Here are four big ideas from his book that go to the heart of the biblical and Reformation understanding of faith and work. If you reflect on these ideas, you begin to see how truly transformative they are.
- One of the chief insights of the Reformation is that we can (and must) find God in everyday life, not just in spiritual contemplation and devotion.
- We can find God in everyday life because he created it and is Lord of all life.
- This means that daily work is not a hinderance to the Christian life, but a necessary ingredient of it. We can find God in our work and work with him in it, as co-workers.
- God will judge your work.
This goes back a couple years. I just came across online the message I gave at the 2015 Work as Worship Conference.
Here is a summary of the message I gave and, I believe maybe if you log in, the audio.
Here’s the message description:
Business leaders hold a critical place in the world because work serves as one of the chief means God uses to change culture. Because of this, work carries tremendous value in the life of every Christ follower. In this 29-minute session from the 2015 Work as Worship Conference, Matt Perman, author and founder of WhatsBestNext.com, speaks on the significance of accomplishing work in a gospel-centered way.
How often has someone emailed you requesting prayer while they are on a missions trip? Or for a period of time over the next week or so that will be especially stressful?
This is exactly what people should be doing, and it is a privilege to pray with them.
But the productivity challenge is this: how do you remember to keep praying for them?
So often we say we will be praying, but then forget.
It’s easy, of course, to pray for them when you first receive the email that they will be going on the mission trip. In my case, a friend just emailed that he would be teaching overseas on certain dates, and requested prayer through that time. So I prayed for him upon receiving the email.
But how will I remember to pray for him tomorrow, and four days from now, and a week from now?
Here is a simple productivity tip that solves the issue: Create an all-day-event in your calendar for the time the person will be gone, with the prayer requests in the note. Then, when you look at your calendar through that time, you will be reminded to pray for them and have their requests right at hand.
Certainly there are other ways to remember to pray as well. But if, like me, you often just try to rely on your memory when people have requests for a period of time, this is a simple way to make sure you will be more devoted to prayer for them throughout that time.
And so we also see that productivity practices can not only help us do our work better, but live other aspects of our Christian lives more effectively and fruitfully as well.
I like the term “spiritual formation.” We often use it as another term for discipleship. It is an essential thing, therefore, for every Christian.
So what is it? I was at a retreat a few months ago that defined it perfectly and in a very engaging way. They said: “Spiritual and emotional formation at its core is learning how to love God, others, and yourself well.”
Spiritual formation (and discipleship), in other words, is about love. Love for God first, love for others, and indeed, loving ourselves well. (For if we don’t love ourselves well, we often don’t love others well–just as if you don’t take good care of your car, it won’t help others get around much either.)
Note two things from this definition.
First, we are to love well. Have you thought of discipleship and spiritual formation in that way before? As learning to love well?
Often we speak of love as central to the Christian life, but don’t make the connection that we can love in better or less helpful ways. Perhaps that’s why Paul speaks the way he does in Philippians 1:9: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent [what’s best next!]” (see also the parallel prayer in Colossians 1:9-12).
Second, note that there is a tie between spiritual and emotional formation. For a long time as Christians, we tended to see these two issues as separate. But as Peter Scazzero points out in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, you cannot be spiritually healthy unless you are emotionally healthy. For they overlap.
And so learning emotional intelligence, it turns out, is a key part of our Christian maturity and thus discipleship and spiritual formation. This is something we have not given much focus to, but need to.
So love God and love others — realizing that our call is not just to do it, but to do it well, and that affirming and learning how to connect emotionally is central to doing this.
Most Christians agree that our purpose in life is to glorify God.
However, we can also struggle with having a clear idea of what that means. Which makes it hard to apply and give direction.
Hence, it is helpful to understand more precisely what it means to glorify God. There are lots of ways to do this. One that I’ve found helpful recently is this: To glorify God means to give him weight. To give him ultimate significance and centrality in your life and actions.
In other words, to glorify God means to act in ways that show he matters most in each decision you make. It is to have ultimate regard for him in all that you do, coming from love for him.
I’d like to give some examples here, but what might be most helpful to illustrate this is for each of us to ask ourselves: what is something we did recently that gave God weight? And then ask: how can we do more things like that?
It’s called “Winning at Work.” In it, Chip hits on two different types of work we do. First, there is work we do simply because we have to. This is work as a means to an end. Second, there is work we do because we want to. This is work as an end in itself.
Many of us have much of the first kind of work in our jobs and in our lives. There will always be some of that. But to be most effective (and fulfilled) in our work, we need to move our roles to consist more and more of the second kind of work.
Here is a great summary from the New Canaan Society newsletter:
Chip asked us to remember when the idea of work became real for us. For Chip it was the chores he was assigned as a child: that was work as a means to an end, work you have to do to get what you want. But there was other “work” Chip voluntarily embraced growing up—constructing forts, putting together pushcarts, building treehouses. Lots of sweat and effort, but no obligation. This is work as an end in and of itself, work you want. What if you think of your work on this continuum, somewhere between the chores and the treehouse? Where are you most days? When Chip found himself stuck on the chores end of the spectrum, it was a signal that he wasn’t winning at work anymore, and that he needed to consider significant change.
Everything you do can become an agent for good. The activities of our everyday lives are themselves part of the good works God created us for in Christ (Ephesian 2). And, therefore, they have great meaning. Don’t just try to get things done; seek to serve others to the glory of God in everything you do.
Doing good work also doesn’t just happen accidentally. We have to be intentional in making plans for the welfare of others. And then we have to be proactive in carrying those plans out.
Note Ephesians 5:15–17: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
We are not to breeze through life, but to “look carefully” at how we walk. We don’t just walk through a store with our eyes closed, buying whatever we touch, and expect it to turn into a wardrobe. Nor should we do that with our time and opportunities. We are to “make the most” of the time. The time doesn’t make the most of itself; we are to take back the time from poor uses and turn it to good uses.
Let us plan to do good with the time we’ve been given today.
For more, see Chapter 4 and 5 in What’s Best Next.
This week I started coaching little league baseball for the first time. My two boys are on the same team and we’re pretty excited around here.
But going into our first practice, I knew I better temper my expectations. Typical seven, eight, and nine-year-olds have hardly been on a baseball field, much less developed the fundamentals of playing the game. Hand-eye coordination is spotty and attention spans are short (we’re talking five minutes short at our first practice).
All baseball players at this age have major holes in their game. They might have 17 things wrong with their swing alone! But kids can’t fix 17 things at one time. So my plan is to focus on one or two things with each player. If I’m able to help them reduce 17 down to 15 by the end of the season, that’s progress. And then next year their coach can help them get down to 12 or 13.
If we’re honest, we are all in little league.
We are imperfect people with real limitations and real-world constraints, and the way we lead change or grow in any area is essentially the same way kids get better at hitting baseballs.
If we try to change everything at once, should we really expect to make meaningful progress?
No man has a right to be idle . . . where is it in such a world as this that health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate? – William Wilberforce
It makes no sense for us to live in a society of abundance while half the world lives in great need, and not be diligent and creative and eager to figure out ways to use our abundance to help meet those needs.
When we look around and see our comfort, privilege, and affluence, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of asking “how can I get more of this?” As Kingdom-minded Christians, our first thought should be: “how can I use this technology/money/time to serve—especially those in greatest need?”
That’s the gospel-driven productivity William Wilberforce gave his life to.
I think you’ll benefit from this excellent series of articles from Dave Harvey, author if Rescuing Ambition (also highly recommended!).
This is how Dave introduces his series on ambition in the workplace:
A few years ago I wrote the book Rescuing Ambition and called for a rescue. I wanted to snatch ambition from the heap of failed motivations and put it to work for the glory of God. I wanted Christians to realize that to understand our ambition, we must understand that we are on a quest for glory. And where we find glory determines the success of our quest. Since I wrote that book, many suggested that I address God’s design for ambition in the workplace and in one’s daily calling.