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Life’s Questions – Week 16 Notes

Interview Kara Gibson

1.How difficult to find work life balance

2.What has helped

  1. What life transitions have impacted balance

4.What struggles or questions remain

  1. INTRO: Jim Bosch: “I wish I could work”

This month we are going to look at work as calling.

Often those who have specific kinds of jobs are said to have been “called”…most often it refers to religious jobs…pastor, missionaries, sometimes what we call the helping professions as well.

But all of us are “called” to give our lives to create good for others and to bring glory to God in what we do with our lives…whatever we do.

What is the difference between a “job” and a “vocation”?

The word Vocation, comes from a Latin word that means “calling.”

The background for the word “job” is “task, something to be done”

Vocation has a sense of transcendence…something of higher and lasting value.

Job has the sense of the mundane…mundane means…lowly, earthbound

Job…is seen as something many love to hate, it is something we “have to do” but often don’t really want to do.

Vocation…calling…is something that has divine weight to it.

Many wish they could trade their jobs for vocation/calling.

What is the real difference between a job and a vocation?

*It is our perspective

One person doing something sees “job” another person doing the same thing sees “vocation, calling.”

Maybe the most famous example of a person doing their mundane job as calling is Brother Lawrence.

He was a 17century monk whose personal writings of his experience with God while working as a cook, and later a sandal maker were compiled into a book after his death.

The book, “Practicing the Presence of God” brought him international fame…that would be a great surprise to him I’m sure.

Lawrence was a soldier in the thirty years war…one of the most destructive conflicts in history.

He came out of that war with PTSD and lifelong physical suffering because of injuries.

He experienced a sense of calling and peace and the ongoing presence of God in the midst of the most mundane jobs possible…cooking, washing dishes, and making and repairing sandals.

There is Biblical precedence for his approach to his work…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Col. 3:17 NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,

(Col. 3:23 NIV)

When Dwight Eisenhower, who went on to become the supreme allied commander in WWII and US president was an upper classman at West Point he was hazing a younger student, called them plebes.

This one nervous plebe was rushing about trying to obey an order from Eisenhower when he fell down on the ground.

Eisenhower mocked him for being clumsy by saying “What is your previous condition of servitude (a common idiom at the academy)…he then added “You look like a barber.”

He picked what he thought was a demeaning job.

The young student replied sheepishly “I was a barber sir.”

Eisenhower later told a friend…”I will never haze again…I made a man ashamed of what he did to earn a living.”

Eisenhower, who grew up working with his hands in Abilene, KS…knew better and never forgot that experience.

This perspective of seeing the value in every person’s work (vocation)…was instrumental in him later being able to lead a vast and diverse group of military members to victory in Europe…the troops loved him.

Work as calling doesn’t mean you should seek to find your “purpose” from your work.

It means that your work, whatever it is, has purpose…because this is where God has called you to serve him and others.

Some people move from job to job because they can’t find “meaning” or “satisfaction” in their jobs.

This unhealthy discontentment is often caused by looking externally to fix what is really a heart and mind issue.

It doesn’t mean you should never change jobs…there is a time when “healthy discontentment” leads you to where you should be next.

But looking to a job for life meaning is trying to squeeze from your work what it cannot give you.

Listen to what Solomon said about work, God, and happiness

Ecc.   5:19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift of God

“To accept his lot and be happy in his work…this is a gift from God.”

This translation says “happy in his work” but the word is better translated “Toil”…”tedious labor”

“Lot” means portion…what God has given you.

So…it is not the gift of a great job…”You are blessed if you have a good job.”

It is the gift of a great perspective on what God has given you to do.

“Does this mean if I have a terrible attitude it’s not my fault, it’s God’s…he hasn’t gifted me with a good attitude?”

This is not passivity this is a gift that corresponds with a choice…in the Bible contentment is a both gift and choice…they are co-joined in a person’s life.

We cry out for and pursue contentment, gratitude and joy…and God gifts them to us…and we choose them…both/and

St. Kitts: Carpenter who built houses, when he home at night he would hand sharpened his hand saw.

His joy and contentment in what he did that helped me to want to more fully embrace the gospel in my own life.

*His perspective on work…work that was toil…was beautiful to me…it drew me in.

 His job was mundane on the face of it…but he lived vocation…calling.

There is a movement called FIRE (financial independent, retire early)…the holy grail of the movement is to be able to retire by age 40 so you can then go live your life.

Some, I’m sure, want to be able to do different kinds of work so they can, serve others, do what they enjoy as a vocation…without the constraints of having to earn a living.

But in the stories I read it is largely about people who want to get done with work as soon as possible so they can “begin to live their lives.”

The problem is in the thinking “get done with work…to begin to live or enjoy life.”

It sees work as the barrier to life…rather than a key part of what God is doing in and through us.

Listen to what Jesus said that speaks to this approach to life when it is centered entirely on self…

Luke 12:16   And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Work is not a curse or something to get done with so you can live…it is part of a life well lived.

Work is also not life itself…we don’t find our ultimate meaning from what we do.

*There is a numerical spike in suicides for military members who transition to the civilian sector…there are several factors here including loss of support structures…but one factor is that many people find their identity in their job…it becomes who they are….”I am a soldier.”

Both of these positions…work is life/work is keeping me from life…miss the biblical balance of work as a calling for the believer who is living life for the glory of God and the good of others.

We are to be “Christ followers…who do whatever we do…for his glory.”

We find life in him…and we thrive in the live he gives us to live.

My dad worked as a consultant for a man who was very wealthy and spent many years playing for a living…enjoying his inheritance…he was worth hundreds of millions.

-He asked my dad to consult him on businesses he wanted to buy because as he grew older he was bored and dissatisfied with his life.

-He was a FIRE…financially independent, retired early

-Who became…Financially independent, living without purpose…bored.

Let’s look at some foundational verses for our calling:

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

God’s creative work is the beginning of all that exists apart from him.

This fact means many things for us but foundationally it means all things exist for him…meaning, purpose is derived from relationship with him.

We exist for his glory…we thrive as people when we live in line with our purpose.

Gen 1:26   Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creative work, we are his image bearers.

This means many things including but not limited to the fact that we are: personal, relational, volitional, eternal…and we are designed and equipped to do creative work.

We cannot create matter and energy like God has…but we can take what God has made and do incredibly diverse things with it.

Look around this single room and consider human creativity in what we enjoy.

Consider the music we enjoy.

Humans did not invent music, God did…but we can create melodies and songs.

Composer David Bruce has a fascinating article titled “Have all the good melodies already been used up?”

I am way out of my league when I discuss anything musical…other than “I like that song, it sounds good to me.”

But he demonstrates how with just a six-note melody there are 13 quintillion possibilities (13 with 18 numbers after it)

We won’t run out of songs anytime soon…we are creative but God provided the raw materials of our creativity.

We won’t run out of creative possibilities in the vast potential God put into this good earth.

And in the new heavens and earth…we will spend eternity discovering and enjoying the creative side of our lives as gloried image bearers.

I guess we will find out if there really are an infinite number of possible melodies.

I suspect when we get there…we will find out the music we know is just the surface of a deep, deep ocean…same with colors and art and everything else.

Gen 2:15   The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it

There you see the original calling of humans to work and take care of what God has made.

Cultivate: Hebrew word that means to: nurture, sustain

Keep: Hebrew word that means to: preserve, care for, protect

These are active verbs: They demonstrate God’s intention that human beings both develop and cherish the world in ways that meet human needs and bring glory and honor to him. (To Change the World, Hunter)

In Genesis 3 we see the tragic fall of humanity from God’s intended place for us as his image bearers.

We tried to find the good apart from him so now, instead of beauty and order and design…we have disintegration.

We will spend our lives fighting entropy…our lawns sprout weeds, our houses need paint, our bodies wear down and become diseased.

However the calling and obligation of Genesis 2 is not negated by the sin of Gen. 3

This calling is reaffirmed in the covenants of the OT and the NT.

The covenant with Noah in Gen. 9 after God cleansed the world to save it…

He told Noah to be fruitful and multiply…that all the world is before humans for their use (not abuse) and cultivation and enjoyment.

The Covenant with Abraham in Gen 12 was to multiply, become a nation (a culture) and bless the nations (cultures of the world)

Then with Moses on Sinai…the nation is given the laws…legal, civil and ceremonial that will allow them to be a prosperous nation that will bless the world.

Then in the New Testament, the New Covenant where the Law is written on hearts by the gospel of Jesus Christ…God’s new people are to form new communities and bless the world around them by doing all they do as unto the Lord.

People fulfill their destiny in the art, music, literature, commerce, law…the manifold activities of humans together…families, churches, communities we form.

These all reflect the good of God and his designs for human flourishing.

“To be Christian is to be obliged to engage the world, pursuing God’s restorative purposes over all of life, individual and corporate, public and private. This is the mandate of creation.” To change the world “James Hunter

Christians and churches are often acutely aware of what is called the Great Commission and the Great commandment.

  1. Great commission: Evangelism and discipleship

Matt. 28:19, 20

  1. Great commandment: Summary of the purpose of the Law.

Matt. 22:37

These two “Greats’ form our purpose…”Knowing and loving God, making God’s love known to others.”

But there is a third “great” that is sometimes overlooked or underemphasized.

It is called the “Great mandate” or what Hunter calls the “Mandate of Creation”

It’s what we saw in Gen 2:15   The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it

In the OT you see artisans, craftsmen, stone masons, woodworkers, musicians, priests, politicians, teachers, engineers…all types of callings that God has put into his people to honor him and bless the world.

The Great Commission is to make the good news of Jesus known to the world

The Great Commandment is the summary of what God wants for and from his people..

The Great Mandate is how all of our lives are to be lived in a “Single story”…everything we do with our gifts, skills, training, minds, hands…are to be for the glory of God and the good of others.

The two-story view of life is not a Christian perspective of the world, work and the faith.

Plato had his world of “forms”…where the physical world is a sort of shadowy reflection on the cave wall of the spiritual realities that stand behind them.

Some Eastern religions downplay or even deny the reality of the physical world…it is “maya” illusion.

An early Christian heresy said that Christ only appeared to be in a physical body…he was in fact only spiritual because the physical is evil. (Doecetism)

The biblical story of reality is very different…the spiritual and the physical are both real and important.

God made the physical world and said it is “good!”

Christ was fully man and fully God…both spiritual and physical are good.

God will in the end restore the heavens and earth…physical reality will regain its original state.

We are and always will be spiritual/physical beings.

In the Christian sub-culture…There has been there has been this stream of thought that if it is not directly impacting evangelism and discipleship (the Great Commission) it is not “spiritual” it has no “eternal value.”

There has been this false dichotomy between what is “spiritual work” (evangelism, missions, praying) and what is “physical work”(everything else)…and the spiritual work is more important because it is eternal.

Everything done out of love for God and others…is eternal…of lasting value.

Sometimes it can be easy to get excited about starting a lunch time bible study at work, or sharing the gospel with a co-worker…good things.

But what about the fact that my work is a blessing to others in just the quality of it and the fact that it serves the needs of people?

A good friend recently had to relocate some of his employees to other cities and jobs: He spent many weeks working hard to take care of these folks under his leadership.

Much of what he did was not technically in his job description(not outside it either)…but it was within the realm of his calling as follower of Christ.

He did his work as a leader in a way that demonstrated love for God and others.

Another friend, who you will hear some of his story later this month…has at times struggled to find meaning in his work…he owns and leads his own business.

-Yet he has blessed my family and many people I have sent his way through the integrity in how he operates his business.

-People need what his business provides…but very often are unable to find businesses like his that they can trust.

*His business has a reputation in the city of integrity.

*These are examples of people living out their calling…I could give a hundred more.

Parents who are raising children (more on that next week)

David who restores power to our homes in all kinds of weather

Jamin who brings beauty and a sense of transcendence into lives through his art.

Often we can see meaning in other people’s jobs…but my job is just my job.

A friend who is an expert in supply chain and demand planning who would sometimes tell me he didn’t feel like he had a “real job”

Yet…what he did made goods more accessible and cheaper for people to enjoy and be blessed by.

Some might say…all this is feeding the corrupt consumer society we live in.

Some people are no doubt participating in corrupting society…my friends I have mentioned are participating in bringing good to the lives of people…and God is honored in the process.

There have been different views on how this “great mandate” is to be fleshed out…or how Christians are to make an impact in the world.

Years ago, a Christian thinker and writer (Richard Niebuhr) wrote of three approaches to how the world (culture) is thought to be changed.

Culture is for our purposes…the world of people together…their ideas, beliefs, values, actions.

He called the three approaches:

  1. Christ above culture
  2. Christ below culture
  3. Christ in culture

Christ above culture is a sort of “siege mentality”

We cannot stop the onslaught of the “world’s corrupting influence” so we must flee to Christian churches, homes, schools, businesses, music, movies and friends…hide.

There are many things wrong with this approach…not the least of which is the idea that the main problem is the sin that is “out there.”

Sin is not mostly an external threat…it is an internal one.

Christ above culture says we cannot change what is inherently corrupt so we leave it to them…this has resulted in universities, sciences, politics, media and many other spheres of influence being left to those who do not follow Christ.

Of course there are clear lines that must be drawn and not crossed as followers of Christ…and knowing how to live in the culture well is complex.

But to simply try to live life with walls to protect us from the corrupting influence of culture is not good or even possible.

Christ below culture is the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

This is where the church instead of changing the world, chases it…and usually is a step behind it.

Oscar Wilde…the playwright who lived a life of great brokenness once said to a trendy pastor. “I not only follow you, I precede you.”

The pastor was trying to have a spiritual influence…was in fact just following behind Wilde’s worldview…which Wilde knew to be bankrupt.

“Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” the 1960s radicals cried…youth movement.

“Don’t trust anyone under three hundred,” came theologian Thomas Oden’s wise reply.

Christ below culture places current trends above timeless truth.

“What moves according to the times dies with the times, only someone in touch with the eternal can hope to be eternally relevant—and faithful too.” Guinness

In Christ below culture…the church ends up like the unhappy kid on the playground whose desperate desire to fit in only makes him completely unable to do so.

He shows up for school finally wearing what the cool kids wear…only to discover cool has moved on to something else…his new clothes are no longer hip.

This has been the story when Christians have lived a “Christ below Culture” approach.

The third approach, Neihbur called “Christ in Culture.”

Here is how Jesus describes this lifestyle in his great prayer:

John 17:13   “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Sanctify means to “set apart for a purpose.”

We are set apart for God’s purposes even as we sent into the world.

We are not to live under culture…we are set apart from it.

We are not to live over culture…we are sent into it

We are to live “in and not of”…we are to be “Christ in culture”

James Hunter in his book “To Change the World”

Espouses an approach he calls “Faithful presence.”

He writes that “The failure to encourage excellence in vocation in our time has fostered a culture of mediocrity in so many areas of vocation.”

The church is to “bear witness to and to be the embodiment of the coming Kingdom of God” wherever God places us.

Much like in dealing with the question of Evil and Suffering…where there were themes and not merely easy answers.

So too with being a faithful presence and living vocation…can be hard to figure out at times.

For instance “Be content”…might sound like the easy answer to all things vocation related…be content.

But there is a healthy discontentment that can push people to go where God wants them to be…sometimes content is not healthy.

A friend recently experienced a full year of healthy discontentment in his life as God prepared him for a drastic change in vocation.

Now he lived faithfully during that year…that is important to know.

Often there is an unhealthy discontentment that perpetually robs people of their joy and ability to experience God where they are now.

How do you know if your discontentment is “healthy or unhealthy?” Good question.

There are so many questions like this that are legitimate to ask in regard to vocation…and to answer them requires the wisdom of Scripture, the Holy Spirit and the help of others God has placed in our lives.

As we look this month at vocation as calling…may

“God help us live with wisdom and grace for his glory and the good of others in our diverse callings.”

May God …”Help us better understand the secret of being content in every situation…to help us experience personally the reality that he gives us strength for all he calls us to.”

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