The Christian at work (Part 5)

5 09 2008

This will be the final post in our series on the Christian at work. In previous installments, we have seen the following principles that ought to guide a believer’s attitudes and actions in his vocation:

  1. The principle of industry – work hard unto the glory of God
  2. The principle of direction – seek the Lord’s will for your particular calling
  3. The principle of active dependence – pray continually for God’s blessing on your labors
  4. The principle of consecration – do all your daily tasks humbly, as unto the Lord

The final principle we will address is the principle of contentment. In the previous post, reference was made to the increasing level of job dissatisfaction in the American workplace, and we noted that the self-conscious consecration of our daily tasks – even the smallest of them – to the Lord is a great preventative to grumbling and complaining. Our focus in this post is on the bigger picture. What do you hope to gain from your career? What are your goals? How do you arrive at your objectives? What standard of measurement do you use to evaluate success or failure? Are you disappointed and frustrated when the goals you have set do not come to fruition? Are you burned out and exhausted from chasing the elusive ideal of “success” as defined by the world?

Contentment with God will enable you to handle prosperity

The principle of contentment directs the follower of Christ to entrust the results of his labors to God. If a man commits himself to work hard for God’s glory, continually seeks God’s direction in his pursuits, prays constantly for the Lord to bless his endeavors, and purposes each day to do his work as unto the Lord, he will be able to rest in the assurance that the results are in the hands of God. The desire of his heart will be, not that he will be able to accomplish his personal objectives of amassing wealth and advancing his reputation, but that God will work out His sovereign purposes and glorify Himself through His servant. Spurgeon writes:

Faith hath a happy influence upon the present life, for it moderates a man’s feelings as to the result of his work. Sometimes the result of our work is prosperity, and here the grace of God prevents a surfeit of worldly things. There is a keen test of character in prosperity. Everybody longs for it, but it is not every man that can bear it when it comes. True faith forbids our setting great store by worldly goods and pleasures and enjoyments, for it teaches us that our treasure is in heaven. If we begin to idolize the things that are seen, we shall soon degenerate and turn aside from God. How easily we may spoil a blessing! Two friends gathered each a rose: the one was continually smelling at it, touching its leaves and handling it as if he could not hold it too fast. you do not wonder that it was soon withered. The other took his rose, enjoyed its perfume moderately, carried it in his hand for a while, and then placed it on the table in water, and hours after it was almost as fresh as when it was plucked from the bough. We may dote on our worldly gear until God becomes jealous of it, and sends a blight upon it; and, on the other hand, we may with holy moderateness use these things as not abusing them, and get from them the utmost good which they are capable of conveying to us. Many pursue wealth or fame as some eager boy hunts the painted butterfly: at last, after a long and weary run, he dashes it down with his cap, and with the stroke he spoils its beauty. Many a man hath reached the summit of a life-long ambition and found it to be mere vanity. In gaining all he has lost all; wealth has come, but the power to enjoy it has gone; life has been worn out in the pursuit, and no strength is left with which to enjoy the gain. It shall not be so with the man who lives by faith, for his chief joys are above, and his comfort lies within. To him God is joy so rich that other joy is comparatively flavourless.”

Contentment with God will enable you to handle adversity 

Today’s bookstores are filled with volumes on how to be wealthy and successful. I challenge you to find a book in the business section of your local Barnes & Noble on how to be content in the lean times. The world’s model knows nothing but the relentless drive toward increased riches, status, and power. When these goals are not reached, the result is often depression, work-a-holism, or even resorting to less than ethical practices to gain the desired outcome. The faith of the Christian frees him from this destructive cycle, by enabling him to rest in God’s wise governing of his affairs, and find ways to glorify his Lord even when He withholds material blessing for His own hidden purposes. Spurgeon comments:

But perchance the result of all our work may be adversity. Some men row very hard, and yet their boat makes no headway. When an opportunity presents itself the tide of trade suddenly turns against them. When they have corn in the mill the wind does not blow. Perhaps they lose all but their character, and then it is that faith comes in to cheer them under the disaster. I am deeply grieved when I hear of persons committing suicide because they were in difficulties: it is a dreadful thing thus to rush before one’s Creator unbidden. Faith sustains the heart and puts aside all thought of such desperate attempts to fly from present griefs by plunging into far more awful woes. We shall bear up and come through our trials triumphantly if we have faith in God. If our heavenly Father has appointed a bitter cup for us shall we not drink it? If the fields which we have tilled yield no harvests, and the beasts that we have foddered die in the stall, shall we not bow the head and say, “The Lord hath done it”? Must it not be right if the Lord ordains it? Let us bless him still. If not, it will be our unbelief which hinders. How many have been happy in poverty, happier than they were in wealth! How often have the saints rejoiced more during sickness than in their health. Payson declared that during illness he felt happier than he had ever been, far happier than he had ever expected to be. Though bereavement has come into the family, and sickness unto the household, yet faith has learned to sing in all weathers because her God is still the same.”

Contentment with God will equip you for every situation

So, what is the secret of success in business? Self-help books, seminars, consulting firms, and focus groups offer a variety of answers to this question, but all of them boil down to some variation of having confidence in yourself, drawing from your “inner-strength,” and finding that secret formula or magic pill that will propel you to the pinacle of achievement and prosperity. The faith of a Christian offers a radically different answer, because it has a very different definition of success. Faith desires, above all personal fulfillment, the glory of God and the enjoyment of His presence. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the question: What is Man’s chief end? The answer is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If this is your definition of success, and this is the faith that captivates your heart, you will be equipped to face any situation with genuine peace and joy. Here is Spurgeon’s final word on the value of faith for everyday life: 

O brothers and sisters, faith is a precious preparative for anything and everything that comes; mind that you have it always ready for action. Do not leave it at home in time of storm as the foolish seaman left his anchor. It is not a grace to be shut up in a closet, or fastened to a communion table, or boxed up in a pew, but it is an everyday grace which is to be our companion in the shop and in the market, in the parlor and in the kitchen, in the workroom and in the field; ay, it may go into the workhouse with the poor, as well as into the mansion with the rich; it may either cheer the dreary hours of the infirmary, or sanctify the sunny weeks of holiday. Faith is for every place in which a good man may lawfully be found. ‘Should fate command you to the utmost verge of the green earth, to rivers unknown to song,’ yet shall a childlike faith in God find you a home in every clime, under every sky. Oh, to feel the power of it, as to all that comes of our labour, that the life which we live in the flesh may be lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.”




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