Faith At Work Part 4 – “Embodiment”
I am so thankful for our guest blogger, Tim Lee (of International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), and his wonderful series on the relationship of our faith to our work – an application of what I call “Worship in the Everyday Ordinary.” As he concludes this series, it is my prayer that our worship of God expands more and more in our workplaces so that we, as blessed people, can be a blessing to others and live deeper into the amazing Jesus life. – DL
We are now in the final part of this 4-week series on work. I previous shared about how faith EXPRESSED at work, how it can ENHANCE our work, and last week faith as ETHICS at work (to see the previous blogs in this series, click here.) This final week is how faith EMBODIES our work.
While faith may shape and reflect our actions and boundaries at work, our faith should also penetrate beyond our mind and our strength into our heart and soul. Paul writes in Romans 12 verse 1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” Faith is embodied in our work when we see that our work is worship. We offer our full selves (including our work) and embrace it with a sense of vocation and calling. We live out our faith through daily work whatever our role because our work matters to God (no matter what the occupation).
One example of this comes from the film Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell is a Scottish sprinter competing in the Olympics. He is also a man of deep faith. At the 1924 Summer Olympics, he actually refused to compete in the Olympic heats for the 100 meter sprint because it was held on a Sunday and he did not was to compromise his beliefs and work on the Sabbath. He eventually went to win the 400 meter race. One of my favorite quotes captures this embodiment of faith in our work: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
Before the fall of man and the curse of sin, God intended work to be good for mankind. Work is where we would experience a sense of purpose and fruitfulness. We get a glimpse of a pure sense of calling and identity in Eric Liddell’s quote, and our souls yearn for that sweet spot where work meets satisfaction and accomplishment.
Yet sometimes we fulfil our call in the everyday and ordinary aspects of our work. Sometimes we experience the most divine theology in the mundane activity, and it is a long obedience in the same direction. A different example of this would be Brother Lawrence who served as a friar in a Parisian monastery in the 1600s. His approach to his calling was that in all of the menial tasks that he did in the monastery, such as cooking and cleaning, it would embody the love of God in all his actions. His letters and conversations were later compiled into a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God.
I believe both of these examples reveal how our faith can embody the work that we do. For some of us, a part of us comes alive when we do the work we were created to do, when we get to exercise our strengths, and when our passions come to fruition. For others, it is being faithful and diligent to what God has called us to.
One of my friends who previously had a very fruitful ministry working on college campuses had transitioned out and was discerning what God was calling him to next. He had loved his time in college majoring in business and was always drawn to art and beauty, yet often wondered if he could incorporate elements of art and beauty to the Bible to make it more aesthetically pleasing to the younger generation of Christians. After testing this idea with a Kickstarter campaign with the 4 Gospel books, he launched a successful company called Alabaster that creates artistic books of the Bible where their vision is “for all humanity to experience God as beautiful.” I met with him recently and he had so much joy when he told me, “I love to work!”
For some of us, it could be helpful to reflect on these questions: What do I find life-giving at work? What are my strengths? What are my passions? What are the things that really make me feel alive? What was your proudest accomplishment while working?
While we may never find the perfect job, I believe that there are ways we can be proactive in searching for, adjusting, or advocating for our work to be more in line with who God created us to be.
One caution I would add as we pursue our calling is that we as human beings can often have a slight bias in our perspective. This bias can create a hierarchy within our minds and even our Christian communities of what is good work. For example, one bias may be the one of significance; that our calling from God must be something extraordinary, it has a big impact, and anything else would be a waste. Another bias may be like that of the burning bush, that God’s call is direct and obvious, and we need to have a clear sign.
The truth of the matter is this: all work can be embodied by our faith. Furthermore, not all work is necessarily paid. If this were the case, this entire series on work would leave out the stay-at-home parent, the retiree, the volunteer, the person looking for work, etc. No, everyone has a calling, and everyone can allow their faith to embody their work.
If we go back to the example of Joseph in the book of Genesis, we can see everywhere he goes, THAT is where God is calling him and we see his faith permeate his work. Whether he is in Potiphar’s house, prison, or Pharaoh’s palace, God is with him and blessing his work. Sometimes he has a job of significance, like when he serves as Egypt’s second-in-command and literally preserves the lives of the people in Egypt as well as his family. But I’m sure being the prison overseer was never an option when Joseph had a homework assignment “What do you want to be when you grow up.” Wherever God leads Joseph, his faith is EXPRESSED, his faith ENHANCES and EMBODIES his work, and guides his ETHICS.
I have often found in Christian communities, work is not often directly spoken about and when it is, it usually focuses on one of the above four categories. I believe a holistic approach would be to reflect of each of these four ideas and see how your faith can grow at your work. Our work can be holy, and we can wholly integrate our faith in our work.
– What best describes your relationship of faith and work (faith expressed, faith enhancing, faith ethics or faith embodied)?
– Which of these applications of faith would you like to see more in your work?
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