As the founder of 4word, a ministry organization for women in the workplace, I spend significant time speaking to and mentoring Christian professionals worldwide.
I’m often asked about how Christians can or should “bring faith to work.” My answer is simple: If you are showing up to work, then your faith is too.
How that faith plays out in the office is much less about your strategy for showing it to people and much more about the health of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Bible does not support a distinction between “spiritual life” and “work life,” or between “God’s work” and “secular work.” Work is not an accident of human development, or — as I’ve heard suggested — a byproduct of the Fall. It is a principal part of God’s original design. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, not to leisurely enjoy God’s creation, but to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).
God isn’t confined to the ministry sector, and neither is His important and purposeful work. Every single time you do what God has called you to do, it honors Him, whether you are worshiping on Sunday or filing documents on Tuesday. Each and every act or omission we perform can be meaningful in ways that only God knows.
Work to bring God pleasure
Many people today look to work for meaning and inspiration, believing that the “right” job will be fulfilling and energizing. If your job is draining or boring, conventional wisdom goes, then it must be the wrong job.
And maybe you are in the wrong job. But you need to know that no job alone can satisfy your soul. A job can be exciting, it can look important, it can earn you social approval and money, but it might just as easily lose you those things. Even the best jobs can’t look or feel good all the time, and even the best jobs end, sometimes poorly.
Work alone can only ever be work. It’s the “why” that makes it “more.” When you work to bring God pleasure, it breathes life into your efforts.
In my favorite film, “Chariots of Fire,” the character Eric Liddell, a Christian Olympic runner, wrestles with whether he should give up running for the mission field. Ultimately, he chooses to run because, he says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure … to win is to honor him.”
This is exactly the way God wants us to approach our work. If God has called you to work in the marketplace, your obedience there pleases Him.
When I started out in commercial real estate, my job didn’t feel particularly meaningful — paperwork, spreadsheets and endless meetings. But as my understanding of the work developed, and I started to build relationships with clients and coworkers, I sensed the impact I could have on people’s lives. Gradually, my career advanced until I was overseeing 4,500 employees directly, and nearly 30,000 indirectly, as a member of the Global Executive Board of CBRE.
At the time, I thought, “This is it! This must be the big opportunity that God has been preparing me for.” But even in that executive role, I felt the closest to God and the most impactful by doing small things, like working hard, behaving honorably and building relationships with the people around me. It was my small acts of obedience that pleased God, not my big splashy position.
Focus on actions, not results
Most people in the business world, including me, struggle with this one. We are a community of achievers. We get things done.
In business, results are everything. But God doesn’t need us to deliver results. Our value to Him has nothing to do with our utility or ability. He’s not depending on us to get good press or fulfill any quota of new believers. It’s not the results that God is after, it’s the relationship. Every action you take in faith is a step toward God. He alone controls the results.
This is the true power and freedom of Christians in the workplace. Marketplace culture incentivizes cutthroat competition; it is dominated and constrained by profits and losses, by desire for acclaim and self-protectionism. Even for those who do succeed, the resources any career can offer you are finite.
But God’s grace knows no bounds. Because we recognize that everything we have is a gift of grace, Christians have the freedom to go “all out” — and to make mistakes. We have the freedom to choose the right — or better — thing over the expected one, to turn down a promotion that is wrong for your family, or to offer forgiveness or support to a colleague who maybe doesn’t deserve it.
Your responses to difficult situations and your attitude toward work will say more to people about your faith than words ever could. God is with you in every step of your workday, whether you realize it or not, and His presence in us changes everything.
• Diane Paddison is founder of 4word, the only national organization serving Christian women in the workplace (www.4wordwomen.org). She is author of “Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women and Those Who Want to Understand Them” (Zondervan, 2011). Richelle Campbell, an attorney and blogger at 4word, assisted with this article.