This time of year, I recall the numerous high school, college, and graduate school graduations I have attended for each of my children and their spouses since 2003. It has been ten years since my youngest graduated from high school and five years since he graduated from college. Four years ago, I received my master’s degree. Two weeks ago I attended my niece’s high school graduation. These milestones are worth celebrating. They are also opportunities to share some biblical truths that may guide these young men and women as they venture out into the real world.
One of the main reasons I wrote Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Professions: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work was to give Christians who are about to graduate some practical tools to help them to integrate their faith at work. Let me share some excerpts from my book and two others.
Seek God first
Here are some insights from chapter 9 of my book, entitled Seeking God in our Vocation.
Jesus told His disciples “Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). . . How does He normally meet those needs? God usually meets our needs indirectly through our jobs, which provide money to buy food and clothing for us and our families. I see a very clear connection between seeking God first and finding the right job.
In addition, finding a career or job is always going to be a spiritual journey for the Christian. Your faith will grow in the process. You must spend some time in the Bible, pray for wisdom, and trust God to lead you. He promises that He will. (See Ps. 25:12; 32:8; 73:23–24; Prov. 16:3, 9.)
(Note: For more on this topic, see the article I wrote two years ago which was published in the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)
Examine God’s design
Once we determine to seek God first, when choosing a major in college or narrowing down which jobs to pursue when we graduate, we do need to do some self-assessments. This involves examining how God has designed you. He made you for a purpose!
I invite you to consider asking yourself these questions: What has God specifically designed you to do based on your interests, accomplishments, skills, and experiences? What are you most concerned and passionate about? What have others noticed in you regarding your gifts? (See Proverbs 15:22.)
Hardy, in Fabric of this World writes, “We ought to take seriously the doctrine of divine providence: God himself gives us whatever legitimate abilities, concerns, and interests we in fact possess. These are his gifts, and for that very reason they can serve as indicators of his will for our lives.”
Listen to your heart
A key step in this process is to listen to our hearts. I do believe that is not always in our best interests to merely follow our hearts, without using the wisdom that God provides. However, we should at least listen to our hearts. God gives us godly desires when we seek Him first. (See Ps. 37:4.) I have often heard well-meaning Christians quote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Somehow, they have forgotten that New Covenant believers have been given a new heart (Eze. 36:26). God gives us clean hearts. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). With this new heart, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Prov. 3:5) and love God with all our hearts.
In Immanuel Labor, I counseled my readers to keep listening to what God says about your vocation. It may change over time. . . Sherman and Hendricks confirm what I have heard for some time that “the average American will change careers—not just jobs—four times or more in his life! … He has designed you with a set of skills and motivations to do His work in the world today. But His work may take many different forms in the course of your working years.”
All Christians enter into “full-time Christian work”
In chapter 13 of Immanuel Labor, I discussed the sacred versus secular divide, where we seem to elevate vocational ministry above ordinary labor. This sub-biblical idea was described by Sherman and Hendricks in Your Work Matters to God as the “two-story” view of work. It falls short of the well-established biblical principle that work is intrinsically of value. I boldly stated that the popular opinion many Christians have held that worldly work was unworthy was clearly off the mark. I emphasized that the things of eternity and time are both important to God. He is present with us here and now. All aspects of life, not just the religious, are sacred to God. All who work to provide our physical, emotional, and social needs are necessary for humans to flourish on this earth.
Sherman and Hendricks provide a powerful conclusion to this discussion:
“What ‘really matters’ to God is that the various needs of His creation be met. One of those needs is the salvation of people, and for that He sent Christ to die and He sends the Church to tell the world about what Christ did. But in addition to salvation—obviously a need with eternal implications—mankind has many other needs. Just because many of them are temporal needs does not diminish their importance to God, nor does it diminish the value of the work done to meet those needs. In fact, God thinks they are important enough to equip a variety of people with various abilities to meet those needs. Furthermore, in meeting the legitimate needs of people, a worker is serving people who obviously have eternal value. In other words, the product of the work may be temporal but those who benefit from the work are eternal. So we find that whether or not the product of our labor lasts into eternity, our labor is full of eternal implications.”
I am hoping that these insights will inspire the class of 2019 to take their Christian faith confidently into their workplaces, schools, the military, or wherever God calls them to learn and serve.