A Reflection on Procrastination

(Note: This article was posted on the Coram Deo blog.)

This article is long overdue. I have been putting off writing it for over 18 months. Since it has been neglected previously, I have now bumped it up to the top of my priority list. It is time to get it done.

To begin, let me provide some background about my experiences with procrastination, at home and at work. Next, I will explore some biblical principles that relate to this topic. Then, I will focus briefly on what may be the root cause of procrastination. Lastly, I will share one practical idea from a seminary class taught by a favorite professor from many years ago that may be helpful to you.

What does this habit looks like?

One source defined the noun procrastination this way: “the act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention”. When used as a verb, to procrastinate, it was defined as such: “to defer action; delay” or “to put off till another day or time”.

Admittedly, I sometimes procrastinate, at home and at work. I put things off that I do not want to do that could have/should have been done a lot sooner. Sometimes I wait until the last-minute to get things done. In my position, multiple requirements come to me simultaneously. It is not humanly possible to do every one of them before I go home. Long-term projects that can wait until later will often be on hold for a while before they are done. (Note: This topic is somewhat related to an article I wrote a while back on the subject of doing the unpleasant tasks. I invite you to check it out.)

What does the Bible say about it?

There is a key verse on this topic in Proverbs.  It warns us to not put off doing good until tomorrow for our neighbors who need it when you have the power to do it for them today (Prov. 3:27-28).

In addition to the good intentions that we have with people that require us to follow up in a timely manner, when we make a promise to God, we must fulfill our promises (Num. 30:2; Eccl. 5:4).

Possible root cause

Let us take a look at what may be a root cause of this bad practice and how we can grow in grace.

If we look at what procrastination is from a spiritual perspective, we can see that in many cases (but not all), it can be a fleshly, sinful habit. When we put off projects indefinitely that were assigned to us by those we work for (who we are supposed to submit to) or have been requested of us by those we love at home (who we are supposed to sacrificially serve), we are not being faithful to the callings to which God has given us, which are marked by relationships and responsibilities.

I propose that the character trait that is on the other end of the spectrum from procrastination is faithfulness, which is one of the fruit of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul lists in Gal. 5:22-23.

How can we develop faithfulness?

In the mid-90’s, thousands of Christian men (including myself) were involved in a movement called “Promise Keepers”. The name was appropriate, as Christian men do not always keep our promises. Promise keeping is another way of looking at faithfulness. We know that God is faithful because He always keeps His promises. His children, who should be like Him, should be faithful also.

How do we go about keeping our promises to our employers and our families with respect to the tasks and “honey-do” lists we get, and become faithful men and women that finish what we start?

For Christians to make progress in developing this fruit of the Spirit, it has to begin with an attitude of submission and servitude. These qualities were exemplified by Jesus Himself (Phil. 2:5-8).

Once you are truly committed to submitting to your employer’s authority and serving your family, you have to be committed to faithfully maintain a list of assigned projects to be done in a reasonable amount of time, based on other higher priorities and availability of resources. (I haven’t always done this well. I often make lists and then do not regularly review it to make progress on it.)

Let me share one concept that may help you to reorder the way you think about your priorities.

One way to look at priorities

One of the best seminary classes I took the first time I went in the mid-80’s was “Spiritual Life”. It was taught by the late Dr. Grant Howard. He had written a revolutionary book entitled Balancing Life’s Demands, which put the conventional concept of a sequential listing of priorities on its head.

Dr. Howard wisely offers one way to help us decide what relationships and responsibilities may be our top priority that requires our immediate attention and action. He writes, “At times we have to emphasize certain relationships and certain responsibilities. Why? Often because of present needs.” He cites several examples such as starting a new business, getting married, or starting a new job.

He continues, “Another reason for special emphasis is previous neglect. Been away on a business trip? Like it or not, you’ve been neglecting your wife and kids. Now you need to bring things back into balance by being totally available to them for a few evenings, or maybe all weekend.” Spot on!

Closing challenge

I know I have barely scratched the surface on this complicated issue that many of struggle with. What I am hoping is that we learn to boldly come before the throne of grace, and ask the Lord for wisdom, courage, and discipline to become faithful keepers of promises made to those we serve.

Perhaps there is just one thing you can do now that you have been putting off for a bit.  For me, that will take the form of taking time to finish and post this article that I decided a while ago that I would write to help others like me.

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 160 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)

What Do Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians Teach us About Work?

(Note: This article was posted in the Coram Deo blog.)

The Theology of Work Bible Commentary (TOWBC) indicates that “Workplace themes are woven into the fabric of the Thessalonian letters.” There is a reason for that. One of the problems in the church of Thessalonica was that some believers were idle. Here, Paul reminds them, “Christians need to keep at their labors, for the way of Christ is not idleness but service and excellence in work.”

In this article, I have collated some excerpts from my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession that highlight what the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians teach the church about various aspects of work. I have done this previously with several other books of the Bible (Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Minor Prophets, the Gospel of John, Romans, and Exodus).

A Christian’s motivation for work

In his greeting, Paul makes the first of many statements regarding work. 

In 1 Thes. 1:2-3, we read that Paul thanks God for the church in Thessalonica, specifically remembering their faithful work and loving labor, which he praised in 1 Thes. 1:8, “The Lord’s message rang out from you … your faith in God has become known everywhere.”

Regarding God as a worker

In 1 Thes. 2:13, Paul is thankful that the church in Thessalonica accepted God’s Word, which is described as being at work in those who believe. This living and active Word of God came from God the Father, was revealed by Jesus the Son, and was given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God has always used His Word to transform lives, and its power is still effective in every believer’s heart and mind today.  (See Heb. 4:12.)

In 2 Thes. 2:13-14, we observe that Paul reminds his readers that they have been chosen and were called to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Regarding God’s purposes for work

In the context of the instrumental value of work, meaning that work is not just good because God created it and is a worker (intrinsic value), but work is good for us. It serves various God-given purposes. Through work, God meets our needs and our family’s needs (1 Thes. 4:11-12).

Regarding how we should work

In 1 Thes. 4:11-12, with the context of the church neglecting their earthly responsibilities in light of their belief in Jesus’s imminent second coming, we see Paul’s command to the church to make it their ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind their own business, and to work with their hands so that they might earn the respect of nonbelievers and be responsible and independent.

In his final instructions at the end of his first epistle, Paul tells the church to respect those who work hard among them and to warn those who do not work hard (1 Thes. 5:12-14). He has much stronger language for these idle Christians in his next letter, which we will discuss now.

Refusing to work in light of Jesus’ return

In 2 Thes. 3:6-12, Paul exhorts the church to keep away from those who are idle by choice. If a man does not want to work, he should go hungry. A few commentaries and writers have shed some light on this unusual command, which may also help to explain the strong words of exhortation to the sluggard in Proverbs. Let me share some insights from them to help us out.

The TOWBC provides some background. “Many believe that some of the Thessalonians had stopped working because the end times were at hand … They might have felt that Jesus was coming at any minute, and thus there was no point to work.” They call attention to the fact that these passages warning those who are idle are found “in the context of teaching on the end times.” The commentators exhort, “Responsible Christian living embraces work, even the hard work of a first-century manual laborer … If people can work, they should work.”

The TOWBC confirms what I had heard regarding what Paul demands here. “The positive view of hard work that Paul was promoting was countercultural. The Greco-Roman world had a very negative view of manual labor.” They continue, “In Paul’s assessment, manual labor is not beneath Christians, and Paul himself had done what he demands that these idle brothers do. The apostle plainly regards work as one way believers may honor God, show love to their fellow-Christians, and display the transforming power of the gospel to outsiders.”

Working in light of the creation mandate

Nelson indicates, “At first blush, Paul’s rather blunt words seem cold and lacking Christian compassion, but upon further theological reflection, Paul’s words convey to us some needed insight. Paul does not rebuke those who, for various legitimate reasons, cannot work, but he does say that an unwillingness to work is no trivial thing. For anyone to refuse to work is a fundamental violation of God’s creation design for humankind.”

R. Paul Stevens states, “The sluggard knows nothing of the creation mandate, that work is good, that work is part of our God-imaging dignity … In short, the idler has no theology of work. Realizing neither the intrinsic value nor the extrinsic value of work, the sluggard refuses to see work as a gift, a calling, and a blessing.” This insight is absolutely right on target.

I appreciated how both Nelson and Stevens emphasized the need to understand the creation mandate. We were designed by God in His image and called to work to expand His kingdom. This basic concept of work gives working in light of Jesus’s imminent return a whole new perspective.

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)

Summary of Writing Activities in 2021

As we begin a new year, I want to recap what the Lord brought about as I followed my calling to write.  I praise God for His presence as I worked diligently to write about His presence at work

Like one of Job’s friends said, I, too can say, “For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst” (Job 32:18-19).

This past year of writing was full of many blessings, beyond what I ever could have imagined.  Below, you will see the many ways God demonstrated His faithfulness to me.  He opened up doors to expand my audience so that I could teach and encourage Christians in many places. 

Articles written and published

By the grace of God, this was my most productive year in the past six years of keeping a blog.  In 2021, I wrote 49 articles.  Of these, 37 of them were on a variety of faith and work topics, yielding 170 articles I have written in this category.  I also wrote 12 articles on other topics, yielding a total of 81 articles.  Over the past six years, I have written a total of 251 articles. 

The number of articles that were posted or published elsewhere blew me away: 24 out of the 37 articles on faith and work (65%) were published 45 times.  [Compare this to 2020, where 19 out of 33 articles on faith and work (58%) were posted or published 34 times.]  There were also nine articles I wrote in previous years that were published this year, yielding a total of 54 articles.  I now have 82 out of 170 articles (48%) that were posted or published a grand total of 159 times.

These articles were published in various organization’s blogs, websites, and other places, including the Coram Deo blog, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) blog, The Gospel Coalition, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work blog, and Christian Grandfather Magazine.  (You can find all these articles on my relatively new Linktree site: https://linktr.ee/Russ_Gehrlein.)

I was amazed to see that two of my articles that were published on the IFWE blog made their top ten list for 2021.  (I also had articles on their top ten lists in 2017, 2019, and 2020.)  I am grateful and astounded by their support.  They have published 44 of my articles since November 2016.

In addition to these articles on faith and work, I had one other that was published in the Lost Pen Magazine in February, entitled Jesus Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy on the Cross.

Podcasts and interviews

In addition to the doors that God opened with numerous articles being published, I was given an amazing opportunity to appear on a podcast with the Theology of Work Project last January. 

I also appeared on two radio programs in January last year.  The first interview was with Family Radio, on their Community Bridge program.  The topic was “Letting God Help You Find a Rewarding Career”.  The host had contacted the IFWE to see if they could interview me based on an article I had written a couple of years prior.  The IFWE then took the transcript of this interview and posted it on their blog in three parts, which ended up #6 on their top ten list.

The second radio interview that I also did in early January last year was with WORD FM, a radio station in Pittsburgh, PA, on their “The Ride Home with John and Kathy” show.  This one also was generated from an article I wrote for The Gospel Coalition that had just been published.

Things I learned this year

  • God continues to give me new ideas for articles, often during sleepless nights
  • Once I start typing, the articles seem to just write themselves
  • Shorter paragraphs are better than longer ones
  • There is a place for shorter articles on occasion (one page vs. two)

Upcoming projects and goals

Here are some of the things I want to work on in 2022:

  • Whittle down my list of 20+ topics and unfinished articles on faith and work
  • Write articles on other theological topics; i.e., the use of the OT in the NT
  • Put myself out there: send out requests to do podcast, radio, and blog interviews
  • Improve my writing skills
  • Be more consistent with social media posts

Prayer requests

I sincerely solicit the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ, regarding my writing:

  • That I would press on, despite occasional doubts that I am making a difference
  • Podcasts/interviews (Laymen’s Lounge coming up in March)
  • Opportunities to publish articles with new organizations that need guest writers
  • Opportunities to partner on a deeper level with faith at work leaders/organizations
  • Opportunities to speak to Soldiers on post at prayer breakfasts or other events

Let me elaborate on the first bullet above.  Once in a while, I wonder if I am wasting my time with all this writing.  I only get feedback from a handful of friends when I post an article.  I want to reach more people.  Then, I am reminded of who it is that brings doubts to our minds.  It isn’t God; it’s Satan.  I know deep down in my heart that I am called to write on faith and work issues.  God has given me a unique life message.  Since close to half of my articles have been published, God is clearly working to bring about my desire to be part of this faith and work conversation.

Closing thoughts

When Nehemiah’s huge renovation project was completed, and the walls around Jerusalem were restored, it was obvious to all who observed, that “this work had been done with the help of our God” (Neh. 6:16).  It would not have been possible without God’s presence from start to finish. 

In the same manner, I am hoping that those who read the articles I write about God’s presence at work will also be able to see that God was present in my work.  Moreover, I truly want people to experience God’s presence for themselves as they do the work that God has called them to do.

I am extremely grateful for a growing number of family, friends, colleagues, and organizations around the world who have responded to my posts, read my articles, shared them with others, connected with me via social media, listened to my podcasts and radio programs, purchased or reviewed my book, and encouraged me occasionally over the year.  You know who you are! 

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)

Here I am; Lord Send Me

On the way to work yesterday, I chose a song to play on Spotify that means a lot. 

The song was “Here I Am”, by the group Downhere.  It is based on Isa. 6:8, where the prophet was asked by Yahweh, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  Isaiah humbly replied, “Here am I.  Send me!”  I would like to share some of the things I prayed about and meditated on as I listened to the song.  (I encourage you to watch this video to get a feel for what I am about to share.)

My story is a part of God’s plan

The day prior to attending the 2016 Faith@Work Summit, I played this song.  I was affected deeply by its message that “somehow my story is a part of your plan”.  I was filled with immense gratitude that God prepared me over a lifetime of working in His presence to begin a new season of ministry.

The story of David and Goliath expresses a similar attitude.  He saw Goliath taunting God’s people, and he made himself available to be God’s man at that moment.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus also modeled this posture of total surrender to the will of His Father, and chose the cross. 

This “blank check” mentality of complete submission to God’s will for one’s life is one that every person coming to faith in Jesus would express at the time of their salvation experience.  I imagine that for some Christians, this simple prayer of dedication to God’s purposes might be a daily event.

My life is an offering

A line in the chorus that strikes me is “all of my life I make an offering”.  He is intentional about presenting himself to God in submission and trust.  This is a costly sacrifice that the Apostle Paul urged the members of the church in Rome to make also: “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).  Unlike the OT sacrifices, where what was given to the Lord was dead, this is a living sacrifice, one we can make every day.

It occurred to me that this same humble attitude of yielding completely to God’s purposes for our lives could also be expressed at major milestones or critical launch points at every stage of our adult development (i.e., graduating from college and landing that first job, getting married, having a child, reassessing our careers at mid-life, and deciding what to do before we are about to retire).

Let me describe for you what this kind of deliberate submission to God’s plan might look like as we embark on each new calling throughout our lives.  As we begin our vocational journey after high school, college, trade school, or some other path, a young Christian man or woman might seek God’s blessing as they move into the work force to be God’s representative in their chosen field.  As a young couple becomes parents, they would certainly want to bring their desires to become a godly mother and father, and ask God to lead them and guide them along their perilous journey. 

All of this is based on the understanding that God has good plans which include our broken lives. In His grace and mercy, He allows us to be part of His work by preparing us in the womb, teaching us in the classroom, protecting us in the boardroom, and strengthening us all the way to the tomb.

Failures and fears

The songwriter mentions setbacks, failures, and upset plans and how God is able to use us in spite of them.  God takes the clay pots that we are and somehow turns them into something useful for His kingdom.  (See 2 Cor. 4:7.)  As the Apostle Paul states, “we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

When we struggle, we learn to lean on God.  He is always there to give us what we need.  We are reminded that God will finish what He began, alluding to Phil 1:6, which is a promise I count on.

Later, the singer feels overwhelmed by his own weakness.  He is fearful of failing to accomplish the mission to which he is called.  Then he remembers that God is able to put the pieces back together.

I think that there are many Christians who can truly identify with this beautiful song as I do.

If you haven’t prayed this prayer or one similar to it in a while, I encourage you to humbly and sincerely take time to do so when the time and place are right for you.  

“Lord, here I am.  Send me!  I submit to whatever you have planned for me.  Use me in spite of my failures, weaknesses and fears as your representative in my family, at work, and in church.”

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)

The Irreversible Transformation of all Followers of Jesus Christ

The centuries-old debate on God’s election vs. free will is a fascinating topic.  Christians have had strong feelings about this.  It is somewhat like the chicken and the egg; which one came first?  A closely related discussion centers around the eternal security of the believer.  Is one who was saved always saved?  Can they lose their salvation, and essentially become an unbeliever again? 

I discovered several years ago one key word related to this topic which settles the debate for me.  I observed passage after passage that describe the many irreversible changes that take place when a person becomes a Christian and is saved.  They have been given a new identity, they begin the process of becoming more like Jesus, and their eternal destiny is locked in.  Let me begin to unpack this a bit.

Regeneration

I have observed that the first of many irreversible changes that take place in a Christian’s life begin before they come to faith and become a Christian.  (This obviously points to God’s work of election.)  Without the supernatural regeneration that takes place in a person’s heart by the Holy Spirit, they cannot even see the kingdom of God, nor can they respond to the gospel. (See John 1:13, 3:3.)

This radical change in a person’s heart, which essentially quickens a spiritually dead person and brings them to life in order to see the gospel clearly enough to be able to choose to follow Jesus Christ is not dependent on their actions.  It is the precursor before any action can even take place.

According to The Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, regeneration is the work that God does to every believer at the very moment of faith in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  They become a totally new creation, able to “commune intimately with God . . . outfitted with a new disposition that strives to respond rightly to him . . . one marked by faith, hope, and love.”

I think it is fairly easy to understand that once a person has been regenerated, there is no going back.

Identity

Once we are enabled to come to Him by faith, repent, and submit to Jesus as Lord, God gives us a new identity.  Scripture uses various word pictures to describe our transfer from one place to another.  The Apostle Paul states in Eph. 2, verses 1 and 5 that we were dead in our sins, but God made us alive.  (See also Col. 2:13.)  Dead people cannot do a whole lot.  That is why God must bring us to new life.

Other passages talk about being brought from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.  The sovereign God of the universe who transferred us into His kingdom will never reverse this condition.

In John 10:3 and following, Jesus distinguishes between those who are His sheep and those who are not.  There are two categories; there is no middle ground.  You are either His sheep or you are not.  Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice; He calls them by name and leads them (v. 3).  His sheep follow Him (v. 4).  Jesus said that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him (v. 14).  (See also John 10:27.)

There are many other passages that describe our new status in union with Christ.  Let me summarize:

  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
  • “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26)
  • “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal. 4:6-7)
  • God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints; he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into Jesus’ kingdom; in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. (Col. 1:12-14)

As we understand the definition of all these terms, it should be fairly clear that these changes in our condition cannot be reversed.  We were adopted to be children of God.  That is a permanent thing.  God qualified us by grace; we can’t disqualify ourselves.  God rescued us.  He doesn’t unrescue.

The hymn “Amazing Grace” biblically proclaims that we once were lost, but now we are found; we were blind, but now we see.  We are declared to be righteous in God’s sight.  Our sins are forgiven.  Do you think we in our limited human frailty by our actions can undo all that God has done for us? 

David Needham, in his book Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? states: “God tells us we are alive in a way we have never been alive before, possessing a birthright we never possessed before. . . If you have received the Savior, you simply are not the same person you were before.”

Sanctification

God not only sees us differently in Christ, He also begins to change us from the inside out.  We are declared to be holy in His sight (justified).  We then are made to be holy in experience (sanctified).

As a baseline of understanding, I want to make it clear that believers participate in this sanctification process.  It is a partnership.  We can either accelerate or impede our progress by the frequency, duration, and consistency in our practicing of various spiritual disciplines over time.  However, make no mistake.  This supernatural process of becoming more like Christ is started in us by grace through faith and continues by grace through faith.  It is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit who works in us.

  • God prunes us to make us more fruitful; we need to abide in Him (John 15:2-5)
  • Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit; we received the Spirit from God (1 Cor. 6:19)
  • God makes us stand firm in Christ; “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
  • God began a good work in us; He will carry it on to completion until Christ returns (Phil. 1:6.)
  • We have taken off our old self and have put on the new self which is being renewed (Col. 3:10)
  • God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4)

The main point here is grasping that God only gives His Holy Spirit to His children.  Once given, this gift, which enables Christians to live the Christian life and become like Christ, will not be taken away.

Eternal destiny

What I have laid out so far is that God works in our hearts and minds prior to the moment of salvation to enable us to believe, repent, and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  From that point forward, our identify is radically different than it was before we became a Christian.  God sees us differently and we are different in many ways.  We begin a lifelong process of becoming more like Christ.  As we walk by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, our lifestyle confirms that we are new creatures in Christ.  

As Christians look to the future, the Bible reminds us that our eternal destiny is sure:

  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28)
  • There is an established order to key salvation events in a believer’s experience, beginning with God’s foreknowledge, to being predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, to being called, justified, and eventually glorified (Rom. 8:29-30)
  • “In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter1:3-5)
  • “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

What I am hoping to drive home into the hearts and minds of those reading this article is that with regards to our salvation, God did it all!  We did nothing to deserve our being able to see Him clearly enough to repent and believe.  We did nothing to be transferred from death to life and darkness to light.  If we did nothing to earn our salvation, then there is nothing that we can do to undo what God did.

I trust that these deep truths will cause you to praise God for His indescribable gifts and to rest in Him.

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)

Creating Positive Changes In Your Organization

(Note: This article was published on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)

I was asked to review some recent changes to U.S. Army policy on pregnant soldiers which addressed some of the unique challenges that females (which make up 18% of our force) and their families face. 

The challenges pregnant soldiers experience are in many cases more complex than what civilians have.  When their unit gets orders to deploy or when they have to go to away to a required school for several months they may need to execute a family care plan.  They may have to buy new uniforms to fit their ever-changing bodies during and after pregnancy.  They must be able to maintain their physical fitness.

The proposed changes included a wide range of things such as maternity leave (some of which is authorized for their spouse also, if dual military), uniform wear, height and weight standards, schooling, and deployments.  They will improve female Soldiers’ quality of life and enable them to advance in their careers as they expand their families.

A female officer I highly respect was impressed.  She stated, “This makes me want to stay in the Army.”

This policy got me to thinking about how important it is for any organization with female employees who may become pregnant to ensure there are standards and benefits in writing that are reasonable, compassionate, and appropriate to provide a healthy work environment that does not hinder assignment and promotion opportunities, encourages wellness, and clarifies expectations for all concerned.

Why should we be interested about such matters?  Is it my duty to care for those who have special needs in my workplace?  What can an ordinary employee do if these kinds of policies are not in place? 

Let me offer some ideas from a biblical and theological perspective as to how we can meet the needs of individuals as well as work towards fair and appropriate policies that will benefit all in the long term.

Being the Good Samaritan

It should be fairly obvious that we have the opportunity every day to fulfill both of the two greatest commandments that Jesus clearly spelled out in our workspaces every day.  We can love God as we work for His glory with the strength and wisdom He provides and we can love our neighbor.

Like the Good Samaritan, if we focus on being employees in our organizations who are actively concerned with meeting the practical needs (i.e., physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual) of our coworkers who are facing unique challenges, this is what biblical love of neighbor truly looks like.

Building unity amidst diversity

I found a statement in a memo from the Secretary of Defense in November of 2020 that appears to be the focus in driving these changes: “The women who serve in the U.S. military are vital to the readiness and lethality of our Armed Forces, making important contributions every day to protect our Nation.”

The Apostle Paul wrote something similar about the value of each member of the Body of Christ in 1 Cor. 12:12-26.  Paul’s main point was that all team members have value, purpose and function.  He emphasized that every individual brings something unique to the table.  Everyone contributes.  No one is unnecessary.  All workers are needed.  All should treat one another with honor, respect, and concern.

If these kinds of attitudes are appropriate for diverse members in the church, they can certainly help to build teamwork in any organization.  Perhaps God has a plan for you to ensure that employees with unique needs are cared for in practical ways so that they will want to continue to be part of your team.

Bringing Shalom to your space

In Jer. 29:7, Yahweh tells the Israelites who are exiled in Babylon, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  Just like the Israelites who were in captivity, God sends each of us to an organization as an employee to be His agents of redemption.  We must shine the light of Christ in dark places and become part of His work to bring common grace to all who are made in His image.  (See also Prov. 11:10.)

Hugh Whelchel, in How Then Should We Work? ties this passage to the cultural mandate in Gen. 1:28.  He points out the connection between the command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” with the command to the Babylonian exiles to “build houses and settle down” and “marry and have sons and daughters” (Jer. 29:5-6).  He sees that as they “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jer. 29:7), they are also exercising “subduing” and “ruling” functions.  By doing so, they are “reweaving Shalom.” 

Whelchel continues, offering an application for us, “God meant them to be a blessing to the world even while they lived in Babylon.  God intends the same for us.  We are called to work for the shalom of the city, whatever or wherever that city is, where God has put us.  We are to be a blessing in our time and place.  This is possible only because we have found our identity in Christ, the Prince of Shalom.”

Practical application

So let me return to my question, regarding what an ordinary employee can do.  There are countless ways that the average worker, who does not own a company, is not a manager or supervisor, or does not work in human resources can help to ensure there are benefits for pregnant workers and young mothers. 

Some ideas include: plan a baby shower; provide meals the first few weeks after delivery; extend grace if they have to leave early or arrive late due to emergencies; ensure there is a private and clean space for nursing mothers to pump throughout the work day; ensure that motherhood is not the sole basis for decision-making when the employee is up for a promotion, reassignment, or special project; just listen.

Christians are called to be salt and light wherever God sends us (Matt. 5:13-14).  If changes are long overdue, perhaps God can use us to influence organizational leaders to provide better support systems for women who need it.  If positive reforms happen due to God’s presence in us, it brings glory to God.

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ 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 a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 170 articles on faith and work topics. Eighty of these have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. (See published articles on Linktree.)