Saturday, December 30, 2006

Spurgeon on Faith and Help at Work

Some years ago, I noticed a troubling trend in my life. While I readily acknowledged my need for God in many areas of my life, in matters regarding my work it appeared that I was often slow to seek God for specific help.

As an example, I would spend endless hours or even days analyzing a troubling problem before it became apparent to me to pray for wisdom. Rather than trusting God for help, I was in the ungodly habit of depending on my own abilities in the arena of my vocation.

British pastor and theologian C.H. Spurgeon has much to say to someone like me. He makes the point that a life of faith leads the Christian to seek help from God concerning his vocation - often, in practical matters of skill and abilities. From the nineteeth century, here's what he says to us today -

A believer may seek of God the qualifications for his particular calling. "What," say you, "may we pray about such things?" Yes. The labourer may appeal to God for strength; the artisan may ask God for skill; the student may seek God for help to quicken his intelligence.
...this wretched century has grown too wise to honour any God but its own idolized self. If you pray over your work I am persuaded you will be helped in it. If for your calling you are as yet but slenderly qualified, you may every morning pray God to help you that you may be careful and observant as an apprentice or a beginner

Spurgeon's godly, yet practical advice makes room for the pursuit for success. Instead of pursuing success in self reliance, he encourages us to seek God for success in our endeavors. Yet, he reminds us that external success isn't always God's will.

Faith bids you seek help from God as to the success of your daily calling. Know ye not what David says, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep."

You may expect success if you thus seek it: and peradventure some of you would have prospered more if you had more believingly sought the Lord. I say "peradventure," because God does not always prosper even his own people in outward things, since it is sometimes better for their souls that they should be in adversity, and then the highest prosperity is a want of prosperity. Faith quiets the heart in this matter by enabling us to leave results in the hand of God.

From Spurgeon's perspective, nothing is more important than seeking God's blessing on our behavior or conduct at work. He exhorts us to pay close attention to our conduct that we might walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.

For, O brethren, whether qualified or not for any particular offices of this life, our conduct is the most important matter. It is well to be clever, but it is essential to be pure. I would have you masters of your trades, but I am even more earnest that you should be honest, truthful, and holy. About this we may confidently go to God and ask him to lead us in a plain path, and to hold up our goings that we slip not, He can and will help us to behave ourselves wisely.

See how Joseph prospered in Egypt because the Lord was with him. He was placed in very difficult positions, on one occasion in a position of the most terrible danger, but he escaped by saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" A sense of God's presence preserved him then and at all other times...And so, dear friends, engaged in service or in business, you may go to your heavenly Father and ask him to guide you with his counsel, and you may rest assured that he will order all your way, so that your daily calling shall not hinder your heavenly calling, nor your conduct belie your profession.

Spurgeon also understood how the work environment and the relationships therein can influence a believer.

Faith acts also in reference to our surroundings. We are all very much influenced by those about us. God can raise us up friends who will be eminently helpful to us, and we may pray him to do so: he can put us into a circle of society in which we shall find much assistance in this life's affairs, and also in our progress towards heaven; and concerning this we know that "The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord." Faith will keep you clear of evil company, and constrain you to seek the society of the excellent of this earth, and thus it will colour your whole life.

4 comments:

Mark Goodyear said...

Andre, you wrote, "Instead of pursuing success in self reliance, he encourages us to seek God for success in our endeavors. Yet, he reminds us that external success isn't always God's will."

Good stuff. I blame Emerson for our American fixation on self-reliance. And I guess I should blame Benjamin Franklin too for Poor Richard's saying, "God helps those who help themselves."

I like what you say about external success. In bible class yesterday, the teacher said God's will is more about the identity he wants for us. So success then becomes a matter of our outward actions matching our true identity--which is Christ.

I have a similar response to Spurgeon when he says, "God will order all your way, so that your daily calling shall not hinder your heavenly calling"

For me success is when my daily calling and my heavenly calling are the same thing.

What do you think?

Mark Goodyear said...

And I should have said this too. Great post, Andre. Anytime something provokes me to think, it means I like it a lot.

andre said...

Mark

I think your comment about aligning heavenly calling and daily calling is right on! Whenever those are not essentially the same thing, there is a tension of priority and desire that can lead to an unhealthy delineation of work and spiritual life. It can take two forms -

Marginalizing daily work as unspiritual and of no lasting value.

or

Keeping the form of spirituality for "church life" but not for the "real world".

Neither are appealing options

L.L. Barkat said...

I often try to remember the verse, "in all your ways acknowledge God, and lean not on your own understanding." When I actually remember it, this is good. Very good.