Already, But Not Yet

The Introduction was taken from a book review I wrote as an assignment for one of my seminary classes, New Testament Biblical Theology. The book, Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed, was written by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Tim Gombis. The rest of it is from a study I put together for our small group a few weeks ago.

Introduction: When Jesus died, rose again, and ascended into heaven, this ushered in the time “when judgment and salvation were accomplished, the long-expected moment of victory and divine triumph. In this sense, God has fulfilled his promises and the sending of the Spirit. In another sense, however, God has confirmed in Jesus and the sending of the Spirit that his promises are going to be fulfilled in the future. The ultimate day of victory is still on its way” (45-46). The consummation of God’s plan of redemption, vindication, and new creation, the “day of the Lord” as it is often referred to in the Jewish Scriptures, is obviously in the future. And yet, Gombis explains, “the new age has indeed already arrived with the pouring out of the Spirit of God on God’s people, now made up of Jew and gentile, people from every nation integrated into one new people” (46-47). He continues, “What is unique about Paul’s thought, as we have noted above, is that while the ‘day of the lord’ has arrived, we still await the future ‘day of the Lord.’ Because of this, the new age has already arrived, but it is not yet present in its fullness” (47). He concludes that the church lives “between the times” (47).

Exposition: This “already/not yet” concept is expressed often:

  • Rom. 5:1-5 – We have been justified and have peace with God (already); we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (not yet)
  • Rom. 5:9-10 – We have been justified and reconciled (already); we shall be saved from God’s wrath (not yet)
  • Rom. 6:22 – We have been set free from sin which leads to holiness (already); the result is eternal life (not yet)
  • Rom. 8:23-25 – We have the firstfruits of the Spirit (already); we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons (already, but not yet) and the redemption of our bodies (not yet
  • Rom. 8:29-30 – God foreknew and predestined (already) His children for the purpose of that they might be conformed to the image of His Son (already, but not yet); those who were predestined, were also called and justified (already) and will be glorified (not yet)
  • 1 Cor. 10:11 – The fulfillment of the ages has come (already, but not yet)
  • 2 Cor. 1:20-22 – Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises God made in His old covenant (already, but not yet); He set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our hearts as a down payment (already), guaranteeing what is to come (not yet)

Application: Understanding this New Testament concept/theme of Paul’s writings has helped me immensely in my daily walk. I know that we, like Paul, live in a time between Jesus’s first and second comings. This means that there is much of the Kingdom we can experience now, but there is much more that will not be fulfilled completely until He returns once again as King of Kings. I can rest in His sovereignty when I go through trials and see injustice in this world. These days where Satan has free reign are indeed numbered. There will be a day, SOON, when He makes all things right again.

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Personal Job Satisfaction

I love my job

Despite this tongue-in-cheek Dr. Seuss-like poem above, I really do love my job!  I don’t love everything about it, but overall I can honestly say that I do love what I do.

Even though Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones couldn’t get “no satisfaction”, I think that Christians can indeed find it as a by-product of the abundant life that Jesus promises (John 10:10).  I want to discuss the topic of job satisfaction in general from a biblical perspective, share some personal observations about my own situation, and then challenge my fellow Jesus-followers to consider how they can find contentment and peace where God has put you right now, fully resting in his sovereignty and provision and knowing with confidence that He has a divine purpose for you as a co-worker with him in your place of employment.

The book of Ecclesiastes says a lot about work.  The purpose of this unusual book is to show what life is like “under the sun”, to contrast it with the abundant life that is found “under the Son”.  It often paints a bleak picture of work, highlighting what we know from Gen. 3:17-19 as “the curse”, where God declared as a result of the Fall in Gen. 2 that work from that point on would be much more difficult than it was designed to be.  The Preacher, possibly Solomon himself, emphasized in Eccl. 1:2 his theme which he boiled down to one word “Meaningless!” (NIV).  (Other versions use the word “vanity”.)  He says that everything is meaningless, especially work: “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (1:3).  In 2:17-26, he elaborates, saying that work is “grievous to me”; it is a “chasing after the wind”.  He hated what he had worked so hard for.  He did not know what was going to happen to what he had invested his time and energy after he was gone.  He wonders, “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” (2:22).

And yet, in Eccl. 3:12-13, and 22, we find a curious admonition.  Considering the fact that God is in control and has “made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11), he states that men should “be happy and do good while they live . . . eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God . . . there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot.”

This reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Whatever he had, he was grateful for, knowing full well that His Lord provided it all, both good and bad.  As Job faithfully exclaimed in humble worship of the God who had just taken his family away from him: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21-22)

I will tell you that being satisfied and perfectly content in a stressful job that wears us down is not always easy.  However, I have personally experienced, for over 30 years working for the Department of the Army as a Soldier and as a civilian employee, true joy, unexplainable peace, and a deep sense of purpose at work, despite all the thorns and thistles that come from various fallen people, places, and things I encounter every single day.

Specifically, what am I satisfied with?  In taking an online survey about the climate at my workplace a few months ago, I saw an in-depth description of what make a job a good one.  There were dozens of questions over a series of screens that asked me to agree or disagree with statements regarding job satisfaction.  My heart was filled with gratitude and praise when I found myself honestly answering “Strongly Agree” with a host of indicators such as: I enjoy my work, my work gets me energized and excited, I care deeply about my work, I feel personally connected to my work, I do my work with passion, and I find my work fulfilling.  It asked me what I get to do at work, to which I responded with a “Great Extent”: try creative or innovative things, spread excitement about work to others, look for ways that I can help others with their work, look for ways to better apply my abilities at work, and try to help my colleagues see their value and importance at work.

The survey asked about “emotional labor”, which is “managing one’s own emotional state as well as that of persons with whom one is working”.  Once again, I found myself strongly agreeing with several items: my work requires me to guide people through sensitive and/or emotional issues, I am good at getting people to calm down, I help co-workers feel better about themselves, and I attempt to keep the peace by calming clashes between co-workers.  Lastly, I rejoiced when I could say I also strongly agreed with the following: my work is a good fit for my capabilities, I like the amount of challenge and complexity in my work, I like the variety of tasks and responsibilities in my work, my work gives me a good opportunity to apply my talents and strengths, my work helps me develop and grow in a personally meaningful way, and my work is consistent with my core values and beliefs.

As confirmation, I often get to see how God is using me where I work.  Just this past week, I had two conversations, one with a senior Army officer in the morning and another with another civilian employee that afternoon, where I got the opportunity to show genuine concern and compassion which allowed them to open up about what was going on in their lives.  This happened because I have been assigned alongside these individuals and had previously earned the right to be involved in their lives for God’s glory.

I have known for some time, with respect to my current position, that I am uniquely qualified for this job based on my skills, talents, personality, and experiences.  This adds to my understanding of God’s call in my own life, which has taken a lot of twists and turns along the way.  (See blog on my personal career journey: https://regehrlein.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/my-personal-career-journey/.)

Surely, I am not the only one who feels this way.  I have seen family, friends, and co-workers who are also at the right place and time, with the right gifts and talents, and are making a difference for the glory of God in their jobs.  To give just a few examples, I know some amazing school administrators (biblical principals using biblical principles), teachers (from preschool to college level), computer programmers, public affairs specialists, salesmen, engineers, beauticians, mothers, medical laboratory specialists, actors, Soldiers, speech therapists, students, and community volunteers who all to some degree recognize God’s purposes, plans, and presence at work.  And knowing this brings some measure of satisfaction.

So, what about you?  Do you have a sense that God has designed and prepared you to do what you get paid to do?  Are you filled with contentment and the peace that passes all understanding, resting in God’s grace which has led you safe thus far and will ultimately lead you home?