Humility Works

CHURCH 2The young man had recently been hired as a junior analyst and was working under Jennifer’s supervision. He had a good and kind heart but after a year was struggling to meet the company’s expectations. Jennifer consulted with her superior, the company’s chief operating officer, and a decision was made to put him in a performance improvement program.

Jennifer scheduled a meeting with him. It did not go well. When she informed him of their decision, he became angry and accusatory. Jennifer could feel her own anger growing. The meeting did not come to any clear resolution and when it ended Jennifer felt drained and sad.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as a light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6

That night she had a regular meeting with other sisters from her local Christians in Commerce chapter. One of them asked Jennifer if she had prayed before going into the meeting with the employee. She admitted she hadn’t. Rather than trusting the meeting to the Lord and his strength and wisdom, she had relied on her own insights and abilities.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

The following week she was unsure about how to approach the young man. Learning from her previous omission, she asked God for his guidance. At their meeting, as the two began to talk, Jennifer felt a sense of peace. She noticed that he also appeared very relaxed.

They discussed a project he had been working on and reviewed his work. There was a clear difference. His previous shortcomings showed marked improvements. He had completed several analyses in a shorter period of time and all were error-free.

His future with the company remains unclear, but there is optimism because Jennifer and he are talking. It’s also clear they’re both listening and she wants to help him do well. Ultimately, Jennifer knows with the Lord’s guidance, she has no reason to be anxious or worried. He cares for the young man, just as he does for Jennifer.

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” Jeremiah 9-23-24

HUMILITY AT WORK

Humility of the heart is considered the greatest Christian virtue. Is there a place for it in our work culture? Could the lack of humility be at the root of the problems we encounter, whether it be in us, or others?

What is Christian humility? It is recognizing our true position in God’s creation and our dependence on the power, providence, and mercy of God. Humility keeps our eyes on two things. We see our own lack and do not attribute good to ourselves; while, at the same time, we recognize our own need to serve the Lord and attribute all good to him. Humility is not a sickly virtue, timid and weak, it is courageous and generous because it is the very character of God who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death. Humility is first about humbling ourselves towards God. It is also about humbling ourselves to others for the love of God.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourself.” Philippians 2:3

Humility can be challenging in a competitive workplace focused on personal contributions. It’s easy to trivialize the humanity of others. The dignity of the worker can be lost in the role they play, and the impact their abilities or lack of them are having on the company’s efforts or us personally.

HUMILITY TOWARDS ALL ROLES

Our coworkers have different roles as our superiors, our peers, and our subordinates. It is easier to show humility to those over us or whose qualities we aspire to. It is more challenging when we don’t respect those who are in roles of authority over us.

What about our peers? Do we wish to be above them, or over them? Do we compare ourselves to them in order to foster greater self-esteem, while creating only envy or pride? Are we content with our position?

How about those who work for us, or have less expertise or experience than we do, like the young man who worked for Jennifer. It’s important we remember that although they may be inferior in their abilities or experience they are equal to us before our Father. We both have the same Lord and with him there is no partiality.

God bestows many graces on the humble because he knows they will make good use them. They will also use them in a manner that pleases him, giving all the glory to him without reserving any for themselves.

The reward for good humble work is more work, as the good stewards discovered when they were told, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”

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Compassion Finds a Way

crossNanci works in the Radiation Oncology department of a large hospital. Many of the patients are very close to death, some receiving treatment for their pain. As a Christian, Nanci’s heart and compassion goes out to her patients. She yearned for the opportunity to pray with them and share the life of Christ she personally knew. Her supervisor would have none of this.

He made it very clear that any kind of religious conversation or expression of faith was not allowed. He even threatened to dismiss Nanci if she did not follow this direction.

Nanci would not be deterred, so she did her own “work around”. She joined the pastoral care team at the hospital. That way she could visit some of the patients on her lunch hour to speak to them about Jesus and pray with them while still respecting her bosses wishes.

Most patients welcomed the company. However, one young woman in her early twenties strongly rejected her offer. She was very angry, and even threw her cup at Nanci to get her out of her room. While Nanci was frightened by the young women’s anger, Nanci was more concerned she would pass away before being reconciled with God.

Nanci persevered, stopping by each day for a week. Each time the response was the same. Nanci wouldn’t even get a chance to say anything, the young woman would curse and yell at her to get out.

One day, Nanci decided to be funny, standing outside her door with a fake shield she had made. For the first time, the woman smiled and was very calm. She told Nanci to come in, and they talked together about Jesus. Her demeanor changed, and the young woman began to cry. Nanci asked if she could pray with her, she agreed and was very peaceful afterwards. Nanci kissed her and moved to the next room. She received word later that the young woman had passed away that night.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:23-24

EULOGY VS. RESUME VIRTUES

David Brooks, New York Times columnist, points out in his book about character that there are two types of virtues – resume virtues and eulogy virtues. The first, resume virtues, are knowledge based and the second, eulogy virtues, are character based.

Resume virtues in our culture are driven by an economic model, profit/loss, success/failure, and win/loss. All of these virtues are aimed at individual happiness, which are fueled by receiving pleasure.

Christianity, when responsive to the working of the Holy Sprit, creates eulogy virtues, which are build on an inverse logic.

You give to receive; you sacrifice to gain; you give up what you crave to receive what you desire; success leads to the greatest failure which is pride and failure leads to the greatest success which is humility; to fulfill yourself you need to forget yourself; to find yourself you need to lose yourself.

Eulogy virtues produce people who are courageous, persevering, resilient, and generous. They are aimed at others well-being, which are fueled by giving love.

ACCESSIBLE TO ALL

Resume virtues are highly dependent on knowledge and skills; eulogy virtues are accessible for all.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

As Christians we allow the eulogy virtues to grow in our lives, not by our own ability, but by our cooperation with the Holy Spirit allowing the very character of Christ to be formed within us. Our part is humility. It’s awareness about ourselves. Humility is the knowledge we are underdogs in this struggle and need redemption, transformation, and the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit and the family of God.

Think about your own situation. Individuals who are strong in the resume virtues but weak in the eulogy virtues often cause many problems. Conversely, those who may have good resume virtues but also strong eulogy virtues bring a very positive influence to the workplace. They are often the ones that hold things together and have a value beyond measure.

It has been said that what the wise person knows and says is the least of what they give. The real message is the actual person and who they are and how they live.

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Finding a Better Way

peter-lewis-208181 blogThe job offered was very appealing to Gail. She would be heading a housing institute whose revenues were declining and be able to make a positive impact. Gail had great confidence that with her skills and experience she would be able to tackle the challenge. The ability to bring about constructive change appealed to her. The title and the salary were very attractive. Best of all, it seemed it would fit nicely with her desire to live her faith in the marketplace.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

Gail was sure God wanted her to take the job. It seemed to be custom-made for her and she for it. It was her first reaction and she didn’t explore it much further. Gail did not spend much time discerning her inclinations – the positives seemed self-evident. Unlike Mary, Gail did not sit quietly in the Lord’s presence.

In hindsight, she saw it was her selfish desire to be in charge and make a difference that was driving her. Adding that to the lack of spiritual discernment it resulted in disastrous outcomes. As she continued to push her own agenda, she became, like Martha, increasingly worried and upset. Obsessed with net income results, she fostered a culture that emphasized financial performance at the expense of relationships. The institute nearly collapsed, her agreement ended, and she joined the ranks of the unemployed in the middle of the Great Recession. Things did not look bright.

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It brought her to her knees. She wanted to choose better. She prayed and sought God’s will. Her transformation was underway.

Being put back to work didn’t take long; she received a call from the CEO of a former employer. He asked Gail to return to her previous job as head of the commercial financial group. The group had been downsized during the recession from thirteen people to two. Gail was being called to rebuild it. She was committed to not make the same mistake again.

Once she discerned it was God’s will, Gail chose to continue in the role of Mary, being careful to replenish the group with humble, qualified individuals. The group’s revenue doubled. By first seeking the Father’s will in her decisions, Gail began to see the group flourish together and his kingdom restored in her workplace.

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

We do God’s will out of love for the Father and seek his will in all life’s choices, great and small. This includes our workplaces. It is this relationship and friendship with his Father that Jesus has brought us fully into.

Discerning God’s will is about choosing between two good choices and looking for the greater good. It is viewed in light of our greater vocation as servants of God serving him and one another.

It is important we understand these decisions are being made on the battlefield of two kingdoms. The world, the flesh and the devil are competing with God’s will on the battlefield of choices. Scripture outlines the driving motives that support the world and can influence our choices. In spite for her strong faith, Gail was easily influenced by position, money and influence.

Seeking God’s will is to keep in step with his Spirit within us. Gail discovered that seeking God’s will required humility, obedience, and courage. Jesus humbly surrendered every aspect of his life and conduct to the Father’s will.

We must discern what is from God, what is from the world and what is from our own sinful nature. Three critical elements are involved. First, prayer that builds a relationship with God so we can best recognize his voice. Secondly, being familiar with the word of God so we can have the mind of Christ in our decisions. And, finally, to be alert to how God’s will is being revealed in the circumstances of our lives. Mature, experienced, and loving believers are key to help us be objective.

Gail’s shortcoming wasn’t a failure. It was a lesson she learned to more deliberately seek and fulfill God’s will in her daily choices. As she did, she was transformed and the world she influenced was transformed as well.

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Common Ground

zbysiu-rodak-52198Brian was an engineer by training. He had held several positions for a Fortune 200 company when he was asked to manage a plant manufacturing aerospace parts. It was in Northwest Arizona far from their roots in Indiana. Brian and his wife Beth left a close-knit group of relatives, good schools, and Christian friends who were like family.

The environment in Arizona was very different. Family strife and domestic violence were not uncommon. The dropout rate at the local high school was 35 percent. There was very little sense of community.

The factory Brian was to manage was reflected in this culture. Quarrels between workers were common. Backbiting, gossip, rough language, and conflict were prevalent. There was no means for settling disputes. No sense of teamwork. Little trust existed between management and workers much less among the workers themselves.

Brian called his new leadership team together and told them that certain kinds of speech like vulgarity, gossip, and ruining a person’s reputation, would not be tolerated. He said the same thing at the next all-factory meeting. Procedures were put in place to resolve disagreements. Incentives and bonuses for workers were set. He encouraged and supported employees in taking college correspondence courses.

He gave his employees a vision of how the airplane parts they manufactured could end up in planes carrying their families and relatives. He hosted all-factory social events to boost morale, build relationships, and let them know they were in this together. Brian’s whole family would usually show up for these events.

Brian and his wife Beth had an impact outside the factory with neighbors, other families, and young people who came in contact with their children. Beth hosted prayer and bible study sessions with neighbors and mothers. Brian and Beth set an example for supporting their children by hosting parties where the kids could have fun and stay out of trouble.

Things changed in the factory and it could be linked to Brian and Beth’s arrival. They had brought the kingdom of God with them. The presence of Christ was being manifest to his employees by treating them with respect, setting up ways to resolve disputes, encouraging personal development and growth, rewarding good work, and bringing truth and fairness into the dealings between management and workers.

The factory’s performance improved, with a 33 percent increase in sales and a 75 percent increase in profitability.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:8-9

Where better to find common ground and common interest with people than our workplaces? This is where we spend 60 per cent of our waking hours and work side-by-side with all kinds of people. The workplace is a big part of our mission field where we work for our Father.

We are called to be salt and light there, to do our part in helping all experience the kingdom of God first hand. We don’t have to be a general manager in a factory to have this impact. Anyone of us, at any level can bring Christ’s love, care, and the kingdom culture to all people and circumstances. Even to those who are not very likeable. Listen to how The Message translates Paul’s commitment in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

“I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people; religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized-whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ-but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view…I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”

We are not here to find fault, judge, or argue. We are here to make the life of Christ visible. No matter the situation, our faith should be honest, humble and true, our integrity consistent, honorable, and just, and our work conscientious, reliable, and excellent.

We have firsthand knowledge and experience from our own life-changing relationship with Jesus. Laboring together in our work environments, we build on the common ground of the work we share. Opportunities present themselves to demonstrate our life of faith, acting with integrity in all dealings and displaying the highest degree of excellence in our work and relationships.

We show the world how the Gospel is lived. And, management and stockholders won’t complain about the improved work environment, the improved efficiency, and increased employee retention. They may even encourage more of Christ’s presence in the marketplace.

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Hurdles Overcome

18-Overcoming-Disability-Hurdles

For three decades Will had worked as a civil engineer for a major utility. He had lost his job just a few years earlier. After some tough and trying years, Will and his wife had found an opportunity to work for our Father as independent insurance agents. A big, late in life, change for both of them.

And now, Will and Ginny sat together in the living room of a woman named Brenda. Brenda was in her fifties and now she found herself having custody over two young granddaughters. Her own daughter, their mother, could not care for them and their fathers were unknown. Insurance is what brought Will, Ginny, and Brenda together.

Brenda was worried about providing for her surviving grandchildren if she died. While another daughter could care for them, that daughter would need financial help. Will and Ginny were aware of a policy that could pay out additional money for monthly and college expenses if the granddaughters were orphaned. An application was submitted for Brenda.

A little while later, Will called to let her know that while the company approved her life insurance policy, they wouldn’t provide orphan benefits since they weren’t biologically her children. She was upset. She bought the policy for those benefits and the peace-of-mind they would give.

“And, let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that we may not be unproductive.” Titus 3:14

Will encouraged Brenda to pay the premiums. He was determined to fight for her. Both he and Ginny cared for their clients and wanted to meet their needs. They believed God had put the three of them together for a reason. Will knew Brenda and her two girls mattered to God.

Will scoured Brenda’s legal documents and went to work writing the insurance company. Over  the seven months, Will, Ginny, and Brenda met several times, they wrote multiple letters, and spent many hours on the phone explaining the situation to company representatives.   Towards the end of this time, they began to become discouraged and realize they were expecting the impossible. The insurance company kept insisting what they were asking just wasn’t going to happen. No way. No how. Maybe they should accept the decision and move on. It was costing Will and Ginny a lot of time and effort with no results.

But they endured. Just two weeks later they received a call from the insurance company. They were changing Brenda’s policy. They would honor the orphan benefit package. Brenda and her daughter were grateful and relieved.

“[Jesus Christ] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:14

God’s justice is cloaked in mercy and, in this case, so was the insurance company’s rules, but it took Will and Ginny to bring it forth.

It helps to define work as being useful, helpful, and productive, not just for our own needs, but also for the well being of everyone. Work is where we make ourselves useful to our Father to care for his creation and care for each other.

Will and Ginny were being stewards of creation, working with what Brenda entrusted to their care. They were willing to get their hands dirty. They took the raw material of her situation and persisted to do what they could to draw out a positive result.

Not all situations work out this well for Will and Ginny but they’ve learned to lean in to Jesus and to each other in their work. It is the idea that they’re working for their Father that keeps them going.

As difficult and different as this career change has been for Will and Ginny, they are blessed to be a part of what the Father is doing and grateful to be working for him in a new vineyard.

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Blurred Vision

The sales leaders’ conventions were lavish affairs in exotic locations like London or Hong Kong. In his first year with the insurance company, Greg qualified for the prestigious “Million Dollar Roundtable”. That put him in the top 2 percent of his peers. Greg continued being successful.

blurred-visionAt one particular convention, Greg sat at a black-tie event overlooking Monte Carlo. He watched as a select group of agents were paraded up the aisle for special recognition. He vowed that someday that would be him.

Each year, he would get close, but the next year’s target would be raised. He began to push clients to buy enough so he could qualify. He found himself compromising the truth, telling lies at times to ensure his spot at the convention.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21

He began asking himself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing it?” The success he was pursuing was a moving target and an illusion. Its emptiness was beginning to dawn on him. Worldly success was always just out of his grasp. Worse of all the measures had nothing to do with what really mattered to his customers. Instead, they only measured what mattered to the corporation – policies sold, premiums gathered, commission paid, increased revenues.

Compromising his integrity was beginning to take a toll on Greg. The artificial smile, the lack of self-respect, his relationship with his wife, children, and close friends. And, his relationship with God.

“Do not make any idols.” Exodus 34:17

Success was Greg’s idol and it was blurring his vision. We all have idols that can quickly blur our sight.

What is the definition of an idol? Idols are anything that rightfully takes the role belonging to our Father.

What are the idols we are tempted to worship at work? There are many little idols that we put around us. Like Greg, they could be our personal success or career. They can be our own comfort and convenience. They can be control or power.

Idols pursuing success can cause us to compromise or obscure facts like Greg found himself doing. Idols of comfort and pleasure can keep us from working hard at work to have a fruitful and faithful career. Idols of control or power can lead us to overwork, becoming ruthless, or manipulative with other people.

But these idols aren’t the BIG issue, it’s what lies behind them. That one big idol that keeps demanding to take God’s rightful place. To determine what it will and won’t do. To declare what is right and what is wrong.

That idol? It’s that idol with a capital I.

That idol is each one of us. We easily fall into the same trap as Adam and Eve.

They could eat and enjoy everything in the Garden but one – the tree of good and evil.

By eating of the apple, they were saying they wanted to determine themselves what was good and evil. This is what each one of us does when we put ourselves at the center and push God to the side…or make other things the “treasures of our heart”.

Like Adam and Eve, we turn from God, not giving him the worship and honor he deserves. If we see little idol’s cropping up in our lives, we can be sure that the idol with the capital I is exerting his influence.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator – who is forever to be praised.” Romans 1:25

But Jesus has clothed himself in our humanity, which turned away from God. He offered himself on our behalf to set us free from the hold that idol with the capital I has

Not only did he win back what was lost, but he gives us a share in the divine community to be coworkers in Christ.

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Learning from a Clever Rascal

A strange story to tell, was he really encouraging corruption? What was he after? How is it relevant today?1130andrew34 copy

“For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the people of their own kind than are the people of the light.” Luke 16:8

The unjust steward was clever though his behavior was corrupt. He had one benefactor in mind: himself. Caught in embezzlement, he was industrious and shrewd to make sure he still came out on top.

Instead of bringing charges, his master had fired him. Taking advantage of this generosity, the steward executes a plan with select debtors, playing on his master’s mercy while “feathering his nest.”

Recognizing the steward’s ingenious fraud, the master says, “You’re a rascal… but a very clever rascal.”

Jesus is not endorsing corrupt behavior but encouraging us to work for our Father in smart, creative, and industrious ways for his kingdom.

In today’s culture, the world is increasingly secularized, materialistic and individualistic, making it more challenging to maintain our integrity as Christians; and, in a hostile, unchurched world of “nones”, to proclaim the Gospel. Or, is it?

This was the environment the early Christians faced. Our situation bears many similarities. Jesus was then, and now, calling for saints and apostles to enter fully into the vocation for which we were created.

God wishes that “rivers of living water” would pour out through us (John 7:38) to a flawed and fallen society. This requires us to grow as saints and apostles: saints to be a pure vessel for the water to flow through and effective apostles to make it accessible to those around us.

The call to sainthood is a call to holiness, a call to being “all in” with our relationship with Jesus Christ, continually opening our lives to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and allowing him to purify us.

The call to be an apostle is a call to be a public witness to the life of Christ. The faith entrusted to us does not automatically bear fruit. We have to engage with it and take calculated risks as the early apostles did. We are called to go with an outward focus to men and women who know little, if anything, about the gospel.

Our secularized age needs authentic, Spirit-filled lives fully devoted to the gospel; saints going forth as innovative, conscientious, and diligent apostles to build the Kingdom of Christ.

So the question to ask is, where can I be more devoted to growing in holiness and the life of a saint? How can I be more of an intelligent and industrious apostle in today’s secularized society?

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