By Ken Costa
The idea that God might call us into the humdrum and daily grind of the workplace is a fairly novel one to many people. There’s often a perception among Christians that our callings should have a distinctly religious flavor. Being called to full-time pastoral ministry, or evangelism, or missionary work with a charity—that fits with what people expect. But when I say that I felt called to investment banking, people often raise an eyebrow or two!
The NBA superstar LeBron James once posted on social media, “I was born with a God given talent, but I PROMISE you when the bright lights go down I am grinding it out and working my tail off to get better.” God doesn’t just call us into the bright lights and moments of euphoria. He calls us to the daily toil of the workplace as well.
This view that God and grind don’t mix has led to many Christians suffering inferiority complexes regarding their vocations. I remember talking to one young student who dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but all around him his Christian friends were thinking about full-time Christian work. Despite his dreams, he couldn’t help but feel that he was letting God down by not doing the same.
How sad it is that someone with such a God-given passion would feel guilty about following it! As we pursue our callings, what matters is that we make Jesus’ name known in the world, that we live in light of the great story of God’s love and the great hope of the Christian faith.
The world tries to atomize society, but we are called to draw together the spiritual, ethical, and vocational aspects of life. Above all, we are to live as if these aspects of life were in fact one. In this way we become motivated and strengthened, not only to pursue our individual callings but to reach out to the hurting world around us; not only to pursue justice but to bring reconciliation to a divided world.
it is in the daily life of the workplace where we need to “practice the presence of God.” The workplace should be a continuation of our worship and love of God, not an interruption of God’s work from Sunday to Sunday. In perhaps the most famous verse in John’s gospel, we read that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But I often wish the next verse were as famous: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (v. 17).
Often we need reminders that work is good. It is an activity in which we can experience joy. It is not just a grim grind, a necessary evil, or a heavy-hearted means to pay the bills. From the beginning of Genesis, we learn that work is service. It is for the common good, and it retains this intrinsic value, albeit tarnished. God is interested in our work, he loves us for sticking at it, and he rewards us (although not necessarily financially) when it is done well. Work is the place chosen by Christ himself where we spend the majority of our time on earth.
Yet I have spoken to many people whose energy levels and desires to achieve a fixed purpose are frequently at odds with the often-boring nature of what the workplace offers. Quite a lot of work is humdrum, administrative, and tedious. How do we cope?
My advice is simple: strengthen the core and the chores will become bearable. At the core of each of us is an identity secure in Christ, which leads to an ongoing, unbroken relationship with him. Out of that relationship we are convicted, not once but daily, that we have the talent to fulfill our God-given callings. This is why and how we do what we do. Relationship is what holds us together.
So we need to develop an understanding of the rhythm of our work and begin to let God, through his Spirit, enable us to work well even when there appears to be little action around and the days lengthen with frustrating chores. Perseverance is part of life!
Christianity encourages us to be agents of change and, through the power of God, to restore this world to wholeness.
By Ken Costa