God’s Presence with me in Government Work


(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.  This article was also published in the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog and the Coram Deo blog.)

I want to take a fresh look at how I personally have experienced God’s presence as a government employee.  As many of my readers know, I refer to God’s presence in our various professions as Immanuel labor.  (See previous article in my blog.)

I hope to ground my experiences in God’s word, and to encourage others who work in government at any level with the notion that God can use them for His good purposes right where they are, as agents of common grace, bringing shalom to all who are made in His image.

As far as Scripture goes, it is clear that God designed and empowers human government to protect and preserve society at large.  In the Old Testament there were the patriarchs, priests, judges, and kings, under God’s rule, that took care of the His people.  Yahweh used these leaders to ensure that righteousness was rewarded, evil was punished, and that resources were distributed fairly.

In Matt. 22:15-22, we read Jesus’ statement regarding his endorsement of paying of taxes to government, even a secular one.  He points out that Caesar’s likeness (image) is on a coin, just as God’s image is on us.  Jesus said, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).

The Apostle Paul, in Rom. 13:1, tells believers to submit to governing authorities.  He explains in verses 2-7 that it is God Himself who appointed them as His servants in authority over us to minister to us, with the understanding that they are under His authority as He ministers to us.  The Theology of Work Commentary elaborates:

Knowing that the systems of Rome’s rule were not in line with God’s justice, this counsel must have been hard for some in the Roman churches to hear.  How could obeying the idolatrous, ruthless Roman emperor be a way of living in the Spirit?  Paul’s answer is that God is sovereign over every earthly authority and that God will deal with the authorities at the right time.  Even Rome, powerful though it might have been, was ultimately subject to the power of God.

Peter tells his readers the same thing in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  Christ-followers are to be subject to the governing authorities and to honor them because they were sent by Him “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good”.

Martin Luther had something to say on this subject.  In Gustaf Wingren’s book, Luther on Vocation, we read: “A good government, which fulfills its duty of office, rules the people in opposition to a contrary power which would control.  The authority of the government is not derived from the fact that it gives expression to a people’s genius, but from the fact that God has ordained it to thwart the devil.  Government is of God, created by him.”

I have been employed by the US Army for over 30 years.  I spent 20 years, 6 months, and 17 days on active duty, a year and a half as a civilian contractor, and over eight years as a Department of the Army civilian employee.  Every day I sense God’s presence with me.  He has called me and enabled me to do a variety of tasks that contribute in some small way to this country’s defense.

I serve the men and women who work for me and with me and I serve the officers appointed over me.  I truly understand that I support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Some days I do this one PowerPoint slide at a time.  Some days I accomplish only a few small missions and only take care of a handful of people.  But there are many days I realize with gratitude that what I do eight hours a day enables others to do their jobs more effectively, making our Army a little stronger, which allows all citizens to experience peace (shalom) in this great Nation.

I found a verse that highlights the importance of what I do on the job most days.  In 2 Chronicles 32:3, we see that King Hezekiah “consulted with his officials and military staff”.  They helped him make a tactical decision when the king of Assyria was threatening Jerusalem.

That is a big part of what I do as a member of the staff of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School.  My input and recommendations, based on the experiences and wisdom that God has graciously provided, are valued and listened to on many occasions, assisting the Commandant to make decisions that affect the width and breadth of the Chemical Corps around the world.

No matter what job we have, we are truly co-workers with God.  We bring order out of chaos.  We participate in fulfilling the creation mandate to fill, subdue, and rule the earth.  As His agents in human government, we can demonstrate what it means to submit under God’s authority in His kingdom, which is not of this world, but is most definitely in our midst.  As we accomplish our missions and take care of people who are eternal and beloved of God, we are ministering to many.  These are the thoughts that get me out of bed every morning.

I hope that this small snapshot of biblical truth combined with my personal experiences will encourage those who are also employed in civil service at every level: local, state, or federal.  Your work truly matters to God!

Russ Gehrlein

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.

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