The Christian at work (Part 2)

26 08 2008

In part one of this series, we began to look at some basic principles for how faith impacts the attitude and behavior of a Christian in the workplace. The main points of this series are inspired by a message preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The first principle we considered was the principle of industry – that a Christian, by virtue of the transformation of his nature and the grace of God in his life, desires to work hard for the glory of God.

The second principle we may refer to as the principle of direction. How is an idividual to determine a specific calling or vocation as the position of labor and service that he should pursue? Worldly wisdom would suggest that a person choose a career based on personal goals and ambitions for wealth, status, or social advancement. For the Christian, the choice of a particular vocation is rooted in a desire to glorify God and to serve the ends of advancing His kingdom in the world. This is not to say that gaining wealth is evil in itself, but only that it ought not to be the driving motivation for a believer.

Is it a lawful calling?

Since the ultimate goal of a follower of Jesus is to glorify God, he will reject any career path that would involve compromising his faithfulness to God’s commandments. The first question, then, in a Christian’s choice of a calling ought to be, “Is it lawful”? Spurgeon wrote:

True faith in him who loved us, and gave himself for us, also seeks direction of the Lord as to the sphere of its action, and waits upon him to be guided by him in the choice of a calling. This part of our discourse may be useful to young persons who have not settled upon what they are to do in life. Faith is a great service to us here. Much depends upon the choice of our pursuits. Very grievous mistakes have been made here-as grievous mistakes as if a bird in the air should have undertaken the pursuits of a fish, or a labouring ox should have entered into competition with a race-horse. Some people are trying to do what they were never made for, ambitious beyond their line. This is a grievous evil. There should, therefore, be a seeking unto God for guidance and direction; and faith leads us to such seeking. This prayer may be used in many senses: “Show me what thou wouldest have me to do.” In the choice of a calling faith helps a Christian to refuse that which is the most lucrative if it be attended with a questionable morality. If the Christian could have huge purses of that gold which is coined out of the drunkenness, the lust, or the ungodliness of men, he would scorn to put them among his stores. Trades which are injurious to men’s minds and hearts are not lawful callings before God. Dishonest gain is awful loss. Gold gained by deceit or oppression shall burn into the soul of its owner as the fire of hell. “Make money,” said the worldling to his son; “make it honestly if you can, but, anyhow, make money.” Faith abhors this precept of Mammon, and having God’s providence for its inheritance, it scorns the devil’s bribe. Choose no calling over which you cannot ask God’s blessing, or you will be acting contrary to the law of faith. If you cannot conceive of the Lord Jesus wishing you success in a certain line of trade, do not touch it. If it is not possible to think of your Lord as smiling upon you in your daily calling, then your calling is not fit for a Christian to follow.

Has God gifted me for this career?

This is the second question a Christian should ask when considering a particular vocation. There are many indicators of God’s direction and will which may be found in our natural circumstances. Some men are born leaders, while others are more suited in temperament to be helpers. Some are naturally adept in mechanical skills, and some are more at ease in public speaking. For some, mathematical calculations come fairly easily, while others may excel in music and artistic expression. Natural talents and latent skills are gifts from God, and can often direct an individual to an area of service in His kingdom for which they are especially endowed. Thus, Spurgeon exhorts his hearers, when choosing a vocation, to give due consideration to the way that God has designed them:

Callings should be deliberately chosen with a view to our own suitableness for them. Faith watches the design of God, and desires to act according to his intent. It had been ill for David to have lived in retirement, or for the prophet Nathan to have aspired to the throne. The law of the kingdom is-“Every man in his own order”; or in other words, “Every man according to his several ability.” If the Lord has given us one talent let us use it in its own market; or if two, or five, let us trade with them where they can be most profitably employed, so that we may be found faithful servants in the day of the Master’s coming.”

Where has God placed me?

Here is a third question the Christian should ask when choosing a vocation. Not only an individual’s natural skills and talents, but also his circumstances often have a controlling effect on the course he is called to take in life. Discontentment has led many to spend their lives dreaming of greener pastures and jumping from job to job in an endless quest for a better future. Had they determined to “bloom where they were planted” and to joyfully and deliberately serve God where His providence placed them, they would have found countless opportunities to do good and spent many years in useful service. The Apostle Paul tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Spurgeon exhorts:

We should also by faith desire such a calling as Providence evidently has arranged and intended for us. Some persons have never had a free choice of what vocation they would follow; for from their birth, position, surroundings, and connections they are set in a certain line of things, like carriages on the tram lines, and they must follow on the appointed track, or stand still. Faith expects to hear the voice behind it saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Trusting to our own judgment often means following our own whims; but faith seeks direction from infallible wisdom, and so it is lead in a right way. God knows your capacity better than you do; entreat him to choose your inheritance for you. If the flowers were to revolt against the gardener, and each one should select its own soil, most of them would pine and die through their unsuitable position; but he who has studied their nature knows that this flower needs shade and damp; and another needs sunlight and a light soil; and so he puts his plants where they are most likely to flourish. God doeth the same with us. He hath made some to be kings, though few of those plants flourish much. He has made many to be poor, and the soil of poverty, though damp and cold, has produced many a glorious harvest for the great Reaper. The Lord has set some in places of peril, places from which they would gladly escape, but they are there preserved by his hand; he has planted many others in the quiet shade of obscurity, and they blossom to the praise of the great Husbandman.”

Seek Him early

Spurgeon is convinced that the sooner in life a person comes to faith in Christ, the better he will be prepared to ask and answer these questions and dedicate himself to a calling that will be both honoring to God and rewarding to the soul. If, instead, an individual places his hopes in worldly rewards and his trust in himself, he may succeed in amassing great wealth but his life on this earth will be restless and miserable, and his eternity worse.

So, then, you see, faith has much to do with the force and direction of our life in the flesh. It provides impetus by giving a man something to live for; it shows him the far-reaching influences of the thoughts and deeds of today, and how they issue in eternal results; and faith also takes the helm and steers the vessel along a safe channel towards the haven of holy rest. Happy are they who in the early days of their youth believe in him who loved them and gave himself for them, and so begin their life-walk with Jesus. Blessed be God for converting some of us while we were yet boys and girls. O happy young people, who begin life with the early dew of grace upon them! No prince of eastern empires was ever so richly bejewelled! You will not in after-days have to lament a score years spent in error, or half a life wasted in sin, or a whole seventy years frittered away in idleness. O that you, who are yet young, who have the world before you, may now be led by the Spirit to follow Christ, who pleased not himself but did the will of his Father, so shall the life that you live in the flesh be lived by the faith of the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you.”

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