March 6, 2019 • Life for Leaders
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I talked about how God renews us in the context of our daily work. I suggested that this is true even when our work does not seem particularly “spiritual.” In fact, God can renew us through work that is tedious or disagreeable.
As proof of this claim, I bring the example of Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century monk who inspired the classic book The Practice of the Presence of God. In this little book, Father Joseph de Beaufort collected stories and sayings of Brother Lawrence, many focusing on spiritual renewal in the context of daily work.
For example, once Lawrence said, “For me, the time of work does not differ from the time of prayer. Even in the noise and clutter of my kitchen – when several persons are at the same time calling for different things – I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at communion” (4th Conversation).
Now, you may be thinking that Lawrence had such intimacy with God because his workplace was somehow special. But in fact Brother Lawrence worked for years in the kitchen of his monastery, doing ordinary and often tedious work. Father Joseph commented: “Things have worked similarly in his duties in the kitchen, to which he naturally has a great aversion. He simply has accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God” (2nd Conversation). The physical work Lawrence did was not special in any way, and his natural inclination was to dislike it. But Lawrence learned to do his work with prayer and to ask for God’s grace to do his work well.
According to Father Joseph, “[Lawrence] also counseled that we should not grow weary of doing even little things for the love of God. God does not regard the greatness of the work, but only the love with which it is performed” (4th Conversation). Don’t you love that line? And don’t you need to remember it when you’re at work? God does not regard the greatness of the work, but only the love with which it is performed. Amen to that!
If you make yourself available to the Lord, then he will indeed meet you in the context of your daily work, whatever it is. He will use the things you experience each day to help you grow to be more like Christ—who, incidentally, spent the majority of his adult life doing common ordinary work. Your work can be an occasion for you to express your love for God as you open your heart to receive yet more of his love through Christ. As this happens, you will indeed experience the renewal of your mind described in Ephesians 4:23.
Something to Think About:
How do you respond to the quotations from Brother Lawrence?
Have you ever experienced in your ordinary work something like what Lawrence describes? When? What happened?
Something to Do:
As you begin to work today (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this devotion in the evening) ask the Lord to meet you in your work. Ask for an awareness of his presence. Offer your work to him as an act of love. Be attentive during the day to how your experience of work is different because of God’s presence and activity.
Gracious God, thank you for being present in every part of life. In particular, thank you for your presence as we work. Sometimes we can sense you; sometimes we can’t. But the fact is that you are there. And you are ready to guide us, teach us, encourage us, and form us as we work. May this be true in our work today! Amen.
P.S.: If you would like to learn more about Brother Lawrence, and if you’d like to discover more of God’s presence in your daily work, you may want to download one of the De Pree Center’s study guides: Practicing the Presence of God at Work.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project: Work as Worship
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.