The Importance of seeing your work in light of God's story
The world was made by God in the same way that a fine wine is made by a winemaker. The winemaker is responsible for its complexity and its existence. But it is not made only for him. The wine is made for others to enjoy. In the same way God made the world for us to enjoy.
God was perfectly happy in himself, enjoying fellowship love and friendship within the triune community of Father Son and Spirit. He had no need for us. And yet he made us so we could share in his happiness.
The Westminster Catechism begins by asking what we have been made for. The answer is astounding. You were made “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This includes all of life; your work, your play and your rest. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Do the dishes for the glory of God. Sit at your desk for the glory of God. Attend that meeting for the glory of God. Meet that deadline for the glory of God. Submit that report for the glory of God. Write that code for the glory of God. Meet your quota for the glory of God. Manage that project for the glory of God. Write that email for the glory of God. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. This is how we fully enjoy the world he has made.
But how can we practically live that out?
I think one of the best ways to live this out is by viewing our work through the storyline of the Bible.
Many have realized lately how important stories are to our everyday lives. From the earliest age we crave stories. Whether they are bedtime stories read to us by parents, or the latest blockbuster to hit the big screen, we are story formed creatures.
As explained in an article in Scientific American titled It's in our Nature to Need Stories by Jag Bhalla on May 8, 2013
"a story drive—an inborn hunger for story hearing and story making—emerges untutored universally in healthy children. Every culture bathes their children in stories"
Stories give us a frame of reference to help us remember why we are here, what is wrong with the world and what should be done to fix it. Stories orient us towards the happy ending that we are striving for. And everyone is striving for a happy ending.
Tim Keller tells a story of a business man who viewed his workplace through the storyline of the Bible. One of his subordinates had made an error that would have cost her job. But since he had been with the company longer, he figured he could take the heat for it and spare her from losing her job. He decided to shift her blame onto himself and protect her. She found out about what he did and so she sought him out for a meeting. She was baffled at his decision and kept asking him why he had stuck his neck out for a co-worker like he did. When she pressed him, he finally broke down and admitted why. He said “I’m a Christian and I deserved to suffer consequences for bad decisions I had made, but Jesus took those consequences for me, so that I wouldn’t be on the hook any more. I wanted to do the same thing for you.” She responded, “Where do you go to church?”
Seeing his work through the storyline of the Bible gave him courage and compassion to do something rare. And his willingness to put his co-worker’s well being above his own, made his Christian faith attractive. He was living out the biblical instruction in Titus 2:10 where it promises us that by being trustworthy and good we “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.”
He was able to do that because he knew what story he was in.
He was in God’s story.
God’s story is written in the sky (Psalm 19:1) and also in the pages of the Bible. It is a story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
As Sally Lloyd Jones so eloquently explains it
"the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is - it's true!"
It has four acts.
Act 1 – Creation - Before time began God was there eternally happy and resplendent with glory. And He made us for the display of his glory (Isaiah 43:1). He loved us and wanted us to be happy.
This Act helps us remember that our co-workers and clients are made in God's image and that good things in the world are actually a gift from God.
Act 2 – Fall – (If God is the main character in the first act, then we are the main characters in this second act.) Isaiah put it best, “We all like sheep have turned away, each of us has gone his own way” and as a result we are continually falling short of God’s glory. As humans we sought happiness in ourselves or in the pleasures of the world rather than in God. As Romans 1 says “instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” This was true of primitive humans and but is also true of us moderns who idolize things like technology, progress or self-expression.
This Act helps us view ourselves and our contributions at work with humility. We are fallen human beings. We are not the savior nor are we perfect employees. It also helps us not be surprised when our co-workers have flaws, miss a deadline, or put themselves above the interests of others. They are fallen as well.
Act 3 – Redemption – Jesus, who was God in the flesh, came to make a way for us to come back into God’s glorious presence. Jesus displayed his glory through miraculous healings and mighty deeds but most powerfully through his sacrificial death on the cross. As John’s gospel tells us The Word of God “became flesh and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son”
Act 3 reminds us that God is in the business of fixing what is broken. He does not avoid problems he engages them. At work, if people need our help then we can be excited about helping even if it feels like a distraction. Fixing things is what God is all about.
Act 4 – Restoration – One day Jesus will return in his Father’s glory and he will sit on a glorious throne. He will create a new heavens and a new earth. A heavenly city that “has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city” (Revelation 21:23). Then the curse that came into our world through the Fall will be reversed. There will be no more cutthroat business practices, or stress or workaholism or crying or pain. Until then all “creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:31).
Practically speaking, the hope that comes from remembering Act 4 is remarkable. We will not always be standing toe to toe with the stress and the difficulties that we now face. On that day everything will be made new. Everyone who believes in Jesus’ free gift of salvation will one day be able to fully glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Thomas Watson who was a Puritan preacher and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, wrote about Act 4 in his sermon titled ~ “The Chief End of Man.”
“If anything can make us rise off our bed of sloth, and serve God with all our might, it should be this, the hope of our near enjoyment of God for ever…
Let this revive you, that shortly you shall enjoy God, and then shall have more than you can ask or think; you shall have angels' joy, glory without intermission or expiration.”
This is the hope that comes from seeing our work through the storyline of the Bible.
When we remember this story and view our work through this storyline it changes how we approach everything.
Work is not a necessary evil. Work is an opportunity to use our minds and our hands to display the glory of God.
Next time we are tempted to hate our work remember what story you are part of. Remember Acts 1-4. God made you for his glory. You are going to fall short of that glory because of your sin. Jesus loves you anyway and through his death he has made a way to reflect God's glory once again. One day we will fully experience that glory face to face in the new heavens and the new earth. Until then we get to do our work to the glory of God.
When we remember that this is the story we are part of it give us the ability to work with excellence, avoid procrastination and do everything without complaining. When we remember how Jesus displayed his glory on the cross it gives us the ability to put the needs of others above our own. This may mean we take the blame for someone else’s mistake or it may simply mean that we finish our work before the deadline hits. When our co-workers or customers comment on our work ethic, we can respond in the words of Psalm 115. “Not to us O LORD, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory”
If you are looking for a way to do your work for God’s glory, reflect on these four questions and answer them in your own words.
How would you describe your work?
How does your work give you a unique vantage point to the brokenness of the world?
As an image bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God's work?
Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?