Riding the Waves at Work

Aug 31, 2023

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

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Surviving in business today takes more than talent and intelligence. It also demands an ability to “ride the waves.” During my more than twenty years with the Sun Company, Inc., a number of waves have swept the oil industry: from diversification to simplification; decentralization to centralization; pure research to applied research; and from self-sufficiency to contracting for as many outside services as possible.

The one constant in modern-day business is change. Once men could “sail” through business; today, the sensation is more like riding the rapids, and the stresses that result are incredible. I have discovered that a strong faith in God provides a resource and perspective that allows me not just to “hang on” but actually to chart a course through the turbulence. As I see it, being a Christian makes at least four major differences in a corporate business environment.

Making a Difference at Your Work

The first difference is that our goal is to please God, not men. As it says in Colossians 3:23-24, whatever we do, we are to “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

In business, the traditional carrot and stick approach to motivation remains popular. Promotions, salaries, bonuses, even physical surroundings (such as a corner office with a view) are geared toward manipulating employees and enhancing productivity. But a person who really believes the Bible will not base his performance on these motivators. Bonuses and promotions are welcomed, but we should work as hard as possible – striving to please God – whether the rewards come or not.

A second difference is one of true consistency. Often, business and professional men tend to be chameleons who change their colors depend­ing on the surroundings. Situational ethics and loyalties are the norm as they do whatever they feel is required to protect their best interests.

While such people are controlled by external circumstances, the Christian is internally directed by his understanding of Biblical standards. Jobs and bosses may change, but our behavior can remain the same because our frame of reference is unchanged. The two motivations of “what’s in it for me?” versus “what does God expect of me?” produce very different responses in the business environment.

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The third difference is peace of mind in the midst of turmoil. In 1984, my management consulting department at Sun was eliminated in favor of outside consultants. There is a lot of anxiety at such times; everyone is updating their resumes and inquiring about jobs with other companies.

In spite of the uncertainty, I experienced a high degree of peace and confidence as I faced the future. The Bible teaches that God is in control of all things and He will not forsake us at times of need. So I knew that whether I got another job at Sun or went to another company, it would be all right. As it turned out, I was able to stay, although my new posi­tion was very different from the consulting work I had been doing for sixteen years.

Fear is a strong motivator – or inhibitor – in business, whether it be the fear of lost security, failure, or even death. As a child, I struggled with a severe stuttering problem. God gave me many opportunities to overcome a fear of speaking to people, whether it was to groups or indi­viduals, and my faith gives me confidence to confront other fears as well.

The fourth difference is balanced priorities. The Bible teaches that our priorities should be God, family, and then work. If my relationships with God, my wife, and children are in harmony, I will be a more pro­ductive worker, not distracted by family problems.

I’ve known many people who sold out to the corporation, sacrificing their families to advance their careers. Repeatedly, the result has been divorce and broken homes. Three or four years later, these hard-working corporate types often are laid off for reasons beyond their control. Careers terminated, their private lives are also shattered.

Years ago I decided not to take that course. Even if success in business were worth it – and it’s not – there are no guarantees that hard work and dedication will bring the vocational goals we seek.

Remember Who You Serve at Work

It’s sad to see Christians who ignore the high standards God has set for us. Their attitude seems to be that Christianity works well at church, but it must be put aside at work. Business, they say, is dog-eat-dog, hard-nosed, and too competitive for Biblical ideals.

But Christian principles do work on the job. For instance, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” translates very well to a customer-oriented approach to service. Just the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs, if applied consistently, offers tremendous guidelines for business success.

A Christian who practices his faith in business? It’s almost an unfair advantage.

Written by Ken Lutters and originally appeared in The Complete Christian Businessman edited by Robert Tamasy (Wolgemuth & Hyatt)  Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.  Free Stock photos by Vecteezy