No matter what you do on your job each day, you have developed skills and abilities through that job that are valuable. I have a friend who is teaching communication skills in a very different cross-cultural place overseas. As she was telling me what she does and how she has learned to communicate in this challenging setting, I told her that the skills she is learning and her experience in this job, though difficult at times, are giving her skills and abilities that are rare and very valuable. She’s learning “on the job” as we say, and that knowledge and skill is making her a much more valuable employee.
Certainly that’s been true in my life, as well, as I spent many years conducting training seminars in my company and for many other companies across the country. That experience of putting together and making an effective presentation is a skill that God was teaching me through my job—and one he now uses for ministry purposes.
But what I want to talk about is not the performance skills and experience you gain through your employment, as helpful as they are, but the many other life skills and relationship skills you are learning, even though while you’re in the midst of it, it may seem more like baptism by fire rather than a training experience. Here are some examples of the practical and important things you should be learning in a job, if indeed you’re doing a good job. You learn
- The importance of being on time
- The importance of meeting deadlines
- How to work with a team to accomplish a task
- How critical it is to fulfill your promises and commitments
- That it’s very important to do everything with excellence, and avoid do-overs
- That procrastination is deadly
- That you can’t afford to let things fall between the cracks
Those are just some of the practical things you learn when you accept the responsibility of a job. For sure a job well-done will require these kinds of skills. And if you aren’t willing to learn these things, it will affect your progress, your promotions, your paycheck—it will hold you back.
So, I would ask you to survey your work habits in these areas. Are you learning these things, or are you resisting them? I’ve often said that a Christ-follower may not be the smartest or the most educated or the most experienced person on their job, but they can be the most dependable, the hardest worker, and have the highest level of integrity. No matter what you do or where God takes you, these characteristics will always be important to your success, to pleasing God.
Now, let’s think of some other things God wants to teach you through your job. I think toward the top of that list would be learning to love people you may not like that much! Your coworkers are not necessarily people you would choose to be with five days a week, eight hours a day. No doubt you have discovered that not everyone is “your type,” and so you are challenged to get along with people that are not that easy to get along with.
In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Bible teaches us the true definition of love. It is patient, it is kind, it looks for the good in people, not the bad, it doesn’t hold grudges, it hangs in with someone when others have given up, it endures all things. God’s love is an action, not necessarily a feeling, and you can choose to love someone by showing them these kinds of actions, even if you don’t like the way they behave, the way they treat you, their work habits, or their lifestyle. Almost any job you have—and that includes working in a Christian environment—places you in the company of other people, and you have the privilege, the great opportunity, to learn to love people with God’s kind of love. That means you become more and more like Jesus, as you follow his commandment to “love one another.”
Of course, you also have the option of refusing to learn this lesson, and instead just being continually irritated and negative about the people you work with or for. You can choose to gripe and complain and blame others for your bad attitude. But all that gets you are bitter roots growing in your heart, which will cause you great pain and affect those around you, as well. But if you can see what God wants to teach you through working with difficult people, you then can turn a desert into a garden and use that tough place as your training grounds, your boot camp, to teach you this incredibly useful and critical ability to love and get along with people you don’t really like that much.
Another thing you can learn through your job is how to cast all your care on Jesus because he cares for you. Instead of taking those problems home with you everyday and dumping on your family or friends, you can learn to trust God to work all things out for your good and leave those cares and concerns in his care, so that you can spend a carefree evening with your loved ones. Do you realize how absolutely important it is to learn to draw boundaries in your thought life? To not allow yourself to think about things over which you have no control? To cast all your care on Jesus regularly—everyday—so that the joy of the Lord can be your strength? That’s an eternally important thing you can learn through your job.
In Mark 9:35, Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” When you were young, did you ever tell anyone that you wanted to be a servant when you grew up? I doubt it. A servant is not usually on a short or long list of things we’d like to be. Yet, Jesus made it clear that his disciples, people who follow him as Lord and Savior, must learn to be a servant to all. And what better place to learn that lesson than on your job each day!
The way we serve God is by serving others, and developing a servant heart and attitude takes practice. You have to be intentional about it; you have to be humble and do it out of love for Jesus, not to get recognition. So, think of ways you could serve your coworkers, your management, your employees. It’s not too hard to be a servant on Sundays to the people who worship with you at your church. But choosing to go the extra mile and help someone get their job done (even though you think they could have done it themselves if they hadn’t wasted time talking on the phone!), help someone learn a new skill, stay late to give a helping hand to your boss, doing things for which you may get no credit or recognition—these are everyday ways you will encounter on your job that can teach you the joy of being a servant. And that means you’re growing more like Jesus.
You remember when Jesus gave his disciples a vivid example of being a servant. At that last supper he took a towel and a basin of water, and insisted on washing the feet of all the disciples. Then he said to them: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). I doubt there will ever be a need for you to literally wash the feet of your coworkers, but there are many other things you can do that show you are willing to be their servant.
Here’s another thing God can teach you on your job—how to get along with all kinds of people, even those with whom you may have some strong disagreements. One friend told me of the struggle she had on her job in dealing with coworkers who really needed to know Jesus, coming from different religious backgrounds and very different beliefs. She said that through the years she was not—in her words—“very nice to my unbelieving coworkers.” Their discussions would often end with not so pleasant words of condemnation. She said, “I have not been quiet about it when I think they’re wrong.” When a new coworker joined their company who was very lovely and bright and energetic, she liked her a lot, and then she discovered that she was in an unbiblical lifestyle. She said, “I think the Lord has given me another chance here.”
She is learning on her job how to love the “lost sheep”—people who don’t know Jesus—and how to communicate with them in loving ways—not in harsh, condemning ways. That’s a lesson we all need, isn’t it, but you can never learn that lesson if you never interact or work with unbelievers. In most situations your job puts you right in the middle of many people who do not share your faith, do not know Jesus, even people who may think your commitment to Christ is fanatical. How do you build friends and share the love of Jesus with people like that? You can learn that truly valuable skill—that Christ-like attitude—right there on your job.
Can you see how God is teaching you many valuable lessons through your job? You learn critical lessons about relationships—cooperation, fairness, flexibility, humility, patience—all fruits of God’s Spirit that help you to shine as a light in a dark place. You learn to forgive people who may never ask you to forgive them—who don’t even recognize or care that they have hurt you. You learn to persevere, to hang in there even when you think you can’t hang in any longer.
We read in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” That is the path all Christ-followers are on—growing mature and complete, and perseverance helps us get there. Maybe your job is very frustrating right now and you’re thinking of leaving. Could it be that you don’t need a different job, you just need a different attitude toward the job you have?
You can grow spiritually right there where you work. Sometimes we think that our spiritual growth only comes through Bible studies, church attendance, prayer—and they all are important in our lives. But you can grow much faster and in so many diverse ways if you go to your job each day and see it not only as a mission field, but as a classroom. So instead of dreading your job, or waiting for retirement, or complaining about all the stuff you have to deal with, can you instead ask God for an attitude change? He can do what you can’t do; he can give you a new outlook, a new reason to go to work each day—an eternally important reason, and that is to learn what God wants to teach you through that job, and become more and more like Jesus.