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Lie #3: Your happiness is the primary purpose of work

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

I’ve saved the most pervasive and deeply entrenched lie about work and calling for the last week of this series. For decades, well-intentioned Christ-followers have been doling out a piece of career advice which seems loving on the surface, but in reality, is actually quite dangerous. The advice goes something like this: “Do whatever makes you happy. Follow your passions. Chase your dreams.”

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author and scientist Cal Newport summarizes this advice as “the passion hypothesis” in which we are told that...

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Lie #2: You can do everything you want to do

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

When we adopt the lie that we can be anything we want to be (which we looked to Scripture to refute last week), it can be easy to fall for the tangential lie that we can do everything we want to do, ignoring the laws of time and trade-offs.

In his excellent book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown explains that “The idea that we can have it all and do it all is not new. This myth has been peddled for so long, I believe virtually everyone alive today is infected with it….What is new is how especially damaging this myth is today, in a time when choice and expectations have increased exponentially.”

The truth is, we can’t do everything we want to do at once, so long as we accept that God has called us to excellence in all things. I’m reminded of this every time I pull up a menu for a restaurant that offers...

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New Series: 3 Lies of Work and Calling

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8)

Today, we will challenge the deeply entrenched lie that “you can be anything you want to be.” As many modern cultures suggest, if you work hard enough and believe in yourself, you can do anything you want to in your career. We love to believe this lie for some good reasons. For one, it gives us the courage to step out and take risks as we seek to discern our calling. This can be a good thing! But it...

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James 5: Living in Luxury

james on work Mar 18, 2019

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. (James 5:1-5)

In the final chapter of James (and verses 1-5 in particular), the author has some strong words of warning for the rich and powerful. In verse 4, James condemns how the “rich” he’s addressing in this passage acquired their wealth, by unfairly withholding wages from their workers. While this isn’t the place to comment on what does and does not constitute “fair pay,” it is...

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James 4: “Evil” Planning

james on work Mar 11, 2019

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

Busy professionals love to plan. We meticulously plan out our days and weeks. Some of us even plan out our careers five years at a time. Planning is a good thing, as it is the process by which we steward the time, money, and other resources the Lord has entrusted us with. But as James 4:13-16 points out, our planning is “evil” and dishonoring to the Lord when we plan without humbly recognizing that it is the Lord—not us—who is in control of the outcomes of our planning.

This is an...

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James 3: The Alternative to Selfish Ambition

james on work Mar 04, 2019

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:14-17)

In James 3, we find plenty of wisdom for busy Christian professionals. Which of us doesn’t need a reminder to tame our tongues so that we might be more accurate reflections of Christ amongst our colleagues? But today, I want us to dig into the second part of James 3, and look at what the Scriptures have to say about ambition.

In verse 14, James warns us not to deny “selfish ambition,” but to recognize it for what it is: “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Those are some strong words. But James...

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James 2: Modern Day Favoritism

james on work Feb 25, 2019

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your...

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New Series: James on Work

james on work Feb 18, 2019

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8)

This morning, we start in chapter 1 with a focus on James’s call for us to ask God for wisdom. In verse 5, James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James leaves it open-ended as to what specifically we are to ask for wisdom about, leaving us to assume that he is inviting us to ask the Lord for wisdom about anything—including the seemingly big and little things related to our work.

Often times, I’m afraid we expect far too little from God, welcoming his wisdom...

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Mediocrity: A Failure of Love

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23)

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandments were, he replied, “Love the Lord your God…and…Love your neighbor as yourself.” As we saw last week, excellent work is one way in which we fulfill Jesus’s command to love God by revealing his character of excellence to those around us. As we’ll see today, excellence is also necessary for keeping the second commandment in our work.

As Christians, we can’t say we are seeking to love our neighbor as ourselves and then do our work with mediocrity. Think of the extreme example of a Christian doctor. While that doctor may pray with her patients, share the gospel with her co-workers, and donate money to her church, her most basic form of ministry is in being an excellent doctor. If she were a mediocre medical professional, her patients’ lives might be at risk. The doctor’s...

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How we “proclaim the excellencies of God”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The purpose of our work is no different than the purpose of our lives, namely to glorify God in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Glorify” is a word we throw around so much that it can become difficult to define. As John Piper says, to glorify God simply means to “reflect his greatness” or reveal his character to others.

So, if the purpose of our work is to reveal the Lord’s character to the world, what exactly are his characteristics? The Bible describes God in many ways, but it is his character of creative excellence that is perhaps most visible to us. You can’t stare out at the Grand Canyon and not marvel at the masterful work of God. You can’t go to a zoo without appreciating the creative supremacy of the Creator. And you...

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