by Kara Martin
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
I walked into the office of a large corporation thrilled with anticipation. My pastor and I had prayed that I would be a ‘Daniel’ in this place, a believer in a secular workplace. I had so many plans: to search out other Christians, start a prayer team, witness through my work, socialise with colleagues and wait for them to ask: “What did you do on the weekend?”
I had God neatly boxed into my brand-new work satchel and I was ready to unleash him.
Five years later I had a chance to reflect on how God had produced spiritual impact in a way that had exposed my assumptions and exceeded my expectations. In other words, I had had a lot to learn.
The biggest way God challenged me was in three specific assumptions about being a Christian at work.
I had assumed that my role as a Christian was simply to look for opportunities to talk about my faith, and that God would then work through that. What I’d overlooked was this: God is already at work in my office! After all, Paul tells us that “For in [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17) Jesus is supreme over everything, and God is present everywhere—even in my workplace whether I’m there or not.
What’s more: God was at work in developing my faith and character while I was at work, too. At work I was tested, humbled and tempted. I found myself surrendering to God in prayer, asking for the Spirit’s intervention, and looking for wisdom in his Word. He developed in me patience with difficult colleagues, discernment during ethical quandaries, and persistence in prayer when my work was harder than I expected.
I realised that building authentic relationships with work colleagues was more important. Sure, meeting with Christians encouraged and sustained me, but there was a temptation to only be real with them. With my work colleagues I was positive but superficial at first, naively fearing that deep friendship might corrupt me. Part of the problem with my thinking was I believed I could never reveal difficulty or weakness, that Christians should always present as triumphant. Yet, it was in sharing about a personal crisis that I had my first real conversation about faith with someone. As Paul tells us, “But [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
What’s more: I realized that I was honouring God just by doing my regular work well. My work included projects that cared for his people and creation (Genesis 1:26), redeeming sin-filled decisions, showing compassion and care, and revealing truth. Each of these matter to God.
I’d been taught to sprinkle religious language into conversation in the hope that someone would ask more about it. I found that mentioning ‘church’ or ‘sermon’ often shut down conversations. Instead, if I responded to the question, “What did you do on the weekend?” with “I heard a really interesting talk about an ancient song which speaks about how the spiritual is revealed in creation’s beauty and words of wisdom…” Even though I was talking about the sermon I heard in church on Psalm 19, it opened up conversation rather than ending it. I learned that I had to talk about my life in ways that made sense to those with little or no experience of the Christian life, and that serving them spoke louder than words. .
What’s more, God began to give me a taste of how the goodness of his Kingdom could impact others, even if we weren’t talking about it. I was working for a mining company and used my communication role to highlight the importance of environmental restoration, which not only reflected God’s care of creation in my mind, but became a flagship activity of the company.
Assumptions scrapped, I soon discovered that the spiritual impact that God would have through me was very different to what I imagined. God changed the way I first approached my job and showed me so much more of his purposes. Each of us has the potential for far more Christian impact through our work than we could ever imagine when we simply open ourselves up and see our work through God’s eyes.
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to use your work to worship God, and Workship 2: How to flourish at work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College and Alphacrucis College, both in Sydney, Australia. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations.