Rooted to thrive at work
These are notes brought from our teaching in our series 'Rooted to Thrive' on Sunday 26th July, during our online service. The service can be watched here on our Vimeo page, or here on our Facebook page.
The Christian life is not just a Sunday event of ‘going to church’, or logging on to a streaming service – when Jesus came and said that he had come that we might have life to the full, he meant that we might enjoy fullness of life, in every aspect of life – not to say that we will not suffer, we will not have hard times, that life won’t sometimes throw us curveballs, but his intention is that we thrive in the midst of it – we know fulness of life as we are deeply rooted in him in every aspect of our lives.
Read of the life of the apostle Paul in the New Testament and he had a rough ride in life – and yet he knew life to the full, he knew what it was to thrive, even in the midst of the worst of situations – persecution, imprisonment, shipwrecks and so on.
As you are rooted in Christ, God wants you to thrive in every area of your life. When you look at scripture it touches on virtually every area of life – it may not have written rules for every possible thing in life, but it has strong guidance for how we can be so rooted in our relationship with God, that by his Spirit, and his life flowing through us, he can enable us to thrive, even when curveballs come our way.
When, as a leadership, we spent a day with God together in February, we had this strong sense of God’s call and direction in terms of his calling us as a people, as a church, to be a body where we enable people to thrive by being firmly rooted in Christ, going deep into him, in every aspect of life – and we listed down a long list of areas that were stirred in our hearts.
We felt it was right in our teaching that we should make the focus at the start what it means for us personally to be rooted into Christ, what it means for us to be rooted firmly into Christ as a church, a body of his people – along the way, we’ve seen how to live in this place we need to be a people who both listen to and hear from God, so we know his direction personally and corporately, how we need to be rooted to thrive in the Spirit – and at how God calls all people, of all backgrounds to be united as one body so that we can thrive together.
As we start to see lockdown reduced, and as people begin to return, at varying levels, to life as normal, it feels right that we begin to explore some of the wider areas of life where God wants us to thrive – and as over recent weeks many have started to return to work and to physical work spaces, it felt like the right time to address the theme of ‘Rooted to Thrive at work’.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought of this, but God wants you to thrive in your workplace. He wants you to bring Kingdom values to your workplace – wherever it is.
Right from the start of creation, God having worked in creation commissioned human beings to work! We were:
Made to work
READ Genesis 1: 28-30
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
29 Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
Human beings, right from the start were given the responsibility of hard work – subdue the earth – and of governance – rule over.
The NET Bible helpfully puts a footnote translation
‘Harness its potential and use its resources for your benefit’ and then in commentary says
‘In an ancient Israelite context this would suggest cultivating its fields, mining its mineral riches, using its trees for construction, and domesticating its animals…. They together, the human race collectively, have the responsibility of seeing to the welfare of that which is put under them and the privilege of using it for their benefit.’
That is the substance of work – working for the welfare of others and working for benefit – and right from the start there were different dimensions to work – subdue – hard physical & rule – governance, management.
Sometimes I have heard people say, ‘What sort of work should I do as a Christian?’
Well, the Bible doesn’t tell us we should do a particular sort of work, it just calls us to work in a way where we recognise our responsibility to work well, to work for the welfare of whatever we are responsible for, and to bring blessing and benefit from it.
Sin sadly makes work harder than it’s supposed to be. When Adam and Eve sinned, by being disobedient to God in eating the one thing he had asked them not to, God said to Adam, Genesis 3:17-19:
‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.’
Sin still makes work harder. When people say or do things to one another which pull them down, it makes work harder.
When people are dishonest in their work, taking short cuts, rather than doing the job well; when they help themselves to product that is not theirs to take, or deliberately steal, diverting funds or product away from where its supposed to be – then it makes work harder – you lose your peace, you find yourself having to do more to cover up what you have done.
It makes work harder because what was supposed to do others and the business good, is taken away.
Throughout the Bible, you find God’s people engaging in all sorts of work:
Patterns of work
Obviously, right from the start of Genesis you see the possibility of manual labour, of farming, agriculture, horticulture, of management and governance.
Through the Old Testament you discover the creativity of human beings, made in the image of their creator – perhaps the most famous for creativity would be Bezalel and Oholiab – famed for their creative work in creating the beauty of the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, where they worked with precious metals, cloths and embroidery.
God has made us creative, because he has made us in his image, in his likeness, and he is a creator God.
That creativity is not just in intricate beauty – you also find master builders, responsible for building the temple and obviously homes and city walls – and you find ship-makers, personified in ship making against all the odds and expectations of others in the person of Noah.
Throughout the Old Testament you would find those engaged in the armed services; and just a short while after the loss of Dame Vera Lynn, interesting to note all the musicians, who related between the worship of God, and support of the forces, supremely exemplified in the person of King David who carried hugely varying job roles, from shepherd, to professional musician, to armed forces, to Kingship.
When you come to the New Testament you find another spread of employment – Jesus himself as a master craftsman and carpenter.
The disciples ranging from jobs as fishermen, to working with HMRC, laid the way for others like Luke, a GP, and the apostle Paul himself, a tentmaker. Along the way, others in diverse occupations would come to faith in Jesus, including a Roman Centurion working in the forces and Lydia, a business woman trading in top-end designer cloths.
Whatever your work, God wants you to do it well, he wants you to find fulfilment in it, and he wants you to bring Kingdom values to it.
He wants you to use all the skills he has given to you; all the creativity he has given to you; all the gifts and abilities he has given to you. As you use them you will find fulfilment in them, and you will be a blessing.
Sue Milns’ work on Face coverings has been a blessing to many. If you are coming tonight to Thrive at Five and you don’t have a face covering perhaps you might like to get one that Sue has made for a small donation to the church (thanks Sue!) Government has not put a requirement to wear face coverings in places of worship, unlike in shops where that is now a legal requirement, but they have put a strong encouragement to do so.
Does this mean that all work will be pleasant and joyful?....
The curse of sin means that work can be hard – not only the hard work of farming, or the physical work of building, engineering and so on, but the hard work as a result of sinful human beings, who let one another down, who hurt one another, who fail to fulfil their responsibilities making life harder for others.
So, how can we be rooted to thrive in our workplaces??
If you are not thriving in your spirit in your workplace at this time, then maybe you need to
Shift your focus
Turn with me to Colossians 3:17 & 22 - 4:2
Shift your focus – work for the Lord
‘whatever you do, whether in word or deed (whether you’re pushing paper around in the office, working on a thesis, writing out a proposal, writing a book – whether a novel, or non-fiction, writing an email to a client or whether you’re digging a hole, building a wall, fixing someone’s electrics or plumbing, shifting someone’s load, driving a taxi, pushing someone around as a porter, cleaning up after them when they’ve messed everywhere due to health or infirmity – mental or physical) whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
V23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…’
Shift your focus – don’t think of yourself as working for that demanding boss, that client with ridiculous expectations, that unreasonable colleague, that stupid fool who should have known better – think of yourself as working for your Lord, the Lord who loves you, who laid down his life for you – the one whom you are called to represent, to be his ambassador in your workplace – the one who is to bring his Kingdom values here on earth, to be salt and light – bringing Kingdom flavour to your work place, preserving Kingdom values, bringing the light of Jesus’ presence in your life to brighten up dark places!
Does that mean that it’s easy?
I don’t think so.
I believe it’s significant that Paul in writing this section of scripture doesn’t choose a good working boss and employee relationship to speak into, but chooses one of slave and master – the place where you would most expect questionable working practices to be happening….
And he says, v22 ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you, and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.’
In other words, get on and do your job well, whether seen or not seen. Don’t do your job well to try and earn brownie points, but do it well as a positive witness for the Lord. Do it well whether you think you will get due recognition for your work or not v24 ‘since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’
Shift your focus. When you go to work today or tomorrow, or whenever it is remember that as you serve in your work, whatever it is, it is the Lord you are serving – how can I please you Lord? How can I do this well for your glory and honour? (However reasonable or unreasonable the earthly masters I am serving under are; however reasonable or unreasonable the clients I am working for are and so on.)
Shift your focus. Have you ever realised that the Lord Jesus wants to reward you for your service in your workplace?!
He says you will receive an inheritance as a reward. The scripture doesn’t say where, how or what that inheritance may be. It may be an inheritance in the heavenlies, or it may be here on earth. There are numerous stories of people who have humbly worked as shop floor workers, or cleaners who have risen to senior management – that is the story behind Harry Gordon Selfridge – he left school at 14 delivering newspapers, got a job as a stock boy in Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago, where over a period of 25 years he rose to become a senior partner before eventually in 1906 purchasing land and building a department store in London for £400000, which opened in 1909!
A friend of mine, worked as a savings collector – ‘the man from the Pru’ for those of you who are old enough to understand that phrase. He rose to become a senior manager and eventually set up his own finance business…. Having left school when he was 15…
Jesus’ reward won’t always be like that, but sometimes it might be. His reward might be that you find joy, peace, love in your workplace as you bring Kingdom values to bear, even if circumstances are difficult….
‘whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters….. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’
Sometimes our work environments are not good.
Paul recognises this…. V25 ‘Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.’
Sometimes it is right that we take a stand against injustice in our workplaces. I was really impressed with one young man who persisted in working for a company who were not treating their employees in an appropriate way, but who eventually left a good position in the company because he could not go along with what was being asked of him. Respect (Daniel)
Paul goes on to speak to the Masters, the managers, the employers: (4:1) Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you have a Master in heaven.
If you are in management, if you have people who work for you, you have a responsibility to treat them well. You have a responsibility to pay them well. You too are to work with all your heart as though you were serving the Lord, not men – how would you Lord want me to bring values of righteousness, justice to the workplace I am responsible for? What would you have me do so that those under my authority can thrive?!
Paul then says these words: (v2)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Whether you are serving as a labourer, a cleaner, a porter; a surgeon, a nurse, a GP; an electrician, a plumber, an engineer; a manager, an executive officer, a CEO, devote yourselves to prayer.
Look and see what is good in your workplace and environment and give thanks for it. If you see something good in someone else, then give thanks to God for that and give thanks to them and honour them and build them up. This way we will enable you to thrive at work and will enable others to thrive too.
Be watchful too though. What do you need to pray about? What do you need to bring influence on or work to see changed so that that work place can be a place of healthy productivity, where people are motivated to serve well, where they can thrive and fulfil that God-given creative nature which is in us as human beings who are made in the image of our Creator God?
Philippians 4 reminds us
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Thrive this week in your workplace, whatever your position. Give thanks for that which is good. Pray into that which needs to change. And serve as though you were serving the Lord himself in everything.