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Starting Work? Here’s 3 Must-have Attitudes

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India, went for higher studies to Melbourne, Australia and then stayed on for 12 years and worked in the Banking and Finance Industry there. At the same time, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer and Bible teacher in his local church. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s call and is currently involved in training Christian workers for effective ministry within the Indian context. He loves reading, listening to music and long country drives.

I’ve been down this road many times before. I did my postgraduate studies full-time and worked part-time as a lecturer in my university. Then the roles reversed and I worked full-time in banking and studied theology part-time. After that, I went from full-time work to full-time theological study and then back to full-time work.

Each time I made those transitions, the experiences were different and always beset with new and varied challenges. What I’ve observed in my own life and with others is that when we transition from study to work, we take certain attitudes, habits and behaviors with us into the workplace. Soon we find to our utter disappointment that those things don’t fit there. We realize that working life comes with a new and different set of challenges.

Some cope well—and hats off to them—but some others get disillusioned, discouraged and often give up. Others go to the other extreme and become ambitious and strive hard to be over-achievers. This leads to its own set of pitfalls such as neglect of family, poor health, undue stress, addictions, and a constant fear of failure.

So how do we handle this transition from studying to working? How can we develop that which is essential to handle these new challenges that come our way and how can we continue to remain a follower of Christ in the workplace or business world? I’ve listed three attitudes that are non-negotiables when handling such a transition.

 

1. Be Authentic

Proverbs 14:23 warns us against empty words: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. Pretense, in whatever shape or form, shows up eventually. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” So, regardless of how you’ve aced that job interview by parroting responses to routine questions, or put up a masquerade at work pretending you’re someone you’re not, there comes a point where you will be found out for who you really are. Being authentic is important because that will keep us in good stead along life’s journey.

What does it mean to be authentic? Simply put, it means you don’t pretend to be someone else on the outside. Rather, you are truthful, honest and straightforward. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are insensitive to others around you; instead you exercise wisdom in all your dealings—and who better to teach you wisdom than God Himself?

In my own corporate experience as a senior project manager who regularly handled post-sales situations, I sometimes found myself in a tight spot. I knew that what had been sold to the customers by my predecessor was not the ideal product for them. So I had a choice to make: Do I just do my job and leave it as a problem for someone else to handle, or do I rectify the mistake and go the extra mile (often with lots of extra work involved) to provide something that will benefit the end customer?

To me, that decision came easily and naturally because I wanted to honor Christ, who had blessed me with that job, in the workplace. I also knew that by my actions, I was upholding the reputation of my employer. Whether those noble actions get you into the good books of your boss or not, always remember that we serve an “Audience of One” and your job is to please Him above everyone else. The Apostle Paul encourages us to do exactly that in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”.

 

2. Be Accountable

As a student, you are often accountable to no one but yourself. You can stay up late, wake up any time you like, turn up for classes if you feel like it or turn in your assignments late. In a student’s life, the constant temptation is to slack off in areas of accountability and responsibility.

But in the corporate or business world, accountability is pivotal. Workers are accountable to management, who in turn must answer to senior management, who are accountable to the Board and the Board to the investors. Even independent traders need to be accountable to their customers, the law, the government etc.

As we all know, being accountable doesn’t come easy. We often like to take things into our own hands. In fact, we may dislike or even detest anyone to whom we may have to give an account for what we do or how we do it.

Consider this: right from creation, when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and sinned, they were held accountable for their actions. Bad decisions or actions have negative consequences, but we must find the courage to own up and set things right. We must strive to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we take responsibility for what we do. If we are accountable to someone, then we ought to respect them and their authority over us.

Much of the conflict that happens around us is down to our fallen human nature and our stubborn refusal to be accountable. Always remember that we are also accountable for our feelings, thoughts and actions to God, and so we conduct ourselves in a way that brings Him honor and glory.

 

3. Be Excellent

Going to work each day can be a drudgery for many. We struggle through it since there are bills to pay, loans to clear, family members to feed, elderly parents to care for and a myriad of other basic needs to be met. Regardless of what factors compel us to work, the attitudes that we take to work is what matters most. I find from personal experience that when I take a bad attitude to work, it affects me and everyone around me negatively. I tend to be harsh, negligent, arrogant or half-hearted at work.

But if I take a spirit of excellence into my work, with an intention to do my work to the best of my abilities for my employer and for the Kingdom of God, it just turns my day around. I am able to greet people with a genuine smile, talk to them from the heart, care for them and show my concern in practical ways. It brings a joy deep within me that positively affects everyone around me.

My personal motto has been that I want to do my very best at work, not because I get paid for it, but because by doing it, I am being faithful to God and also my employer. Such an attitude brings many blessings along my path but more than that, it gives me a chance to reflect the nature of God at my workplace. This then gives me unsolicited opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus in meaningful and practical ways.

It is often said, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people read”. In many workplaces where matters of faith are often not talked about or are seen as being intrusive, having an excellent spirit will speak for itself and give you favor among your peers and employers. Excellence begins deep down in our hearts with intentionality and purpose and works itself out through our thoughts, behaviors and actions.

We can be encouraged by God’s word in Titus 2:7-8 to do what is good, and show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech in our teaching so that those who oppose us will have nothing bad to say about us. Won’t that be a powerful and impactful testimony in the workplace?

 

Transitions are not easy, but with God at the center of your life and armed with the right attitudes, you can manage those transitions well and help others along the way too.

Why I Stopped Full-Time Work

Two years ago, God called my husband and I to take a year off work to spend time seeking Him.

We had just completed our sixth year of work. So I quit my job while my husband took no pay leave. And from May 2015 to May 2016, we attended a discipleship course in church, volunteered our time at various church ministries, and visited different individuals. It was a full 12 months of doing things for God, which many people would probably consider a “fruitful” and “meaningful” use of time.

Fast forward to 12 months later. My husband went back to secular work as called by the Lord. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel God prompting me to go back to full-time secular work, so I embarked on what many people would call a very “different” journey. I know some would view how I spent my past year as a “waste of time”, but, as I’ve learned over the year, the definition of “fruitfulness” differs for everyone.

You see, over the past 11 months, I have been working part-time in an administrative role. And because I am working part-time, my monthly salary is a fraction of what I used to earn.

On top of that, I no longer qualify for employee benefits like allowances, annual leave, and medical leave. Things that I could once easily afford are now luxury items that I need to carefully consider whether to purchase. So why did I choose this path? you might ask.

I’ve asked myself the same question. Why did I leave a full-time job to take on something part-time which does not pay me enough to feed myself? (Note: my husband has been supporting me by co-paying for my expenses.)

Truth be told, I felt rather aimless the first few weeks. Apart from working three half-days per week, I stayed at home and did some household chores. With so much time on my hands, I started to do what I enjoyed doing: I read the Bible and played worship songs on the guitar and the keyboard.

The thing is, I don’t have much training in music. So, in the beginning, I struggled to figure out the chords, play them according to the timing, and sing at the same time. After some months, however, I realized that my fingers were moving pretty much on their own without me having to try to follow the score or timing. They were moving to random melodies—which, surprisingly, actually made musical sense to my ears. That triggered my interest in writing simple worship songs for the Lord.

It wasn’t always smooth-sailing, of course. But on occasions when the melodies just flowed, I felt as though I was directly downloading the tunes from God. Once, as I played one of the tunes and sang the lyrics that God gave me, I felt myself being ministered to by the Lord himself; tears kept rolling down my cheeks and I just couldn’t stop.

In that song, I was reminded of the truth that no one compares to God, for He is God most high: He is our God, our Lord, our strength, and our King. He is sovereign and is worthy of our worship. And there is nowhere else we would rather be than to be in the presence of His Glory.

At that moment, I realized that perhaps this was exactly what God was calling me to do: to take time to worship Him. And though it may not seem that big of a deal to others, I knew it was a fruitful use of my time.

In all honesty, I wished I had more “song downloads” from God over the past few months. At the same time, I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Both the servant who was given five talents and came back with another five, and the servant who was given two talents and came back with another two, received the same response from their Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23)

Through these 11 months, I’ve come to realize in a very personal way that fruitfulness is not always measured by what we reap materially. It does not mean making the most money. It does not mean gaining the best reputation. It does not mean gaining power in the corporate world or climbing the corporate ladder. It does not mean being fashionable or always having new clothes and accessories to wear and gadgets to hold. It does not mean eating at the best restaurants or knowing when or where the next Michelin Star restaurant is opening at.

Fruitfulness is doing what God wants you to do. And it’s not even about quantity or quality—it’s about our heart. (Matthew 5:8)

It’s hard being the oddball. It’s hard having no full-time job. It’s hard earning so little. It’s hard saying no to friends and sometimes even family. It’s hard not following common paths. It’s hard resisting the world. But it’s even harder to live a life without God. (Matthew 7:13-14)

My dear friends, I may not know you personally or know what you’re going through right now. But I do know that God has a perfect plan for you to be abundantly fruitful, according to His ways and His will.

When I Realized Working Hard Isn’t Everything

Written By Debra Ayis, Nigeria

A colleague of mine recently retired after working for the same organization for 35 years. He was one of those who worked 24/7 and gave his heart and soul to the job at hand.

Often, we meet people who can’t seem to care less about the job—but he wasn’t one of those. He was passionate, competitive, always on top of things, and involved in everything happening in the office.

We threw him a farewell party and gave him a gift and a card. By the next day, a new officer had taken over his position and his email was removed from the staff mailing list.

To be honest, I was on track to become one such worker not too long ago. I gave everything to my job, dreamed about my job at night, and talked about nothing but my job. I was so fixated on my job that I stopped wishing or aiming for a life outside of it.

I stopped engaging with friends because I was always working or replying to emails. I couldn’t keep a relationship going because I was always the last person in the office to leave for home or always on my phone, anxiously waiting for that message I had to respond to. I got upset if I was told that other things mattered in life and that I had to learn to live a little.

Then one day, I fell ill and had to be off work for a while. Only one colleague sent me a text message to ask me how I was doing. I had no one to talk to, no one to help me, and because I had practically ignored God, I felt I couldn’t go to Him either. I realized there and then that there was more to life, and that I had not been created to work in pursuit of material gain; I was created to fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9) and glorify God (Isaiah 43:7).

After that revelation, I arranged a meet up with my retired friend. He shared that he had no idea what to do after retirement. He was divorced because of the job, and had long given up all his hobbies in favor of work and ambition. All his life, he had been chasing after deadlines and promotions, and had often felt that everything at work would fall apart if he was not there to hold it all together.

But at the point of his retirement, he realized that all his labor amounted to nothing. He was easily replaced at his former job. In pursuit of his career, he had lost focus of everything else. He lost his friends, his family, and the ability to “function” outside of the office.

He shared that his mistake was fixing his eyes on the present and immediate future. Because he was so fixated on achieving excellence at work, he had failed to look beyond the present, and to realize that there would be a day he had to leave that job.

It was only on hindsight that he realized investing in family, community, and faith was more important than his title. Making an impact on the lives of others around him, knowing his neighbors, serving God, reaching out to those who were lost, would have been far greater achievements than a paycheck at the end of the month.

I was deeply impacted by his sharing and it motivated me to reflect on my own life. Reading through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, I learned that for everything, there is a right time (Eccl. 3); work cannot take up my entire life. And unless God blesses the work, it will simply be futile and frustrating no matter how hard I labor (Psalm 127). From personal experience, I’ve also realized that just as God gave me the job, He is more than capable of taking it away or giving me another one in its place.

That’s not saying that we don’t need to work hard—the Bible does call us to work diligently (Proverbs 6:6-11)—but my goal must be to exalt God above all else. In all my endeavors, I pray that He gives me the grace to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”, and to trust that all the things I need will be given to me as well (Matthew 6:33).

My security lies not in where I am and what I do, but whom I am with. Life is not about knowing all the pit stops or even the destination; it is about trusting in the One who has our life in the palm of His hands. When we truly learn to trust God and let Him have His way in our lives, we will stop fixating on the little things, and on the here and now. Instead, we will learn to look at the bigger picture and realize our lives are not our own—but God’s. We need to live it according to His way.

These days, I choose to ask God to use me for His glory, to let me be His hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) in whichever way that pleases Him. I try to look at the big picture and not focus on what my flesh or the world tell me is important.

This has meant setting a particular time to leave work every day—as far as possible, I try not to stay in the office past 7.00 pm. There are occasions that I do need to stay late, but I make sure it’s never the norm. I’ve also started saying yes to friends, writing, volunteering for causes close to my heart and serving God at Church. I also promised God that I wouldn’t work or check my emails on Sunday.

Making these changes took time but I’m determined not to make my job a god or an idol. I am made for the Lord’s pleasure. He is God, and I am His vessel.

How To Break Up Your Marriage (to Work)

Written By Faith Yong, Singapore

“Faith! Join us after service today for lunch . . . Don’t tell me you’re working on a Sunday again . . . you’re always working!”

Unfortunately, it was true. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, I would attend service and mingle briefly with my cell group mates before rushing off to grab lunch so that I could reach home earlier—to catch up with work.

Although I was physically in church, my heart and mind were elsewhere. I was constantly on my phone monitoring office WhatsApp group chats. I would fidget or feel uneasy if I did not see any work-related message or email.

I was also constantly postponing meetings with friends. I was spending less time at home and more in office, because I craved my bosses’ approval and affirmation. I was desperate to hear my bosses say, “Great job, Faith, here’s the ‘A’ that you worked so hard for . . .”

I was married to work.

Yet, in spite of my efforts and the long hours I put into work, the “A” grade that I craved never came. Instead, what I got was anger, disappointment, and discontentment.

The turning point came when a close friend asked me one day: “If I were to remove work and the organization that you work for, who are you? What are you working for?”

I was dumbfounded. That night, I lay awake thinking about why I was working so hard. Unable to sleep, I Googled “hard work, bible” and was directed to Colossians 3:23-24—two verses that I had highlighted in my Bible long ago, but had neglected to observe.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

The Bible does not frown on hard work. In fact, the author of Colossians, Paul, exhorted and encouraged it. But he stressed that the goal of hard work should not be to win our earthly masters’ favor. Nor did he mention achieving top honors. Rather, he focused on two key aspects: the condition of our hearts, and our reverence for God. As children of God, we are, above all, servants of Christ; our goal is to win the approval not of human beings, but of God (Galatians 1:10).

How we work shows what we place importance on, and reflects our identity in Christ. Are we looking forward to an inheritance and reward which is eternal, or are we focused on earthly and temporal rewards?

As I grappled with what it meant to be God’s servant—demonstrating excellence in what I did, yet fully trusting that God’s reward was all that mattered—I came to understand that resting in Christ was the key to getting my heart right before God and having true reverence for Him. In the process, I learned three things:

1. Physically retreat to a quiet place
Amid the busyness of His earthly ministry, even Jesus went away from the crowd and took time to rest, meditate on God’s word, fast, and pray. Being free from distraction and human chatter allows us to quieten and still our hearts.

2. Pray and commit our time to God
Once we have found a conducive environment and time, we need to pray for God’s guidance and protection over our time with Him. Because we have minds that wander off easily, we need to ask God to protect this time and keep our minds focused on Him.

3. Observe the Sabbath
We often mistake going to church on Sundays as observance of the Sabbath. But this is more than just the physical act of setting aside a day to go to church. Mark 2:27 reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath is God’s provision for us to relax from our labor, to refresh our bodies and minds in Him, to commune with Him and fellow believers, and to delight in all that God has done for us.

Finding rest in Christ requires us to exercise humility and acknowledge that we need His wisdom and grace to get through the day and our responsibilities at work.

Have you made an idol out of your work? Have you been over-committing yourself to work, and failing to give God and your loved ones the first fruits of your time?