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« Your Career Must Complement the Mission of the Church | Main | Your Career Relationship: Jesus as Success »

Your Career Should Express Your God-Given Talents and Abilities

(This is the next segment in the chapter “Your Career Relationship:  Jesus as Success.”) 

Your Career Should Express Your God-given Talents and Abilities 

Would you like to be on vacation the rest of your life?  Success gurus often tell us that if you love what you do, you won’t have to work for a living.  A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but the thought is appreciated.  Whenever your daily routines allow you to be the very person you want to be, you can drop out of the rat race.  You can live without mental stress, cognitive dissonance and monotonous repetitions.  You don’t have to be like millions of workers who feel trapped in dead-end jobs and hate every moment they spend in their workplace.  They live only for paychecks and weekends.  

The best way to tell the difference between a job and a career is that a job is something you have to do, whereas a career is something you choose to do.  “A job is something you do to in the short term to earn cash. It’s filling a work role within a business exchange for money. A career, though, is a long-term pursuit of a lifelong ambition.”  An additional qualifier is that a career takes full advantage of your talents and abilities.     

Your relationship with Jesus Christ means that your values and principles shine through His prism.  Jesus releases you to grow to your full stature.  In His dispute with the Pharisees about living free from bondage, He responded, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:34-36.  Don’t overlook the little word translated as indeed.   It comes from the Greek ontos, meaning certainly or really.  While the context is different, the principle is the same.  If you are really free, then you are from the masters of fear, doubt, intimidation and a debilitation sense of inadequacy as well. 

Once again, we can learn from the woman with the alabaster box.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could.” Mark 14:6-8.  God created each of us with unique giftings.  Accordingly, He always encourages us to operate within those giftings and to be free to act on our abilities.  To be sure, we must respect the process of growth, maturation and timing, but God gives us innate abilities.  He wants us to express, not suppress, them as He opens the door.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12. 

Your Career Must Not Compromise Your Christian Principles 

Many people in business or professional careers justify violating ethics and integrity as the cost of doing business.  Lying, cheating, defrauding and manipulating data goes on constantly around us.  Contractors rip-off customers by cutting corners or using defective materials, and professionals pull shady deals in order to make an additional buck.  Associations like Home Advisor, Handyman Service and Angie’s List have sprung up to help find an honest contractor.  The Better Business Bureau, Consumer’s Reports and other groups also try to expose fraudulent companies and educate the public on scams and fly-by-night outfits.  

In the corporate setting, many sales personnel and/or executives are expected to toe the company line, regardless of the impact it might have on one’s individual convictions or character.   Accountants, for example, have been pressured to “cook the books” to land a lucrative client or to seal a deal that would result in a windfall profit.  Had they refused to obey orders, they would have lost their job.  Pharmaceutical companies have been known to force chemical engineers to suppress negative studies in order to expedite the marketing of a new medication.  WorldCom, Enron, Siemens, Volkswagen, Bernie Madoff and more, are all names making the blacklist of corporate and professional scandals.  

These illegal and unethical practices are incompatible with righteous values.  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Daniel 6:10. For a career-minded person to excuse their crimes (sins) to preserve his or her job indicates a drastically dysfunctional relationship with Christ.  Christian principles cannot bend any more than truth can be flexible.  When your commitment to Christ is tested by pressure to do wrong, Christ must win regardless of the cost.  

Your Relationship with Jesus Christ Trumps Your Career 

The typical demands of most jobs do not involve corruption.  Keeping a position, however—especially one that is critically important—often calls for expending huge amounts of time and energy.  Career analysts profile the most demanding jobs in terms of stress level, work hours and physical demands.  One company lists the hardest white-collar jobs in this order: surgeon, senior corporate executive, physician (general practice), psychiatrist, attorney, judge, clergy and pharmacist.   Their counterparts in the blue-collar field are: firefighter, police officer, roustabout, sailor, construction foreman, truck driver, automobile repair person and tool-and-die maker.  Sandwiched in somewhere are entrepreneurs, small business owners, and maybe a few bounty hunters!  

Moreover, the demands do not always come from up the chain of command.  Employees can put much pressure on themselves if they are trying to keep their job, earn more money or compete with others for position or reward.  The costs of prioritizing your job over your spiritual life, however, are far greater than one might think.  If you recall the map analogy in Chapter Twelve, imagine making a wrong turn on a road that leads you in the opposite direction than your intended destination.  After traveling for a while, you realize you are going the wrong way, so, you make another turn.  That results in a disastrous choice.  Each turn only makes matters worse.  So also, the harrowing experience of keeping a boss happy, keeping a family happy, keeping your sanity, staying healthy and pleasing God may prove to be an impossible mission.  The whole problem begins with the first wrong turn.  

Wrong turns on a career path can happen when your job requires a move that takes you away from a good church family.  They can happen when you are required to spend an inordinate amount of time separated from your natural and spiritual family.  They can happen when you are forced to socialize in parties and out-of-office functions with people who have little or no respect for your Christian convictions.  They can happen when you are thrown together with those who threaten your marital faithfulness.  

Your relationship with Jesus Christ sets constraints on your career decisions.  You must determine that you will stay on the right road from the beginning. How do you stay on the right road?  If a decision doesn’t pass the prayer test, don’t do it.  If the decision contradicts the pastor’s strong admonition, don’t do it.  If you family relationship gets hurt or even strained by the decision, don’t do it.  If the decision isolates you from your church connections, don’t do it.  If your spiritual welfare will definitely come under attack by your decision, don’t do it.  The first wrong turn is most critical.  Don’t deviate from the right pathway.  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62.

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