Those who have adopted a Biblical worldview should understand that work is not as the world defines it. We don’t work just to make money, though earning an income is one of the benefits of our work. We don’t do it just to achieve a more significant position in a company, though hard and diligent work may result in promotions. Many outcomes occur while we work, especially if we do a good job, but the purpose of work for the believer has a deeper and more significant meaning.
God’s Purpose for Work
I’ve had three different careers up to this point in my life. My first career was as an aircraft technician fixing airplanes, and my second was serving as a stewardship pastor teaching Biblical financial principles to our church congregation. The third, which I am currently engaged in, is teaching and training church and stewardship leaders on how to start and run healthy stewardship ministries in their church.
God gave me the desire and ability to fix stuff, and I am naturally drawn to identify problems and find solutions. When operating in this gift, I don’t lack the motivation to get things done. Sometimes though, my motivation and purpose get hijacked because I lose sight of what’s true and most important.
We’re all created by God to operate in ways that bring meaning and fulfillment to our lives. It is God’s gift to us. But, the extent of satisfaction, and more so the joy we experience when we operate in our gifting, is deeply tied to the Creator himself. No matter how good we are at what we do. No matter how much we achieve and how many awards we get, it will never satisfy us deeply unless it is tied to God’s work and His purpose. As true as that is, and as much as we try, it doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes miss the mark and go our own way.
A few years into my role as a stewardship pastor, I experienced what I can only describe as depression. I ran hard for several years building a ministry process and training a volunteer team to serve our growing church. When the expected outcome didn’t materialize, I took it personally. I took my complaint to God, and as only God can do, He made me see the truth. I had made the work and the outcome of the ministry about me.
Working for God
We get it wrong in Christianity when we think we’re doing things for God. Everything we’ve been taught about God and what we believe He wants from us shapes our view of work, especially ministry work. The proof is thinking that some work is secular and some sacred. We even idolize those in full-time vocational ministry as if they are somehow closer to God and more spiritual.
Truth be told, God doesn’t need us to get things done. If you doubt this, listen to God’s response to Job after he repeatedly questions God’s actions.
“Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone?”
— JOB 38:4-6 MSG
Everything created has been created by God, and He’s still behind everything being created today. There isn’t anything you and I can do for God. It is His creation, His purpose, and His work.
God gives us the opportunity to join him in his work. Yet, we must not be naive to think our part will make it better or more successful. In fact, I would argue that our contribution is disruptive and makes it more difficult for God to do what He wants to do.
Have you ever engaged in a task and your toddler wanted to “help?” Yeah! You know it’s going to take more time, you’ll have to redo some things, and overall it will be a big mess, which will require a lot of cleaning up! That’s what it’s like for God when we do things for Him.
After my conversation with God about the lack of ministry success I was experiencing, I repented. I didn’t start out trying to make it about me, but that’s what I did. As I reflected on all this, I asked myself this question, “How much of the work done these past years was “my work,” and how much was “God’s work?” It was sobering and convicting to think what might have been gained if I had done more of God’s work and less of mine.
The beauty of this experience is that God wasn’t mad at me, and he didn’t remove me from ministry or shame me for being so unspiritual. He revealed a better way, His way, which is powerful, effective, and rewarding, for the work being accomplished and for me.
God’s purpose for work is to relate and interact with us and make us more like him. It’s not that the work is not important; it’s that to Him we are more important. He is patient with us, like a Father with a toddler who wants to help, so that His work in us is done while He accomplishes His purposes in the world.
*Christian Stewardship Network: posted 2.21.2022.
Tomorrow is May 1st, a day recognized in differing way over the years. From the early celebrations around a Maypole and a new season coming, to recognizing workers today often in nations under the influence of Communism. In the 19th century, it took on a new meaning, as an International Workers’ Day grew out of the labor movement of that era for worker’s rights and an eight-hour workday in the United States.
Work is from God and it is worthy of being celebrated throughout the year.