The Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” That means everything we do is under the watchful eye of God, and we have a choice, moment by moment, to submit to him or rebel against him. The great news of the gospel is that Jesus has looked down upon us and cried, “Mine!” He has saved us and relocated us from the kingdom of darkness into his kingdom of light. Our lives matter now and forever.
Every area of our life matters, including our work. There is not a square inch in the whole domain of your work over which Christ does not cry “Mine!” What are the implications? Specifically, what are the implications regarding speaking the word of God in the workplace?
Apart from our family and church, the primary mission God has called men to is work, and since Jesus owns everything, your work is his, and he has placed you there for his glory. My aim is to convince us that we can effectively speak the word of God into the workplace through three guiding principles: prayer, productivity, and platform. We must be men of deep and pervasive prayer, we must be men committed to productivity, and we must do both things for the building of a platform from which to speak. Let’s look at each one, and then we will consider one more belief to close.
The Christian life is dependent upon God for power. Jesus told us as much in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” Do we believe that? If we do, our life of prayer will reflect it. If we don’t, we have an opportunity to see the power of God in our life in new ways.
The Bible gives us many examples of prayerful men. Let’s consider just one: Nehemiah. Nehemiah was among the exiles of Israel. He served as the cupbearer to the King of Persia, Artaxerxes. Some men from Judah brought news to him of the walls of Jerusalem. They had fallen, and the gates were destroyed by fire. They were left unrepaired. The city was in disarray. Nehemiah, a Jewish exile, was distraught. He sat down and wept. The first chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah tells us of his period of mourning and prayer. He pleaded with God to forgive the sins of his people and to grant mercy. Then he went back to work for the King.
Nehemiah tells us in chapter 2 “Now I had not been sad in his presence.” The King noticed his sadness and asked, “Why is your face sad, seeing that you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Nehemiah was unsure, but he spoke up. “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The King knew he was going somewhere with this, but where? He asks, “What are you requesting?” The moment has arrived. What will Nehemiah say?
Nehemiah 2:4 has one phrase that makes all the difference. “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Here is Nehemiah, before the King. He is on the precipice of asking for his release to go and do the work the Lord is calling him to. He needs courage. What does he do in that brief moment? He prays.
Now, you and I will not be asking our bosses for release to repair broken down walls in Jerusalem, but there is a principle here to grasp. We will all face moments among coworkers or bosses that will force us into corners. At some point, our allegiance to Christ must be made known. That should come from the words you say and the actions you take or don’t take. Whatever the case, a moment will come where you can say or not say something vital for the Lord. At that moment, follow Nehemiah. Pray. Do not depend on yourself. You can’t be trusted. Depend on the Lord. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.
In Ephesians 5:15-17, the apostle Paul tells us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
The author of Proverbs tells us in 6:6-8, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”
We are called to do our work well. Being productive is not simply a good way to keep your job; it is a good way to love others. John Piper says, “Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love.” The more productive we are in the workplace, the more legitimacy we build and the more good we can do for the most amount of people. People depend on us. The better we do our work, the better others can do their work, and the more freedom we will have for unobstructed conversation. Furthermore, the better work we do, the more we image our Creator. Being productive in the work your boss asks you to do is a good work that ultimately points back to the one whom you truly work for, God.
As hard as it may be, and as bad as it may feel Monday-Friday, work is not a result of the fall. Genesis 2 is the pinnacle of God’s creation. Man is born. Then, in Genesis 2:15, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” There we have it. God gave Adam work to do. The next verse gave him boundaries to obey, and a chapter later, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, birthing sin into the world. But before sin, there was work. And God said that it was good.
Matt Perman is an expert on this subject. He says, “A radical concern for others is to be at the heart of our productivity and at the heart of everything we do every day. Hence, being productive is not just about getting things done. It’s about being a useful person, making a contribution, and leaving things better than you found them. It’s about always being on the lookout to do good for others and knowing how. Christians are to be known by their love—not just love in the abstract but in their everyday lives. And this is substantially shown through a concern for being of benefit to others in all that we do (not just some things that we do)…A life of serving is a life of joy and adventure and excitement—far more exciting, in fact, than a life lived for yourself, no matter how many times you get to travel the world.”
In the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” When we do this, we create the necessary space and equity needed to take the gospel to a hard area like the workplace. The better employees and bosses we are, the most open others will be.
Our private life before God, and our public life before others are important, but the two can never be connected until we open our mouths. We seek to become prayerful, productive men because in doing so, we create a platform from which to speak the word of God in our workplace.
The Bible says God determines the times and places in which we live (Acts 17:26). You are not at your workplace by accident but by divine providence. You have been lovingly placed there by God, for his glory, for the good of others. Day after day, as we seek the Lord in prayer for those we work with, and work hard unto the Lord, he will provide opportunities to share the gospel.
We are human beings made for relationships. Therefore, we should befriend those we work with. We should also see that no relationship is more important than relationship with God. Due to sin, human beings stand guilty before God. That should trouble us.
Francis Schaeffer said, “As Christians, we should be deeply concerned that the unsaved world is under the wrath of a holy God. We should not be able to think about this without some emotional reaction. Let’s get this in our heads: People are lost. If we think of the unsaved world being under the wrath of God merely as an intellectual concept, remaining unstirred emotionally, we have already entered the door of dead orthodoxy. These people are my fellow humans, and they are under the wrath of God.”
We will speak up when God provides the platform when we see others as lost and guilty before God. We will keep silent when God provides the platform when we see others as mostly good people who are doing just fine in life. We need eternal lenses through which to see the world.
But we must also realize that we are not the savior of the world. God may have placed us in our workplace to share his good news, but he has not placed us there to become anyone’s savior. Jesus is all the savior the world will ever need. Our job is simply to speak of him. We are dying men speaking to a dying world. We have what everyone needs. Will we speak up or not?
In her novel, News of the World, Paulette Jiles’s Captain Kidd is an old army captain who travels the post-Civil War U.S. reading the hard to get news to others. At one point he says, “Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.”
Some things in life are hard to figure out. Some things are a journey where we never really arrive at the destination. But the gospel is not one of those things. We are carriers of news, and we have only one message – the love of Christ for the undeserving. We can be certain of what it says. It would be a shame to get through life, all the way, and at the end hand it over, sealed. The gospel is a message that must be opened and shared because it holds life. What God gave to us should go through us to others.
In Romans 1:16, the apostle Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Let’s be sure to get this straight. We are not the power of God for salvation. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The gospel does something even as it says something. News can alter the course of our personal history. For those of us who have been saved by God, we never lose the wonder of our salvation. It altered everything. How can we keep that message from others?
Now, there is one more thing we should consider. If the discussion above felt more condemning than freeing, you’re probably not alone. Though I would suggest the principles of prayer, productivity, and platform as proper goals to shoot for – as a path to obedience – I also realize that for many men a deep sense and reality of failure abides. The question is if we fail at work – from failure on a project to failure in firing – how do we still speak the word of God in the workplace? In other words, how can Jesus use our failures for his glory?
The message of the gospel begins with failure. Out of death, God brings life. It is probable that your greatest ministry will arise from your greatest failure. So, if you’ve failed in the workplace, there is hope for you yet. God can use you. All you must do is open your heart to him and be available. Here’s what you can say to him now. “Lord, I know my failures. You know my failures. In fact, you know all my failures that you have in kindness hidden from me. But my failures do not keep me from you because of the grace of Jesus Christ. I place all my trust in him for my salvation and ask that you would use me to spread the gospel among my colleagues. I feel so weak and inadequate, but your Word shows me that you are happy to use such people. I’m open to you now, Lord. Keep me open all the time and lead me into whatever path you would have. For your glory alone.”
We know that God uses our weakness to prove his power (2 Corinthians 12). Let’s never be afraid to run to Christ for help. Let’s never be afraid to open our mouths because your father is the King of the universe. What do you need that he doesn’t have?