Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
A few years ago, I was asked by the Gospel Coalition Australia to contribute a reflection on work to their website, and I decided to include a “Letter to Myself as a Young Worker”. To my surprise it was very popular, it seemed to hit a nerve.
It occurred to me that this is a good question to ask people, as a means of distilling wisdom, a sense of growth, and collecting some ideas that might help young Christian adults navigating the complex world of work.
When interviewing some people for a longer-term research project, I came across the following responses:
A woman who came to a saving knowledge of Jesus in her 30s expressed her desire to have known God as a younger woman. “I wish I had a better knowledge of God earlier. It would have impacted on what I valued: materialism and lust. I have learnt the wisdom of God before gold or glory.”
A young man who has worked very hard to be excellent reflected on that process: “I would tell myself that ‘You can make a difference wherever you are and whatever you do.’ I always thought that medicine was the gold standard way of helping people, but I see now that God can use you whatever you choose. I would tell myself: ‘Don’t be so concrete in your thinking. Don’t think there is just one thing. Don’t be so black and white. Don’t be so hard on yourself.’ I would also warn myself, because I felt very unprepared for the difficult realities of the workplace.”
A very successful worker at the end of his career had the opportunity to reflect on a lifetime of seeking to practice his faith at work: “Everything is by God’s grace rather than your own effort. Reflecting back, I realized all the opportunities that opened to me were not created by myself. If you honor God, he will honor you. You still need to work hard and be competent, but I realize now that the doors that were opened were not by my doing. It happened at the right time and the right place. You need to pray and discern, and step out in obedience.”
Think It Through
Have a go at writing some advice to yourself as a young worker.
Which of the comments above impacted on you, and why?
What Does the Bible Say?
Paul wrote a couple of letters to his young friend Timothy, which can give us some food for thought for our working, for example 1 Timothy 4:7–12:
Have nothing to do with godless myths; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
We need to be disciplined at work to be faithful witnesses, setting an example for others. The common theme in the advice from my interviewees was: be gentler with yourself, trust God, and focus on what he is doing in your life and the workplace. There is also a realization that our response to failure, rather than our success at work, may well be the thing that God uses to reveal himself through us.
We are conscious of the challenges facing young workplace Christians.
We are grateful for the ways you have proved yourself faithful to us as we navigated those challenges.
Please help more experienced workers to be generous in mentoring and encouraging younger workers.
Please help younger workers to remain faithful in the midst of temptations and distractions.
For any who feel their faith is compromised, please reassure them that they are loved and forgiven.
For any who feel isolated and alone, please reassure them of your presence.
For those working well, and setting a good example, help them to know your pleasure.
Help us to work for your glory, and to serve others.
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.