Finding God in the Workplace
By Phil Wiseman
We do not make it very far into the Bible before we encounter the topic of work. Work is a part of God’s plan for the people he created:
Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." (Genesis 1:26 NLT)
Notice this phrase: “They will reign.” Humans are made in the image of God, and God has commissioned us to reign over the earth for God. In ancient times, it would be common for a king to establish a vice-regent to represent him in a particular part of the kingdom. The vice-regent would reign over that portion of the kingdom in the name of the king himself. Something similar is happening here. God places his people on earth to govern it for Him.
This is very different from other ancient stories of creation. In ancient Babylon, for example, they taught that the gods created humans, but as slaves instead of royalty. According to the Babylonian myths, humans were forced to dig trenches for the gods and serve them food. This was the point of their existence.
With God, our work is that of royalty. In other religions, our work is that of slavery. Which view of work do you have? A Biblical one, or a Babylonian one?
When we work in any capacity, we are fulfilling our creational mandate: to reign over the earth. Whether you’re a truck driver, a waitress, an artist, a parent, a teacher, or a doctor, you are contributing to the functioning and flourishing of God’s creation and people. This is no insignificant thing. You are God’s vice-regent. This is God’s world, and we represent him here. Our work is inseparable from that calling.
It might be difficult for you to locate the presence of God within the work that you do, especially in your day job. Whether you think it’s true or not, the eight hours a day you spend at work can feel godforsaken. How do we uncover God’s presence in places like that?
In Genesis 20, Abraham and his wife Sarah are traveling through a strange, foreign land called Gerar. Abraham, scared for his own life, is afraid that when the locals see how beautiful his wife is, they’ll kill him and take her. So he lies to them: he says that she’s his sister, not his wife. They do take Sarah away, as he predicted, but they let him live (this is admittedly not Abraham’s finest hour).
Sarah ends up in the palace of King Abimelech. However, before he lays a hand on her, God shows up to him in a dream and tells him that if he touches her, he’s toast. Abimelech promptly returns Sarah to Abraham and asks him why he didn’t tell her that she was his wife. Abraham’s response is insightful for us:
"Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife” (Genesis 20:11 NLT, italics added).
In other words, Abraham came to a place that was strange and scary, and he assumed that God was not already there. But Abraham was wrong. God was active and alive in Gerar, and the fear of God was in that place—as we see in Abimelech’s response.
We all have work to do here on earth. Perhaps yours is more difficult than you’d prefer. Just remember this: God made you to be his royal representative in the work you do and the places you do it. What’s more, God is at work alongside you.
So let’s not make Abraham’s mistake, thinking that God is not alive and active in our places of work. Rather, let’s view work as worship: all of the work you do is God’s call to represent him for the sake of his kingdom.
Finding God in Rest
By Phil Wiseman
If you’ve read the essay, “Finding God in the Workplace,” then you’ll already know that there were a number of “creation stories” in the ancient world. These stories often had similarities to one another. The Bible’s story of Creation, which is found in the book of Genesis, shares some of these similarities. However, Genesis also has some very important differences.
In these other creation stories, the god would often create the world, and we would then expect the god to create a palace or temple upon a mountain. The god would then dwell within that temple and declare it holy.
In Genesis, we see God finish the work of creation, and right when we might expect Him to create a temple or palace for himself, he does no such thing. He does something completely unprecedented. Instead of creating a holy temple, God creates a holy day.
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (Gen. 2:2-3 NLT)
Abraham Heschel points out that whereas God did not create a palace of space, he creates a palace of time. And unlike those other so-called gods of the ancient world, our God invites us to join Him in that palace.
That’s right: those other “gods” created palaces to themselves where they could be served by human slaves. Our God? He created the weekend.
God is not like us. We believe that the things we do and the things we produce are what add meaning to the moments that we live. God understands that it is the other way around: it is the moment that adds meaning to the things we produce. Our obsession with production has robbed us of the very means of encountering God: time. We meet God in time, and if we don’t make time, then we won’t meet God. That is why God created his “time palace”—also known as Sabbath.
Recall your discussion on Sabbath from Module 3. Sabbath is simply a set amount of time, typically reserved for an entire day, to “rest” and be with God. It’s not to catch up on extra hours or work, do errands, or fill it with more activity. Sabbath days are literally days set aside for us to rest—to do our favorite hobbies, be with the ones we love, spend time with God in refreshing ways, and ultimately fill our time with life-giving activities while having God alongside us the entire time. That’s how we abide in God’s “time palace.”
But in our workaholic culture, the practice of Sabbath has fallen to the wayside. A.J. Swoboda says that our forgetfulness of Sabbath has caused us to become “perhaps the most emotionally overworked, spiritually malnourished people in history.” If this is the case, then finding time to meet God in rest is a matter of utmost urgency.
Maybe it’s time for you to meet God in rest. After all, Sabbath forms one of the most foundational aspects of the Old Testament. It is the bedrock upon which our faith is built. Why? Because God knows that if we don’t ever stop to simply be with him, we won’t have a relationship with him at all. And that, of course, is the whole point of everything.
Perhaps it’s time for you to enter God’s palace of time.
Discipleship : Meeting 3
DISCUSS the message, “Restorative Prayer,” using the following questions as a guide.
1. Megan said we need to stop doing for Jesus, and start being with Jesus. What’s the difference?
2. Our understanding of our identity changes how we live our life. When we realize we are a child of God, we begin to act like one. Have you seen this shift in your own life? How?
3. Jesus’ power and authority are driven by love. Jesus doesn’t use his power to control us, but instead, uses it to heal us and set us free. How does this compare to the way power typically works in the world?
4. “Sometimes Jesus heals you in an instant, and sometimes he gets in the mess with you first. But either way, healing starts with an encounter with Jesus.” How have you seen this play out in your own life?
5. “All the gifts you have in Jesus right now apply to your present, to your future, and to your past.”
Have you considered this idea before? Look back at the low points on your timeline from Module 5. How was Jesus speaking and moving in your life then (whether you knew it at the time or not)? Is he still speaking into those wounds now? What might he be saying?
6. “Our spiritual and emotional wounds work the same way our physical ones do. We have to go to the source of the break and set things right if we want to heal...If you want to encounter Jesus, then you need to be willing to encounter him in every place that he wants to encounter You.”
Consider a place in the disciple’s life where a hurt was left unresolved. Where did that wound get started? Whether we realized Jesus was with us in that moment or not, he was there, and is still there today.
Talk this through together and begin to discern what Jesus has to say in it right now. Pray together to close your meeting.
ASSIGNMENT: Read the essays Finding God in the Workplace and Finding God in Rest located below. Journal notes to share when you discuss these in your next meeting.