By Barry L. Rowan, Crosswalk.com
Can you guess how many hours the average person spends at work during their lifetime? Researchers peg it at 90,000. For people who have a workaholic tendency or work further into their later years, it can easily exceed 100,000 hours.
Don’t you want your 100,000 work hours to matter?
Most of us who are reflective about our work sooner or later begin to fear that we may be living a meaningless life, including our work lives. We want a career of significance. I can tell you from personal experience, that this issue will eat us alive over time if we don’t resolve it.
The good news is that God has a perspective of our work, and as we live into this divine design, we will live a life of profound meaning. Is there any greater joy than being used by the Creator of the universe as an instrument of his will?
Each of us can let the Master Artist lead us in approaching our work, not as a cold exercise in power building or moneymaking, but as a spiritual art in which God transforms us and, through us, transforms the world for the better. “We are God’s masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT), and so is our work.
Let’s look at four ways we can cooperate with God’s plan. These may or may not change what you do, but they will change how you do it and why you do it.
When I was in business school, a class called Control was a part of the required curriculum. I can assure you that the school didn’t offer a class called Surrender.
The idea of surrender runs counter to our human instincts. What military manual would suggest surrendering to win the hill? Name a business guru who gives a keynote speech on capitulation.
Yet after decades of following Jesus, I can say with confidence that the abundance of life begins with the abandonment to God. That is, with surrender to him.
The vantage point of surrender provides the best opportunity to see God’s will and His Word embedded in every moment of our lives. And as we submit to the lessons and presence of God in each moment, we give him permission to shape us into vessels that are carriers of God himself.
Those around us, and the voices from within, may call out, “Control! Take charge of your life. Don’t lose your grip on your destiny. Protect yourself. Maintain your image.” May we close our ears to these lies.
2. Live the Highs and the Lows
When our company exceeded Wall Street expectations, and its stock price zoomed up 25 percent in one day, I was tempted to bask in the euphoria rather than fall on my knees in gratitude.
When the challenges of turning around a business proved even more difficult than I had imagined, I was inclined to double down on my drive to fix the problems, rather than remembering that apart from Jesus I can do nothing.
But what does God think about this?
I have come to believe that God invites us to deepen our relationship with him through the highs and the lows. After we’d successfully turned around one company only to have COVID hit two days after announcing these positive results, I sensed God asking me, “Are you willing to go from reluctant obedience to joyful generosity?” I had seen this movie before, and though this was perhaps an even scarier horror picture, was I willing to give everything I had to save the company, the jobs, and our investors’ money?
Our health, our relationships, our success on the job, our energy level, our passion for God, and our moods—they all cycle upward and downward over time. We’re each in our own little boat riding the waves of our circumstances and emotions.
It’s pointless to try to smooth out the sea. The fullness of life is experienced by riding the waves at their highs and their lows. The joy of the journey comes from being in the company of Christ, traveling with an ever-improving version of ourselves, and sharing the experience with people we enjoy and respect.
3. Choose Deep
In The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence—a cook in a Parisian monastery during the 1600s—wrote of an overzealous friend, “[Our dear sister] seems so full of goodwill, but she wants to go faster than grace allows. It is not possible to become spiritually mature all at once.”
It takes time to learn to stay in the place of grace and to go at the pace of grace. In other words…
We want to go fast.
God wants to go deep.
There are times when God changes something miraculously overnight, but in my experience, that’s not how he normally works in shaping our character and spiritual maturity. God seems more inclined to simmer us in a slow cooker than to quick-fry us in a wok.
And in these times when the pace of the world is accelerating, it is doubly important for our character as leaders to be formed deeply enough to keep up with the speed and challenges facing our organizations.
He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. And the change is wrought at the heart of our being. God wants to change the very substance of our souls from selfishness to selfless love.
4. Be Here
Some time ago, I was sitting in the dining room of a guest ranch in Colorado during a men’s retreat. The wizened owner of the ranch said to us, “Wherever you are, be all there.” His words often come back to me, particularly when I find myself in places besides where I am.
Similarly, one of my friends is fond of saying to us goal-oriented types, “Next steals now.”
We can and should remember the past and plan for the future, but that’s not where we find life. We can only live right here, right now.
Oswald Chambers bids us, “Arise and do the next thing.”
Our work is to do what the present moment asks of us. It might be making calls in an effort to find that next job, accepting that I have to redirect my efforts when a major project gets derailed, or remaining alert in a meeting to help advance the discussion.
Right here, right now, in the gift of the present, God is creating a work of art with us as his partners. May the expressions of your life and mine become brushstrokes of God’s never-ending creativity.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/People Images
Barry L. Rowan is the author of The Spiritual Art of Business: Connecting the Daily with the Divine. A Harvard Business School graduate, he has been instrumental in building and transforming eight businesses, primarily in the technology and communications space, with one selling for $10 billion. He serves on corporate, university, and nonprofit boards, walks with the poor, and invests in the next generation of leaders. Rowan and his wife, Linda, have two adult sons and live in Colorado. Visit Barry’s website at https://www.barrylrowan.com
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