How to thrive at work as a Christian

Summer holidays are coming to an end, and we are beginning to turn our minds to a year of work ahead. Whether that work is paid or unpaid; at home, in a workplace or in your neighbourhood; there are some things we can do to ensure we thrive as Christians, whatever our context.

A couple of years ago I interviewed 20 Christians who were recognised as being very faith–work integrated. I asked them the number one thing that they needed to be able to not just survive, but to thrive as a Christian in the workplace. They identified “knowledge of spiritual disciplines that help you grow closer to God”.

Now, the danger is, that we seek knowledge for its own value; however, we need knowledge that leads to relationship. For example, I know a lot about my friend Anne. I could tell you the names of every member of her family. I know what she has for breakfast. I know where she works, and what she likes about working there, and what she doesn’t like. I know where she goes to church, and the different ways she serves there. I know all these things, and yet I might not have a deep relationship with her.

An intimate relationship with God is vital to sustain a Christian in the workplace.

Knowledge about someone does not necessarily lead to relationship and intimacy. Yet, an intimate relationship with God is vital to sustain a Christian in the workplace. So, we need to have that relationship and to feed it regularly. I might know about God, but I need to know God intimately, in a living relationship.

The traditional way for Christians to develop that intimacy with God is through the spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are simply habits that grow our spiritual ‘muscles’ and enable us to deepen our relationship with God.

When I first became a Christian, I was taught about my need to have a ‘quiet time’, that is, a daily time of reading the Bible and praying. I became very religious about doing that, but sometimes in ways that were unhelpful. It became a way I judged others, measuring the seriousness of their faith in proportion to the regularity of their quiet times. In the meantime, I was driven to read my Bible sometimes out of guilt. Furthermore, I was focused on what I could learn about God, rather than reading to develop my relationship with God.

In fact, the spiritual disciplines can be much broader than just reading the Bible and prayer, although these are vital, since it is the easiest way for God to speak to us, and for us to speak back to God.

The spiritual practices explicitly mentioned in the Bible include reading Scripture (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:105 and 2 Timothy 3:16), prayer (2 Chronicles 7:14, Philippians 4:6 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17), Sabbath-keeping (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8–11 and Mark 2:27), Christian meditation (Psalm 1:2, Psalm 119:15 and 2 Timothy 2:7), reflection (Lamentations 3:40, 2 Corinthians 13:5 and Romans 12:3), studying Scripture for understanding (Deuteronomy 11:18–23, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Peter 3:15), preaching (Isaiah 61:1–3, 1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 Timothy 4:13), simple lifestyle (Proverbs 30:7–9, Luke 12:15 and Hebrews 12:1), generosity (Proverbs 11:24–25, Luke 21:1–4 and 2 Corinthians 9:7), church attendance (Psalm 27:4, Acts 2:42–47 and Hebrews 10:24–25) and playing and listening to Christian music (Psalm 95:1–2, Colossians 3:16 and Revelation 5:8–14).

The image of a tree from Psalm 1 is a helpful metaphor:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

We all need to have our faith fed by spiritual disciplines that are streams of living water; that we may produce fruit and withstand challenges and suffering.

What spiritual disciplines do you practise to form your faith? Do you feel like you have an intimate relationship with God? How does your faith sustain you in your working?

As you plan for this year, why don’t you schedule in some disciplines from the following list:

  • Bible reading (using a plan, lectio divina, studying the Bible).
  • Prayer (set prayers – such as the daily office, poem prayers, prayers from the Bible, the Examen).
  • Sabbath (work-rest rhythms, practising silence and solitude, learning to depend on God, having an attitude of gratitude).
  • Giving (giving money, donating time, showing hospitality, acts of service).

If you are interested in what spiritual rhythms I will be using this year, then go to my blog to find out more, including links to some helpful resources.

NEXT TIME: A story of a Christian at work

Kara Martin is an Adjunct Professor at Mary Andrews College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, author of the Workship books and co-host of the Worship on the Way to Work podcast.

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