By T. R. Robertson
“God is doing a great work here in southeast Asia,” says a missionary in his latest newsletter.
A friend who is a campus minister talks frequently about the blessings of watching God at work in the lives of students on the university campus.
The weekly offering meditation on Sunday morning often includes a plea to “support God’s work here at this church.”
As a Bible college graduate, I considered pursuing full-time work in a church, campus ministry, or on the mission field. Instead, my wife and I have spent the past four decades working in what are usually considered secular jobs, teaching piano and working in hospital purchasing.
Early in those years I sometimes wondered how my life would be different if I had chosen to work in a job where God’s work was being done. I eventually realized I’ve been doing that all along.
God works where I work. He also works where you work.
It’s fairly easy to see yourself doing God’s work in some jobs. My mother was a nurse. She always considered that she was working alongside God, the Great Physician.
My friends who work for the government—police officers, bureaucrats, military personnel—can look to Romans 13:1-7 where Paul explains that governmental authorities are “God’s servant for your good.”
The truth, though, is that God is at work wherever you work, whatever your job may be.
God Working in People Where You Work
Take my wife for example. Her workplace is at home, as a piano teacher.
She goes out of her way to engage the children and their parents in encouraging conversation before, during, and after the lessons. On numerous occasions students’ mothers have stayed late to talk to her about parenting or about other stresses in their lives. Coffee dates are set up, so they can unburden themselves more fully to her kind and attentive ear.
One piano student and her mother spent so much time talking to Karen, we ended up baptizing them both. All because Karen recognizes that every family who comes for piano lessons is already the target of God’s attention. He’s been planting seeds in their hearts for years, and has brought them to her piano studio for more than just “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”
Whether you’re a teacher, an executive in a corner office, or a factory worker, every person you encounter is a work in progress, tended by the God who is constantly at work in the lives of the people he has created.
I once worked for a boss who was so underhanded and sneaky, he was known as “the Weasel.”
When he found out I was a religious guy, he told me all about how he had been a preacher’s kid. He also told me he had left all that behind as soon as he left home.
His intent was to let me know I shouldn’t waste my time talking to him about religious things. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity, a connecting point for engaging him in conversations about matters of faith.
He approached those chats like a cat and mouse game, with him in the role of the cat. I played along with his game because it made him more willing to talk about a topic he otherwise would have avoided. As a result, I was able to plant seeds in his heart on behalf of the God who was still trying to woo him back—through me.
I haven’t seen “the Weasel” for years. I have no idea if he’s returned to faith. I’m pretty sure, though, that God is still working on him.
Nate, a friend of mine from church, runs his own construction company. He hires both fellow church members and skilled workers who are not Christians.
One of their coworkers has told them on more than one occasion that he “doesn’t do church.” In the face of his expressed disinterest, the temptation might be to avoid the topic of religion. But Nate and Chris, who is an elder in our church, talk freely and openly about their faith and church activities, just like they talk about their families and their hobbies. No pressure, just everyday conversation.
Meanwhile, their coworker started dating a new lady friend. As they grew closer, she asked him to join her at church and he has started to go with her.
While they were casually planting seeds along the way, God was apparently working in their coworker’s life from another end.
The UPS driver who delivers packages to the back door of your business every day has been experiencing the work of God in his life, whether or not he is aware of it.
Yesterday, when you were dealing with that exceptionally tired and cranky customer? I have no doubt she crossed your path at a particular moment in God’s plan for her.
The only real question is whether you will see these people as God sees them, each at a different point in the process of being pulled toward him. And, if so, will you be looking for opportunities to join in his work?
God Working in You While You Work
Sometimes God’s work is being done not only in the life of that coworker or customer, but also in you.
My friend, Tim, works in organic and natural farming. The people he encounters in the alternative agriculture community include a mix of conservative isolationists, fiercely independent libertarians, and far left agnostics and atheists.
Tim is the type who naturally and eagerly sprinkles his everyday conversations with salt and light. Talking about his faith in an atmosphere of strong and extreme opinions has sharpened his skills. While God works through him to influence others, he’s also working on Tim, molding him into an effective partner in his work.
More than 20 years ago I found myself working in a warehouse with a young black man named Chris. We hit it off immediately. A 40-year old middle class family man and a street-smart kid, we talked our way through every work day.
While we chatted about the culture and politics and our personal experiences, we worked at understanding what made each other tick, what went into the widely different perspectives created by our diverse backgrounds. I struggled to understand why he looked up to controversial basketball star Dennis Rodman as a role model for kids. He probed my mind to understand the middle class white filter through which I saw the man he considered to be a hero.
Looking back, I realize God was working in both of us, teaching us to empathize and respect the experience and world view of people who are different. Those lessons have had a profound impact on my ability to see every person as traveling the same road in life as I am, even though we each have vastly different experiences on that road.
I don’t know for sure that our conversations had any spiritual impact on Chris, whom I haven’t seen since. Recently, however, I met Chris’s daughter—just an infant when I last saw her—in a training session I was leading at work. During a short conversation, she spoke from an obvious wellspring of faith. Could it be that God was working through the conversations I had with her father two decades ago in order to plant a seed that would open his daughter’s heart to faith?
God’s Work Is Like That
We usually have no idea what God has been doing in the lives of the people we encounter at work. Has he been teaching your coworker discipline through hard times? Has he been planting seeds of faith through your supervisor’s neighbor? Has he been allowing the IT tech to spiral slowly downward, preparing her for a moment of desperation when she will cry out for help?
Whatever others may be experiencing in their lives, God puts his people in a position to play a part in the work he is doing. By listening, encouraging, offering a helping hand, being patient, or being prepared to give an answer for the hope we have, we become a part of God’s work in the midst of our workday.
T. R. Robertson is a freelance writer in Columbia, Missouri.