Work as Worship

Sep 17, 2020

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Nursing is my profession, my daily work. But it is also an important way I worship God. For me, work and worship have become like two blades of a scissors; one is useless without the other. I now see that work is a ministry performed before God.

In Leap Over a Wall, one of my favorite authors, Eugene Peterson, tells how Saul, God’s anointed leader, decided to take over the responsibility for God’s sovereignty and do things his own way. Saul started off beautifully, being chosen and anointed by the Lord, but soon proved that he was not interested in doing God’s work God’s way. He became more and more absorbed in doing the work itself-whether it was defeating the enemy, sacrificing to God or distributing the plunder.

Saul did not do anything wrong in and of itself, but he treated God merely as a means and resource for what he wanted to accomplish, forgetting to consult the Lord. In I Samuel 15, Saul offered sacrifices to the Lord when it was not his place to do so. He let the people keep the best animals plundered from the Amalekites to present them to the Lord, instead of destroying them completely as the Lord had instructed. He wanted to worship God on his terms rather than on God’s terms.

Somewhere along the line, God’s anointed work became Saul’s responsibility. In other words, he worshiped to make his work prosper. He tried to manipulate God, and this had serious consequences. Similarly, if we work in our own strength to make our worship look good and draw crowds, we will have the same results.

Work and Worship Are the Same

Worship and work should never become two different things. We worship when we work and we work when we worship, especially when our work is derived from God. It tells us in Genesis that in the beginning God went to work, and what he created was for his purpose and glory. In the second scene we see that man and woman were placed in the garden as workers responsible to God for both fellowship and work.

In Luke 4:18 Jesus announced in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.” In Scripture, anointed means being given a job by God. It means he has assigned us a certain task, and his Spirit enables us to do it. Do you believe that you have been anointed by the Lord to be a nurse? Anointing connects our work with God’s work. He does his work through us. Through God’s actions we know who he is, and through our work people know who we are.

Peterson says, “When we are working well and doing good work, we are truly God-like.”1 However, problems arise when we begin to think that we are in control and think of ourselves as gods of our little universe. If we are gods, then we don’t need God, or at least we don’t seem to think we need him much in our everyday work world. That’s when we begin to draw lines between what is secular and what is sacred.

Having a good job doesn’t mean we will do it well. Having the right role in life doesn’t mean we will be righteous people. The key to living as God-called people is doing our work his way whatever the circumstances. Work reveals something essential about us. Through our work we express our values, articulate our morals and act out our convictions. By the same token, we can conceal our real identity through our work by using it as a front to advertise what we want people to see or believe about us.

Seeing with New Eyes

At the beginning of each new year, I make a New Year’s resolution before the Lord. Last year my desire was to get to know God better than ever before. I planned to accomplish my goal in several ways: (1) intellectual knowledge, by intense study and thinking, (2) emotional knowledge, by meditating on God’s goodness and love toward me and (3) spiritual knowledge, by praying and reading Scripture. Eventually, the thought struck me that these are all private areas of my life where no one else goes. The big question was How do I measure up in my public life – in the community, workplace and church? I can feel close to God in the privacy of my own home, but the moment I step outside, I’m consumed by my role with other people. My relationship with God seems to slide into the background.

At work I am surrounded by unbelievers, and I sometimes wonder what I should be doing. Actually, most of them know where I stand on several issues, but it’s almost as if we live in two different worlds. They know where I stand and I know where they stand, but no one seems to be building bridges to reach out to the other.

Our society seems to become more and more hostile and negative each day. Everyone focuses on what is wrong, bad, ugly and destructive. We are engulfed by attitudes of cynicism and mediocrity. People seem to want to be average and “just get by.” Few seek excellence. Most people choose not to change their current lifestyle, even if it makes them unhappy. You hear people say, “Why rock the boat?”; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”; “Go with the flow.”; “Who cares?” and “Whatever.” Too often we find ourselves getting sucked into thinking and living this way.

As I asked God to help me get to know him better, I realized that unless I lived every area of my life in direct obedience to him, my knowledge of him was going to be incomplete and mediocre. I prayed that I would be consumed by God and not by my work. I also prayed that I would be as Christ to everyone I meet during the course of the day, and that I would see Christ in them (Mt 25:45). I fervently asked that my identity would come from being in Christ and not from being a teacher, a nurse or a friend, spouse, mother or any other role.

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After that prayer, I discovered that my attitude of worship grew as I committed each person and the circumstances of each day to God. The quality of my work did not change nor did my dedication to it, but I changed in the way I reacted to the daily grind, the crises, the interruptions and the disappointments. The way I prayed for and treated people changed. I realized I had never prayed for some people I saw every day of my life. That quickly changed. God did something in me I never thought possible after so many years of doing the same thing. I looked forward to each day as a new adventure with him. He gave me many opportunities to minister, to share my faith, to give a reason for the hope that was within me, to lift burdens and to encourage others. I was made wiser, richer and stronger for it.

Don’t get me wrong. I failed and fell many times, but I discovered that if I wanted to influence people, I needed to have an attitude of worship every hour of the day, then stand back and watch things change. The humdrum routines of my job no longer seemed boring. The circumstances and people at work did not annoy me as before. God blessed abundantly.

Nothing is Too Routine for God

In the monotonous assignments of everyday living, God can take something routine and dull to use as a platform for his significant work. People watch us carefully and begin to see the difference. They see that we have something they don’t have, which opens doors of communicating the love of Christ to them. For example, when you say you’ll pray for someone, do it and then follow up on the answers (sometimes people do not recognize answers when they get them). I found this to be a powerful witness and tool for sharing my faith.

It is also exciting to see God’s faithfulness to answer prayers for those we are trying to reach. Frequently my colleagues will ask me to pray for them – for everything from serious family and health problems to mundane concerns like the weather. Every time the prayers are answered, it not only strengthens my faith but is an awesome display of God’s personal involvement in the affairs of our lives. My friends often say to me, “God hears you, so you pray.” I tell them, “It’s not my prayers but the God I pray to that’s important.” They believe in my prayers but not in my God, but the day will come when God will make himself known to them also.

In his book Holy Sweat,2 Tim Hansel tells the story of some body builders on a television talk show. They were showing off their muscles when the host asked, “What do you use these muscles for?” One man answered by flexing his muscles in one of those body-building poses.

“No, you don’t understand me,” said the host. “What do you use these muscles for?”

The body builder answered, “I’ll show you,” and flexed again, posing another way.

“No, no, you still don’t understand what I’m asking. What do you use them for?” and the guy posed again.

Many of us are like that. We attend church, go to seminars, conferences and Bible studies and keep building our spiritual muscles, but we do not use them for the reason for which they were created. We end up like the body builders, with well-defined muscles for show, just to look good, but they are good for nothing.

Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). When we participate and experience this truth, we make it our life story. As Hansel puts it, “Your theology should become your biography.” We learn to mesh our beliefs into everyday reality. Although it sounds simple, it actually is one of life’s greatest challenges. We seldom understand that God is not just asking us to be spiritually committed to him. He wants our total commitment; every fiber of our being. We use every dimension of our being when we work, so we worship him as we work.

As Christians we find our basic identity in Christ but seldom consider what this means. We are more inclined to dwell on what we do and who we are – the urgent and the superficial. Our identity in Christ is once and for all established when we put our faith in him, yet many of us don’t consciously dwell on this profound reality. We simply go about living our lives, rather than thinking about our significance in Christ, thus blinding us from knowing who we truly are. We develop this sense of identity and security in Christ as we spend time with him in prayer, offer our conscious praise to him and give him credit for all we are and have. The more of his Word, the Bible, we put into our lives, the more aware we become that he is our prime motivator. When we simply take God at his word, we find he is utterly trustworthy and creates opportunities for his Spirit to be manifested in our lives and work.

Psalm 90:17 says, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands – O prosper the work of our hands!” It’s my prayer that you will see your work as significant and view that significance in the light of God’s favor and plan. The Westminster catechism says we are created for one great purpose only: “To know God and glorify him forever.” Let’s do that in our work!

1 Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall  (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997),
   27-28, 33.

2 Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat  (Dallas: Word, 1987), 26-28.

Written by Kamalini Kumar, RN, MA, a nursing educator and advisor. ©Journal of Christian Nursing  Used by permission. Content distributed by > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only. Photo by Irwan on Unsplash