42 – It’s Not Just About You!

200px-JrobinsonOn a recent flight back to Newfoundland, I  watched a movie called “42” which is the story of Jackie Robinson (#42), best known for becoming the first black major-league baseball player of the modern era.  Manager, Branch Rickey intentionally searched for a black player and the story unfolds. As I watched, I could sense the excitement that Robinson must have felt, being the first black chosen to be in the major leagues.

He was a talented athlete but is that the only reason Rickey selected him? I became very intrigued as the movie progressed because it really demonstrated that the choice was also because of his ability to turn the other cheek.  Sure, it was about winning, so the team needed talented players, but actually,  it was more about bringing change in the sport and influencing a nation.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were scheduled to play in Philadelphia, (ironically the city of brotherly love).  However, the home team refused to play simply because Jackie Robinson was on the team. The two managers exchanged words:

“You cannot bring that boy down here with the rest of your team.”

Rickey responded, “Why is that?”

“We are just not ready for that sort of thing in Philadelphia. I’d like to know what it is you are trying to prove!”

Rickey responded with an odd question, “You think God likes baseball, Herb?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means someday you’re gonna meet God, and when He inquires as to why you didn’t take the field against Robinson in Philadelphia and you answer ‘It’s because he was a negro,’ it may not be a sufficient reply.”

I found it interesting that Rickey brought God into the argument to show that the way Robinson was being treated was very displeasing to God. The reality is Jackie Robinson was not only chosen because of his athletic ability but the colour of his skin and his willingness to resist the attacks that Rickey knew would come.

JR white boyWhen Robinson asked why he did it, Rickey explained that he loved this game of baseball and that he had given his whole life to the game. Then he referenced the past unfairness he saw when he was a player and their Negro catcher, Charlie Thomas, “a coloured boy was laid low, broken, because of the colour of his skin and I didn’t do enough to help. I ignored it.” He continued, “There was something unfair at the heart of the game I loved, but the time came I could no longer do that.” As a manager Rickey chose Robinson to bring change to the game. He told Jackie how he watched some kids playing and said, “I saw a little white boy up at bat … you know what he was doing? … pretending he was like you … little white boy pretending he is a black man. You made me love baseball again. Thank you!”

Branch Rickey was motivated to bring Jackie Robinson into the major leagues, not just to win the pennant but to influence culture.  It is said of Jackie Robinson that he helped change attitudes and led the team in more ways than one! In fact, in the baseball world, April 15 is “Jackie Robinson Day” when players wear the #42 on their jerseys in honour of this Hall of Fame hero!

Back to our vacation … Typically when we travel, we try to have a reason beyond just rest and relaxation. On this trip, we were able to visit with some old friends that we hadn’t seen for many years. I believe our visit helped to lift spirits more than we actually realize. Our trip back “home” was very fulfilling, mainly because it wasn’t just about us having a good time; we were able to have a positive influence on others. Remember, in all you do, life is not meant to be only about you!

Be sure to listen to this song at the end of the movie!! Take a few minutes to watch and listen.

 

Sacred Call to a Secular Work

There are so many choices and opportunities when it comes to a career. It seems that “calling” is required to be a pastor or missionary, but not necessarily for a businessman,  fireman, teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Let my experience provide some deeper insight: As a teenager, I felt a “call” on my life and the best way I could interpret it at the time was to become a pastor. My response was to attend Bible College and I recall during my first year having my Bible open to 2 Timothy 4 and I read daily, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season … endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  I entered full time ministry in 1986 and felt like I was living out the sacred call on my life. Just 3 years later, I was invited to be youth pastor in a church, but never had the opportunity to do so since that church split! This was a major crisis for me (maybe the part of my call to endure hardship), which eventually led to my accepting a job selling life insurance (a secular work). My passion was to continue serving in church ministry but I needed an income, so the job provided financially.  I continued volunteering in church ministry which led people to draw a comparison to Paul making tents while his “calling” was to declare the gospel.

In my last blog I stated, “The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work.”

missed callMy perspective was that my work as a financial advisor was not necessarily a “calling” but just a job (secular), while my “calling” as pastor was my true work (sacred). Can you sense the inner turmoil I was feeling? Had I missed my “calling” or was it possible that I could actually live it out by being a financial advisor? Did I have the wrong perspective to start with? Should I have even separated the two – the sacred and the secular?

Reflecting back on the 2 Timothy 4 reference, as a financial advisor, I certainly felt “out of season” when it came to being able to “preach the word.” However, another translation (HCSB) instructs “proclaim the message” which sheds a different light on that phrase.  The reality is I had many opportunities in my secular work to fulfill the sacred call. The “proclaiming” was different than I ever thought it would be because life was not the way I had planned it.

One client later confirmed, “You have more of a ministry here in this office (as a financial advisor) than you could ever have in a pulpit (as a pastor).” This helped me realize that the calling I felt was not limited to a particular role that I would have in life.

Calling QuoteSo whether I do the work of a pastor, financial advisor, director, bus driver, or teacher, you get the picture, the important thing is to be a good steward and be true to that call.

The right perspective: Your secular work is definitely connected to your calling and becomes the perfect opportunity to “fulfill your ministry!”

Have you made the mistake of separating the secular from the sacred? Are you fulfilling the uniqueness of your calling?

 

Why Do You Work? Why Retire?

My last post created a great deal of interest because it dealt with the question: “Do you go to work or to a job?” One response received was, “In two weeks I will go to neither,” meaning the reader would be retiring.

This set me to thinking further about what I stated: “It is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.” In reality, you can be paid to do a job and once you complete it, then you either move on to something else and/or you retire. This is where I believe your work (what you were born to do) is different than your job (what you are paid to do). Why would you ever want to stop doing what brings you fulfillment? If you were born to do something, when should you cease doing it? In other words, why retire?

In some cases, it may make sense financially to retire. Maybe you qualify for a full pension and working longer is not necessarily increasing your retirement benefits anyway. So why continue working? When I started working, it was partially out of necessity. The need for income and supporting family is a valid reason. With my children raised, my reason for working has shifted; now work is more about purpose.  I know several people who can easily retire from their work, yet they choose to continue.

eric liddell

Consider the life of Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and missionary to China, who felt it a priority to run in the Olympic games. His sister felt that his training for the 1924 Olympics deterred him from returning to China. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We usually would not class running or involvement in a sporting activity as spiritual, or God honouring, but more a physical activity. For Liddell, running wasn’t just a fun activity but a God honouring one.

You cannot argue with a person’s experience; Liddell was passionate about fulfilling God’s purpose for him (missionary to China) yet he ran to honour God and feel His pleasure. For Liddell, the line between secular and sacred was erased.

eric olympic gold

The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23). The reality is that when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7). If we can say when we work we feel His pleasure, it will be most difficult to retire from that work.

Speaker and author of “The New Retire-mentality,” Mitch Anthony says, “Don’t retire from something but retire to something.” We are all born with purpose and if you are at the retirement stage, remember it can be a great opportunity to feel His pleasure!

 

 

Do You Go to Work, or to a Job?

This question is worth thinking about more than you may realize. Your job is what an employer pays you to do, your work is what you were born to do. There were times that I simply did not enjoy my job and I sought after another that would bring more fulfillment.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

You may argue that a job and work are much the same because they can both provide a source of income, but I believe it is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.  Chuck Colson was once asked, “If there is one piece of advice you could share, what would it be?” His answer was: “Do only what YOU can do.”  That statement is worth some deeper thought and can make you realize that there is a creativity within all of us to do something unique.

Never work another day

Never working another day in your life is not just a dream then, but maybe it is discovering what only you can do. Your work is more than a job; it is actually more about purpose and utilizing your gifts.

Dallas Willard suggests some distinctions:

  1. Job: What I am paid to do, how I earn my living
  2. Work: The total amount of lasting goods that I will produce in my lifetime

“Lasting goods” is our impact on others, what we leave whether financial, spiritual, moral, emotional etc. What “lasting goods” is my life producing? This is the question that should help us in decisions regarding our work.  Interesting that Jesus acknowledged to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do” (Jn 17:4).  If you consider his time on earth, Jesus had a job as carpenter, but he recognized even as a child, that his work was to be about his father’s business (Lk 2:49).

It is easy to conclude then that his job was just how Jesus earned his living (likely from age 12-30), while his true work was his years of public ministry (just 3 years). My immediate thought from this verse is that Jesus glorified God in his ministry years, for the most part, especially by his sacrifice on the cross. However, do we make a mistake when we separate the years of his life like this? The fact is that Jesus glorified God on the earth, period. Dr. Klaus Issler concludes,”I think we can infer from his messianic work, that Jesus also gave this same kind of excellence to his job as a builder.”

My conclusion: you need to fulfill your work, and your job may help you do that.

Here is what Steve Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”