Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 1)

Inspiration passages: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10

Backdrop passages: 2 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5:13

Core concept 1: God has qualified us to communicate the Gospels as Kingdom influencers; however, to walk in this competency, we must receive hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone.

It’s no secret the world bombards us with the idea success is an identity we achieve through ability. If we want to get something, we got to first become something; if we want to reach ‘x’ status, we must set an ‘x’ goal; to reach an ‘x’ goal, we must get there by ‘x’ effort, etc.

However…

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For example, you may have a counselor’s heart, but doubt its validity since you’re not a licensed counselor. The world would say until you receive the proper credentialing, you’re not a counselor. But to God, you are a counselor because that’s what He’s made you to be. Of course, you may have much to learn and have to wait a few years until certification. But this doesn’t mean you’re not who God has called you to be.

You see, the world wants you to think it’s all about the process…that what you hope to be can only be accomplished through how you get there. But think about it: In order for there to be a ‘how’, there has to be a ‘what’ and for there to be a ‘what’, there has to be a ‘who’, right?

The question is: Who do we believe when it comes to who we are?

While the outcomes are many, by allowing God to be the answer, we can know the sweet reality that not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny,  and our future as well.

Accordingly, growth and improvement should not be seen as functions of development, but of yielding. After all, what you hope you are, you already are because your identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking).

This in mind, if what you seek to experience has already been prepared, why not enter into God’s best with a ‘yes’  than effort with a sigh? Why not accept His ‘realized new’ than take a chance missing it all for the sake of going your own way?

Core concept 2: To receive a heart of flesh is to believe God always sees the ‘finished you’. Accepting this sets us up to experience radical life in the Spirit…to be transformed through the Spirit’s inner power.

Consider this illustration from my dad/Gate senior pastor, Steve Fry (8:46-11:30)…

As created (or in this case, painted)…

…there’s amazing freedom to be found when we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined.

Understandably, this can be challenging to accept since we often seek to control our destiny through achievement and effort. We think as long as we work hard and ask God for the right things, they’ll be given to us and to a certain extent, this is true; however, if making requests to God and modeling faith through excellence are detached from alignment, are we not craving what He can give versus valuing what He creates?

If so, dare to view present and future struggle through David’s Psalm 51:10-12 heart-cry, where he asks not only for a clean heart, but a new one! (more on this in a sec)

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As Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians, we’re not changed into a new creation, we are made as a new creation. We aren’t born again through accrued improvements; we’re born again through the Spirit’s transformative power which enables us to become what God has and continues to declare. As for us, all we have to do is align to God by His Spirit and walk His appointed paths through daily tuning and reliance. In a sense, that is life in the Spirit – an ongoing presence meets power, abiding meets trusting reality with God.

Think of this way: If the Good News is ‘Jesus is alive and has set you free‘, then by extension, you don’t have to earn your freedom because your efforts aren’t the keys to your life. Instead, you can relish in your freedom knowing you don’t create it by self-effort, but discover it being present with God.

Core concept 3: Believing God sees the ‘finished you’ allows you to embrace helplessness and surrender your veils.

When Paul mentions ‘veil’ five times in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, it’s easy to assume he’s talking about revealed glory; however, when we consider v. 17 and its modern-day application, we find Paul is doing, at least, three things:

  1. He’s linking Christ’s finished work on the Cross to our finished person (to see freedom through the lens of the New Covenant is to accept both Cross and weakness as the plan for our transformation). 
  2. He’s charging the church to fearlessly turn to the Lord.
  3. He’s cautioning the body against obedience through self-effort.

Concerning point #3, it’s worth noting even when we do the right thing, if the act is rooted in fear, our hard hearts will remain since trust is self-reliant. That’s why the flip-side is so radical. To do the right thing by trusting God is to allow God’s tender heart to tenderize your own. This is evident when we turn to Jesus in moments of dependence, desperation, and/or negative thinking. When you turn to Jesus, you’re essentially abandoning fear of conviction and exposure for the sake of discovering new levels of His nature, character, and glory. It’s the ultimate ‘His fullness exceeds my voids‘ proclamation…an acceptance of God and His desire for us to know His heart out of abundance, not fear.

As mentioned in Core Concept #2…

God doesn’t want to change your heart; He wants to give you a new one! He doesn’t want to improve you; He wants to take out your heart of stone and put in a brand, new heart of flesh. 

Yes, God is able to fully restore health (Jeremiah 30:17), relationships (2 Corinthians 13:9-11), fortune (Job 42:10), strength (Isaiah 40:29), and the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), but with our hearts, our inhabitable being, He never stops wanting to go deeper; hence why God implants new hearts in His people so the larger dimensions can contain the future ‘more’ He’ll inevitably reveal.

As for our response, remember we don’t believe the right things so we can experience the cool buzz of God’s presence. We contend for them so the glory of Lord can fill our spaces…work, church, living, family/friends, etc. God desires His created to be free from performance and fear-based systems of thinking; however, we can’t tap into this desire if we try to effort our way there. Instead, we must yield our way to His way. That’s the hope of glory meeting the Good News as modeled in our own life!

Final Thoughts:

  1. Stop trying to be a Christian and turn to Jesus regardless of how you feel
  2. Accept God’s acceptance of yourself
  3. Pain is real, but irrelevant when you consider we are his workmanship created not only for good works, but for fullness from our finished future. Side note: Combining Colossians 2:10 and Ephesians 2:4-10 is super fun!)
  4. (see graphic below)

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from your effort, self-reliance, systems of performance, and the deepest of emotional hurts.

Stay tuned next time for ‘part two’ when I’ll discuss how this theology works in the marketplace. ‘Til then, praise the One with the key not only to your heart, but your future as well.

Selah.

Cover creds: Heartwell
Content inspired by ‘New Heart’ series @ The Gate Community Church

Work as Worship: Our Story for God’s Glory

Work and worship.

Two words with great power, but for some reason are hardly used in the same sentence.

Of course, we all know what they mean.

With work, you have what you put your hands to, your vocation, where skill meets a living; with worship, you have what (or rather whom) you lift your hands to, the reason for vocation, where purpose meets living.

However, if you think these terms are easily compartmentalized, I get it. After all, as long as the church teaches the principles behind them, we should automatically know how they apply in each setting of life, right? (*Sarcasm*)

Whatever the case, when we talk about how work works as worship, when we consider the origin of work and its modern-day application, there’s fresh freedom and joy to be found.

So for today, I want to discuss what it means to be a worship-thinker as opposed to a work-thinker – what working to the fullest looks like when function becomes a part of our daily abiding in Christ.

For instance…

  • Do we treat work as a source of identity?
  • Do we treat work as a tool of personal fulfillment?
  • Do we treat work as a necessary evil in order to get a paycheck or other “benefits”?

If ‘yes’, then chances are our work has become a place of pressure, performance-based thinking or worse…a means to an end1.

Accordingly, we must ask ourselves:  How then do we treat work if we’re to elevate it as a selfless sacrifice of praise?

For starters, it doesn’t hurt to bridge work and worship with ‘mission’…

…however, to truly answer this, we must flash back to the Garden of Eden as captured in Genesis 2:15-20

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”

First off, before we discuss Adam’s work, note how God gave Adam a task before sin entered the world. This has huge implications as to how we’re to understand work. Often times, we see our job as a consequence or choice rather than a gift. We think what we do is a product of what we have done good or bad. But from the very beginning, we find God designating responsibility in the form of delegated authority. Specifically, God entrusted Adam to be an extension of His hand in cultivating the greatest garden ever and be an extension of voice in naming what He’d already cultivated!

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Going back to the garden timeline, it’s interesting to see how God appointed man a task, but didn’t define it right away. While God would ultimately bring the animals to Adam2 (v. 19), He knew before this could happen, parameters were required to ensure intimacy and authority had boundaries to flourish.

Similarly, God also knew before He could delegate a particular assignment to Adam, he needed to not only learn dependence on Him in and out of work, but also his identity detached from the helper (Eve) who was to come. Again, this narrative order carries powerful implication given it underscores God’s desire for us to learn spiritual reliance without assurance of task and/or relational affirmation. Yes, God intended a helpmate for Adam before he was created, but more importantly, God intended Adam to learn his identity (and purpose as overflow) before work or wife existed.

Thus, the existence of work evidenced by the Garden is proof God desires to establish intimacy with us outside of work so he can build upon that intimacy as we work.

Not to mention it also confirms…

  1. Work plays a certain role in how we interact with God.

  2. The only way to understand the purpose of work, enjoy our work and the fruit of our labor is by also enjoying God as we work (Psalm 16:11).

  3. For Adam, tending the garden wasn’t his purpose; worship was his purpose.

  4. Accordingly, we can perceive our work has both a necessity and an overflow.

With Genesis 2 set as our backdrop, let’s look at Colossians 3:12-17, 23-24

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

In this passage, Paul captures ‘work as worship’ once it’s an overflow locked in rhythm. Combined with Genesis, an applicative breakdown of these verses reveals the following benefits (Note: Due to word count, we’ll wrap things up after this list):

Being a ‘worship thinker’…

  • Frees you to enjoy the moment of the work
  • Provides a sense of closure at every juncture of every task even if the project as a whole is not done!
  • Frees you from becoming unnecessarily offended at other teammates since punctuality or accuracy isn’t your first priority
  • Frees you to be honest without agenda/unbiased with your teammates because you know that how you handle yourself is a ‘fragrant offering’ of worship to God
  • Motivates you to work over longer periods because you are no longer experiencing emotional drains that come from the…
    • Fear that your voice won’t be heard
    • Fear that another’s performance will jeopardize project completion
    • Fear of failure, since your definition of success has changed
  • Motivates you to give God your best and embrace accountability
  • Helps you be more open to input/critique from team-members and supervisors
  • Reminds you the work is not your identity, but working unto the Lord is
  • Helps you to see work experiences as learning opportunities
  • Minimizes anxiety during a project/carrying out his responsibilities because you can better compartmentalize (i.e. prioritize at each juncture) the job
  • Minimizes fear on what your boss can do to you
  • Empowers us to not be controlled by the attitudes/behaviors of our co-workers
  • Helps you see business culture as more freeing when bottom lines go beyond profit or position
  • Refreshes the way you perceive success in your organization
  • Protects you from deriving identity from profits and/or positions
  • Protects you from taking on damaging behaviors like over-control and over-accommodation (people or employee-pleasing)
  • Allows you to be more patient in your work because each work moment is treated as a worship moment

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Bottom line: When we see work as an overflow of worship, we find intimacy at the core of success: Bringing pleasure to God through the gifts He’s given us so we can make His name known to the world.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or rather, a means as opposed to an end
  2. Note: The fact God brings the animals to Adam is significant as it emphasizes God’s sovereignty to reveal how our calling merges with our purpose (more on this in a future post)
Cover photo creds: Abstract Wallpapers; Col. 3 content collaborated on with Steve Fry as part of our ‘Commission U’ series at The Gate Community Church

 

Kingdom Awakeners: The Reason We Exist (Part 3)

In recent days, I’ve been thinkin’ what we, at His Girl Fryday, stand for.

‘Cause outside looking in, it may not be easy understanding what we’re about. Yes, we are a written resource. Yes, we have a heart for vocational leaders with ministerial influence. And yes, we have a bio on this page you’re welcome to view at your leisure.

But perhaps we haven’t done the best job conveying how you fit into the message we carry. Like an expanding thumbnail struggling for resolution, perhaps we can sharpen the image not only on what we do, but how we aim to do it.

Assuming ‘yes’, permit me to zoom out and bring it back in.

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From my experience, I think it’s safe to say those saved and walking with Christ are united to see the lost, found, the blind, see, and the broken, healed. For those in daily relationship with God, actively choosing faith over fear, I believe we are unanimously burdened by those in proximity struggling and searching for deep answers.

But what if I told you wanting these people to find Jesus (be it our co-workers, our friends and family, our business partners, the next generation, etc.) is the beginning of evangelism, not a means or an end?

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…and that this desire can’t be separated from helping them discover not only their strengths, but their use as motivational/community gifts at work?

I don’t know about you, but I see the part I must play.

Like many, I’m concerned for the homeless, the backslidden, and the religious. I’m wary for the depressed, the oppressed, and those thirsty for rest.

However, I’m also burdened by the fact my neighbor, though a church goer, doesn’t realize she’s called to be an apostle in the education industry. I’m burdened by my friend at work oblivious to his call as a teacher/pastor in financial arenas. And I’m haunted by a supervisor unaware she has a prophetic mouthpiece geared for real estate.

Granted, these are fictional profiles that may or may not apply to you reading this.

The point is: At one point or another, many of us can relate to having carried a separation of church and state into our fields of expertise. While we continually hope our colleagues accept Christ (and for others to mature in Christ), not nearly as many think they can do anything apart from pointing in the right direction.

Not to suggest pointing by itself is a bad thing. There are times all we can do is point. I get that.

But I also think we often settle thinking our career is solely a parallel track to evangelism when in reality, it can be perpendicular as well. For instance, who’s to say a nurse can’t be a pastor when on the clock? Who’s to say the gift of exhortation can’t be applied when administering medical support?

Think of it this way…

There are seven ministry offices outlined by Ephesians 4 and 1 Timothy 3/5: Apostle, deacon, elder, evangelist, pastor, prophet, and teacher. Now, overlay them with the seven community/motivational gifts specified in Romans 12/1 Corinthians 12. Do the same with the nine manifestation gifts also listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Finally, consider the thousands upon thousands of career fields in the world today.

Like a Sonic drink algorithm, that’s a whole lot of options to be like Jesus, lead like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and reach like Jesus.

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The problem is we vastly reduce this number (assuming it can be quantified) thinking only a licensed pastor can do pastor things, a full-time missionary can do evangelist things, and so forth.

Why we do this…well, there are many reasons. For now, let’s just say that’s why His Girl Fryday exists…and plans to stick around for a while. True, we may not lead thousands to salvation like some of you will; however, we figure by encouraging downcast vocationals, we can join you in helping people around the world unlock their God-given purpose.

After all, none of us can do what we’re called to do without someone on the other side. Why not lock arms and enjoy the ride.

Let’s go…

Cover photo creds: eaglessight.com

3 Ways to Deal with Discrimination at Work

Discrimination. It’s crazy how crippling it can be.

One second you’re without a care in the world, the next you’re face-to-face with fear confirmed – a vain anxiety now a realized struggle. Perhaps you’ve wondered how to deal with price and prejudices outside your control, at work, political arenas or even in church. If so, permit me to share some guidance on ways we can overcome, specifically when we’re on the clock.

For while discrimination can happen anytime, anywhere, it’s often in the melting pots of life we find our faith and character challenged to the point of maturation.

With this in mind, let’s dive in…

1. Accept the Little Kid Within

This may seem like an odd place to start, but here me out.  When we consider the context of Matthew 18 where Jesus is previewing the local church, note his response to the opening question in v. 1:

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 3-4, ESV)

Essentially, Jesus is saying the key to living the Kingdom is Christ’s bottom line for community: become like children.  Our intent may be good, our efforts may be efficient, but if our attitude isn’t one of childlike awe and innocence, our walk with God will become misdirected. You see, the disciples at this point were thinking like the world. They didn’t see the ‘greatest’ as a humble kid free of value judgments, offense, manipulation, and selective disclosure. Rather, they saw the ‘greatest’ like anyone else – through the lens of power, success, money, and reputation. So you can imagine the confusion the disciples must have felt when Jesus responded in contrast:

Unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.“ (AMP)

Again, Jesus is not only foreshadowing a key community goal, but emphasizing the Kingdom definition of success as how we treat people. If we’re to impact a culture in which everyone is loved, we should be motivated to walk in honesty, to honor and serve one another as opposed to offend or condemn.

Unfortunately, in a fallen world, there are many who tolerate the contrary (i.e. unbelief, negativity, bitterness, shame, withdrawal, etc.) and it’s here we must calibrate our expectations. Whether one is a child in flesh, emotion, or in spirit, our call is to receive in love while leaning on God’s understanding. In this way, whatever hate lies within can be appropriated to the right place (i.e. the sin and principalities involved).

Bottom line: If we’re to justly deal with discrimination, we must accept the child within. Even if the other side is lost, feeling insignificant, or behaving like an enemy, by giving agape love (i.e. love that works it out) and forgiveness a chance, we preserve the peace-making, bridge-building strategies of God.

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2. Stay the Little Kid Within

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m caught in nostalgia, I can’t help but notice how fast it comes and goes. Like a child in awe, the wonder is deep, the impression is evident, but the moment is often fleeting. The question is: If we’re to become like children, how do we stay like children?

The answer in one word? Consistency.

As John points out in 1 John 21, what we lack as literal kids we learn through maturation and conforming to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action; however, in order to experience this, we must daily aim to discover God by habitually keeping focus on what allows us to yield to Him.

Consider the habitual/customary relationship in v. 3-5 and v. 9-11:

“And this is how we know [daily, by experience] that we have come to know Him [to be more deeply acquainted with Him]: if we habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know Him,” but does not habitually keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth [of the divine word] is not in him. But whoever habitually keeps His word and obeys His precepts [and treasures His message in its entirety], in him the love of God has truly been perfected [it is completed and has reached maturity]. By this we know [for certain] that we are in Him. The one who says he is in the Light and yet habitually hates (works against) his brother [in Christ] is in the darkness until now. The one who loves and unselfishly seeks the best for his [believing] brother lives in the Light, and in him there is no occasion for stumbling or offense [he does not hurt the cause of Christ or lead others to sin]. But the one who habitually hates (works against) his brother is in [spiritual] darkness and is walking in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (AMP)

While this passage may seem repetitious, I love what John is doing here.  A master of audience, John knew his readers were not only professing Christians, but believers who valued custom as worship and fellowship with Christ as habitually abiding2. Accordingly, John emphasizes a reality view centered on daily partnership through obedience knowing these ‘little children’ (v. 1) would see the call as something more than surrender, but life itself!

As for us, if we’re to understand consistency in the face of discrimination and in the context of abiding like children, we must embrace Christ as our daily interceding advocate. For it’s when we reference Christ as our champion that we center the Cross in our minds treasuring truth in community. After all, if we’re to be like Jesus, we must be in him, rooted in and knit to Him as the promise keeper He is:

As for you, the anointing [the special gift, the preparation] which you received from Him remains [permanently] in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But just as His anointing teaches you [giving you insight through the presence of the Holy Spirit] about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as His anointing has taught you, you must remain in Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him].” (v.27, AMP)

Bottom line: Regardless if we’re dealing with discrimination at work, our default response should know no offense. Yet, in order to lack offense, we must first choose consistent fellowship with Christ, trust His unfolding purposes in others, and allow His love to perfect as we habitually seek His highest. This is how we stay the little kid within.

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3. See the Little Kid Within

As a parlay from the points above, I’ll keep this short and sweet. If our aim is to trust God in childlike faith and ‘Abba Father’ reliance, we must also aim to see the same potential in others. Granted, easier said than done as the presence of God is the only power that can mature a child-like…anything.

But as a body pursuing the best of God, we must also believe the best of Him even if it hasn’t happened yet. And what better place to practice this than with our comrades at work?

In my experience, I’ve found one of the most basic yet transformational attitudes is imagining lost people found. To consider what they may be like, the changes in demeanor, behavior, communication, work ethic, character, etc. Seriously, wouldn’t it be wild if more believers entered into this type of rest? What palpable peace we’d sense substituting the disappointments of what we can’t change with a belief in who can. What anxiety we’d release imagining change in others as change going to happen, not could happen. Embracing this perspective, would we not see the little kid within, even if they were treating us poorly?

Perhaps not at first; however, given a child doesn’t discriminate or manipulate3, one must wonder if offense would pale in the light of safe honesty4. True, as adults, we may not think like children, but we can certainly be more open to grace when we take no offense like them.

Bottom line: As little children, believe in what you’ve been given for others. Dare to apply the ‘Hope may have it, but faith will have it’ mentality to how you view and treat your colleagues, subordinates, and superiors at work.

Remember…

1) Don’t just think positive thoughts in a vacuum, but extend them to those who persecute and condemn you.

2) Christ in you…

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Interestingly, I stumbled upon this passage by researching the word ‘consistency’ which led to this as the sole result.
  2. In His teachings
  3. Depends on age, but in this case we’re talking children young enough to not know how to cunningly exploit
  4. Though they do judge poorly
Photo creds: Pixabay

 

Built to Build: The Call of Vocations (Part 1)

After previously discussing 1 Corinthians 4, I want to rewind a chapter and review our vocational identity – what God intends us to be on the clock.

While we will ultimately need guidance from Colossians 2 to unpack this in full, for now let’s start with 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (ESV):

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Here, Paul, having emphasized church divisions (v. 1-4), is reminding the Corinthians to see Christ as their cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22), as the foundation of life on which new life can be built. Unfortunately, like the Israelites in Judges, the Corinthians are strong in flesh and weak in discernment. A people ravaged by schismatic impulses, they are plagued by paganism and a past rooted in idolatry. Certainly, Paul couldn’t have been too surprised to hear reports of such dissension.

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Yet, what Paul lacks in suspense, he makes up in candidacy, specifically we are servants designed for unity and God is the source and core of it all. What matters is not who gets this task and who gets that task, but rather why the task exists at all. For most of us, this makes sense, but to the Corinthians, a people who saw their value through who they followed, this would have been difficult to accept. Imagine your political preference and/or denomination of choice being your chief designation. “Hi, my name is Cameron and I’m a charismatic Republican.” A bit off-putting, right?­

Conversely, for Paul, affiliations meant nothing compared to eternal intent as evidenced in v. 9 (AMP):  

For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building. “ 

Like 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, this is powerful imagery concerning our vocational identity. We aren’t just God’s workers, but fellow workers on mission with Christ doing good works in Gospel partnership (Phil. 1:5-6). Concerning our colleagues and clients, they’re also designed for God’s assignments, but whether they know it or not should not deter us from working peaceably as it depends on us (Romans 12:18). As long as we accept the call to be Christ’s championing companions, we can embrace unity as helpers of joy (2 Corinthians 1:24) while perceiving our cultivation as an overflow of God’s goodness.

After all…

…we don’t work to lay the foundation; we work because Christ is the foundation!

Put another way, as co-laborers and vocational leaders, we’re meant to be laid on, not laid upon; hence, why Jesus says in Mark 3:25, “…a house divided against itself cannot stand.” If we don’t value teamwork apart from personal gain, our operations will be hindered having affirmed our identity as the foundation.

Again, this offers quite the paradox to the natural mind. Are we the foundation Christ, the master builder, lays or are we the slab plan built on Christ the foundation, by Christ the builder? Personally, I side with the latter, especially when I note the Psalmist and weeping prophet (i.e. Jeremiah) who perceived identity as predestined (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5), Christ’s work in them1 as destined, and God’s nature as perpetually present. Applying their worldview, we can rest knowing as vocational influencers, we can mature our reach knowing it is Christ in us who does the cultivating through our work.

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In other words…

He is the vine, we are branches…but we are also a part of His vineyard!

Sometimes, we get so discouraged being branches, we forget the beauty of the garden we’ve been planted in. This tells me not only do we need to know Christ as the foundation on which we stand, but also the cultivator who pours out seeing the growth before it happens.

Colossians 1:4 and 2:2 (AMP) captures this process beautifully.

We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [how you lean on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness], and of the [unselfish] love2 which you have for all the saints (God’s people)…For my hope is that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in [unselfish] love, so that they may have all the riches that come from the full assurance of understanding [the joy of salvation], resulting in a true [and more intimate] knowledge of the mystery of God, that is, Christ…”

Combining these passages, we find the blueprint to living our vocational identity. When we’re overcome by disappointment, we choose gratitude seeking God in confidence. When we’re overwhelmed by hate, prejudice, and indifference we choose love seeking God in faith. And when we’re overpowered by unbelief and unforgiveness, we choose hope seeking God in His grace and power. In this way, we allow the towel (John 13: 1-9) to unfold as our hearts yearn to see others transformed and united by unselfish love. Granted, when we talk being on the job in the midst of funk and discrimination, this is easier said than done.

Then again, the whole point of Paul writing this is to encourage the Gentiles to desire unity with the Jews in hope to see them know Christ. And it’s this heart posture, I submit, we embrace as believing vocations on marketplace frontlines. Remember we are built up to build up, a process that with God knows no bounds.

As far as what we do between being built up in Christ and building up through Christ, Paul does give an additional template on this later in Colossians 2. For now, let’s pause and revisit the topic in next week’s post on how we contend for unity at work.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Ministry of reconciliation/sanctification
  2. The key to understanding this and other statements about love is to know that this love (the Greek word agape) is not so much a matter of emotion as it is of doing things for the benefit of another person, that is, having an unselfish concern for another and a willingness to seek the best for another.
Photo creds: FULLER studio