Friday, July 24, 2009

Stressed on the Job? Don't Give Up!

Most of us don’t have to watch the news to know that many people who have jobs are stressed. With businesses closing and numbers of layoffs, the climate in many workplaces seems to be unstable at best. Employers appear to not only be scrutinizing their budgets, but also their employees, making sure they cut down expenses wherever they can. As a result, so many people are fearful of losing their jobs.

While most of us know that “God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7), it can be difficult when we are tested on our jobs. When our livelihood is at stake, we can panic and become stressed and fearful, missing out on what valuable lessons and growth that the Lord has for us—even during a season of instability on our jobs.

We know there are many scriptures about fear and worry, but does the Bible speak specifically to people who are experiencing stress on their jobs? I’ve discovered that there are so many in the Bible who overcame the stress and fear on their jobs with victory. However, when we take a snapshot into the lives of Nehemiah and David, we see two men of God who can really teach all of how to handle difficulty of our jobs. (This week I’ll discuss Nehemiah and next week, David.)

Nehemiah is one of my favorite people in the Bible because he saw a problem, prayed and took action. He was a relatively common man with great influence and integrity. When he finds out that Jerusalem’s walls and gates, which represented power, protection and beauty, are broken and burned down, Nehemiah is devastated. After his initial tears, he fasts and prays for God’s direction, confessing and repenting for Israel’s sins. His prayer helped to clarify the problem and what Nehemiah was to do to help to resolve it. When we pray, God will also put those difficult decisions into perspective.

Nehemiah then took on the task of organizing and managing the walls being rebuilt, one that seemed impossible. Along the way, he was met with great opposition, threats, and ridicule from those trying to discourage him and his people from the task that God had given him to do. Nevertheless, Nehemiah employed a strategy, one that each of us can model, to frustrate the enemy through prayer, preparation, and hard work.

Nehemiah 4:10-14 is a powerful reminder that accomplishing any task can be tiring. We all get tired, but we have to stay focused on what God’s purpose is for us—even in work situations. Col. 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Nehemiah was an excellent supervisor, reminding the workers of their calling, goal, and God’s purpose in what they were doing.

Before the completion of the wall, a priest even came to give Nehemiah a false warning from God, telling him to hide in the Temple. He tested the message and found that it was a trick from the enemy and refused to be fearful. He courageously kept the project going until it was complete by being a tremendous example of faithfulness to God, the mission, and the people.

One final note: Nehemiah wasn’t a religious leader. He was a layman who God used in a significant way to carry out His will. While you may not feel appreciated or valued on your job, remember that it’s about doing your best job for God. He’s the ultimate overseer and rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Strive to be like Nehemiah, a common man with uncommon integrity, faithfulness, and dedication to God and to get the job done!

How about you? Stressed on the job? Drop me a line. . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Discouraged? Don't Give Up!

Lately, I’ve experienced a series of setbacks, one right after another, including a computer virus that didn’t want to let go. (I’m very thankful to the Lord for blessing me with a brainy husband that is skilled in these types of things.) I’m also so thankful to be able to get back on my computer to the Abiding in the Vine group and continue on the topic “Don’t Give Up!” Anyway, I would love to tell you that as a result of these setbacks, I immediately ran to the Word, fell on my knees in prayer, and received a breakthrough. However, I have to admit that I have had to fight to keep discouragement from getting the best of me.

Discouragement is a crafty and deceptive emotion. When we find ourselves in an unfavorable or downright bad situation, we may initially feel sad or upset about the circumstance. Then, we can often feel sorry for ourselves and have self-pity. Your mind immediately starts churning. Why me? I don’t deserve this. I didn’t do anything to anybody. Nothing ever works out for me. You get the picture. Before we know it, we are plunged into an abyss of doubt, depression, and despair. We become too paralyzed in our discouragement to be the productive, fruit-bearing believers that God has called us to be in the body of Christ.

What I have to share is absolutely nothing new, but just a reminder. When we allow discouragement to set in, we are lacking faith in God. We have made the decision not to trust the Lord, and many times without even being aware of it. The deceptive quality to discouragement is that we think that our future or situation is in the hands of ourselves, others, or fate. As believers, we serve and worship an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God.

I often think of King Hezekiah and how he was the only faithful king in Judah during over a 100 year history. He became very ill, and the prophet Isaiah told him that he was going to die. Hezekiah’s immediate response was to pray. He had lived a faithful, disciplined life in the Lord, so his natural reaction to the dreadful news was to turn to God in prayer. Hezekiah wept as he told the Lord, “remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3).

I’m always struck by the short and simple prayer to God. God not only healed Hezekiah immediately, but also added fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah hadn’t asked, but God also saved his city from the Assyrians. These verses in the 20th chapter of 2 Kings remind me that faith and prayer will move God. He can change any situation, no matter how dismal and dark it may seem.

I Timothy 6:12 reminds us to “Fight the good fight on faith.” To fight the good fight, we must always wear our armor of God. What is the armor of God? In Ephesians 6:11-17, the armor is spelled out for us. The short version is that we need to have the truth and righteousness of God, the preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

When I’ve really felt discouraged, I know that I have taken my focus off of God and on my problem. I haven’t put on all of my armor.

It’s interesting how we’ll take time to prepare ourselves to take tests at school, work, or for a license or degree, but many times when it comes to spirituality, which is the glue that holds our very lives together, giving us meaning and purpose, we don’t prepare ourselves for the tests that will surely come. Preparing ourselves for the tests and trials that life brings will undoubtedly insure that we don’t ever give up.

Have you allowed discouragement to creep in? Have you checked your armor lately? Drop me a line. . .