Take Your Job and Love It
by Max Lucado
My heart took delight in all my work.
Ecclesiastes 2:10 NIV
Contrast two workers.
The first one slices the air with his hand, making points, instructing the crowd. He is a teacher and, from the look of things, a compelling one. He stands on a beach, rendering the slanted seashore an amphitheater. As he talks, his audience increases; as the audience grows, his platform shrinks. The instructor steps back and back until the next step will take him into the water. That’s when he spots another worker.
A fisherman. Not animated, but frustrated. He spent all night fishing, but caught nothing. All night! Double-digit hours worth of casting, splashing, and pulling the net. But he caught nothing. Unlike the teacher, the fisherman has nothing to show for his work. He draws no crowds; he doesn’t even draw fish. Just nets.
Two workers. One pumped up. One worn-out. The first, fruitful. The second, futile. To which do you relate?
If you empathize with the fisherman, you walk a crowded path. Before you change professions, try this: change your attitude toward your profession.
Jesus’ word for frustrated workers can be found in the fifth chapter of Luke’s gospel, where we encounter the teacher and the frustrated fisherman. You’ve likely guessed their names—Jesus and Peter. Peter, Andrew, James, and John made their living catching and selling fish. Like other fishermen, they worked the night shift, when cool water brought the game to the surface. And, like other fishermen, they knew the drudgery of a fishless night.
While Jesus preaches, they clean nets. And as the crowd grows, Christ has an idea.
He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was [Peter’s] and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd. (vv. 2-3 MSG)
Jesus claims Peter’s boat. He doesn’t request the use of it. Christ doesn’t fill out an application or ask permission; he simply boards the boat and begins to preach.
He can do that, you know. All boats belong to Christ. Your boat is where you spend your day, make your living, and to a large degree live your life.
Your boat is God’s pulpit.
I have a friend who understands this. By job description she teaches at a public elementary school. By God’s description she pastors a class of precious children. Read the e-mail she sent her friends:
I’m asking for your prayers for my students. I know everyone is busy, but…
On and on the list goes, including nearly deaf Sara. Disorganized-but-thoughtful Terrell. Model-student Alicia. Bossy-but-creative Kaelyn.
Does this teacher work for a school system or for God? Does she spend her day in work or worship? Does she make money or a difference? Every morning she climbs in the boat Jesus loaned her. The two of them row out into the water and cast nets. My friend imitates Peter.
Suppose you were to do what Peter did. Take Christ to work with you. Invite him to superintend your nine-to-five. He showed Peter where to cast nets. Won’t he show you where to transfer funds, file the documents, or take the students on a field trip?
Holy Spirit, help me stitch this seam.
Lord of creation, show me why this manifold won’t work.
King of kings, please bring clarity to this budget.
Dear Jesus, guide my hands as I trim this hair.
Pray the prayer of Moses: “Let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!” (Ps. 90:17 MSG).
Hold it there. I saw you roll those eyes. You see no way God could use your work. Your boss has the disposition of a hungry pit bull; hamsters have larger work areas; your kids have better per diems. You feel sentenced to the outpost of Siberia, where hope left on the last train. If so, meet one final witness. He labored eighteen years in a Chinese prison camp.
The Communist regime rewarded his faith in Christ with the sewage assignment. The camp kept its human waste in pools until it fermented into fertilizer. The pits seethed with stink and disease. Guards and prisoners alike avoided the cesspools and all who worked there, including this disciple.
After he’d spent weeks in the pit, the stench pigmented his body. He couldn’t scrub it out. Imagine his plight, far from home. And even in the prison, far from people. But somehow this godly man found a garden in his prison. “I was thankful for being sent to the cesspool. This was the only place where I was not under severe surveillance. I could pray and sing openly to our Lord. When I was there, the cesspool became my private garden.”
He then quoted the words to the old hymn:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice so clear whispers in my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
“I never knew the meaning of this hymn until I had been in the labor camp,” he said. God can make a garden out of the cesspool you call work, if you take him with you.
For Peter and his nets, my friend and her class, the prisoner and his garden, and for you and your work, the promise is the same: everything changes when you give Jesus your boat.
From Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2005) Max Lucado