institute for faith work and economics

Fulfillment

You wake up in the morning hoping your actions will have purpose. You want the work you do during the day to be affirmed, to be directed towards a meaningful end, and to have an impact on the lives of those around you.

You want to lie down at night and feel satisfied, content that the work you did was your very best and made a difference in the grand scheme of things.

You want the peace of mind, the satisfaction that comes with living out your purpose in the world.

You want fulfillment.

And you know what? You can find it. Everyone can.

Each person is created in God’s image, and like him, has the desire – and the ability – to be creative and find fulfillment using their God-given talents.

You can find fulfillment in many ways, by knowing your place and purpose in your community, your family, your church, and especially in work.

You can find fulfillment by living into who God created you to be, and doing what he created you to do.

In short, you find fulfillment when you discover and carry out your calling. This fulfillment finds expression in many ways – in serving your community, church, and family. In these places, you can make contributions that have eternal significance.

Work especially is an area where you can find fulfillment. Your daily work provides you with the challenges and opportunities to serve God and others. In fact, it’s the best way to serve others. And service is key – ultimately, work isn’t just about your personal fulfillment. It’s about serving your neighbors and even complete strangers by using your God-given gifts, talents, and resources to help meet their needs. Your service gives people a glimpse of how things will be when Christ returns and restores creation in full.

There are, of course, times when work may be difficult. Some days you feel the “thorns and thistles,” the stress, the burden of your responsibilities more than others. Through it all, work remains a formative activity for finding fulfillment by teaching us about God and ourselves.

Fulfillment can be found in whatever work God places in front of you, regardless of whether it’s your dream job or not. When we work hard everyday at the work God has given us, it’s pleasing to him and way more fulfilling for us.

Ultimately, fulfillment is not found in our circumstances, but in the actions – and attitudes we take towards our work, family, church, and community each and everyday. It’s found in working diligently to glorify God, serve the common good, and advance the kingdom of God in all that we do.

 

Originally published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). ©Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 2015. Used by permission.

The Beauty of Creation and the Longing We Feel for Restoration

All of us have been mesmerized by the glory of a sunset or the beauty of the freshly fallen snow across a barren landscape. Yet, as beautiful as nature can be, we are still unsatisfied. There should be something more. C.S. Lewis speaks to this troubling disparity in Weight of Glory:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though…. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.

As Christians who live in the age of redemption, we realize that the beauty we see in God’s creation is a reflection of his glory. As a great painting reflects the glory of the master artist who painted it, even the fallen creation still reflects the glory of the Creator of all things.

Rick Howe writes in his book, Rivers of Delight, that,

Beauty and its pleasure are God’s gifts to enrich our lives. Beauty is the expression of the extravagant benevolence of our Creator.

What we see and feel are only a taste of the way things could be. We await the restoration of all things at the end of this age. We wait to truly embrace the way things are supposed to be.

But even in this fallen world, creation’s chorus still calls out to us as voiced by the hymn writer Henry van Dyke over a 100 years ago:

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began.

Living within the tension of this “already/not yet” of redemption and restoration also has significant implications for our work as well.

Made in God’s image, we are to create through our work things from the raw material he has given us. This is why J.R.R Tolkien called man a sub-creator. Tolkien would also rightly state that one of the ways man glorifies God is through the sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God. This is one of the ideas expressed in Tolkien’s short story, Leaf by Niggle.

While our work has been redeemed, it awaits the second coming of Christ to be restored.

Like our appreciation of nature’s beauty, we can enjoy our work while realizing it will never be perfect in this current realm.

Acknowledging that our work can never be perfect does not give us a pass. God still expects us to work as hard as we can to do the best at whatever he has called us to do.

My wife and I recently moved into a new house, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by all the things that still need to be done and the things I wish we had done differently. I thought, “I am never going to get this house right.”

Tolkien’s story made me realize that my perfect house, like Niggle’s tree, is awaiting me in the new earth in the age of restoration. The house that I have built here is only a taste of the blessing that God has in store. Meanwhile, I still need to work as hard as I can to finish the things that are not finished and try to make the house the best it can be.

God wants the work of our hands to bring about flourishing that glorifies him and serves the common good in the here and now. Although we will be blessed in this life as we obediently work toward this end, we wait for the ultimate blessing, shalom, with patience.

 

Originally published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). ©Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 2015. Used by permission.

Does the Everyday Mundane Matter?

Do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance? The answer really depends on when in the history of the church you ask it.

Prior to the Reformation, Christians in the medieval church would have answered no. They believed only priests did spiritual work. All other activity was secular.

It was the sixteenth century reformers, men like Martin Lutherand John Calvin, who rediscovered the biblical idea that everything we do is important to God.

These men encouraged Christians to be salt and light in the world. They believed it was possible to maintain integrity of faith while injecting Christian influence within society.

They were right.

Western civilization is replete with examples of followers of Christ who positively shaped culture through their work in the fields to which God had called them.

Many American evangelicals during the last seventy-five years have let the sacred/secular distinction corrupt their worldview in such a way that they leave their faith at home when they enter the public square.

They are ambivalent about engaging with social and political matters, as the Reformers urged.

They fear involvement in such secular matters will compromise the integrity of their faith.

They are convinced faith is a private matter and best kept that way.

They have lost sight of the spiritual significance of their work.

To be sure, the risk they have identified is real. Being in the world but not of it is not easy. It is not safe. But it is what we are called to be.

These thoughts came to me recently as I was finishing Carl Henry’s Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, published in 1947. In this book, Henry, an American evangelical theologian who served as Christianity Today‘s first editor-in-chief, wrote a stinging critique of Christian fundamentalism in the late 1940s.

Almost prophetically, Henry argued fundamentalists did not present Christianity as a worldview with a vision for impacting culture. Instead, they chose to emphasize personal salvation. In doing so, they offered a truncated, impoverished version of the gospel to the world. This gospel was too other-worldly and anti-intellectual to be taken seriously.

And so, in their efforts to preserve orthodox Christianity from modernity and liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, evangelicals lost an important ingredient that has been a powerful influence throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history. They forgot how to be leaven in the loaf. (Matthew 13:33)

The good news is that sixty years later, many of Henry’s hopes for evangelicalism are beginning to be realized. Today’s evangelicals are re-engaging many social and political issues and working together to influence culture for the kingdom.

Yet the importance of our daily vocational work in the furtherance of God’s kingdom is still lost on many believers. Many still feel they need to quit their jobs and start working for ministries or non-profits to truly make a difference in the world. They don’t. They can be salt and light right where they currently work.

Bringing faith to work or anywhere else in the public square runs many risks, but it is essential if Christians are to be leaven where leavening is most needed.

If Christianity is to once again become a positive influence in American public life, all Christians need to be present within that life as salt and light. Christians need to leave the safety of their Christian ghettos and take the risks necessary for reforming, renewing, and recalling today’s culture.

The legacy of the Reformation invites us to engage the world. It instructs us in how to do so with integrity and as public witnesses to the power of the gospel.

So, do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?

The real question should be “Does the Bible teach that the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?”

The answer is yes, absolutely yes, in any age.

 

Originally published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). ©Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 2015. Used by permission.