Christian Vocation: The Big Questions 3: How can I work Intentionally?
This series of blogs is considering the issue of vocation. What does the word mean to a Christian? Does it just relate to those in full time Christian work, those in caring professions, or to all of us regardless of what work we do? Question 1 pondered on whether faith changes the way we approach work, and if so, how? Question 2 considered the idea of work-life balance in the light of God’s purpose for our lives.
Question 3: How can I work intentionally?
We work because God works and He designed us to do the same. If all that we do is integral to God’s purpose for our lives, then work-life balance is not an issue. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: ‘You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). We are each just one distinct letter and to be distinctive we need to ensure that our letter is written by the Spirit of the living God. So how can we work intentionally to achieve this?
Sometimes at work the going gets tough, but these tough times are also opportunities for us to work intentionally as we learn to persist. Our primary objective is to love God and become more like Christ whatever we do. Sometimes that’s hard, because we’re frail and human, and it can be easy to doubt God’s presence. When writing to the Hebrews, Paul described it like this: ‘let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). We may not be able to see the finish tape, but we keep running towards it because we’re determined to reach it. Even if we can’t see our trainer, He’s there, empowering us through the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to send when His life on earth ended: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth ... you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you’ (John 14:16). We stand on God’s promises, so it isn’t about how we feel, but about what God says. Our intentionality when things go wrong will speak of God’s presence in our lives.
We should also be distinctive in the way we choose what to do with our lives. The current government is planning to analyse tax data in order to inform students of the best subjects to study at GCSE, A level and university in order to access the most lucrative careers. It’s a view which values what people are rather than who they are. As Christians, we think differently – our primary calling is to be holy just as God is holy (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16) and our chief purpose, as the Westminster catechism words it, is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.
So if, as Christians, we live with this additional dimension, there are implications when we choose what to do with our lives – what career path to follow and where to work. We can’t just exercise the freedom to do as we please; we also have to consider what God wants us to do. We have to think about how best to fulfil the role for which God created us, how best to fulfil our calling to become holy and also how best to share kingdom living with those around us. That’s less about the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ than the ‘why’. If our lives really are ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3) then we want to talk to God about the decisions we make. Sometimes, what we should do isn’t always clear and it’s only in retrospect that we realise that we are where God wants us.
Christians often use the metaphor of a door to illustrate God’s will. We talk about doors opening or closing so that we can see where God wants us to walk. But fulfilling the vocation to become holy is a lifelong task. When Esther, a Jewish girl living in the middle of a Persian court, found herself chosen to be Queen, she must have wondered whether this was really what God wanted for her life. Events proved that it was - God had placed Esther there to save her people from destruction at the hand of the King’s wicked official, Haman. In a communication to Esther before the threat became apparent, her uncle Mordecai said: ‘And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14). Her determination to honour God was intentional living, even when she couldn’t see its purpose.
It’s only by walking through life with God that we can fulfil our vocation to become holy and can know that we are centred in God’s will. So for each of us, the question about the intentionality of our lives is the same - are we where God wants us to be ‘for such a time as this’?