My dad was readmitted to hospital this week. The last few months have been quite a challenge, both for him and for my mom. But something happened at the hospital that I think helped them with perspective. And with the help of my “baby” sister, Kathy, it has helped me as well.
My sister posted the following on Facebook:
You never know whose life you will impact. Many years ago after retiring, Dad started a ministry, The Job Bank, at their church in Woodstock, Georgia. He did it as a volunteer. He felt called to connect employers with job seekers. His did this for several years. Many people would come to him for jobs, direction, interview skills, encouragement and, before they knew it, he had shared the gospel with them. Fast forward to today: a patient was being brought to the floor and one of the nurses noticed Dad’s name on the door. She came and said “Mr. Van Meter, you probably don’t remember me but I came to you looking for a job. I’ll never forget what you said: ‘the first job may not be the best one for you but God does have a job and plan for your life.’ “Well”, she said, “I did get a job.” She then looked at Mom and said “Mrs. Van Meter, you hired me at the nursing home and it was the right job.” I share this so that you and I may be challenged to follow God’s lead and do what He lays on our heart because we have no idea when the seed we sow will grow & be harvested.
This brought tears to my eyes, flowing from gratitude in my heart for God’s gift of my parents. And it caused me to reflect on the fact that God is at work; in fact, God is at work at our work.
On several occasions in his writings, the apostle Paul addressed the doctrine of vocation. “Vocation” means “calling” or a “sphere of service assigned by God.” It is a word that historically has referred to one’s employment. Paul exhorted believers to serve God in the workplace. We are to serve God at work with the worldview that God is at our work with us (Ephesians 6:5–9; Colossians 3:22–25). Since the majority of our time is spent in the workplace, it is small wonder that God expects for us to have an impact for Christ and for His kingdom right there. In other words, God is at work right there as we work.
One of the wonderful recoveries of the sixteenth century Reformation was that of the doctrine of vocation. After centuries of an overemphasis on the importance of the clergy, the Reformers dusted off the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. They taught what the Scriptures teach: that in Jesus Christ—our High Priest—every believer is a priest unto God (1 Peter 2:9–10; Revelation 1:4–6). Though there are diversities of giftings, and though there are biblically enjoined authority structures in the local church, nevertheless there is equality of value before God and equality of access to God shared by all believers. In other words, those in “fulltime,” vocational ministry don’t trump those who are not. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you pastor or plaster, do all to the glory of God.”
God is always at work, in every place, which means that He is literally at work with you. Or as the nurse reminded my Dad, “God does have a job and plan for your life.”
Perhaps no one has had a better grasp of this than Martin Luther. Having experienced God’s gracious salvation, Luther became a passionate voice for the propagation and the practical application of the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers. But this led to an equal passion for helping Christians to embrace and to live out the biblical implications that every legitimate vocation is a sphere of service to God. He wrote, “God milks his cows by those farmers he has assigned to that task.” In other words, God calls everyone to serve Him. Whether milking the herd or feeding the flock the milk of the Word, every Christian is to see and to serve God at work.
Luther went on to explain:
To serve God simply means to do what God has commanded and not to do what God has forbidden. And if only we would accustom ourselves properly to this view, the entire world would be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.
Luther understood that Christians are to serve God at work and that, when they do so, they will be a in a wonderful position to see God at work. When this is our worldview then we are in a wonderful position to see God at work as we work.
As in the case of my dad, when we serve God the results may not always be immediately evident. My dad interviewed and helped hundreds of people find employment. And sometimes it was a thankless task. Nevertheless God was at work with my dad—and through my dad. When my mom (who many years ago managed a nursing home) hired this nurse, God was at work then. And the nurse’s testimony is evidence that God is still at work.
I hope the point is self-evident. Regardless of where God has placed you in His vineyard, be faithful to the work He has entrusted to you. And as my sister insightfully posted, “follow God’s lead and do what He lays on [y]our heart because we have no idea when the seed we sow will grow & be harvested.’’ Amen and Amen!