This week I read the most practical and probably the most widely applicable Christian book. Life@Work is all about learning how to take your faith into your workplace, trying to balance your Christian Self and your Amazing-at-your-job Self, and seeing what it’s like to see your two selfs aligned. I wasn’t blown away after closing the book, but it did open my eyes to a few important things and has earned its stripes as being one of those books that gets a good once over from time-to-time.
Here’s what I learnt
1)People of faith must learn to be, comfortable, valuable, and intentional in two worlds: kingdom and commercial
This thought should always be roaming around somewhere in the back of your head. For me I think the hardest of those to master is being comfortable in both work and faith. As someone who’s blessed with having a truckload of Christian friends, I’m used to hearing people are sick, and immediately beginning to pray for them , randomly singing praise and worship songs on my travels, and expressing just how good God has been that week. Work is a whole different kettle of fish as we’re constantly wearing our ‘I don’t want to offend you’ hats, that every-so-often we exchange for our ‘I don’t want you to think I’m crazy’ jumpers. Being a Christian isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and so it’s not an aspect of you that has to be hung up with your coat when you get to work until you’re ready to leave. I think the trick is praying for opportunities to stand out because of your faith rather than fit in, in spite of it.
2)If God is our only priority, in living trying to commit to that priority, we have to integrate God into everything we do
Most people, including I, would admit having a list that goes, God, then a long list of other things, before we get to work. Naturally we feel like we have to allocate time and passion in the respective order that things on the list come in, and so we leave little space for work to bring us any kind of pleasure, but this is where we’ve been going wrong. If you scratch everything off the list after God, it stops being about ‘being a good friend’ in isolation, and becomes ‘showing friends the love of God that I feel every day.’ This works with work lives. You are a Christian first, and that includes before being an employee. Instead of aiming to simply excel at your job, aim to be a Christian, walking in excellence at your workplace
3) A work life that is guided by a sense of God’s calling is known for it’s skill, has above reproach character, and consistently seeks to serve others
This is a nutshell sums up the book, and becomes a mantra for our lives at work. Calling, skill, character, service=Christian co-worker.
4) Scripture challenges Christians to raise the bar in their work, not lower the curve
It is a bit sad that Christians are only known for being nice people and not for being amazing at their jobs. Maybe because we feel fulfilled in Christ, we don’t feel the need to excel at work for fulfilment, but it is our relationship with Christ that should motivate us to excel. Not using the talents that God has given you to their full capacity is a disservice. We’re so used to not wanting to be too much that we’ve settled for this fruitless middle ground where we don’t shine because of the abilities we have. Newsflash: Christianity doesn’t mean mediocrity!
5) By aligning our will with the excellency of God’s will, our skills become moral channels for enjoying God by imitating his excellence of character
Reading this gave me goosbumps I’ll admit. John is telling us that our skills become channels for imitating the excellence of God’s character. What an opportunity! Alas, this is why it is so important align our will with the excellency of God’s will. Aiming high won’t seem like meaningless striving for success when we know that we’re following the heart of our father.
6) Just as skill is important to God, God is vitally important to skill
We cant’t exclude one from the other. I have such a tendency to RUN with the vision but I’m running into dangerous territory if I start heading out in front of God. Sometimes we get so great at something that we forget that we need God to do everything. This is when we start thinking our skill is due to our hard work so we stop seeking God for his perfection. God gave you every skill you have and everything he gives he can take away. That skill is for a purpose so stop trying to exclude God from its usage
7) Good character keeps good company
I don’t think we can be reminded of this enough. It takes time to cultivate the character that we want to have in Christ and it’s not going to be beneficial to surround yourself with the people that are acting in antagonistic ways to the character you’re trying to cultivate. For me it’s so much easier to study in a library simply because when I’m distracted, or tired, I look up and everyone around me is deep in concentration. Surround yourselves with the people whose character will spur you on, not become a hindrance
8) Calling is nothing less than an invitation by God to use our work to move the world.
Our callings may not be in ministry but that doesn’t make them less important. Your calling is unique to you so why not play your part. God doesn’t do things in half measures, and so the call that’s on your life will never be insignificant, whether or not you’re going to hold the mic. People go to watch a play and all they see is the actors, but without the writer, director, and technicians there would be no performance. Don’t be deluded into thinking that the people in the limelight have the most important task, let’s purpose to each complete the task that has been set in front of us
9) With calling comes great relief
We can spend so much time running around, from career advisor to bible seminars, trying to figure out what we’re meant to do, so once you’ve discovered your calling it’s time to exhale. One thing I think is important to note is that your place of employment might not be your divine calling, but remember that you are called to be christlike in everything you do. That means work is no less important than the evangelism you’re doing on the weekends, and should be faced with the same zeal.
10) When I am the constant centre of my universe, my work will always shrink down to boring, empty stillness
Its not about you. The sun doesn’t revolve around you, and you aren’t on this Earth to live a life making yourself happy. Service is a very real and very important part of our journeys. You don’t reach a point where you get promoted out of serving others, because true happiness lies in management. When you start seeing the bigger picture, the one that has God at the centre, the part you have to play in it will stop being boring and you’ll start feeling fulfilled
11) Whoever wants to be first must become a servant, whoever wants to be first must become a slave among you
This is taken from scripture, and is a constant reminder about the importance of serving. Christ came to serve and wasn’t above washing feet. Hand in hand with dreaming of new heights comes planning what you will do for someone else.
12) Sentiments mean nothing without deeds that do something about it
We’re all familiar with actions speak louder than words so why do we continue to only wish people well in our hearts . Not to say that prayers cannot fill hungry bellies, just pointing out that popping into the supermarket across the road and buying lunch for the homeless man outside will probably mean more to him than the sympathy you feel as you pass him. What can you do to change the things you don’t like to see?
I recommend purchasing this book if the Christian-at-work ‘thing’ has been a struggle for you. Work is something we all have to go to, lets stop trudging and start going with a skip in our steps
Love Dani xxxxxx