Surrendering success

One day several years ago, my former boss asked me to help cover my coworker’s human embryonic stem cell experiment while he was out of town. I was suddenly faced with the painful choice of either offending my coworkers or assisting research which I believed to be morally wrong.

You and I will face many such moments of testing in our working lives. How can we prepare to make the right choice?

In the lives of Daniel, Joseph, Nehemiah and other Biblical examples of “godly people in the secular workplace,” what emerged in their moments of testing was what they had been daily building into their lives through their relationships with God. Likewise, you and I, while here at JBU, can and must be deepening our private relationships with God.

When I say “relationship with God,” you might immediately think of spiritual disciplines like studying the Bible, memorizing Scripture, praying and attending church. These are very important as “means” by which we can know God better. But spiritual disciplines can occur without a personal relationship with God through Jesus. It is the state of “knowing God” that is the most important thing (John 17:3).

Until I was eight, I was a “good little Christian boy” who went to church and read my Bible. But it was only a ritual for me, and I was actually headed for Hell. One night, I realized I had never actually asked Jesus to save me personally. That night I understood that he had paid for my own sins, and I prayed to him and began a relationship with him. In college, I went through a time of skepticism, but God gradually brought me out of this attitude during graduate school. Looking back, I am so thankful that Jesus sought and saved me (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Here are three things I’ve learned about living in a close relationship with Christ in the workplace. Firstly, we need to depend on God. This involves asking him for help in everything we do. It involves trusting him and his promises rather than worrying about our circumstances (Phil. 4:6). It involves giving him credit after the difficulties have passed.

Secondly, we should root our identities in Christ rather than in our job, success, abilities, popularity (2 Timothy 3:12), friendships or anything else. We need to surrender “success” to God, and seek him above all else (Psalm 37:4) as the One of infinite value who can satisfy us fully.

Thirdly, we need to work “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). The main reward will come from him after we die, not here and now. This helps us to avoid making an idol out of our work (putting too much time into it, to the exclusion of other ministry or relationships) or being slack in our work.

I need to grow in these areas. To my former boss, I respectfully declined to assist the embryonic stem cell experiment, and I still think it was the right answer. But there were many other times where I have capitulated to peer pressure or failed to work “as unto the Lord”.

As we spend private time in fellowship with Jesus Christ, study his written Word and consider the surpassing value of his approval, he will prepare us for the sudden public challenges.