How to Redeem Your Job
One of the most common frustrations I hear from people is frustration with their work. Living in a post-Genesis 3 world, work has a tendency to become toilsome. So, how can you redeem your work, whether you are a custodian, a middle-manager, a housewife, or a teacher?
Ezra and Nehemiah were, until 400 AD, one book. If Ezra is the righteous priest whose heart is broken over the destruction of God’s temple, Nehemiah is a great example of the righteous person employed in the secular market whose heart is broken over the destruction of God’s city.
Here are a seven lessons we can learn from Nehemiah about redeeming our work in the secular marketplace:
- See your workplace with God’s eyes and through God’s heart. (1:3-4)
For many of us there is a disconnect between the sacred and the secular. We have our work life and our church life. Nehemiah looked at the condition of the city (he was a government worker) and wept, fasted and prayed that God would rebuild it for His glory. When you enter your workplace, do you see it as a place that God desires to redeem for His glory and their joy?
- Work for a good testimony with your bosses and co-workers. (2:1-6)
Nehemiah’s opportunity arises because King Artaxerxes notices that Nehemiah was upset. Imagine if Nehemiah had often entered into his place of work (in the king’s presence) out of sorts. There would have been no opportunity. It is safe to conclude from the king’s ability to perceive that something was wrong with Nehemiah, though it is obvious that there was not a close bond between them, that Nehemiah approached his daily work with a good attitude and work ethic. When Nehemiah’s request is made known, the king’s response is, one can reasonably assume, based on his trust in Nehemiah. A good testimony at work is earned over a long period of time and can be quickly lost. Strive to be the best employee your boss has. Have a good attitude. Work hard at what you do. If you do these things, your unbelieving bosses, co-workers, neighbors, and family members will trust your word and be more open to consider your God.
- Be bold. (2:4-8)
Nehemiah has an exceedingly bold request. Dream God-sized plans for your workplace. If your plan is something you can do apart from God, it is probably not God’s plan!
- Wisely connect God’s plan to your context. (2:12-15)
God’s plan for redeeming your workplace always points us to His desire to redeem the lost and make them His sons. That’s the view from 10,000 feet. But God put you in your place of employment to connect His plan to your context. That doesn’t mean it is all up to you, but it does mean that you prayerfully consider the practical and spiritual lay of the land and ask Him to give you a specific vision for your context. What is the spiritual landscape? Where is the emotional and physical damage? What are the felt needs?
- Communicate how God’s Word meets their felt need. (2:17)
Nehemiah appeals to the people’s desire to no longer be the object of their neighbors’ jokes. Like it or not, the people we encounter at our workplace are not often going to be ready to see things from God’s perspective. We must show them how God’s will leads to their joy. Don’t short-circuit the message, however. Every felt need points to their greatest need — their sinful condition and need for a Savior. Be ready to move them along to help them see this.
- Trust God to overcome the opposition you will encounter. (2:19-20)
There will always be a Sanballat and Tobiah. Don’t let them frighten you away or mock you into submission and silence. Though they may outnumber you, you serve the God of the Universe and His will is never overcome. When opposition comes, know that God is fighting with you, sustaining you, and causing you to prosper.
- Wisely allocate your resources to prepare for opposition. (4:16-20)
Trusting God in our opposition does not mean that we do not need to wisely consider how to use the resources God has given us. When God gives us a vision, many fail to allocate their resources of time, energy, and rest, and, when opposition comes, their spirit may be willing, but their flesh is weak. Are you convinced that God can accomplish His will in your workplace with or without you? Or do you think God will be thwarted if you withdraw for periods of spiritual, emotional or physical rest? Even though Nehemiah knew that God was on his side, he still had the people work with a weapon in one hand. This slowed the work, but provided for the people’s needs in the face of opposition.
God desires to redeem your work and your workplace. May we all be like Nehemiah in the mission fields He has given us.