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In the workplace, can we fulfill the ultimate purpose God has for us? Read on to hear how those in the workplace are uniquely called to minister.
Hi there! My name is Olivia Howland, I just graduated from the University of Washington and am now in my seventh week working at Amazon in Seattle. Although I am fairly new to the working world, I feel like I have seen the difficulties and the payoff of what it looks like to bring God to the workplace with you.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'” – Matthew 9:36-38
I used to think that if I wasn’t going into vocational ministry then I wasn’t listening to God’s plan for my life. I remember thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t God want me to progress His kingdom through ministry? That must be His plan for my life!’ What I learned much later on, was that EVERY job, conversation, and encounter can be used to further His kingdom and IS a ministry. I learned that He needs laborers in every field and aspect of life to reach the people that others can’t.
Someone that works at Starbucks reaches and interacts with a different group of people than someone working in a research lab.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Everything we do, every email we send at work, the lunch date we can set up with a co-worker, or our work ethic can be used for His glory. By working alongside people who don’t yet know the Lord can be extremely rewarding, yet difficult.
Because we have Jesus in our hearts I believe that our reaction to things that go on around us is naturally different. When something at work goes well, my mind goes to thanking and praising God for the job that He has given me, the confidence I have when approaching my work, and allowing me to be successful in my job. Instead of relying on my own strength, I rely on His.
However, when things go wrong or not how we intended, with God, it is so much easier to ask what can be learned from a mistake and how not to let the stress of work get to me. I try to remember that ultimately my manager isn’t in charge, but my Heavenly Father. There is no doubt in my mind that people around us see the difference in how I handle successes and failures. In a world where people want to praise good works yet crumble under pressure and stress, we have a God that is so good that we can give Him the credit, and an eternal perspective alleviates the stress. I always want to have a heart posture that points to giving Him all the glory.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve had little success with this next section in my seven weeks thus far. It’s something that has been consistently on my prayer list. I’ve tried everything from wearing a cross necklace, having Christian-like stickers on my water bottle, etc. While none of these things have led to a God-centered conversation, I’ve tried to think about what Jesus would do and how He would interact if He were on my team.
The first thing that strikes me about Jesus’ character is that He has compassion for the people because he sees them for who they are.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.” – Matthew 9:36
In the workplace, I strive to see people in their season of life. I try to get to know their character and personality, which ultimately leads to growing empathy towards them. After observing my co-workers, I can then see their strengths, their weaknesses, places where they might want help, and I can also see them as children of God. After observing my manager one day and seeing how stressful his job was and how hard he worked, I started to thank him for the insight he gave me and for taking time out of his schedule to make me feel comfortable in my new role. Instead of being overwhelmed with starting my position, at that moment I was overwhelmed with compassion for my boss. I believe that Jesus wants us to have this approach that he so beautifully displays.
The next thing that I’ve observed in the Gospel is that Jesus is the ultimate question asker. Time and time again, He asks people about their lives, asks them to think about situations, and is curious about the individual.
Did Jesus know the answers to the questions he was asking? Of course, but he was curious and showed interest in everyone that came across his path without exception. He was bold to ask tough questions and was able to get people to think about their answers for themselves.
I’ve started to ask questions like “How was your weekend”, “How did you end up at Amazon”, and “What gives you life outside of work?”. These are questions that show interest outside of our daily conversations at work. When we show interest in others there is a sense of importance they feel, as well as a trust and relationship that builds with each interaction.
I know that I need to grow in my confidence with the Lord to be bold that He will give me the words to speak when I have none in the moment.
“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” – Luke 12:12
“And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.” – Genesis 2:2-3
The last way you can walk out your faith at work is resting! What!? Rest at work??
God created rest to be able to recharge and do our work well. He saw the importance in rest and wanted us to do the same by setting a perfect example from the beginning. While resting on the Sabbath is what this verse is referring to I believe it is possible to also rest while at work.
Devo at the Desk
Starting my day with a devotional at my desk has been a tangible way of inviting God into my workplace. Before I log in to my computer, answer any emails or pick up a phone, I go to Him to set the intention of my day. I have the devotional The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller and read one page to get in the right mindset and REST in His presence. It gives me a new perspective and peace for the busy day ahead and is also a great conversation starter for people wondering what the random book on my desk is!
Take Your Lunch!
As I look around at coworkers I notice that there are many people who either eat their lunch at their desks or work straight through lunch. I believe that this is time to re-energize and have the same energy for my afternoon that I started my day with. God doesn’t want us to be burnt out! One way I combat this is by walking around, getting some fresh air, and taking my mind off work. There will always be work, so it’s healthy to make boundaries for yourself and know when to stop.
Here are some ways we can think about walking out our faith at work!
Thank you for giving each and every one of us a calling, skills, and talents to be able to work. We praise You for giving us confidence, for You having it all together when we don’t, and for showing us that You are with us in all circumstances. Teach us what it looks like to work hard for You and not for our managers, our coworkers, or even ourselves and reputation. Show us what it looks like to be laborers in the harvest and place of work that You have so carefully called each of us into. Thank You for being the perfect example of work and rest and for allowing us to experience peace instead of continual striving. Lord, be with us in each of our fields of work and show us each day what your full kingdom looks like by appreciating our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and their individual career paths You have called them to.
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