C.S. Lewis described it best when he said that the Lord would make us into “a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly…The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less.”
The process to which Lewis refers is the doctrine of sanctification: a lifelong work of the Holy Spirit in which the heart and mind of the believer are made more into the image and likeness of Christ. God uses this process to transform us “from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Having followed Jesus for almost a decade, I’ve seen this made evident in my life through countless means. Not until recently, however, did I come to see my secular job as a major avenue by which the Holy Spirit sanctifies me as a believer in Christ.
Being a recently-married, recently-hired college graduate still learning the ropes of his order management position, I don’t pretend to possess Solomon’s wisdom. Nevertheless, by the Holy Spirit’s illumination, I’ve realized that whatever it is, God will use your job (especially the less-fun parts) to make you more like Jesus. As believers, we have the option to either joyfully embrace, or begrudgingly endure, this reality. The aim of sanctification is beautiful: to make God’s people more like the Lord Jesus, and through this pursuit to become more satisfied in Him. The following are the three most evident ways in which I’ve seen the Lord sanctify me at work.
Being Kind to the Ungrateful
The heart of my job is meeting customers’ requested dates for shipments of our products. When, for reasons beyond my control, I am unable to meet these dates, some unsavory responses arise. As a brand-new hire, I longed for a world in which all demands are fulfilled to avoid frustration. After a few months, I noticed a peculiar occurrence: an increased kindness toward others despite their malevolence. Was this due to my own innate goodness? Certainly not. This “came from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We see Christ’s heart toward the thankless in the following:
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35)
What if my job is teaching me to obey Jesus’ words? What if God is using customer frustration to help me behold the riches of His mercy toward me when I am ungrateful and evil, all while furthering my ability to reflect His kindness? When I grasped this, I viewed my job in a fresh light as no longer being an obligation, but an opportunity, to love others as Christ Himself loves me.
Trusting God in the Storm
As many can attest, customers don’t wait in line with their needs. Like debris in a hurricane, demands hurl themselves at random and en masse. At times I’ve felt utterly smothered by stress; invariably, however, every situation has turned out all right. In His mercy, God has grown my capacity to lean on Him, especially on days when hopelessness knocks. The disciples had a similar experience, it seems when their boat was caught in a great storm. They cried to Jesus, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:25-26). In the same way, the storm helped grow the disciples’ faith, so too has God used tempestuous workdays to mature my trust in Him.
Now, not every moment of my job flirts with anger and despair. Some days are good, some are bad, but the majority simply go by. The hour’s pass and tasks are accomplished without much headache. The Scriptures command us: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks to God in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). One of the greatest neglects in the Christian life is lack of gratitude in the mundane. Mundane meaning the type of day about which a child at dinner would give the famed response of “good” when asked how school was. The secret to understanding the mundane is that it is not really mundane. Even in perceived monotony, I am blessed with life, breath, and endless other gifts, which calls me to be thankful. Days of boring bliss have proved to be yet another means by which the Lord sanctifies.
I invite you to consider your own job, whatever it may be, and the aspects of which the Spirit employs to grow you in grace. Be encouraged by how God is using your day job to make you look more like Jesus. Those challenging individuals, stressful days, and boring bliss are likely being used to prepare you for Glory. By beginning to see your day job through this lens, you will start to see your work as God does. He will lead you to see beyond fleeting frustration as you joyfully behold the sanctifying work of the Spirit from nine to five. This allows us to find a deeper, more abiding satisfaction in the God of the universe, all to the praise of His glorious grace.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
C.S., Lewis. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, p. 163. Rpt. of Mere Christianity. 1952.