Monday, January 30, 2012

Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled

John 14:1; John 16:33

I talked with someone last week who was very nervous about today. She starts a new job this morning. While that's very exciting, there's also some anxiety that's a natural part of that change. There are new people to meet and hope that personalities click. There are tasks to learn and hope that you can do them well.

In John 13-17, Jesus is giving a charge to His disciples. These messages may not have been given that the same time (i.e., Jn 14:31 where Jesus says let's leave but then keeps talking), but they have the same message and context. Jesus is about to be crucified and He wants to give His followers some last minute encouragement. They are about to have a lot to be nervous about.

I want to draw you attention to something He says early in these chapters and two things He says later.

First, in 14:1, Jesus says "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me." Immediately after that, He explains the big picture--I'm coming back for you.

Second, in 16:33, which is the end of His speech to the disciples, He says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Not "I'm going to make everything rosy for you." In fact, Jesus says, you will have troubles. But again, back to the big picture--I'm coming back for you.

Finally, in chapter 17, Jesus prays for Himself, for the disciples with Him, and for all believers. He covers the situation in prayer.

As you're facing situations that make you nervous, uncertain, or anxious, remember this. Trust in God. You'll have troubles, but Jesus has overcome everything around you. Cover the situation in prayer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When Bad Things Happen

John 9

I heard a sermon a couple of weeks ago that really hit home. When bad things happen to you at work, how do you respond? Think about that for a minute. It could be someone else getting an account that you had wanted. You might be passed up for promotion or even lose your job. For me, it's usually a bad class or some of my research being rejected. A common response to bad things that happen to us at work is to ask "why". "God, why is this happening to me?"

That's probably exactly what Jesus' disciples thought when they asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind" in John 9:2. They saw that something terrible had happened to this man, and they wanted to know why. But look at the next verse. Jesus tells them that they are asking the wrong question--"this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

"Why" or "why not" isn't the right question. Instead, we should be asking "how can God be glorified through this" or "what can God reveal through this."

From time to time, you hear a celebrity or professional athlete praise God for their success. That's great, and I'm glad they recognize that their gifts come from him. But how do those people respond to adversity? When bad things happen in their careers, can they still give honor to God? A great example of that is Colt McCoy's speech after the 2010 BCS title game. McCoy said that he knew in anything, that God is in control. Incidentally, God used that moment to give McCoy a national audience to share His faith, encouraging people to seek Jesus.

What about you? Think about the last bad time or negative experience at work. How did you respond? Did you search for answers, questioning why this was happening to you? Or did you look for how God was revealing Himself and how this situation might work for His glory?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Temptations Because of Motivations

Look at Jesus' first temptation (Matthew 4:3-4). "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." What's wrong with Jesus telling the stones to become bread? Nothing. God provided water for the Israelites through a stone--why would providing Himself bread from stones be a problem. There was nothing inherently wrong with turning the stones into bread. The issue would be the motivation. Depending on what translation you read, Satan was either tempting Jesus to prove that He was God's Son or suggesting that Jesus use His power to meet His needs rather than relying on the Father's sovereignty. It was wrong to turn the stones to bread because of who was telling Him to do it.

Think about your job. There are lots of things that you could do in your job that are morally neutral. But despite that neutrality, how you approach those situations still matters. Take this account or don't take it? Say this to my supervisor or not? Accept a new position or don't accept it? In cases where there is not a clear answer, are you choosing one path for self-serving reasons or other-serving reasons? Remember, Joseph got promoted from prisoner to captain of the prison to second-in-command of the most powerful country in the world, so God is not against success at work. But Joseph pursued God through all of those promotions.

What decisions are you making at work? Could be big ones, could be small ones. It could be that all of the options in a decision are good options. The question then becomes one of motivation. Whose voice are you following? Are you pursuing self-serving motivations or other-serving motivations?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Changes to This Blog

So after a bit of realistic reflection, I'm making a change to the number of posts per week. Looking at the upcoming semester, I'm teaching more students in more courses than I have in several years and I have a number of research projects that I need to give significant attention to. For the next several weeks, I wouldn't be able to post three times a week. After thinking about it, I've decided that it's probably better to shift to one post a week, at least for now. One reason is that I want to be sensitive to getting my work done. I've posted before about fulfilling work obligations. I need to be focused on work during work time. And I need to spend family time focusing on family. A second reason is that I see the content slipping a little bit. My original purpose was to catalog what the Bible says about work. Having finished that, I've been going back and thinking more about how general passages related to our workplaces. That's fine, but keeping up with the pace has forced me to publish some posts that probably needed to be better thought out.

So, this will be the last non-Monday post, at least for a little while. An exception to that might be if anyone wants to submit a guest post. Let me know if you're interested.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Peace, Perfect Peace

A couple of Sundays ago, the church that I attend sang the hymn "Peace, Perfect Peace." As we sang, I couldn't help but think about this blog, particularly during the second and last verses. Think about this during your work week:

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
and Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace.

Googling the name of the song brings up several versions that you can listen to. Do that this morning and start your day thinking about the peace of Jesus. What was true in 1875 when this song was written is true today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Grace, Again

Romans 5:6-8

It's easy to think about things we should be doing better this time of year. That's what New Year's resolutions are all about. On Wednesday, I suggested that you make commitments for how you're going to better honor God at work in 2012.

You're not going to follow-through on those commitments perfectly this year. I hope that you follow through more than the average resolution, but the fact is that you're not going to be perfect when it comes to living out your faith at work. You'll be fine until a coworker does something annoying, and you'll respond with unloving sarcasm. Or you might make it through that but there's that expense account, and it's almost expected that you pad the numbers a bit. Or that might not be an issue, but it's too tempting to join in the boss-bashing around the water cooler. We all know that there are times when we mess up.

That's why I like Romans 5. Paul says that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Beautiful!

Don't think of those commitments as a tight rope that you have to walk without falling. Make the commitments and don't use grace as an excuse to slack off. But know that Jesus gave everything for you so you wouldn't have to live in fear.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking Stock of Where Things Are

The beginning of a new year is a time like no other time. It's the point at which past and future meet. What I mean by that is that the beginning of a new year is one of the best chances we have to reflect on what we've done and think about where we want to be. That's why this is everyone's favorite time of year to make resolutions.

How were you at living out your faith at work? I did better last year than I've ever done before. But I still fell short a number of times. What about you? Take 10 minutes to write down a few ways your faith shaped how you worked last year. Then take 10 more minutes to write down a three ways you can better glorify God at work in 2012.

One last thing--don't think of these as resolutions (which usually get broken by February). Think of these as commitments to honoring God through everything you do.