In case you’re wondering where that scripture is located… it isn’t. That’s not in the Bible. Nowhere does it indicate that following in His earthly father’s footsteps as a carpenter was a burning passion of His.
Why do I bring this up? Well, a meditation I heard over Labor Day weekend on the topic of “labor” got me thinking about my attitude toward work and the whole “What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?” concept. The concept goes something like this: If you stumbled upon $1 million (which should maybe be raised to $10 million to account for inflation) and had little-to-no debt to retire, you’d likely abandon your dreadful day job and take up the true desire of you heart. After completing this little exercise, you are then driven to ask yourself: “What’s stopping me from pursuing this dream? Is it really that far off? Is it really a matter of money?” … stuff like that.
I’ve played that game a few times, once quite recently actually, and never have I answered the way I ought to: “Whatever God tells me to do with it.” Of course, that response would be cute and trite to most people, but it’s really the only answer we should have for many questions. Instead, we take such questions as opportunities to indulge and fantasize about the way we’d have things pan out were it up to us, figuring that’s obviously the most satisfying result. Nobody knows us like we do ourselves, right?!!? Wrong. We forget entirely that the most satisfying life is the one lived in line with God’s will and that nobody knows us like God.
What does this mean? It means that having passion for God and His will should be our focus, not finding a job we’re “passionate about.”
Many of you older than I am might struggle to understand what I’m talking about, because your weren’t raised in an educational system and culture that seeds these thoughts from an early age. Most people my parents age simply embraced a job that paid that bills and that was it. There of course is a balance to be found here: God-given dreams ought not be squelched out of fear, worry or doubt. They should be pursued. But I think people my age and younger, myself included, are often presumptuous with the idea that God’s will is to make us happy and that we can’t minister for Him passionately and with all our hearts unless we’re placed exactly where we think we should be. We’re tempted to think that settling in and working 8-5 is just that: settling.
Well, tell that to Daniel or Joseph. They didn’t pick their career tracks and they somehow managed to do their work with excellence and serve the Lord mightily. They didn’t draw their passion from their work, but from their Lord. What about Paul? Was he particularly passionate about being a tent maker? Maybe, maybe not. I can’t think of a verse that tells us he loved his day job. What we can infer is that to a certain extent, he considered his trade a means to an end in that he didn’t have to burden the churches he ministered to by requesting money (need citation). We also know that Paul said he was content in all situations (Phil. 4:11).
What drove all Biblical giants was serving God and pleasing the Father. That’s where their passion lied. The “calling” they strove to understand the most was the calling to fellowship with God and obedience to His will. From my limited understanding and knowledge of scripture, I don’t see any indication that they really sought out the inner secrets of their heart and demanded their lives see them come to fruition.
In fact, we see in Ecclesiastes that this can be utterly unfulfilling (2:9-11):
So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem.
Also my wisdom remained with me.
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.
Solomon was operating in great wisdom at this time and he was still led astray by his heart. And we’re teaching kids that following the desires of their hearts is a key to understanding their calling? The last thing Moses’ desired was to be God’s spokesman to Egypt. Jesus Himself pleaded that God take the cross off his path. Gideon had no inclining that he was a mighty man of valor. It wasn’t set in his heart to go to battle. Yet these three feared God more than they feared living life without passion. As a result, they found unfleeting passion in God.
I guess what I’m doing here is challenging myself most of all, and the casual reader of this blog as well, to look to the Lord for your passion and fulfillment and not your work. Even in my new job, which is much more pleasing that my last one, I find myself unfocused, dreaming of greener pastures… pastures that “fit me better” and ones that I’m “truly passionate about.” That’s all fine and well… and I believe God gives us holy discontentment to keep us chasing after Him. But never, never, is that to keep us from inviting Him into our now moments, seeking to minister for Him and please Him by working as unto Him.
The heart is a testy thing and prone to distraction and deception. Even though we’re saved and redeemed, we have a bent toward rebellion and harlotry. Most of us are still very immature in our faith and have little mastery of our flesh. Our heart’s desires must bow in submission to the Lord and His desires.
I know some of you are going through hard times at work and have unappreciative work environments (Scott and Sherry in particular). This blog is not directed at you; it’s just me thinking through and processing a topic that has come up in my life recently. I know it’s very hard to feel unsatisfied with how 40+ hours of a week is occupied.
I hope this helps all of us find a way to connect with the Lord and allow Him to make what can be very dry land lush, fruitful and beautiful.