Let me conclude now with some practical implications. First, God is much more concerned with the way you do the job that you now have than he is with you finding a new job. We have in this congregation IT professionals, project managers, pharmacists, consultants, students, and many more. And what we all need to hear is that what lies most on the heart of God is not whether we move from one job to the other, but whether in our present work or present studies we are enjoying God’s presence and obeying his commands in the way we do our work.
Second, fulfillment in Christ is possible whatever your job is. Of course, there are some jobs that are blatantly sinful or they are propagating sinful ideas and those factors can warrant a job change for a Christian. If you said, I got a job to be an editor at a questionable magazine, I would press you to consider whether taking that job would be a smart spiritual decision. You may be convicted by God that this is the door that God opened, but I would at least give you some pause and give you reasons to reconsider.
But if that is not the situation, then remain in your vocation AS LONG AS you can stay in it WITH God. His concern is not to condemn job changes, but to teach that you can have fulfillment in Christ whatever your job is.
One caveat, though. Not all jobs are equally conducive to having fulfillment in Christ. Why? Because time is a huge factor. If someone here got a job offer to be an investment banker on Wall Street and he is a young Christian and he wants to serve God and he says, Ray, I think God is calling me to take this job. I would grant, I am not God so yes, God could be calling you there, but walk into the situation with eyes wide open. Have realistic expectations. Know that you will have to work 80 hour a week just to keep up in your job. Can your faith handle that? Will you be able to enjoy God? Will you be able to keep the commandments of God to love him and to love neighbor? Is this job consistent with your vision of how you want to serve God because realistically, you won’t have much time for people.
Maybe this person is young and single with tons of energy. Plus, he is super spiritual and he can get away with sleeping 2 hours a night and he can juggle all of that without his faith suffering. Then, I would ask, do you intend to get married? Maybe you can handle this job as a single, but if you plan to get married and have kids, maybe this is not a wise career choice. What about the temptation of money? I would ask, have you prayed about that?
Conversations around one’s future vocation are never easy because there are so many factors that cause us to favor certain options more than others. The pay is better. The potential is better. The job title is better. The school is ranked higher. For these decisions, involve the body of Christ. Involve other Christians whom you respect and who know you, include them in your decision making. Ask for prayers. This could bring out a perspective that you did not consider.
We have to remember Paul’s admonition. Your vocation is not everything. Your vocation doesn’t define you. I remember being so stressed when I was a senior graduating from college and wondering what I was going to do with my life. In the world, your job title is so important. Esp. for guys, so much of our sense of identity is tied to a few letters on a business card. This passage cuts to the core of what many of us live for by confronting worldly ambition.
Maybe you hear that and your gut response is to be self-defensive. Worldly ambition? What do you mean? I am not ambitious, I am just stewarding the gifts God has given me. Ever hear that one? How can I pass up that school or that job? I am supposed to maximize my potential, aren’t I? I don’t see any passage in Scripture about maximizing your potential in order to advance your career. Maximize your potential for God and advance His kingdom, I see that one. If you use 1 Cor 7 as a guide, then we are encouraged to examine our hearts. Is keeping God’s commandments your top priority? If you can answer “yes” with a clear conscience, keeping God’s commandments is the aim of my life, then in a sense, you can choose almost any vocation and you’ll be fine because you are going into that choice with God’s blessing.
For Paul, however, time was a huge factor in shaping his ministry. Listen to what he says in v29-31.
1 Cor 7
29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Time is short. The world in its present form is passing away. Paul had a heightened sense that time was like sand slipping through his fingertips because in v26, we read–
1 Cor 7
26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.
By “present crisis,” Paul is referring to the persecution facing the church at the hands of the Roman Empire. And Paul links this verse with the decision to be single or married. The point being–if you are in danger of losing your life at any moment, does it make sense for a single person to be thinking about getting married, picking out dresses and planning out their honeymoon? No, you have to consider the current situation and they were in a state of crisis.
In this country, no one is persecuting us for our faith so we easily get lax and think that the things of God are not that urgent. I have the rest of my life ahead of me and I can commit to God when I am in my fifties. That’s what my dad use to say. Build up your career and you can always commit to God later in life. But spiritual life is not a light switch. I can’t turn off spiritual life and I can’t expect to turn spiritual zeal back on when I turn fifty.
I’m 37 and in my mind and some would argue that I could be deluded, but in my mind, I am like Jeremy Lin on the bball court. We play bball on Sat nights and it’s fun but lately, I’ve been getting a reality check on the Sunday mornings after we play. And I notice that when I try to get out of bed, my back is stiff. That never happened until the past couple of years. My body is breaking down. It is sobering to know that physically speaking, my best days are behind me. They say that brain cells stop regenerating at the age of 25. That means my brain has been decaying for 12 years. Also, I don’t know if it is just me, but time seems to speed up the older you get. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up. I couldn’t wait to drive, let me go off to college, let me be my own man. Now, I’m like, slow down. Is it already 2012? Where did the time go? Last year was just a blur. 50-60-70 years or however long each of us has left, it’s going to go by like a blink of an eye.
Whether single of married, slave or free, whether we like hymns or we like Hillsong, whether we live a long life or short, it would serve us well if we followed Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor 7:35 – to live in undivided devotion to the Lord.
In light of that verse and the fact that time is short, how should we be investing the ONE LIFE that God has given to you and to me? We only have one life. How will you invest it? I invite you to pray about this.
Parents, we need to think long and hard about whether what we communicate to our children about success is biblical or just American. The word of God for us who live in a society where worldly success is held at such a high premium is this: Take all that ambition and drive that you are pouring into your upward mobility and pour it instead into your spiritual life. Cultivate in your kids an enjoyment of God’s presence and obedience to his revealed will in Scripture before you push them to pursue secondary things such as career.
Third, for you younger people who have not entered a profession yet, the implication of our text is this: When you ask yourself the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” you should give the resounding answer: “His will is that I maintain close fellowship with him and devote myself to obeying his commandments.” Devote yourself to that with all your heart and enjoy His presence, and then, take whatever job you want. Also, do take into serious consideration the brevity of life. How are you going to invest the one life that God has given to you?
Before we set out each day, let’s pray for God to go with us. Let’s pray for us to be conscious of His presence throughout the day, when we are bored, when we are stressed, when things go well or things go badly, let’s make it our first instinct in all circumstances to acknowledge Him. He is with us. Whatever situation you find yourself in is part of God’s divine assignment. Ask God to encourage your heart when you are tempted to despair. Ask God to bring a spirit of humility into your life when you are tempted to boast. Ask for His gracious aid to help you to obey His commandments, which are all summed up in this, to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.