, all Christians are able to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ so that others will ask us to explain it (1 Peter 3:15). Because of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my face can’t help but show the hope and joy that God gives me in spite of my suffering, failure, and fears. When we learn how to walk by faith consistently, people will notice. They will look to us for answers when they have none.
We not only point people to Jesus by what we say, but also by what we do. In the Sermon on the Mount, we read that when we let our light shine by our good deeds, we glorify God (Matthew 5:16). Jesus also taught that if anyone gives cold water to a child, they will be rewarded (Matthew 10:42). When we meet someone’s needs in Jesus’s name, we put the spotlight on Him.
WE CAN PARTICIPATE WITH GOD AS HIS COWORKERS
In addition to intentionally living out our faith in Christ at work among our bosses, coworkers, employees, and customers, we can be used as a vessel through which God will work. He gave His children a variety of skills and abilities to meet the full spectrum of human needs; i.e., physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. God provides for us by equipping human workers.
Sherman and Hendricks, in Your Work Matters to God, share a great illustration. They describe the value of ordinary work that meets the broad spectrum of human needs.
A friend of mine operates a pallet company. Pallets are the platforms used extensively in the transportation industries, designed to make it easier for forklifts to load and unload stacks of goods. My friend’s company manufactures these pallets. Now how could my friend’s pallets possibly fit into the work of God in the world? Actually they are an important, albeit humble link in a complex chain that God uses to meet my needs and your needs. Those pallets are in indispensable part of the trucking industry—an industry that delivers ruby-red grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley, boxes of cereal from Battle Creek, Michigan, and milk from Coppell, Texas, to a supermarket near my home.
As for me, I have often had the joy of seeing God use me in many ways in my workplace to meet people’s needs. As a father, I met my children’s physical needs by giving them a bath. As a math teacher, I met student’s mental needs by helping them learn to solve equations. As a Soldier, I participated in exercises that brought peace to this nation and the world through a well-prepared military, which met people’s need for security. As an author, I meet spiritual needs by writing well to articulate biblical truths and share practical wisdom with ordinary workers.
What about you? How does your work meet people’s needs? As you do this work, are you aware of how God is using you as His coworker to love your neighbor by meeting his or her needs?
WE CAN BRING GOD’S PRESENCE WHERE IT IS NEEDED MOST
A few years ago, I heard a powerful message on the “Focus on the Family” radio program given by Grammy award-winning Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae at Liberty University. He spoke on the topic of engaging our culture. I was moved to tears when I first heard it. The verse he quoted several times is Psalm 24:1, which says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
Here is a transcript of a portion of this message:
God gives us this cultural mandate to subdue the earth. We are called to build this alternative city. What does it look like when we have healthy families, when we have biblical views on business and economics and law and politics? We’ve redeemed them instead of letting Satan, the prince of power, just drain the life out of them. These things belong to God. Economics belongs to God. Politics belong to God. Family belongs to God. Medical science belongs to God. God created science! So we go into culture and say, “This is not yours, Satan. This is not yours, world, flesh. This belongs to God. And I am a representative of His kingdom here, to demonstrate what it looks like when a redeemed person enters the workplace and says, this belongs to my God!”
Did you get his point? We have been redeemed so that we can go into all areas of society to bring Jesus’s message into our workplaces through our words and actions. Satan, the flesh, and the world may have corrupted much of what we see around us, at least temporarily. But since it all belongs to God, we can be salt and light by doing things the way they were meant to be done. Each of us can make an impact on the people to whom we are called to serve in Jesus’s name.
Regarding the church, in his book, Work Matters, Tom Nelson states, “When we embrace the gospel and experience the new birth of regeneration, our physical bodies become indwelling places for the Holy Spirit and are temples of God … When we go to work every day, we bring a temple of God with us.” Just like the tabernacle, where God’s presence resided that the Israelites carried through the wilderness for forty years until they entered the Promised Land, we too can experience the presence of God with us as we enter into the wilderness of our workplaces during a forty-year career.
The apostle Paul describes the presence of God that works in and through the church this way: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
I trust that this journey was thought provoking. If these ideas were new for you, I hope you are able to think, feel, and act differently at work. If this article was something you’d heard before, I am glad I was able to confirm what you already knew. Either way, I hope you are encouraged to know that your work matters to God and that you can serve Him in your ordinary job.