Skillful at Work; Useful to God

My mother has not walked in over a year. She has been in a wheelchair, the victim of severe arthritis and a fall that broke her hip. The pain was so persistent and severe she could not sleep at night, and over the last week she told me three times she just wanted to die.

The orthopedic surgeon in Indiana told her there was nothing he could do for her. She would not walk again, and her pain would only get worse.

But on Tuesday, I watched her take her first steps in more than a year, and by Wednesday, the pain-inspired frowns and forced smiles she had worn for the past year had been replaced with a joyful smile, and the ebullient attitude of one who had begun to live again. This transformation happened because an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas was skilled enough to do what many other good orthopedic surgeons could not—perform hip replacement surgery on an 86 year old with a fused, severely arthritic hip.

Ezra returned with a group of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem under the imprimatur of Persian king, Artaxerxes, where God would use him to restore the Jewish religion in Judah. While Artaxerxes gave Ezra permission to lead, the Bible makes it clear the Lord was behind it and that He chose Ezra “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:9-10. In other words, the Lord chose to work through Ezra because Ezra had developed the skills necessary to make himself useful to God.

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Kingdom Lessons from The Saudi Golf League Controversy

If you don’t follow professional golf, you probably haven’t heard. There is a new professional golf tour being backed by the Saudis and the money they are offering the best players in the world to join is staggering. For example, it has been rumored the SGL has offered Bryson DeChambeau $240 million just to show up.

Reportedly, the top 100 professional golfers in the world have already been contacted by the SGL, and it looks like many will jump ship from America’s PGA Tour to join the SGL. What has been most interesting to me and most relevant to this blog is the criticism coming from Americans against those who are thinking of leaving the PGA Tour for the SGL.

The main criticism coming from Americans is that these professional golfers are making the decision to join the SGL purely for the money. “Are the millions they already make not enough?,” people ask. Although I suspect most people raising the criticism do so hypocritically (as most people make their own career choices and job changes based on money), their criticism is based on the money.

One of the fundamentals that applies to work in the kingdom of God is that Christians are called to do their work sincerely. Colossians 3:22. This means Christians should do their jobs primarily for the purpose for which that job exists in the kingdom of God. One should perform the job of a trial lawyer to ensure justice is done on the earth, a doctor to heal, and a pastor to pastor. Getting paid for such work is appropriate (Luke 10:7; I Tim. 5:18), but it is not the purpose for which we work.

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How to Pray about Work

Solomon has always been an intriguing character for me, if for no other reason than his famous prayer that was so pleasing to God.

You know the story. Solomon goes to Gibeon to sacrifice to the Lord. There, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” I Kings 3:4-5. Solomon had just become king, and instead of asking for the things all men hope and pray for–long life, wealth, fame–Solomon asks for the one thing that will help him most in performing his job well: wisdom in ruling. I Kings 3:7-9.

The Lord was so pleased with Solomon’s prayer for wisdom at work, He immediately answered it, and then he threw in riches and fame to go along with it. I KIngs 3:10-13. God was pleased because Solomon asked for that which was most important to being successful at his job. The Lord’s response highlights both the importance of our work and His willingness to help in completing it.

But it wasn’t just that Solomon asked for wisdom to do his job; It was pleasing to God that Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, and fame. These are things everyone wants, but our want for them often interferes with what the Lord wants for us.

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What Your Work Says About You

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1.

God’s work discloses something about Him. It is a revealing of who He is. Work is that way. It manifests for all to see, what would otherwise be hidden. It is true of the work of God, and it is true of our work. People can’t see into our soul, but they can see our work, and our work reveals our soul. It reveals whether we are careful or cavalier, thorough or thoughtless, excellent or expedient.

This is the reason termination consistently ranks as one of the most traumatic events one can suffer behind divorce, death of a loved one, and terminal disease. Our work is an extension of ourselves, and when we are terminated we instinctively know it is not just a rejection of our work but a rejection of who we are. We are our work.

Unfortunately, people often don’t think of this until they are terminated. They produce sloppy work, neither caring nor realizing they are revealing something very personal and often shamefully deficient about themselves. It is ironic that people who would never reveal personal medical information at work, are every day hanging out their inner dirty laundry for the world to see and don’t even realize it.

God’s work declares His glory. What does your work declare about you? GS

Calling vs. Kingdom in Finding Meaning in Work

Not every one gets to do the job they feel they are ultimately called to do. 

Even those who do, do not always do so all the time. This is one of the shortcomings of looking solely to one’s calling to find meaning in one’s work. 

Moses was a shepherd before he was a deliverer, Joseph a prison trustee before he was a ruler, and Nehemiah a cupbearer before he was a contractor. Yet no one would argue Moses was ultimately called to be a shepherd, nor Joseph a jailer, nor Nehemiah a cupbearer.

One of my summer jobs between my first and second year of law school was working for a telemarketing firm selling the New York Times. There was no uncertainty in my mind; I was not called to ultimately be a telemarketer. I wanted to be a lawyer. 

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