More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone, not the least of which are teachers like me – I’m now entering my 12th year in public education. But besides getting my classroom organized and lesson plans finalized, a still small voice inside of me is reminding me to get my heart right too because I’m preparing to go on the mission field.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I started my teaching career, I had a pretty clear sense of my profession.   I enjoyed my content area, was intrigued by the strategies involved in breaking down a concept, and rather quickly came to appreciate the relationships I formed with my students and colleagues. Teaching satisfied my professional ambitions, I thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t.

My Christian life has always been an important part of me, but without clearly realizing it at the time, I checked my faith at school doors each morning and picked it up again on my way out. This was not something I did intentionally, but that’s indeed the point: I wasn’t intentional at all. Apart from a few token gestures and general politeness, this huge part of me—my faith—was largely absent from my daily work. I become les satisfied, and after four or five years in, I started asking the Lord, “Is this all there is? Show me what it is I cannot see.”

And what He showed me changed me.

After his crucifixion and resurrection, just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his followers their marching orders: if you really believe all you have seen, and if you really have a transformed life, then “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). To me, these words were always either hypothetical or meant for another race of “Super-Christians,” like missionaries who would travel around the world or pastors who were paid to do this type of thing, not plain old “normal Christians” like me who work full-time secular jobs.

But the Lord opened my heart and mind to understand that every Christian shares in this missional calling to make disciples because we are all Christ’s followers. His final command wasn’t just for one group of men; it was for all men and women who would come to follow him. There were indeed disciple-making opportunities all around me, starting with my work—that place I spend 40+ hours a week.

More than a career, I realized that I have a calling – to go to school and share the light of Jesus Christ with every student, colleague, or administrator with whom I interact. Yes, I am a public school teacher, which of course does limit my words to a certain extent, but armed with an understanding of my higher calling, I am intentional now in an entirely new way. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of time preparing my lesson plans and grading papers, but now my challenge each day is to spend time with the Lord to prepare my heart before I enter my workplace, i.e., the mission field. I’ve got to pray for my students and colleagues with a genuine heart for their salvation; I’ve got to seek wisdom for boldness to know when to speak and prudence for when to stay silent; I’ve got to ask for a caring heart to earn the right to be heard; I’ve got to pray for opportunities outside of the classroom to further deepen these relationships.

I am certainly not perfect in that daily preparation? Sometimes that sneaky alarm clock seems to snooze itself, but the Lord doesn’t usually let me get to far without reminding me of the need to be more intentional in preparation and prayer.

Dear believer, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, your calling is the same as mine, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do. How does your career empower you in that calling? Do you work construction? Are you working in an office or restaurant? Are you lawyer, doctor, merchant, or chef? The essential truth here has nothing to do with the career itself. The truth is that every Bible-believing Christian is a missionary wherever he or she goes, and I write today to encourage you to step into that calling, to ask the Lord to strengthen you in your resolve to be intentional in prayer and service to those you work with each day. So that today, or tomorrow, or the next day when a colleague or client may ask you about the hope you seem to have and that you would be prepared to give account of how the Lord has transformed your life.

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Mary Garrison is a NAMS Companion in Florida. She is also the NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessors Coordinator, as well as supporting her husband Ivan in giving supervision to the Horn of Africa region for NAMS.  

 

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More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Family or Business? (By Isaac Lasky)

All of humanity is on a search for identity and meaning in their lives. Christians find their identity fundamentally in their relationship to God as Father. However our sinful nature does not allow to live that out unchallenged. Additionally, even among faithful Christians, there is a real temptation to find our identity, value and meaning in what we do for God rather than who we are in Him.

We may look like we are passionate, on-fire disciples, but we lack integrity and have misplaced our loyalty when, in effect, we have traded a ‘family’ relationship with God for a ‘business’ relationship with Him.

Tim Keller in his sermon ‘Basis of prayer: Our Father’ (1995)[i] shares very powerful truth about the difference between a family relationship and a business relationship and how we can know which one we have with God.

He says that there are, broadly speaking, two categories of relationship in our world today – business and family.

Business relationships are relationships that are built on an exchange of services. For example, a landlord rents out a house to a tenant, in exchange for a financial return. Your barber cuts your hair in exchange for money. The relationship exists because it is mutually beneficial for both parties. If one party does not keep up their side of the deal, the relationship is terminated and another similar relationship sought. There is also limited access in such a relationship. You can only request or expect communication about things that pertain to the business transaction.

In contrast, family relationships are built on an exchange of love. The relationship is not dependent on what the people do but rather who the people are. In a family relationship you have access to each other’s lives and seek to help and support each other in whatever way possible.

If you barber gives you a bad haircut it’s the end of the relationship and you get a new barber. But if your son breaks the window you get a new window, not seek a new son!

You can ask your mechanic to fix your car but you can’t ask him to help pay for your wedding. But you can ask your Dad to help fix your car and can ask him to help pay for your wedding.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God as ‘Our Father’, it shows us that we are to relate to God as within a family relationship, and not a business relationship. In this, we have unprecedented access to the Father. Thus, we can ask for daily bread, deliverance from temptation, forgiveness of sins and whatever else we need. How incredible it is that we can call the awesome, sovereign and Holy Lord of Heaven ‘our Father’!

So, how do we know with which type of relationship – business or family – do we primarily relate to God with? Think about the last time you didn’t get a prayer answered in the way you wanted. How did you react and feel?

If you felt God was treating you unfairly (‘I did my part but you didn’t do yours’) or felt guilty (‘I’ve failed to please you so how can I expect you to hear my prayers’) then you are equating an unanswered (or differently-answered) prayer to a breakdown in an exchange of services.

We are then treating God like He owes, rather than owns us. We have reduced our prayer life to a formulae to get what we want from Him.

Evidence of a family relationship on the other hand would be when we approach God with love, humility and submission. We say like our Lord Jesus, ‘Lord, not my will but your will be done.’ ‘I know you are a good Father whose ways are higher than my ways.’ ‘Give me what I would pray for if I had your infinite power and infinite wisdom.’

What kind of relationship do you have with your Lord? Business or Family?

 


[i] You can listen to it at: https://player.fm/series/timothy-keller-sermons-podcast-by-gospel-in-life-83408/basis-of-prayer-our-father

Family or Business? (By Isaac Lasky)