We at CFWLA are celebrating this season of advent expectation with a four-part series of devotionals that seek to honestly acknowledge the depth of our brokenness and the far-reaching hope of the gospel, specifically in the work we engage with every day. Part three of our series will focus on rejoicing in the finished work of Jesus for our own work. You can read the series in its entirety HERE.
It’s difficult to think of two more radically different depictions in all of Scripture. The first advent of the long-awaited Messiah and the contemplation of suffering and pain. The common denominator? Joy.
The shepherd scene is a window into faithful work. Upon hearing of the Lord’s birth, they “went with haste” (Luke 2:16). There is absolutely nothing hasty about shepherding sheep! Sheep are slow and stubborn. These shepherds walked out on the job. They abandoned their post. They clocked out early in order to see the incarnate Lord of glory.
For you and for me, there may come a time in which we must choose. Will we seek the sense of satisfaction from the pursuit of perfection in our work? Or will we seek the joy of a humble and willing spirit that is open and ready to hear the voice of God?
My wife found her dream career when she was 15 in honors biology class. She’s wanted to be a dietitian since then, and the Lord has made that possible. But maybe you’re more like me. You don’t know what the next step is or what the next year holds. We forget that our work is a gracious provision and commandment from God (Gen 1:28). Therefore, he reserves the right to change our course. Sometimes, we discern our callings correctly, but we refuse to believe that they’re anything but permanent. Sometimes, callings are seasonal.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that these shepherds may have suffered for their obedience. They may have lost sheep to predators. Their employer may have severed their service without severance. They may have found themselves on the ancient Israel equivalent of Indeed or Glassdoor with nothing more than a poor reference.
The shepherds may have met trials of various kinds in their work because they followed a newer and better calling. The Lord required their worship, and they moved with haste. As a result, many people heard the gospel, and the shepherds continued to rejoice.
We are able to count it all joy because the good news of the gospel is for all people. We who believe don’t own the rights to our work, but we are owned by the One who is constantly working for our good, whether in a season of prosperity and contentment or trial and suffering.
Advent reminds us that the Lord is present, and he keeps us. Because he keeps us, our suffering leads to steadfastness. We are able to rejoice in our vocational trials and tribulations because we worship a Savior who suffered and uses suffering for great good even when we can’t understand it in the moment. He is a man of sorrows well acquainted with our grief (Isaiah 53:3-5). He lacks nothing, and he makes that possible for us as well.
So run with endurance at work this holiday season. If you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, but ask for wisdom. If he calls you to stay where you are, rejoice. If he calls you to transfer departments, take a pay cut, or start something new, rejoice. If he calls you to take the gospel to an unreached people group, rejoice. We serve a God with an unlimited reservoir of wisdom, which he gladly doles out generously.
Ask. Seek. Knock. And the joy of the Lord—Christ Jesus himself—will be your strength.
“Father, thank you for the gift of your only Son who lived perfectly, died triumphantly, rose victoriously, and ascended completely to heaven to intercede for me. Lord Christ, thank you for your obedience, strength, and courage on earth and in heaven. Holy Spirit, thank you for being my ever present Help in time of need, the Lifter of my head and the Comforter of my soul. Triune God, grant me joy in my work (or in my lack of work). Help me to trust that the trials of this time are refining my character into the image of Christ himself. You are preparing me for deeper and truer intimacy with you. Help me to believe your gospel, to act in wisdom, and to rejoice always. You are loving, and you are good. Amen.”
Will Sorrell (MDiv and MBA Candidate, Beeson Divinity School and Brock School of Business at Samford University) is a graduate student researcher for the Beeson Divinity Global Center, focusing on faith and work, business as mission, and entrepreneurship and investing. He lives in Birmingham, AL. with his bride and Labrador retriever. You can follow him on Twitter.