By Michael Kelley, Crosswalk.com
Work is a big part of life.
There’s a mighty good chance that you are working today. True enough, you might or might not be getting paid by someone else to do that work. Your work might be in an office complex or in a field. It might be for a corporation or a startup. It might be at an entry-level position or in a managerial role. But you are probably working.
Thing is, work – like everything else in life – is an opportunity for discipleship. God is not a waster of experiences. He uses the regular, ordinary circumstances in the life of a Christian to shape His will into the heart and soul of that Christian. So of course, it makes sense, that work is not just an opportunity to make money, to bring something of value to the world, or to occupy your time – work, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, is actually an opportunity to grow in Christ.
How might that happen? There are a lot of ways, but one I’d like to highlight today is that the manner in which we work can actually reveal some important things to us about our hearts. Our attitude, our thoughts, our working disposition – these are signposts that point us to soul-level realities. Through our manner of work, the state of our hearts is made more clear. Here, then are four things our work exposes about our hearts:
1. Work reveals where you have secured your identity.
What is your identity? I’m sure a psychologist would have a better definition, but to me, your identity is your core sense of self. It’s where you find your validation and sense of purpose. It’s who you truly are.
What does work have to do with this? Well, work can often become a substitute for our core sense of self. We can begin to define ourselves by our position, our title, our responsibilities rather than defining ourselves primarily as children of God. Our work brings this to light. It shows us whether we have drifted in that core identity from being defined by Jesus.
2. Work reveals where you have placed your trust.
There are two extremes along the spectrum of our work. On one side, there is laziness, in which we think our work doesn’t really matter at all. The other side of the spectrum is the inability to stop. To shut down. To put down the phone or close the computer. To have the constant compulsion that rest is a waste of time when there is always something else that must be done. The center of that side of the spectrum is not some kind of personality trait that needs to be corrected – it’s trust.
Our ability to rest, if we are not practicing laziness and irresponsibility, springs from the well of trust. We trust that God is in control. That He is the ultimate provider. That we can sleep well because we know that He never does. Here again is where we see the revealing power of work – it shows us where we have placed our trust.
3. Work reveals where you have sourced your joy.
I wonder – how deeply does the workday affect you? Does your family wait with a sense of trepidation to see what mood you will be in when you get home? Does your level of joy rise and fall with the profit and loss statement, or the acquisition of new opportunities?
Work has an amazing way of revealing where we find our lasting joy. Our true joy and satisfaction must be rooted in something that doesn’t change – it must be firmly planted on the rock of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean you’re never in a bad mood; never discouraged; never weary of doing your work. It does mean, though, that we have an unshakable hope in the providential love of God in Christ.
4. Work reveals your vision of the future.
Once upon a time, I had a hazy picture of heaven in my mind. That we would all float around in an ethereal state – almost like a dream. But I don’t think that way anymore.
I think that there will be work in heaven. Why is that? Well, one reason is that God is a worker, and we are made in His image. The first chapters of Genesis are a picture of God creating and positioning His children and then immediately giving them a job. Just as God had been busy working, so would the man, created in God’s image, have work ingrained in his DNA. We will work again, though this time we will work in the way we were meant to.
Not for profit. Not for our joy. Not to validate ourselves. But in a celebration of the goodness of God.
The way we work now reveals whether we see this truth about the lasting value of work. It shows whether we are only working for an end, or whether we are working because we were created to do so – to bring something of value as God’s means of common grace to the world.
As you work today, friends, give it some thought. You’re not just making widgets. Your work can actually show you something about the state of your heart.
Michael Kelley is the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, TN. He and his wife Jana have three children. You can follow him on Twitter (@MichaelKelley)