17. On His Majesty’s Service

Marketplace Devotion 2016/10/09

On His Majesty’s Service

Proverbs 22:29


Observe people who are good at their work – skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a back seat to anyone.(Proverbs 22:29, the Message)

After a recent gym session, I noticed a cleaning worker in the changing room. To be honest, I almost missed him until I heard a sigh, followed by someone talking to himself. Something stirred in me, so I said to the cleaner, “Thanks for doing this.” Somewhat surprised, he responded, “Thanks! It’s nice to be appreciated!”

I wonder how many working people we run into on a daily basis. How often would anyone pause and thank them for what they do? It’s more than likely that only a small minority of people would actually hear the words, “Thank you!” Yet, we know that deep down everyone wants to be appreciated.

Christians love to encourage each other with Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23). Yes, we’re obliged to do a good job. We may not always get a pat on the back. Worse, we might end up feeling used and abused. But scripture points us to the One in heaven from whom we will receive our commendation one day. As long as we’re in the marketplace, we are all representatives of Jesus, On His Majesty’s Service, serving the King in our respective industries.

Brothers and sisters, let us do our jobs diligently. Let us also take every opportunity to thank our coworkers, service staff, and all those nameless workers that come our way each day. “Thank you!” Two simple words that could make someone’s day, even change a person’s life.

Practice:

  1. Reflect on your attitude toward work: Do you give your best in everything you do? Do you put in a fair day’s effort for a fair day’s pay? Do you strive for perfection in order to stay employed? Are you frustrated, but feel that you must grin and bear it?
  2. How does Jesus see your situation? Does he understand? Try telling him what’s deep in your heart.
  3. Starting today, pay attention to your coworkers, people who serve you in restaurants and shops, as well as workers you’ve never met before – cleaners, postal workers, police officers. Whenever possible, say, “Thanks for doing this!
  4. Take note of what you learn and feel. Write out your response prayers.

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for making me a representative of Jesus! I acknowledge that I’m no ordinary worker, not even an ordinary boss. I am in the service of Jesus my King! Renew my attitude toward daily work. Help me bless other workers daily through words of appreciation. Amen.”

16. Discovering mission at work: A lifelong journey

Marketplace Devotion 2016/09/11

Discovering mission at work: A lifelong journey

Psalm 138:8


Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal – don’t quit on me now. (Psalm 138:8, the Message)

Some say that the journey is more important than the destination. Knowing where we’re going is a good start, but it’s no guarantee for plain sailing.

Abram (Abraham) heard God’s calling, and took his family and belongings on a journey. He had no idea what he might encounter. Many Christians find favor in God’s sight, see their life purpose and receive their callings without knowing what to expect on the way. By grace they experience God in daily life, coming under his nurture and protection.

In recent weeks we covered four basic steps in discovering mission at work: prayer, scripture, continuous learning, and seeking God. If you have been going through the exercises with us, we hope you’ll persevere and let the Father speak to you. Even if you believe that you’ve already found your mission, we encourage you to stick to the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. You can be sure that the Spirit – your ultimate Partner at work – is there to alert and protect you. You’ll also learn to experience first-hand the work of our Father.

In Psalm 138 David maps out a pathway for us. In life (including life at work), we learn to give thanks, give praise and walk through highs and lows. We take note of our personal experiences, as well as God’s major interventions worldwide. Whatever happens, we do our work knowing that our Father will fulfill his purpose for us.

Practice:

  1. Read Psalm 138 slowly three times a day, every day.
  2. In the past week, what specific work-related experiences are there to give thanks? What specific answers to prayer?
  3. What do you need to bring before God? Are you perplexed? Frustrated? Tired? Ask Father to calm you down and revive you.
  4. Keep praying, listening, reading and journaling.
  5. Record your learning and emotions. Write out your prayers to Father.

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for giving me a mission. I may not be able to see the whole picture yet, but I’m ready to learn as I go. Let me have the perspective of Jesus, so that I may truly enjoy my journey in the marketplace! Amen.”

15. Discovering mission at work: Seeking God

Marketplace Devotion 2016/08/28

Discovering mission at work: Seeking God

Psalm 105:4


Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. (Psalm 105:4, the Message)

Discovering our mission calls for times of retreat and solitude, when we learn to listen. Yet, God also loves to reveal Himself in seemingly mundane marketplace settings. Moses was actually at work when he encountered the burning bush (Ex 3:1-6), in which the Lord spoke. Matthew was doing his job collecting taxes when Jesus called him (Mt 9:7-9).

God still speaks to us in the marketplace, even in our frenzied work schedules. The question is whether we know, agree, acknowledge or pay attention. The psalms include lots of stories recording how the Lord acts in human history. In many ways they’re like the spiritual journal of the nation of Israel. Ps 105:4, in particular, has encouraged Jews through the ages to keep their eyes open for God’s works. It then continues to recount God’s mighty acts, leading readers to recall and to be revitalized for the journey ahead.

Have you noticed what the Lord has been doing in your marketplace? When you felt alone and helpless, how did God respond to your prayers? Have you detected any changes in the atmosphere when you silently bless your coworkers, clients and employers? As you acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit, do you have a sense of the peace that cannot be explained?

To seek the face of God is to be alert for signs of His presence. You’re off to a good start if you set apart specific times daily just to quiet down. Take a couple minutes each time, be still, and thank the Lord for being with you. Make this a habit. Seize every opportunity to let the Holy Spirit work with you, through meditation, and by blessing and encouraging others.

Practice:

  1. As you arrive at work, thank the Holy Spirit for being with you. Then ask Father to help you see His work.
  2. In the next two weeks, set apart 3 hours to half a day for a personal retreat. Switch off your phone and wireless devices, go to a secluded place and quiet down. Pray, review and give thanks.
  3. Record what you receive, and note your emotions. Pray for affirmation from the Holy Spirit.
  4. Try to write down your prayers.

Prayer:

“Father, let me be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let me see your hand in my life. If I’ve missed anything, I still believe that you will help me see. Amen.”

14. Discovering mission at work: Continuous learning

Marketplace Devotion 2016/08/21

Discovering mission at work: Continuous learning

Proverbs 27:17


You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, the Message)

We live in a marketplace that calls for continuous learning. This is not just so we can stay employed. It has to do with our attitude toward work. When we say we want to discover our mission at work, we need to see work in a positive light, rather than tolerating it as a necessary evil.

Continuous learning comes with two benefits. First, it’s an opportunity to discover and develop our potential. A seemingly routine training and certification session may have nothing to do with my faith journey. But don’t forget that our Father is interested in my whole life. He uses Sunday school to bring me to maturity. He also uses professional training to shape my life.

Second, continuous learning helps us recognize that we contribute to society through work. Work that’s lawful and reasonable brings benefits to people. Our responsibility is to be diligent in carrying out our tasks.

Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27: 17, ESV) points to the importance of continuous learning. These are times of multiple career changes, with many people facing the prospect of retraining – even starting afresh in middle age. Iron sharpens iron, of course, also refers to the way true friends interact. They challenge and look out for each other, constantly seeking refinement. They are truly Partners @ Work.

Practice:

  1. Are you a continuous learner, or are you tired of your work? Why?
  2. Do you have a clear idea of your spiritual gifting? Ask Father to show you how you can deploy your gifts more fully in daily work.
  3. Ask Father to use your professional learning to bring you to maturity on all fronts.
  4. Do you have a Partner @ Work to share your marketplace journey? Who can you talk to when you face difficulties?
  5. Keep a devotional journal and note what God is saying to you. Learn to write out your prayers.

Prayer:

“Father, let me do my work properly today, and let me prepare for change. Give me persistence, and give me partners. Let me discover your mission for me. Amen.”

13. Discovering mission at work: Scripture

Marketplace Devotion 2016/08/14

Discovering mission at work: Scripture

Psalm 119:18


Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18 ESV)

Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. (The Message)

I have the privilege of knowing two marketplace warriors. One is a businessman operating in a country that tries to restrict the gospel. He runs a factory that employs several thousand workers. The other works for a public institution in Canada, faithfully serving her clients for well over twenty years.

The businessman is passionate about the gospel. He’s gone to great lengths to preach the Word and share his faith, while channeling profits back to improving the lives of his employees. The public worker is equally on fire for Jesus. Apart from her faithful service in the institution, she’s committed most of her vacation days to traveling the world in search of overseas Chinese and sharing the gospel. Two people, two roles and two missions, but serving the same Lord and preaching the same gospel. The same Holy Spirit moves them, and the same scriptures serve as the foundation of their calling.

The two may have vastly different prayer and devotional habits. Indeed, if you asked another hundred marketplace Christians about theirs, you would likely get a hundred different answers, because our Father loves to speak to each of His children individually according to her upbringing, personality and circumstances. Jesus says “not one dot shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18), but it’s up to him to show us how to live out the Law in our workplaces, so that others may see the wondrous works of God. Our responsibility is to read the scriptures faithfully and to meditate on them, night and day, as God draws us closer.

Discover your mission at work: pray without ceasing, and believe that our Father still speaks to us through the Bible.

Practice:

  1. For this week’s devotion, turn to your favorite gospel. Don’t go to reference books. Just read your Bible by faith.
  2. Start each session in prayer. Ask for insight. Us Ps 119:18 and Ephesians 1:17-18 as your prayers.
  3. Ask God: “What are you trying to say to be in this passage?”
  4. Record what you receive along with your emotions. Try to write down prayers as you respond.

Prayer:

“Father, give me a grateful heart as I stand firm in my present position. Reveal your mission for me in the marketplace. Amen.”

12. Discovering mission at work: Prayer

Marketplace Devotion 2016/08/07

Discovering mission at work: Prayer

Psalm 16:11, the Message


Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. (Psalm 16:11, the Message)

Have you ever struggled to discover direction at work, or wondered if you were walking in God’s will? In Psalm 16, the writer starts off with a cry for help. God! Help me, I’ve reached a dead end! Eventually God leads him to find joy and purpose (v.11).

In case everything has gone smoothly for you since the day you joined the workforce, congratulations! But let me give you this reminder and encouragement: you need to discover God’s mission for you in life, including your life at work. Then you will experience the sheer joy of knowing that no matter how much you sweat and toil each day, your work serves a specific purpose on earth. Meanwhile, your Father in heaven looks on and smiles in approval.

How do you arrive in this state of bliss? Step 1: Prayer! I’ve shared this with many people, and their response is usually, “Oh, I know.” But you do need to pray specifically for direction. If you’re lost, tell God. If you feel scared, stressed out and uncertain, tell Father (Ps 16:1). Give Him the details. Listen for a response as you read scripture slowly. Then ask Him to show you your path in life and at work.

This is a lifelong learning process, but rest assured that your Father will answer you. Trust Jesus on this: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Practice:

  1. Can you write down your mission at work? Do you regularly ask yourself what is your mission?
  2. This week, take time to slowly read Psalm 16 each day.
    1. Are you taking refuge in God? (v.1) Why?
    2. In what ways are you already obeying God? In what areas do you trust Him?
    3. Are there some areas you won’t let go? Why?
    4. How do you set God before you? (v.8)
  3. As you start praying for direction, first ask God to remove any negative emotions you may have about your work. Then ask your Father to give you the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which includes love, joy and peace.
  4. Continue to journal and record your prayer experiences.

Prayer:

“Father, as I seek your will for me in the marketplace, help me acknowledge the difficulties that already exist. Show me how problems and obstacles are be overcome in the name of Jesus. Transform me, and enable me to bless others in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

11. Good news during office hours

Marketplace Devotion 2016/07/24

Good news during office hours

Ephesians 4:29, the Message


Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift(Ephesians 4:29, the Message)

Do your words in the office make people feel respected? Do you interact with others in a way that honors Jesus? In business settings, there aren’t many opportunities to quote scripture and preach the gospel. And it’s often inappropriate. After all, you get paid to work and contribute to the bottom line. Customers meet you to have their problems solved, not to enter a discourse on faith. So if the work environment is not conducive to talking about religion, how does one honor Jesus?

The answer: seize every opportunity to speak uplifting words that comfort and encourage others. Tell the truth so that people get honest feedback. In today’s marketplace, a gracious word at the right time is like a heavenly breeze. In itself, it’s good news! On the other hand, clean up your language. No more trash talk and dirty jokes. Cut the gossip, slanderous remarks, complaints, half-truths, curses and all forms of condemnation.

Pay attention to your conversations during lunch and coffee breaks. You can’t control what others say and how they say it. But you are responsible for the words that come out of your mouth. Jesus tells us that it’s out of the abundance of the heart that a person speaks (Luke 6:45).  Therefore, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart. That’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.” (Proverbs 4:23-24)

Practice:

  1. Review the atmosphere in your workplace. When there’s anger or rage directed at you, what’s your response?
  2. How do you interact with people at work? Are you prepared to change the tone of an office conversation? From despair and cynicism to hope? From judgment to affirmation?
  3. Instead of saying, “I cannot change,” ask yourself, “Do I want change?” Do you want to ask our Father to help you? Make the following scriptures your prayer:
    1. “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29)
    2. “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.” (Romans 12: 14)
  4. Continue to journal and record your prayer experiences.

Prayer:

Father, whenever the climate heats up in my workplace, when people start exchanging verbal blows, set a guard over my mouth. Let peace enter my heart so that I may bless people, and not curse them. Amen.”   

10. Defusing anger

Marketplace Devotion 2016/07/24

Defusing anger

Proverbs 15:1


A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. (Proverbs 15:1, the Message)

Working together in stressful and competitive environments can bring out the worst in people, often leading to conflict. How should Christians respond to verbal abuse, insults and other challenges in the workplace? Some say that taking a step back will do the trick. Others insist on trading blows, looking to deliver a knock-out punch.

Proverbs has a clear message on this. A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. It’s easier said than done. We could suppress our urge to retaliate – this at least brings calm on the surface. But if we want to live out the essence of the proverb, it will call for more than self-control. We need to open our hearts to Jesus’ words. We need to believe that the Holy Spirit can change us, and also the people and the spiritual atmosphere around us. In other words, no matter how angry the other person becomes, we conduct ourselves as children of the Kingdom. We aim at breaking the impasse.

Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). This points to people have been touched by the presence of God and who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. These people can rise above their circumstances, responding with grace in the face of evil. It’s not that God’s children are more eloquent or adept at interpersonal skills, making them peacemakers. True peace is a gift of the Spirit realized through those who willingly obey.

When at work, are you used to verbal sparring and going tit for tat? Or do you silently absorb punishment without response? Neither extreme is appropriate. Instead, bring our case before Father: “Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. Don’t let me so much as dream of evil or thoughtlessly fall into bad company.” (Ps 141:3-4, the Message)

Practice:

  1. Review the atmosphere in your workplace. When there’s anger or rage directed at you, what is your response?
  2. Instead of saying, “I cannot change,” ask yourself, “Do I want change?” Do you want to ask our Father to help you? Make the following scriptures your prayer:
    1. “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29)
    2. “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.” (Romans 12: 14)
  3. Continue to journal and record your prayer experiences.

Prayer:

“Father, whenever the climate heats up in my workplace, when people start exchanging verbal blows, set a guard over my mouth. Let peace enter my heart so that I may bless people, and not curse them. Amen.”

9. Against the tide

Marketplace Devotion 2016/07/17

Against the tide

Proverbs 20: 23


God hates cheating in the marketplace; rigged scales are an outrage. (Proverbs 20: 23, the Message)

When standardized weights and scales were introduced to ensure fair trade, it didn’t take long for dishonest merchants to rig the system in their favor. Today, our marketplaces are somewhat more complex, so we may need to rethink what Proverbs 20:23 refers to as “unequal weights” (ESV). A few examples: double standards in customer service, cutting corners in the name of productivity, stopping short of full disclosure, and hiding key clauses in the middle of small print.

Then we hear this refrain: “It’s common practice. If you don’t do it, you don’t survive.” To make things worse, much of it is legal, so everybody does it without a second thought.

But the Bible sets a higher standard. “Rigged scales are an outrage” to God, who hates cheating. Christians are called not simply to observe legal requirements, but also to discern whether an action contradicts biblical truth. Those who fear God know well that He will not bless cheaters. This is how God warned Israel: “You’ll pay for your sins down to your last cent. No matter how much you get, it will never be enough – hollow stomachs, empty hearts. No matter how hard you work, you’ll have nothing to show for it – bankrupt lives, wasted souls. You’ll plant grass but never get a lawn. You’ll make jelly but never spread it on your bread. You’ll press apples but never drink the cider.” (Micah 6:14-15 Message) In other words, cheaters will pay. They won’t even sleep nights.

Living a life of integrity at work is often like swimming against the tide. It comes at a high cost. But remember Jesus’ promise: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:33, Message) God will never let His children down.

Practice:

  1. Review your own work: When dealing with customers and coworkers, how can you be consistently fair? Ask God.
  2. What are some grey areas in your line of work? Pray over these areas, and ask God how you should behave and act.
  3. Pray for your company and marketplace: “Peace be with this company (or industry, or person) ….
  4. Record your prayers and progress.

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, help me discern what is unjust and deceitful, and let me swim against the tide. Amen.”

8. At rest with God

Marketplace Weekly Devotion 2016/07/10

At rest with God

Deuteronomy 5:12-13


No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as God, your God, commanded you. Work six days, doing everything you have to do, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work. (Deuteronomy 5: 12-13, the Message)

As we meet and greet our church family, there’s this often heard response: “I’ve been so busy lately!” Then we’d hear a long list of activities that seem to be eating up our lives. Yes, life is busy, and we tend to fill up every nook and cranny in our diaries in the name of productivity. Some schedule gym time, fun time, Bible time and devotion time. Others suggest we write down specific appointments with God. Yet, our jam-packed schedules still leave us breathless. Neither smiles nor laughter can hide the tensions deep down. We need Sabbath rest.

God commanded man to observe the Sabbath, because He knows our bodies function in a cyclical manner. Physically we need time off. Spiritually we need to be refreshed. “Work six days, doing everything you have to do, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest day – no work.”

The key is that we must be intentional. We seek God intentionally, so that we get to know Him deeper. Sabbath is not just a means of recharging our batteries in order to do more work and ministry, though this is an obvious benefit. Sabbath is when we stop by faith, acknowledging our human limitations. We return to the Creator who knows no bounds, and allow our lives to be refocused.

Jesus was busy in his time – preaching, healing and engaging in spiritual warfare. But he insisted on times of solitude in the wilderness (Mark 1:35), stopping before God, quieting down and listening, receiving the Father’s love, enjoying God’s company. That’s why Jesus was able to live his life, and come out victorious. Jesus says, “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does.” (John 5:19)

Today we’re not required to observe Sabbath rules and regulations. But let’s not forget God’s beautiful intentions for the Sabbath. Let’s learn to set apart weekly, monthly, even annually, special times of Sabbath. Recognize these hours and days as holy, and walk into the grace of God.

Practice:

  1. Go over your average week. How many hours do you work in your main occupation? In your second job? How many hours do you spend in church-related ministry?
  2. How much “free” time do you have remaining, and how do you spend that time?
  3. In your average week, what is the longest continuous period of time you spend alone with God? Review how you spend that time with God.
  4. Record your prayers and progress.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, life’s burden is heavy. Please help me enter the Sabbath rest that you offer. Amen.”