Today was my second day of pre-planning for the new school year. Trying to get back into the swing of things is hard. I had made it a purposeful goal this summer to try to read the Bible more and keep focused on God more. I had plenty to do this summer, but it was such that I could still maintain a pretty consistent focus on God and dedicate more time to Him.
Now I find myself struggling. Between meetings, planning, and preparing, my mind is often going on many things other than directly thinking about God. It’s easy to start feeling like I am doing something less than spiritual. I don’t think I am the only one.
If I read the Bible for a long time, I walk away with increased knowledge of God and Christ. If I get some dedicated prayer time, I feel accomplished for being in His presence. If I walk out of a church service, I have the joy of having fellowshipped with other believers. If I read a Christian book, I feel like I am growing spiritually.
But what about when I walk out of that hour-long meeting? What about when I start moving my desks around the room, trying to find that configuration that is just right? What about when I begin writing lesson plans, or make a syllabus, or arrange my bookshelves? Do I feel as close to God then? Do I feel “spiritual” for doing those things?
What about you? When you walk into the office for the day and turn the computer on? When you answer the phone for your employer? When you prepare someone’s food at the restaurant or wait on a table? When you leave for the day, exhausted from another long day of work? Do you feel intensely spiritual at that time?
Here’s the thing. I think we should.
Somehow we have become convinced that there are spiritual jobs and secular jobs. There is “full-time” ministry, and then there is whatever the rest of us Christians do for several hours a day. We may not necessarily admit it, but we feel as if God is just a little more pleased with the pastor or missionary than He is with the server, teacher, retail manager, etc. Os Guinness deals with the reasons for this divide in his book The Call. It is interesting reading, but I’m not going to explain the why of it all here. Instead, I want to encourage you with what many others have realized (in other words, this is no new insight from me).
Whatever we do can be (and should be) done for Christ. Whatever we do is spiritual if we are working for God. God is no less close to us in our daily jobs than He is when we are in church services, unless we let there be a divide. If we are believers, God is always with us.
It’s a matter of attitude and perspective. What if we took some verses to heart?
Colossians 3:23 (originally addressed to slaves) says “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (ESV) How much more does this apply to those of us who freely work the jobs we have? “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” It doesn’t matter what we do, we are to do it as to God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says something similar, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (ESV) Again, there’s that word: whatever. Everything we do should be done to God’s glory. All of our work (unless it is sinful) is God-glorifying if we treat it as such.
Not only do we glorify God by what we do, but we can maintain an attitude of focus on His presence and communion with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” (ESV) Obviously, we cannot kneel in prayer all day. But we can say quick prayers every chance we get. It is an ongoing conversation with God as we go about our business.
Brother Lawrence is famous for a book called Practicing the Presence of God. While he was in a monastery, I believe, he still never attained to the “higher” levels of some monks. He worked in the kitchens. Speaking of his own attitude, he said, “I make it my business only to persevere in his holy presence wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and a general fond regard for God, which I refer to as an actual presence of God.” (cited in God Is Closer Than You Think by John Ortberg, p. 59) It was his intention to willfully maintain a focus on God in all he did. He learned to do this so well that he could say, “It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelets in the pan for the love of God.” (Ibid)
This should be our goal. We should become so adept at walking in God’s presence continually that we can say we do everything for the love of God. I should be able to say I teach my students for the love of God. I study my material for the love of God. I participate in that meeting for the love of God. I grade my papers for the love of God.
I don’t for one minute think this is an easy thing to learn. I am nowhere near this yet. But I am working on it by God’s grace. It’s not easy, but I do think it is necessary.
Christ said that He came that we “may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV) Of course, this includes life after death, but I believe, with many others, that it speaks to the kind of life we should have now as well. I don’t know about you, but I would rarely describe my life at work as being abundant life in God. But Christ didn’t limit His abundant life. We are the ones who do that with the way we separate things out into the holy and the mundane, the sacred and the secular, the spiritual and the regular.
Let’s reclaim it all in God’s presence. Let’s make it all spiritual. Whatever job you have, do it to God’s glory, praying continually. Join Brother Lawrence in practicing God’s presence. Whatever you do, do it for the love of God.