God and Your Career

Work; is it a calling or a “necessary evil?” God has important purposes for our career (or careers). He knows not only what we need but also our strengths and weaknesses. When the ancient Hebrews left Egypt the first book of Moses (Genesis) began by outlining God’s work week when he created the Earth and the universe. Thus the creation account gives an example of a logically organized work week, with one day for rest and evaluating the work. Adam, the first man, was assigned his work in the garden before he sinned. So we should not think of work as an evil.  Work could be defined essentially as purposeful activity for serving others. 

Different Career Paths, Same God

Every young man needs a sense of purpose and direction regarding his career. After becoming a Christian at age twenty, I had a long struggle to find my direction.  David Riffel, who founded Mentoring Warriors, and I were roommates and close friends in college.  David always wanted to be an architect. So as the years went by it seemed like his life unfolded very much as he had hoped.  But mine went through many twists, turns, reversals, and stalls. God has been sovereign in both David Riffel’s life and in mine.  God is just as good in how he worked in my life as he was in David’s life, though our paths were different. In Jeremiah 18:1-6, God told Jeremiah he was like a potter, who decides what to make out of the clay.

God’s Purposes for You

At a time when ancient Israel was about to go into exile into Babylon and it seemed to them that they were losing everything, God gave Jeremiah something very encouraging in Jeremiah 29:11, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. . . .’ ” We tend to think only of the short-term situation we find ourselves in because we don’t know what will happen next.  But God looks to His long-term purposes. Every believer is chosen by God and predestined for sonship in Christ (Eph. 1:4-6). God’s ultimate purpose is that our lives will “be for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11-14). To this end, God prepares good things for us to do and puts them in place in advance, to be ready for when we arrive to meet the challenge. This is spelled out in Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

Uniquely Wired

We all have a variety of abilities, interests, and motivations that pertain to work and career.  In High School, I discovered that I loved math and science and so I pursued that with all my energy.  With my bachelor’s degree, I looked for engineering-related positions but none of those doors opened, in spite of interviews.  Then after a time of searching, I came to the conclusion God was leading me into teaching.  So, I pursued studying education.  That seemed to go well until it came to doing student teaching. I failed student teaching twice. At that point, I thought that there was no way I would be a teacher. I had to find other work for a time as a church janitor and then one day an opening came along at a Christian school. In spite of my past failures, the principal of the school gave me a position teaching middle school and high school math and science.  The first two years were very difficult. But I taught there for a total of four years.  I did other teaching also but eventually left teaching and pursued a career with computer software companies.

Discover Your Design

We each need to discover our own design. God has designed each of us with a unique combination of abilities and interests. These strengths require honing and refining. One person may be better working with people, another may do better working with their hands.  Computer programmers tend to be people who are very analytical but are not as strong in their communication skills. We each have different strengths and we should not think of one strength as better than another.  But we must also learn in our weaknesses, so they do not limit us too much. It is important to be able to work together in a team because of how different people complement each other. Management of your own time, finances, and health become important as well. We all need to ask God to guide and strengthen us in learning to use our talents. Sin or careless actions can sometimes cause us to miss out on good opportunities.  But Jesus reminds us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  

Success Defined

We should be careful how we define success. To be respected by others you work with is one form of success.  Respect earned over time is a very valuable thing.  To have a good income can be another form of success, but I would say that to God, perfection of our character and other personal skills are more important.  If you have a lot of ability but no one wants to work with you, your career prospects are not good. God cares a great deal about how we interact with others at work.  Jobs that make us deal with difficult people can be very instrumental for God teaching us about our attitude and about relationship skills. I had weaknesses as a young man in relating to others and I can see this took years for me to grow in as God intended.   

Failures Do Not Break Our Relationship with God

If you learn about the lives of successful people, it is surprising how many of them experienced significant failures in their careers. Many of them had major career changes also. An important thing to remember is that our failures do not “break” our relationship with God. They can cause us to miss out on something good. But God always has a way to accomplish his purpose. God often can make a way in spite of our weaknesses and failures.  Our abilities and interests can also be used by God in multiple settings or outlets.  So, God may have something different in mind than we first expect. Our vocational career is not the only area where God has a purpose.  He also prepares us for ministry. My teaching experience prepared me for teaching as well as writing in other ministry settings. It has also served me well at work in training others. So even if your vocation doesn’t turn out to be what you expected, God can provide some other avenue to use your abilities.  

Final Thoughts

  • Whatever work you do, establish a good track record in how you do it. Then people will rely on you.
  • Don’t say something to someone at work, in person or in an email, that you wouldn’t want Jesus to hear or see. Guess what, he’s watching!
  • Pray about work challenges and difficulties. 
  • Also, pray about career direction. God can change things in his time.

Warrior On!

Wayne Spencer

Wayne has a Masters degree in Physics from Wichita State University. Wayne was once a science teacher but is now Senior Product Manager of Interface Development for a software company in Dallas, TX. Wayne maintains the website and appears regularly on a Podcast called Good Heavens, available at Wayne Spencer has been a good friend of David Riffel since their college days.

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