(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018. This critical topic was later included in the book. I invite you to check it out.)
Here is another aspect of work that came out of a seminar I put together in the spring of 2015. I hope that these biblical principles will encourage others as much as they have me.
Transformed through trials
Because of the fall, work is harder than it is supposed to be. But as we learn to respond biblically during these trials, God uses them to transform us so we can better serve Him. Trials build our faith (Rom. 5:3-5); they provide an opportunity to trust God, apply His word, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few quotes from Tom Nelson’s book, Work Matters:
- “Martin Luther understood vocation to be the primary pathway God uses to transform our lives.”
- “Detours, difficulties, and delays are some of the most transformative times in our journey of faith.”
- “Your work is not an obstacle to your spiritual growth, it is where you can have a significant influence.”
Nelson agrees with Luther: “The greatest opportunity our vocation affords us is not the reward it brings or the important contribution we can make to the common good, as significant as these are, but rather the glorious conduit it becomes in conforming us to greater Christlikeness.”
Transformed through failures
Sometimes, our work takes us to places we don’t wish to go. Veith, in God at Work, provides good advice, “Failures in vocation happen all the time. Wise statesmen find themselves voted out of office. Noble generals lose the war. Workers lose their jobs, maybe because they are not good at what they do, despite what they thought.”
This reminds me of when I was let go from a church youth ministry position over 30 years ago, in July 1985. I felt like Joseph in Gen. 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Those who tossed me into the pit of unemployment may have meant to harm me, but God had another purpose. This detour set in motion an unexpected vocational journey that I discussed earlier. In seeking counsel from my new pastor, he shared this gem, “When your dream dies, find a new dream.”
For a more detailed account of this key chapter in our family’s life, check out this short clip from when I gave this presentation to a small group of college students last year.
You know the rest of the story. God met all of our needs, He built my faith greatly as a result of this trial, and redirected my life’s work. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. My failures did not stop here. I experienced quite a few in the Army, but I always grew in humility as a result.
So, what does this transformation look like? That will be a discussion for next time.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.