Worship – it is something that I highly value. But the word “worship” as we commonly understand it as Christians can sometimes be misleading. Much of the time we use it to refer to the times of mutual fellowship and expression that we share with each other and God through song. But worship is so much more than that.
I have often fallen into this mindset... limiting myself to thinking that I am worshipping God when I only use my voice or guitar, alone and with others. To live that way is to miss out on the opportunities to worship throughout the day and even through what we do each and every moment of our lives. I know this but in much of my practice, especially at work, things have been much different.
For two years God took me out of my normal environment and placed me in Mexico at an orphanage and church-planting ministry. It was very alien and different. Suddenly I could no longer worship in the ways that were familiar. Gathering with other believers and singing wasn’t as easy because of the language barrier (being a writer, language is a very important part of my worship expression – so not being in an English-speaking environment was very difficult). Finding a new church didn’t help much because of the big difference in worship styles I encountered. I found that I had gotten used to worshipping God in a particular way; through music, even certain musical styles, songs, and ways of expression and interaction with God. Though I claimed to have a wholesome understanding of worship, I was badly in need of a broadened perspective and understanding about what that truly means.
More than ever before, I began to think of other ways I could worship God and encounter Him throughout the day. This was because, in a sense I had to, but also because I wanted to. One of my favorite verses of Scripture ever since I was a young Christian has been Romans 12:1,2. Speaking of our opportunity to worship God through the whole of our lives, I had made this my ambition. Brother Lawrence, a monk who focused his years as a Christian simply trying to be present to God in everything he did, is one of my Christian heroes. Up to that point in my life, I had tried to imitate his example, commonly called "Practicing the Presence of God," but I didn’t yet have a definite sense of breakthrough in being able to be present to God and worship Him through my work. Yet this is something I strove for from early on.
Early work opportunities such as working in mundane jobs like sandwich shops and the college cafeteria had been great environments to put this to practice. Over the years, though, the professionalism of the work environment and attention my work required caused my focus to drift away from being present to God. The work and it’s completion and quality became too important. This was especially true during the years I spent working in the Pharmaceutical Industry before coming to the orphanage.
I now worked in a ministry whose emphasized way of worshipping God was by working. One of the verses that is listed in the orphanage’s visitor brochure and staff application packet is Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance." It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” What an opportunity!!!
I worked as a administrator of the ministry, overseeing all aspects of our Child Sponsorship program and producing and overseeing the distribution of our monthly newsletter. Since I worked for a ministry, my administrative work directly supported people and I was sometimes able to see the impact of my work and sponsors’ contributions on the children and people who benefited from churches that we started. This, and the fact that I lived and worked in the same environment, helped me really focus on worshipping God in my work.
God called me back to Colossians 3:23-24 again and again. I applied myself to learning it’s secret and to enter the promise that it contains. The balance of worship and work, I discovered, comes when can come to glorify God through our work, doing it as God’s personal assignment to us. No task, then, is too big or too small. I now know personally the benefit and have learned firsthand the blessing of working for God and regarding my work as an opportunity to worship Him.
The section that follows is a series of entries from journals and newsletters that I kept during my time in Mexico. My journey of learning how to be a worker fully present to and giving glory to God is chronicled in these entries.
August 15, 2000 – The orphanage is a very busy place and everyone is tempted to “do and do.” And there is truly much that needs to be done. But is it all needed? Deciding to be solely interested in Jesus Christ and steadfastly refusing to let busyness crowd out my times of private devotion may bring the cost of being looked upon as a lazy, unconcerned, even undedicated person in regards to the hands-on work that needs to always be done. But to be true to what the Lord has put in my heart, I must pay this price and bear this reproach if necessary. Keep me from judging those here who choose to be buy and concerned about many things.
August 28, 2000 – An illusion hat I have succumbed to is that I have to finish a task so that I may enjoy or enter rest and solitude that Jesus came to give believers. But this is not so, the rest is for us to receive and enter into now (Hebrews 4:7-11). The easy yoke and light burden that He invites us to bear and carry is to help towards the end of entering and knowing the rest of God. Jesus means to redeem us from the curse of unfruitful and restless labor so that our work is purposeful, meaningful, restful, and a light but joyful burden to bear. I have been driven to achieve rest, rather than entering rest which is available through bearing my own load, which is the easy yoke and light burden of Christ.
September 17, 2000 – Work, much to do and not enough time to do it. I expect we all can relate to this, if not because our jobs offer more for us to do than we can possibly accomplish in one day, then perhaps because we do not know how to budget our time very well. Both are true for me. Assigned to work as the executive secretary / accounts payable and receivable clerk / water and general errand person, there is always too much work to do. I am not complaining,however. Of all that I could be doing, this position offers the most flexibility. A typical day begins at 6am. Staff devotions are at 7:30 with work beginning soonafter and usually starting when I wake up until devotions. From 9-11am I cross the border to do the bank and mail run and purchase water. If there are no supplies needed elsewhere, I return to RDSN and work ‘till about 6pm. The remainder of the evening is often free time which I try to use to play with kids and/or spend some time in personal devotions and attend to personal business. At best, I am always 1-2 weeks behind in my work, except for the daily sponsorship accounting receivables. Typically I take 1 day offer per week. Difficulties in budgeting my time and finding my own personal space (they ask something of you even when you are “off” a lot of times) have really affected my personal time. It is quite easy to be put in extra hours and neglecting other areas of life.
October 8, 2000 – "Rejoice always, pray continuously…" What is provided me during my private devotional times (few and not as much time as I’d like) can be bread and sustenance for the whole day. The spiritual food that God provides really is enough to get us through the day. The work of the day even becomes a part when it is done with Jesus as a co-laborer.
March 11, 2001 – Driven… I am terribly driven these days. Sunup to sundown I want to do and do and do and accomplish something. When a day passes that has resulted in little visible accomplishment I am saddened. Peace eludes me in this state.
March 31, 2001 – This is essential to my vocation: to be close enough to God (and hopefully always drawing closer) so as to hear from Him myself, for myself and others. It is His delight to speak to us and for us to abide in Him and He in us.
April 7, 2001 – Whenever we make an oath or promise, we should carefully search our hearts and schedules to make sure that we have the time so that we will do what we committed to. Keeping oaths is a matter or Lordship and evidence of saving faith; when we believe that Jesus Christ is risen and confess Him as Lord, we are confessing Him Lord – Master – Redeemer of All, even of time for His purposes. Time can never be made up for… and I suppose the employments of time for the Christian not spent under his Lordship can be seen as to account for time we have not served Christ. When all is said and done, even when we have done all as servants that we are called upon to do, our confession to our Heavenly Father will be this: “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).
April 14, 2001 – The American Dream vs. God’s Dream. "Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s Dream for us? We’re steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure. We respect people who sacrifice to get what they want. But to be a living sacrifice? To be crucified to self?" From the Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson.
August 11, 2001 – Work (in the past) has been a large source of discontent; not having the assurance that my work was pleasing to God and by this I mean directly contributing to His kingdom. At Rancho I have that assurance. But I am learning that whether it is pleasing to God depends more on my attitude in how I approach my work and people at work and if I do it all as an act of worship to Him.
August 14, 2001 – Work is a continual area of challenge and growth. Since coming to Rancho I have been challenged and, I think, re-converted by Christ in matters of work relationships. Submitting to and obeying authority, worshipping God as a worker and through the output of excellent work, character and integrity, and taking responsibility for my mistakes are all things that impact my ability to worship and behold God throughout the day.
December 16, 2001 – Each person is called to a specific thing fitting his/her own personality and abilities in collaboration with the creative and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. I am to be as much "Jason" as possible. At the same time I am to be "Jason" as if Jesus were me… not to be Jesus as if Jason were Jesus. I am divinely created and am a blessed person in my own right; the exception being I am not God as Jesus was (?). That always confuses me… because He was fully human too. Anyway, like Jesus all that I am to do is to be done in collaboration with the Father through the Holy Spirit. And the main way to hear seems to be through a lot of prayer and seeking and spending that close one-on-one time with God. I work alone a lot and even if I don’t work time can somehow be a part of this… prayer, dialoguing with God that is.
January 7, 2002 – The work here is satisfying because I am able to do all that I do for God… the beginning, end, and means of my work is really for Him, done with Him, and by His strength as much as is possible.
March 16, 2002 – Being at a ministry which values action and results has changed me. I have taken on some of their values, for better and for worse. What the Lord has been pointing to, I think, is purpose. And His purpose for my growth is for me to produce fruit that will last. God has been pruning me much. And I have felt it. Indeed I feel like less of a parson than I did a year ago. There is less to look at and say, “Wow, isn’t that marvelous, how beautiful!” or “You are really a man of God.” I am more aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses than even and more cautious in what I do for the Lord so that I may be a work of excellence that glorifies Him in the doing and result. In the words of Director Steve Horner, “We need to be like both Mary and Martha, having our eyes on Jesus in our doing and having time to simply sit at His feet and receive from Him.” It is this balance that God wants more in my life. Before I was more like Mary. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and I am like Martha.
April 28, 2002 – God has shown me this: that we need to listen to Jesus (like Mary) and to do the work we are responsible for (like Martha). I am more like Mary in spirit and like Martha in my flesh. What tension this creates in my soul!!!
August 21, 2002 – The past two days have been lots of work but peaceful. God has been giving me peace in and with the work I’ve been given to do (working in the Rancho store; a nice and welcomed change). My attitude is partially the result of this peace too. I sensed the Holy Sprit “prodding” me to relax, smile, joke, and have fun while I work. Normally I quite focused, intense, serious, and passionate (when there’s something to be passionate about – otherwise, I guess I come off as attentive but distant). Rather than trying to pacify and change others to bring myself happiness, the Holy Spirit invited me to change and enjoy the day’s work as a time to serve others.
October 21, 2002 – I am at great peace working at Rancho. This is something I am grateful for. Normally when I leave a workplace for another there is great tension and sometimes resentment from co-workers. Not so here. People are happy for me and the leadership is blessing my departure (though they are sad to see me go and lose a fine worker). It is a blessing to be leaving one place in favor and going to another in favor as well. Praise God!!
November 1, 2002 – An unexpected thing I received from the leadership was assistance and favor. The additional week’s pay and help across the border were great and unexpected helps. The “closer” of their willingness to provide me with their highest recommendation for anything was a huge blessing. I never in my wildest dreams anticipated that I would receive this reward from them. Thank you God for granting me a reward as I applied myself to the promise of your Word in Colossians 3:23-24.
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