Working in a secular society will always present challenges for the Christian as we are ‘in the world but not of the world’ but in the last few years we face a number of additional difficulties.
We work in a culture that has rejected the message of the gospel. Our media implicitly and explicitly criticises the Christian message and our law system grows increasingly hostile to the rights of Christians.
We also work amongst people of different faiths and open evangelism is frowned upon. It can be a disciplinary matter to share one’s faith at work. Scripturally, there never was and never will be a sacred/secular divide but employers and staff increasingly act as if there is one.
As a backdrop to this we have economic instability, job-cuts and increased work-load (1 in 7 workers reported in 2010 that they had more work due to redundancies).
Looking at it in the natural, we have a heap of justifications to not respond to work challenges in a Christ-like way.
Nevertheless, this is a time of great opportunity for building your faith and ‘letting your light shine’. Why? Because as basic Christian decency decreases so does a truly Christian response shine; and my own working experience has shown me that people respect Godly behaviour more than they are willing to publically say at the time. We can win people to the gospel by being houses of God build on the rock in a time of storm.
What are work challenges?
The Unison Stress at Work report (http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/18596.pdf ) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them.”
It lists 14 causes of stress but as Christians there are some general themes to bear in mind which may help up respond better to all of them.
1) Prepare in advance
Jesus told us trials would come both end-times – and everyday. For example, there will be conflicts between workers, and maybe more so for the Christian when the push to compromise values is involved.
If we are like the unwise virgins we may assume our current ‘oil’ levels (personal resources) are enough. Yet we can all have our ‘buttons’ pushed in some area and we if examine ourselves with sober judgement we can see where we most need to ‘top up’!
2) Know thyself
This was supposedly written on the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi but it’s still good advice. We know “the heart (mind) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” yet a certain degree of self-knowledge is possible. If you have a track record of responding badly to certain stressful situations then get help and advice on dealing with that.
Action point: Get discipling or get a good Christian book on the issue – in advance. If you struggle with managing your mind or emotional states consider getting professional help.
3) Where does your sense of personal value, strength and motivation come from?
This is foundational. If we truly believe we are invaluable in the eyes of God then challenges to our working style, and even our character may hurt – but they will not cripple us.
How do you know if you truly believe what God says about you? Your actual reaction to work challenges will give you some clue.
If you desire “the honour that comes from men” then when you come into conflict (or fall into disfavour) with those whose opinions you value then your lessened self-worth may cause you to compromise, or behave defensively and rudely. Certainly your strength to stand firm will be lessened.
Paul declared that he had learned the secret of using all the resources within him without depending on externals – he was ‘self-contained’ (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor). We must be so rooted in Christ that we are unshakeable.
Action point: Go back to the scriptures and reinforce your understanding of who you are in Christ. Examine the source of your ‘honour’.
4) Get the Right Perspective on Trials
Our basic perspective needs to be that trials are to be used for maturing in Christ-likeness and faith. If your response to the dictates of a tyrannical boss is to draw closer to Christ and attempt to become more like Him – you have the right perspective.
Closely aligned to this is being prepared to suffer for doing good. Jesus said we would be persecuted because we followed Him so when this happens it should not surprise us. There is a cost to following Christ and we need to count it because it can be high. I once resigned from my job because my boss argued that a $5000 overpayment from a supplier should be kept as a business expense!
You may find yourself in the position of whistleblower and face becoming an office pariah. It goes back to point three – whom do you serve?
Action point: do a thematic bible study on trials and ask “Is this my attitude?”
5) Get advice from mature believers
When I was 23 and a newly baptised disciple I worked with a woman who would turn the air blue with her swearing – in the office. Fretting about this I spoke to an older Christian who advised me that to make myself unpopular by reporting the swearing could hinder me in being successful in going after the ‘bigger fish to fry’ – her salvation.
As it happens, I did speak to her about it but in a more respectful manner and if memory serves me she cut down quite a lot. A far better approach than charging in and condemning the sinner in public!
The Bible is clear that sin is sin but we also need wisdom and discernment to learn when and how to intervene. In the counsel of the many is victory found.
6) Be prepared to apologise.
If you do loose your cool or do something wrong then a heart-felt apology can really make an impact on others. A true “I’m sorry” can not only save the day but ironically give others a newfound respect for you.
7) Love thy boss as thyself…!
I say this slightly tongue-in-cheek but do you view your superiors as human – or bosses? It’s easy to see the faults of those above you and if you work in close contact with a manager or leader they can become obvious. In stressful times – glaringly obvious! Let him without sin cast the first stone! Stay out of office gossip and where you can, support your boss. Be his right hand man or woman and tell them the truth when asked.
We don’t have to say the name Jesus in the office twice a day to let people know we are Christians. As St Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” A good attitude to work and a mind stayed on him (Isaiah 26:3) will make it easier to weather any work storm.
Christian Coaching for Workplace Stress
Douglas Cartwright is a High Performance coach. He works with Christian professionals who want to self-manage and focus on working more effectively whilst ensuring they are living from Christian principles.
For more information and to book a free High Performance Consultation go to www.livingwords.net