“All I do today is for Jesus” is my first thought as another mundane workday begins. The Bible says: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3). I know this, but I don’t always do this. I wrestle with questions like: Am I content with my life? Do I give God thanks in all of life’s circumstances? What am I doing with what God has given me? How am I even impacting people in the workplace? If I were content, I would accept where Jesus has me working currently. Yet, I am rarely cheerful while ironing my uniform, and serving people at the restaurant I work proves tiresome. I am 29 now and have served on and off since age 17. I feel like I should move on to something else, but this job is my primary source of income, so I can’t. Instead, I work day after day, occasionally spilling ranch all over myself, continually informing people about our delicious desserts, and patiently enduring patrons leaving me questionable gratuity. One might think: “This is unacceptable.” That one would be me. It could be that I will refill a diet coke six times or explain something on the menu while the guest gazes directly at it. Some nights I am scheduled to close, which keeps me from seeing my wife that day. Nearly all shifts cover me with the stink of bread, sweat, and desserts. So much so that when I get home I am afraid I’ll stain the couch if I sit on it. At the end of the day I wonder: Is this really where God wants me or did I make a big mistake?
What does working for Jesus look like in the menial and monotonous everyday tasks that we undertake? I won’t downplay how obnoxious it is to awaken early in the AM or work graveyard shifts to scarcely provide for a family. I can sympathize; I have worked them. The dreadful hours, however, yielded valuable lessons of patience, endurance, and trust. God provided everything I needed each time whether I was carrying bags, dishwashing (and not the machine—I’m talking hardcore scrubbing), serving, helping construction, or even leading a group of rowdy middle school kids as a youth pastor. Isn’t this Jesus’ modus operandi, to teach and provide for us? As I look back in hindsight, I am actually quite grateful Jesus carried me through these “lowly” positions. God used my dishwashing job to teach me humility. In the same way, being a bellman taught me patience. And again, serving tables has helped me to become a better listener.
Most recently, teaching middle schoolers about God taught me trust, because I don’t know if the kids are truly listening to what I teach, but I trust that when Jesus’ word is taught someone is impacted, even if only one. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). All of my humble beginnings in the workforce, and even today, teach me to surrender negative thoughts to Jesus. What I mean by surrendering negative thoughts is to remember God’s promises, such as: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). If you find yourself thinking: “I hate my job,” remember God’s word to us: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:16-17). Aren’t our jobs a gift of provision from God? Or if you find yourself worrying: “God won’t provide money to pay for food or bills this month,” remember God’s promise: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33). (A Gentile in this context is someone having no existing relationship with Jesus.) We use God’s word to combat the lies that haunt us. The day to day willful surrender of our work circumstance allows Jesus to cultivate in us an unwavering confidence in him. The doubtful, angry and weak times in our lives will come, and finding contentment in Jesus will deliver us through them all. A Christian’s life work is not about money or position; our work is to show and tell everyone in our sphere of influence—whether the people whose tables we serve, dishes we wash, bags we carry, houses we build, or children we instruct—that Jesus is God and we are not. To have Jesus resonate through us (even in a small way) and bring a blessing to others in our “everyday” job, quickly adds significance to what we do. The surrender of “menial and monotonous” allows Jesus to shine through us. The impact of working with a heart completely surrendered to Christ is not common practice to the watching world, but it is for a disciple of Jesus. Though if it is his will, God can work through us even as we grumble, he would rather have us make a conscious decision of worship and to allow the routine and sometimes maddening tasks we undertake impact another person’s life for his glory. What will you choose?
Discontentment leaves an impression. If I, a born again Christian, decline a thankful attitude, or reject contentment, am I choosing to live how Jesus would? No. In fact it places a negative connotation on Jesus, potentially closing a door to someone close to me hearing or experiencing the good news about Jesus. Can dissatisfaction indicate to the watching world a lack of trust in God? Can my attitude towards my present circumstances hinder a valuable opportunity for Christ? Of course! That’s why God says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19). If people know I represent Jesus, I should represent accordingly. I am the hands and feet of Jesus—an ambassador if you will. I trust that if Jesus needed me somewhere else, doing something different, then I would be there.
If I had contentment and thankfulness in my heart, then impacting people in my workplace would never be an issue because people would witness firsthand the joy I experience being content in Christ.
Have you ever expressed doubt towards God? I have. I’ve been disappointed, even angry with God. I’ve longed for a different job (even still do at times). For me, it’s easier to see everything wrong with my current job, in turn, affecting others around me, making them as miserable as I am. In those moments, if I were on the outside looking in, I’d be inclined to think: “Steven hates his job. He must despise every moment there.” And why not assume this about me? After all, the fallen human heart is set against God, hostile towards his ways, and conforming to the thought patterns of this world is inherent and common practice. It doesn’t help that the fallen world spins a seductive tale that we can always have bigger and better, and always be happier. So it makes perfect sense that we are never truly happy with where we are or what we are doing. King Solomon touches a bit on the endeavors of the human heart and its depravity: “In the same way Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20). All of us labor to feed ourselves, yet our appetites are never satisfied. If we love money, there is never enough, because whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income (Ecclesiastes 5:10, 6:7). Is this true for you? I can relate.
It’s true that up until the moment I met Jesus face-to-face, this was relevant. Even today this is still applicable. As disciples of Jesus we are a work in progress; our old ways are not immediately gone. We must constantly seek God everyday for the strength to choose what he would. Jesus swaps our priorities and fine-tunes our perspective of contentment, whether looking at work, people, money, etc. We look at the world now through the lens of Christ. He cleanses the heart of immoral corruption, because he himself is incorruptible. Yes, there are days when I want to and even do choose to be on the side of my old self. But he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on either the day we go to be with the Lord or he returns. And in Jesus we are a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The most important decision you or I will ever make is our decision for or against Jesus. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:27). The moment you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9), you are made new and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart. Everything “normal and acceptable” before, now seems foreign, wrong, off. Why? Because our minds have been (and are currently being) transformed. We need to test all things to see whether they are from God, and we do this by knowing what the Bible says. Now, to the watching world of non-believers, fellow Christians, co-workers, and the like we are a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14), and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). We work for Jesus not out of obligation but out of love for him saving our lives. Our lives are free from the love of money and the love of self, and instead are full of love for Christ. True contentment and peace only comes through knowing Jesus. In partnership with the Holy Spirit, our work is his work: sharing the good news and living a life that validates the truth of the gospel until we see him face-to-face.
The people in our lives aren’t here by chance. People need to see Jesus in me, hear Jesus from me, be served, encouraged, prayed for, and ministered to by me! Try this perspective shift: where we work is our mission field. I now consider it an honor to work for Christ, even in a monotonous work environment. I don’t work for Jesus because I have to—I work for him because I want to. Because I know Jesus, I am constantly reminded that it’s not about me. Before I knew Jesus it was all about me. What Jesus does is take the ideals of the world and flips them on their head, where they should be. Jesus saved us from certain death, therefore God makes an earnest appeal to us through the apostle Paul, “By the mercies of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. And to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). What does the world tell us about work and how do we transform our minds? Two fantastic questions with one answer: not conforming to this world is to partner with the one not of this world (John 8:23), Jesus.
Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The way of the world will always incline you to choose your own path, and make your own way. Our own way is not necessarily the way that Jesus would have us choose, because our physical and personal desires, as we know, are inherently set against God. I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life that God wants us to know. The way of God and to God, the truth of God, and the life God intends for each of us can all be found in the person of Jesus Christ.
If I gave God thanks in all situations, then I would never complain about my job. If I had contentment and thankfulness in my heart, then impacting people in my workplace would never be an issue because people would witness firsthand the joy I experience being content in Christ. Jesus has us where we work for a reason—to carry out his will, not ours. Our work at work is to share Jesus, his gospel, and to do what he would have done. You and I cannot be in multiple places at one time. Jesus can, and he works in and through people all over the world in different places to make himself known. Will we allow ourselves to be a part of his work? We can choose in our normal everyday life to have a thankful attitude. “Thank you Father that I have a way to pay rent.” We can be content. “Thank you Lord that I have food and clothing for this day; please give us each day our daily bread.” Jesus is what makes us thankful. He provided a way for reconciliation with God—for this we are of utmost cheer! Knowing Jesus is what makes a person truly content. Nevertheless, Jesus cannot force us to choose him, and many will decline the gift.
If you and I can truly declare we have accepted Jesus as our Lord, then our life work is to him. Whatever we find ourselves doing, in any given situation, we share the truth: Jesus is God over all creation, the sovereign Lord of our lives, he was crucified, buried, and after three days was resurrected, paying the full penalty for our rebellion. He gave his life as a ransom for all of us: including you. Since, then, we know what it is to trust the Lord, we try to persuade others of this (2 Corinthians 5:11). We are always prepared to share the gospel of Jesus, because the gospel “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). When we commit to Jesus and trust in him, he can act in us and through us. Whatever we do, we work heartily, not to get recognition from people, but from God and with sincerity of heart, as for Jesus and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive eternal life as your reward. We work for the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24 paraphrased). So, in the end, whatever we do, we do it for Jesus.