8 March 2020
Eld Lee Kong Sing
The typical worker in the secular workplace spends at least one third of his life working. That is very substantial if we bear in mind that he spends another one-third sleeping and the remaining one third on all other activities of his life such as family, service in church, recreation and so on. If we do not include sleeping, it would mean that most adults spend half or more of their waking hours working. This makes up a very substantial part of his life. And yet, many believers have difficulty finding meaning and purpose in their secular jobs. Some see the job as little more than a means to an end which is to make a living in order to survive; a necessary burden and pain in life as it were. “No job, no money” is a common adage and work is often done with reluctance and drudgery. If the secular job truly holds little to no eternal and spiritual value, then a large part of the believer’s life is wasted for the Lord. Surely this cannot be God’s purpose for the life of believers? What then is God’s purpose in calling the believer into the secular job?
The Calling of the Believer to Service
After the believer comes to trust in Christ through saving faith, he is henceforth called into a life of service of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. His entire life should be dedicated to serving Christ which is his reasonable service (Romans 12:1). Every believer is called into at least one area of service, often many. For instance, if the believer has at least one living parent, he is called to be a faithful Christian son or daughter. The believer who is married is called to be a faithful Christian spouse. If the believer is blessed with a child, he is called to be a faithful Christian father or mother. In addition, every believer is called to at least one area of service in the local church. Some are called to serve as ushers, others to serve in the kitchen ministry, or to visit and comfort those who are sick and home-bound, or to the music ministry, and so on. Similarly, God calls some believers to serve Him in a secular job. The calling to a job is like any other calling. God calls a believer to serve Him at the workplace just as He would call the same believer to serve Him as an Exco member of a ministry in the local church.
Every Calling of the Believer is Equally Important
Every calling in the believer’s life is of equal weight and importance. There is no one calling higher than another. Neither does a calling make one better than another believer. The calling to be a church leader is not greater than the calling to be a husband or father. They are equally important. As such, the believer is expected to be faithful in every calling.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17
The phrase “word or deed” encompasses all that we do; and we are to do “all in the name of the Lord Jesus” which means that in everything we must bear the name of Christ and bring honour and glory to His name. To do so, we must live a life of obedience in accordance with God’s Word. In application to God’s call to serve Him, it means we are expected to glorify God in every calling through faithful service.
In order to be faithful in every area of calling, no area must be fulfilled at the expense of another. If one puts too much emphasis in any one area and becomes unable to put in enough time and effort in another as he should, he cannot be said to be faithful. He may spend too much time at work and neglect service in church or he may spend too much time serving in church and neglect his calling as husband and father. If so, he must evaluate his life and maintain a balance so that he is able to be faithful in all.
In addition, we must note that God will also equip us with sufficient grace to fulfil each calling faithfully. God will never call us into so many areas of service that we become unable to be faithful even if we tried. God will always equip us sufficiently to be faithful in all. If we become inundated and fail to be faithful in any calling, it is not God’s fault but our own. Hence, we must be wise to discern God’s will in our lives and determine if every calling is true.
The Calling of the Secular Job
The calling to a secular job is spiritual and sacred. It is not lesser than any other calling. God has placed believers in the secular workplace for a very important purpose.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13–16
Salt has antiseptic and preservative qualities that serve to act against decay and rot. This world is in a state of spiritual decay. The believer’s life of holiness is the salt of the world which God uses to save the world from eternal death. Similarly, the world is enveloped in spiritual darkness unable to discern the truth and the way to heaven. By bearing God’s Word both in word and in life, believers are the light that points unbelievers to the way to heaven.
The Christian worker who faithfully testifies for Christ at the workplace is a beam of righteousness, joy and blessing to all around him. Just as Potiphar loved and trusted Joseph, similarly the faithful believer will be greatly valued by his co-workers for his work ethic and his Christian character. However, there is a greater and more eternal blessing the believer can bring to his unbelieving co-workers and that is to bring to them the saving knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is no greater good that believers can bring to their colleagues than this. He may be trusted and exemplary at his work but this is temporal unless it leads to the eternal salvation blessing.
The calling of the believer into a secular job holds no higher purpose than to lead unbelievers to Christ.
The Evangelist Nature of the Calling
Some may be surprised to note that the call to the secular job is perhaps even more evangelistic than that of the full-time church worker. This is true when seen from the perspective of the number of different unbelievers he encounters at close quarters throughout his career. Opportunities to evangelise at the secular workplace can be tremendous. It is very rare to find an office staffed by mostly believers. The opposite is more often true. In fact, it is not uncommon to find the lone believer in a large office.
In addition, the number of hours the believer spends with the unbeliever each workday is comparable to time spent with family if not more. Even when sharing the gospel may not always be welcomed, the believer is able to actively witness for Christ by his life example. If he maintains a faithful testimony, unbelievers can see Christ in Him. In the meantime, the believer prays for opportunities to share the gospel. If not for the lone believer in the office, there would not be anyone to come before God in prayer for his unbelieving colleagues.
The harvest field of souls at the workplace is truly white for the harvest. The believer who has been called to a secular job has the holy and sacred duty of being the salt and light in the office by sharing the gospel and to testify for Christ through holy and godly living.
This understanding should cause him to look at his duties with renewed meaning and purpose. The calling to the workplace is the high calling of leading souls to Christ as part of God’s sovereign salvific plan for man determined even before the foundation of the world.
Such an understanding and consciousness should prompt the believer to take stock and evaluate how he has served God at the secular job. He must determine if he has truly fulfilled God’s will as a worker in the secular job. Has he helped bring the unbeliever one step closer to the gates of heaven or has he hindered God’s Word? Has he missed one too many opportunities to share the gospel with his colleagues? Has he been diligent in fulfilling all righteousness in every part of his calling in the secular job and therefore glorifying Christ in the process? Is he even at the job of God’s choice? Or has he failed the Lord from the onset by wilfully choosing a job motivated by selfish ambition and in the process departed from the will of the Lord?
The Blessings of a Correct Understanding of the Calling
A correct understanding will help the believer fulfil his calling in the secular workplace with greater faith, joy and peace in the Lord. This is because he now sees his job as more than just a means to a living but as part of God’s grand and sovereign plan to save man. His aim now is to cooperate with this plan which is most important and meaningful because of its eternal value. In addition, if he remains in God’s will in all things, he can confidently rest in the fact that his life will be pleasing in the sight of God and God will enable and help him in all that he does.
Another benefit of understanding his calling to the secular workplace is that he is now impervious to the difficulties and challenges that are commonly found at the workplace. Previously, when confronted with a difficult situation, he would have responded with helplessness, fear and stress. But now, he understands that God has a purpose in allowing difficult situations to enter his life. It is to perfect his faith while at the same time serve to lead individuals in the office closer to Christ. For instance, in the past, a bad boss might have caused the believer a lot of frustration and anger. But now, the believer sees the bigger picture and recognises that God could well be using this situation to allow the suffering believer to testify for Christ by his Christ-like responses to unreasonable and unfair treatment by difficult people, his patience, gentleness, humble submission and peace that shine through. He does not retaliate and in fact turns the other cheek and goes the extra mile. His colleagues can see for themselves that the faithful Christian is truly special and not like anyone they encountered before. Hopefully, by his shining testimony they are now one step closer to believing in Christ.
The concept of job satisfaction is no longer based on worldly ideas. In the past, he embraced the belief that job-satisfaction meant finding joy in the nature of the job itself and if he is able to find such a job then all will be well. But now, job satisfaction is replaced with true joy that comes by living in God’s will. Such a joy remains regardless of what sort of job God has led him to. The nature of the job is no longer the criteria for joy in the job; instead being in God’s will is. Living a life that is pleasing in the sight of God brings true joy that transcends all external circumstances. The believer now finds joy even in the most mundane of jobs. No longer does it matter what sort of work he is assigned to. He may be given the most uninteresting job in the whole company or the one with the lowest promotional prospects. All this matters little to him. He will continue to find joy in the job.
He will no longer think of his job as a second class calling compared to other callings like the full-time ministry or areas of service in church. Instead, he now sees all the different callings in his life as from God. Every calling is just as important and sacred. All are equally a privilege and blessing, serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Just as much as he finds joy and purpose serving as a deacon, he now finds the same serving as an office administrator. Just as he finds deep meaning fulfilling his calling as a godly father, he now finds the same depth of meaning being a manager at his workplace. This understanding brings confidence and purpose in fulfilling his calling in the secular workplace. He sees his life as a complete and united whole, all callings working in accordance with God’s perfect plan.
The believer who now recognises the purpose of God’s calling for him to the workplace will become more careful and conscientious in fulfilling God’s will at the work place and in all other areas of his life. God has placed him at the workplace with a high and sacred purpose. Souls are at stake. He must be faithful and not fail the Lord and hinder the important work of saving souls. He must do all things according to God’s will. He must live a life of obedience. He must bear a good testimony for Christ. If he departs from the will of God and lives in disobedience before his colleagues, he will bring shame to the name of Christ and deter his co-workers from coming to Him and as a result, they may be forever lost because of him. His life is no longer his own to live but he is now deeply conscious of how others will look at him as one who claims to know the one true living God. He must set aside his self-interest and fulfil his function as the salt and light of the world.
When the believer possesses a biblical understanding of his secular job, he will find that his secular job can be a source of great spiritual blessing. The job can be a means of grace and spiritual growth. The believer who once saw his job as a necessary inconvenience of life now sees it as a very spiritual and high calling to lead others to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This transformation enables him to live closer to the will of God for his life, thus bringing honour and glory to God’s name.