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Advent Devotional Thoughts

Greetings All!

This week's "thought" comes as one selection from a series of Advent Devotional Thoughts sent out by an organization called CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) which seeks to place people for Gospel outreach purposes on college campuses. One of the things it focuses on in its discipleship of students is to help them see that their career (in whatever field it may be in) can be their "calling from the Lord" just as much as some full-time work in the local church or missions. One does not have to go into the ministry, or some exclusively "Christian" service, to be "serving the Lord full time."  This is nothing new, as Martin Luther stressed it 500 years ago as one of the many insights of the Reformation.  Yet it does continue to get overlooked (even to this day) in some Christian circles. The author is Gene S. Twilley who serves as CCO Campus Ministry Staff at Delaware County Community College in Media, PA. Enjoy.

Attitude Adjustment 

     Eight months after finishing my undergraduate studies, I started working as an auto liability claims adjuster for a very large insurance company. There were ample benefits with the job—from day one, I was vested in a matched 401k; I had a pension, nearly a month of vacation per year, and great health benefits.  I loved the people I worked with. An older African American woman called me her newly adopted son. We worked in collaborative cubicles—four to a large cube—and laughed a lot.  But I hated the work. In a claims environment, every call is a complaint. The workload is heavy. I was threatened with physical violence over the phone, bullied with potential lawsuits, and accused of all sorts of character flaws.  There were and are far worse places to be employed. But in the moment of any sort of seemingly bad circumstance, we don’t usually think about what could be worse. We long for something better.
     Then my wife and I attended a wedding for one of her coworkers, and I was making small talk with a woman I didn’t know, and who I probably wouldn’t recognize if I saw her today.  In the midst of conveying to her what I did, before I had the opportunity to complain about my job, she exclaimed, “How exciting! You have the opportunity to help put people’s lives back together every day.

     I was willing to approach my work as a Christian who had hope in Jesus, but not as a Christian who had hope that my work actually mattered.  I don’t know where this woman was in terms of faith, but she pointed out something that I was completely missing.  Isaiah 61 is a messianic prophetic utterance. Jesus took up this section, read it in a synagogue in Nazareth, and explained, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

    He was anointed to preach good news to the poor.
    He was sent to proclaim liberty to captives.
    He was sent to give sight to the blind.
    He came to release the oppressed.
     In all of that, Jesus was announcing the “year of the Lord’s favor.” In the broader context of Isaiah 61, we see other really good things too! There is comfort for those who mourn. Those who sit in shame and in repentance are made beautiful. They are planted deeply into God’s grace, that they might praise rather than mourn. The people of God are called by the Servant of God to be re-creators of things that are broken… All that hope, that expectation, that rebuilding of the things that have been broken—it’s in Isaiah 61.  It all finds its beginning, current, and end in Jesus.
     And this is the kind of hope that can lift me out of myself and all my meandering thoughts about greener pastures. I start to ask different questions.  After all, aren’t we called to care about the situations that God has placed us in, the broken places already in our midst? How can we make the most of our God-given opportunities today? How might we redeem the time that he’s given into our possession?
     As a claims adjuster, I was occupied with my work—getting through the day, looking for the next best thing. It was a job, not a calling.  Or was it?  What if every opportunity to serve others is a calling from the Lord? Tim Keller explains, “our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person.”  Calling is found at the sweet spot where my vertical and horizontal relationships meet—where I love the Lord and where I love my neighbor. Too often, maybe we’re disappointed with where we are because we simply don’t see the potential of the work ahead of us. But what if some of us are so concerned with our own emptiness that we don’t see the joy set before us?  Isaiah 61 tells a bigger story, and in this story, work becomes service, pain becomes joy, and despair becomes hope.
Come, Lord Jesus. 
Give us eyes to see."

     One of the blessings of understanding the biblical concept of "the priesthood of all believers" is to grasp that all believers are called to minister Gods grace in all is various forms to others, but not all are called to do it in the same way or in the setting of being on staff at a church, parachurch organization or a mission.  People can live out their divine calling while being an engineer, nurse, teacher, athlete, lawyer, accountant, construction worker, farmer, technician, programmer, and so forth and so on!  Their "prayer room" is their office.  Their "congregation" consists of their co-workers. Their "pulpit" is their position. And their "testimony" is their honesty, approachability, and integrity -- all done for the glory of God -- which paves the way for opportunities to share the Gospel over a cup of coffee in the break room, or as they frame a house together with others.  God forbid that the only place "ministry" happens is through the pastor in the church! That's NOT how God ever intended it!
     As Gene Twilley reminds us, any job, profession or occupation can become exciting when we see it as a way to be "re-creators of things that are broken."   A simple "job" can become a calling from the Lord when we come to see it as "an opportunity to serve others."   Or as Tim Keller reminds us: “our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person.”
     So, as Christmas approaches give yourself a present.  Re-envision your job as a ministry.  God has placed you there.  Opportunities for service and outreach abound.  In many places of employment, you will rub shoulders every day with people who have never heard the Gospel.  Redeem the time.  Work well and with integrity.  And as the opportunity arises, "be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" ( I Peter 3:15).  God may have strategically placed you where you are for the very purpose of reaching out to that one person who would never darken the doors of a church, but may come to Christ because you -- outside the doors of the church -- cared enough to reach out to them in love.

In The Service of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff