What if you could turn any job into a great job? Or any school year into a great school year? Today’s post is about how school and work can be tools to help us grow to become like Christ.
Often when we think about work and school we think about the earthly benefits. How school and work help us learn, help us make money, help us grow our career. But school and work are an integral part of your spiritual development. God wants you to grow up spiritually and our model for that is the character of Jesus Christ.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29
We’re growing to become like Christ. That’s why we’re called, “Christians.” That’s why Jesus invited us to follow him. We’re taking on His character. We can look at how God uses pressure, problems and people at school and work to help us become like Christ.
When we go to Jesus, he knows how to help us. Jesus can relate to what you’re going through and we often forget this. Jesus knows what it’s like to be tired. There were times when he’d been with too many people, talked to too many people, did so much, traveled so far and was tired. Jesus dealt with frustration and had his motives questioned.
Have you ever worked your tail off for something and given and sacrificed and at the end of it not only get zero gratitude but get your motive over the whole thing called into question? Jesus has been there.
We can look at these things and say, “Well, you’re Jesus.” Yes, but he was in time and space just like us and He took on flesh and bone just like us. He knows how we’re feeling. He was abandoned, betrayed, abused, and He was applauded.
He knew what it was like to have everyone turn their back on Him, but he also knew what it was like to be cheered for and be loved and be popular. He knows what it’s like to ride into town and have people chanting his name. He knows what it’s like to have the press pressing in on Him.
God wants to show you how to redeem the pressures, the problems and the people problems in your life.
How God Uses Work & School to Build Our Character
1. God uses pressure to teach me responsibility.
Every job has its own pressures. Every grade and class has its own pressures. Another word for pressure is stress. We too often run from stress, but not all stress is bad. Stress can be beneficial if we use it to grow.
Have you ever had to complete a task that you didn’t feel like doing or take a test you didn’t feel smart enough to take? You were being responsible even though you didn’t feel it. That pressure, that stress was building your character.
“Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as people who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” Ephesians. 5:15 PH
The more you understand this meaning of life — to become like Christ — the more responsible it makes you. Every school and every job teach us responsibility. That’s a big deal because responsibility is in decline. We never hear people talking about their responsibility. We hear them talk about their rights.
The courts are clogged with people who say it’s not their fault. Personal responsibility is one of the biggest keys to a healthy life. Responsibility stretches us and is the key to career success and schooling success. Every time we’re given responsibility it’s an opportunity for spiritual, emotional and personal growth. Christ was responsible.
Here are some ways to develop responsibility:
- By keeping your promises
We should be careful with our promises. If we make a promise at school or work, we need to keep that promise.
“(God blesses those who…) keep their promises even when it hurts.” Psalm 15:4
Are you a person who when you say something will get done, people will know it gets done?
- By meeting deadlines
The Bible says when we waste our employers time, we’re actually destroying part of their work.
“One who is slack in his work is a brother to the one who destroys.” Proverbs 18:9
Another word for destroys there is sabotage. When we waste time, we’re sabotaging the business. When we waste time we’re sabotaging the company and even ourselves.
- By working without supervision
Let’s not work hard only when the boss is in or the teacher is watching.
“Don’t work hard only when your master is watching and then shirk when he isn’t looking; work hard and with gladness all the time, as though working for Christ, doing the will of God with all your hearts.” Ephesians 6:6-7 TLB
He actually switches it here to say we’re really working hard for our real boss, Christ. Whether our supervisor is watching or not makes no difference. Christians should be known for not needing a supervisor, because they work on their own initiative. They realize they are representing Christ and God is the ultimate leader in their life.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10 NIV
He’s talking here specifically about being honest and having integrity. Who do we work for? It makes a big difference in how responsible we are. If we are just working for the government we might be irresponsible. If we are just working for a boss we don’t respect, we won’t be as responsible and honest as we would if we remembered we’re working for God.
- By controlling costs
“If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth who will trust you with the true riches of Heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be entrusted with money of your own?” Luke 16:11-12 LB
One of the greatest tests of our character is how we handle money. Even more specifically, how we handle other people’s money. Will we accept ownership and treat other people’s money like it’s ours?
Let’s keep our promises, meet deadlines, work even when no one is watching, and handle money well.
2. God uses problems to teach me character.
There are no problem-free jobs or problem-free people. There are no problem-free years, classes or teachers. We all have problems at our workplaces and schools and God can use those to build our character.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4
God is very interested in our character. When you sign-up to become like Christ, it’s a life of significance and fulfillment. It’s not a life of comfort and pampering. It will mean a cross to bear.
For every problem at work and school, the question isn’t, “God, why is this happening to me.” The better question to ask is, “God, what do you want me to learn from this?”
Ask what, not why. God may have something for you to work through. He may be directing you to a value or action. He may be preparing you for something. God has allowed this problem into your life, so what does he want you to work on?
While we’re working on our job, God is working on us. While you’re working on school, God is working on you. God can even use the temptations we face at school and work for good.
It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s a sin to give in to temptation but not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted but he never gave in. God can even use those temptations to build character. Temptation offers a choice. We can choose to do good or bad. When we choose to do bad, temptations harms us. But when we choose to do good, temptations grow us.
We couldn’t say we’re an honest person unless we’ve been tempted to be dishonest. We can’t say we’re a responsible person unless we’ve had the temptation to be irresponsible. Every temptation that comes in our lives is an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity to grow and develop strength of character.
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
God says He will never allow more temptation on us than strength He’s put in us.
Sometimes problems at school and work are overwhelming, and we feel like we’re going under. We may feel like we’re going to get swallowed up. What do we do when we get overwhelmed? We do what The Apostle Paul did when he was overwhelmed.
“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Notice how many times this passage use the word ‘we.’ They did not face these challenges alone.
There are two clear things we can do when we face problems:
- Turn the problem over to God through prayer.
Being overwhelmed is a good thing that can grow our character if takes us to God in prayer.
- Join a Small Group.
We need a small group of people who will pray for us and encourage us when we’re having a tough time at work and school. The Apostle Paul was strong in his faith, but even he couldn’t make it alone. So let’s trust God in our problems, turn the problem over to God through prayer and turn to one another for support.
3. God uses people to teach me how to really love.
One of the most important skills you get to learn at work and at school is how to get along with other people. This is so important to your faith and spiritual growth, because life is all about learning how to love.
Life is a laboratory in learning how to love.
God is love and He wants his children to be like Him. God says the most important thing to learn in life is not a skill for a job, but how to love other people like He loves them.
“Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14
No matter what kind of work. Whether you’re an accountant, an astronaut, a driver, a ditch digger, a student, a teacher, a coach or a secret agent. We are to do all our work in love.
Why do you do what you do? You might say, “Well I just put food on the table.” There’s a better reason than that. Why do you go to school? You might say, “Well no one ever gave me an option.” There is a reason. You could use the most mundane job to grow in character.
Why do you do what you do?
The highest motivation for any kind of work is love. When you do anything in love that pleases God. You can pick up garbage to the glory of God. You can clean a hotel room for the glory of God. You can be a project manager for the glory of God.
“Let love be your highest goal!” 1 Corinthians 14:1
Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong motivation. God is more interested in why you do what you do than he is in actually what you do. Whatever we do, we do all our work in love. When you stay at the same work for year after year, you learn how to do it out of love. Love for God and love for people. Love is the ultimate motivation and is what keeps you going when you feel like giving up.
At work, we have to deal with all kinds people. Some people are hard to love. If we’re going to grow up spiritually it means we’re going to have to learn to love those people.
If we’re not becoming more and more loving, we’re not growing spiritually.
Love is the fruit of spiritual growth. It’s that simple. By nature we’re self-centered, unless someone teaches us to be loving, we grow up selfish. God teaches us lessons in loving, and one of the ways he does this is at work and school.
He teaches us by putting people around us who are the exact opposite of us. They irritate us. They are heavenly sandpaper.
It’s easy to love people who are lovely. God loves the unlovely, and he teaches us to do the same. We have to learn to love people who see life the exact opposite as us.
How are we to love the people at our jobs or at school who are difficult and hard to love? The people who are rude or make unrealistic demands. Those who are dishonest and can’t be trusted. The people who complain, are constantly negative or get offended easily. How do we love these people?
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:16-18 NIV
God’s expectation to show love to others is realistic enough to know that there are people you can’t be at peace with. But if it is possible…as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone.
Some people you can’t be at peace with, but we are to do our best. Love is difficult. It may mean a difficult conversation, the hard work of reconciliation, holding someone accountable or boundaries and consequences. It also may mean showing grace when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else or when it might offend someone else.
Why should we make such an effort to become like Jesus at our school and our jobs?
- God is going to evaluate our work one day.
“On the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” 1 Corinthians 3:13
God is reminding us that he is watching. Sometimes we think no one cares or is noticing, but God is watching, He cares and is grateful.
- God is going to give eternal rewards for whatever is done in love.
Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message, on the purpose of singing?
Hear the Word
Read: Romans 12
Most people spend 40% of their lives at work and school. So God is very interested in ways he can use our work to build our character to make us more like Christ. Statistics show that 1/3 of people hate their jobs. What if you could turn any job into a great job? We can use any job or year in school to meet God’s goal for our spiritual maturity.
In this discussion, we’ll focus on the ways God uses pressure at school and work to teach us responsibility, problems to teach us character, and difficult people to teach us how to really love.
- What would be your dream job?
- God uses pressure at work to teach us responsibility. Share an example of stress in a previous job or school situation that helped you learn responsibility.
- The ways to develop responsibility include keeping your word, meeting deadlines, working without supervision and controlling costs. Which one of these do you think is most beneficial to your work ethic today? Why?
- How could believing you are working for Christ improve your attitude or success at work? 1 Corinthians 10:13
- A person’s character can show who they really are. How can problems at work help us develop Christ-like character?
- From God’s perspective, learning to really love people in our workplace is more important than learning job skills. Give an example of an interaction with a difficult person from your past work experience that helped you learn to demonstrate God’s love.
- Why doesn’t the type of work you do matter to God as much as why you do it?
Tell Someone Else
Who can you share this message with? Who could you encourage as a result of this message?