-Part I –
A few months ago I was speaking in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan—right at the Canadian border. In fact, from the platform on which I spoke, I could see across the bay to Canada. That’s how close it was. We had a wonderful weekend together, and that’s where I met Judge Laura. Laura is now a judge in a court that handles probate, family and drug cases. She told me how our ministry was particularly helpful to her as a young graduate of law school. Here’s her story in her own words:
When I first graduated from Law School I had a job working for a Prosecutor’s Office in a neighboring county as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. At that time most of my friends were married and had children. Most of them were home-schooling and so those were the topics that dominated all our conversations. Everything was about being a wife, homemaker, mother, about raising and home-schooling the children. I felt like the “odd man out” most of the time and was not sure where I fit in God’s big picture.
Then I discovered Mary’s radio program, “The Christian Working Woman.” I felt like that was MY radio program, just for me! It really helped me see that I did have a place in the body of Christ. It came on in the mornings so I would listen to it on my way to work. I especially loved the “Fran and Jesus in the Workplace” shows. They would speak to specific difficulties one might encounter and discuss how best to deal with them as a Christian.
I was the only female attorney in the office and needless to say encountered a lot of frustrating situations. I cannot tell you how many times I listened to the radio program on the way to work and then had a similar situation to deal with that day. Fran and Jesus got me through a lot of tough days!
I thank God for Mary Whelchel and her ministry. She helped me to mature in Christ and to embrace my role as a single working woman as my calling and my mission field. I am now a Judge and I can see God doing amazing things in people’s lives every day. I probably never would have had the courage to pursue such a position but for the wonderful foundation and encouragement that The Christian Working Woman built in my life so many years ago.
Judge Laura’s testimony is a perfect example of why I began this ministry in 1984. My passion was to see women—and men—like Laura go into the workplace with a calling from God, understanding that they were light and salt in a dark world, and seeing it as an opportunity to take the light of Jesus into that world.
What an incredible place for God to place a godly woman—as a judge in our legal system, where she can have immeasurable influence on so many lives. She told me how she is able to help many people who are hurting and troubled.
And Judge Laura’s testimony speaks to single women, too, doesn’t it? I’m sure there are many single women listening even now who can relate to her feelings of being the “odd man out,” as she put it. For whatever reason, you are not now married and you feel like the fifth wheel sometimes—and sadly sometimes even in our churches and Christian circles. Like Laura, you may not yet have figured out where you fit in God’s big picture.
Well, let me assure you that God has good plans for you, single or married, and you certainly don’t have to wait until you’re married to move into a wonderful, meaningful life of service. I’m a single woman, too, and I can assure you that your life can be full and rewarding because when you’re doing the good work God put you here to do, you are living that abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
And you know, I always remind my single friends that everyone will be single in heaven. The Bible tells us there will be no marrying in heaven, so you’ll be in the majority there!
Now, let me introduce you to my friend, Traci. Traci was a school teacher in a public school system when she first became acquainted with our ministry. Here is her story:
Fresh out of college and ready to conquer the world, I entered the working world with much hope and enthusiasm. But college had not taught me how to deal with people and I was blindsided by the lack of integrity and shocking behavior I experienced when I started working. Naïve, weak, intimidated, and negative, I found myself lost and rapidly dying in the workplace.
Thank God for understanding my needs and leading me to The Christian Working Woman. From Mary I received hope and learned that my real job was to shine and represent Jesus. I was taught that my job was my mission field and I was there for a reason until God moved me. I learned to see others through God’s eyes, how to respond in difficult situations, and do what God wanted no matter how difficult. Above all, I developed a more intimate relationship with God as I learned to go to Him in prayer and study His word. The lessons I learned from Mary stretched far beyond the working world and my life was changed. I truly thank God for Mary Whelchel and The Christian Working Woman for helping this woman not only survive, but thrive in the working world.
I have known Traci for many years now, and I can tell you that she has gone through some tough situations in her job as a teacher. And I think many of you can relate to her shock of finding her work environment—in her case, as a teacher—full of politics, unfairness, dishonesty and generally disappointing and depressing. This is why I have been passionate about challenging Christians in these kinds of workplaces to see the incredible opportunity they have to shine as lights in dark worlds.
We typically think of mission fields as someplace across the ocean, some third world country where the Gospel has not yet been preached. And missionaries are the people who go to these places with the good news of Jesus Christ. But we truly need a paradigm shift in our thinking, because mission fields are here in our backyards, so to speak. Have you not been surprised to discover how many people you rub shoulders with don’t know what the Gospel is—have had no introduction to the good news of redemption through Jesus Christ?
What Traci did in her position as a teacher was to first of all, see it as the place God has placed her—as her mission field. When you go to a job each day with that perspective, it truly changes everything. Whether it’s a pleasant environment or not, if you are convinced that God has a purpose for you in that place at this time, you get over the self-pity, the negativity, the complaining and griping, and you focus on pleasing God and being a good representative of Jesus Christ.
Every disciple of Jesus Christ is called to be a missionary—a person on a mission to let other people know who Jesus is. And when you go to a job each day, you are there on that mission field with the opportunity to be a light in that dark place.
Traci began to see her teaching job as more than just a teacher—as an ambassador for Christ—and she began to pray about the difficulties she was facing. I remember when there was a great deal of frustration with the person in charge and none of the teachers could get along with her. But Traci decided to go many extra miles and do everything she could to work with this person. It wasn’t easy; she had to swallow her words and no doubt her pride many times, but she won this person over. And I remember how her co-workers were amazed at her ability to get along with a very difficult person.
Traci lived the Gospel. Her life, her attitude, her actions spoke much louder than words, and her co-workers saw the light of Jesus in her. She did her job really well—she was and is an excellent teacher—and she refused to be a part of the negative, complaining, critical spirit that was prevalent.
This is how we take the Gospel to our workplaces. First and foremost by being the best employees and workers we can be. And then when we live our lives according to biblical principles, it causes others to notice the difference. Peter wrote:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12).
Then when our lives are glorifying God by our integrity, our hard work, our genuine care for others, and our positive attitudes, eventually it will generate questions. Again Peter wrote:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
This opens the door for a verbal witness and we have opportunities—sometimes very small—to simply tell our story of how Jesus has changed our lives. That’s basically the message I’ve been trying to deliver for these thirty years we’ve been on the radio.
Laura and Traci’s stories are testimonies of changed lives—changed by the power of Jesus Christ. I don’t know where you are today; maybe you’re struggling with some issues or you feel like you’ve missed the good life, or you haven’t yet found the place where you fit. I want to assure you that if you are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ, God has good plans for you. And he is not nearly so concerned with where you are as with who you are.
If like Laura and Traci, you are headed out to some job each workday, that job can become a holy place if you go there as an ambassador for Jesus Christ. There are countless ways you can live out the gospel even in the midst of a very ungodly, secular work environment. That’s what this ministry is all about for these many years—encouraging and equipping Christians to be missionaries on their jobs.