Last week, I spent two days in a conference room with twenty or so business leaders from my city, which is Birmingham, Alabama. We were there to experience an executive version of Lifework Leadership, a program about how God works transforming leaders who, in turn, transform cities.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
I also think God was there because we talked to him. He didn’t answer out loud, but at times I felt it likely he was whispering to each of us, murmuring words meant only for that person.
And I believe God was there in the speakers we heard. Gordon MacDonald inspired us to see God as an artist and a peace maker, and to know him as our shepherd, our rescuer, and our father. David Rae taught how “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Steve French walked us through “The Jesus Journey” to highlight leadership lessons embodied in how Jesus lived.
Over dinner, Warren Cole Smith portrayed stories of people living out God’s calling through their vocations. And he reminded us of something we often miss about our Creator—God is a worker!
How God Works (Vocationally)
Subliminally, most of us think of our vocation as being separate from our faith. God’s view is just the opposite. A vocation is “a strong feeling of suitability for an occupation regarded as worthy and requiring dedication.” Yet we look elsewhere to find our calling, searching here and there with no consideration that our calling might be found right where we are now.
We keep forgetting that God is a worker too. Our introduction to him in Genesis is as one who labored until “God finished his work that he had done.” Then, he created man in his image, and promptly assigned him work to do.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Sitting in that conference room, I thought of something: “If we are made in God’s image, does that mean our jobs are in the image of how he sees work?” Being trained as an engineer, I decided to test that hypothesis by considering the vocations—one by one—of the leaders seated around me.
We easily see God as a pastor. We can visualize him in ministry, and as a counselor. When we think a bit harder, we can envision God in real estate development and construction; his first work project was building the world, and his son was a carpenter. But he is also in investments, to provide for our future, and he is our financial planner when we need advice. God is the best insurance agent we could have and a perfect accountant of the resources he gives us. He handles the food business for the world, and the government rests on his shoulders. He is the author of our salvation, the attorney who represents us, and the doctor who heals.
And for business leaders who plan, manage, recruit, teach, encourage, and serve: God performs those tasks too! That’s how God works; he is in all our vocations. Which validated the premise that each of us should first seek our calling in what we are already doing.
How God Works (Miraculously)
God was in that room last week. After all, he said he would be. We talked to him, and I’m pretty sure he whispered back and spoke through the presenters. But, his part in the story really began long before the meeting started …
Decades before, a man from Birmingham—whose son was in that conference room—helps bring a young Senator from Denver to Christ in Washington, D.C. Year later, that Senator, while meeting in Atlanta, inspires a new ministry—Lifework Leadership— which is formed in Orlando.
Twenty years ago, another man experiences that ministry in Orlando and later moves—is called—to Birmingham. Five years later, yet another man launches a faith-based ministry in Birmingham to bring God’s Word into the hearts of leaders who serve in the workplace.
Ten years ago, Lifework Leadership begins to expand to cities beyond Orlando. Six years after that, the Chairman of the organization and his wife move—to Birmingham—and recently she joins the staff of the ministry. A few months ago, the President of Lifework Leadership sits at the same table as another man from Birmingham—a connector, an enabler—at a conference in South Korea!
All of which made clear another reason God was in that room last week. Since he worked out all those events—over several cities, using a number of people, across decades—it made sense he would want to be there to watch how his plans turned out. I believe God chose—individually, purposefully—the business leaders to be in that conference room. And that many of them were called “for such a time as this” to build a vision for a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”
The next step is to see which of those leaders will reply, “Here am I. Send me!” Because responding to our calling always comes down to a personal decision. That is just how God works.
Question: How can God work through you in your current vocation?
Action: Identify ways to find calling in what you do in the workplace.