By Andrew Laird, Australia
Andrew works in Australia for City Bible Forum and is the National Manager of their Life@Work program which aims to help Christians connect their faith with their daily work. He is the author of two books about work, including Under Pressure: How the Gospel Helps Us Handle the Pressures of Work. He is the former Dean of Ridley College’s Marketplace Institute, and he also has a background in radio journalism. He lives in Melbourne, is married to Carly and has three young children. He’s not ashamed to admit he’s a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) and loves getting out on his road bike.
Christians are to be people who think differently, who have a spiritual (Romans 8:5-6) or heavenly mindset (Colossians 3:2). Our thoughts are to be preoccupied by values, dreams, desires, and schemes that are radically different to the world around us, where people are focused on matters of the flesh (Romans 8:5-6) or the earthly nature (Colossians 3:4). That is, as Christians, we give our mind to how we can worship God and put the needs of others before our own in all the decisions of life, rather than the selfish pursuits of the “flesh”.
This is to be a settled state of mind (“set your mind”) that directs all our thoughts and drives us, not to disconnect from the world, but to live differently in each moment of each day.
But if we’re honest, it is hard at the best of times to “set our minds” on spiritual priorities when we’re being bombarded by fleshly ones on our screens, from people around us, and even from our own hearts. How much more when we are inundated with requests, tasks, and demands at work! It’s hard enough keeping in mind all our responsibilities for the day, let alone having time to “set our minds on Christ”.
What might help us practically to do this? Here are six suggestions:
1. PurposeHaving a mind set on Christ doesn’t mean detachment from this world, but in fact, moves us to be more deeply involved in the world around us, as God originally intended.
We need to constantly remind ourselves of our purpose as God’s ambassadors in this world, and in particular, in our work. While earning an income to provide for ourselves and others, or putting our talents to use in a fulfilling way, or even simply getting through our to-do list for the day in a satisfactory way are not bad things to pursue, they aren’t the ultimate purpose of work for the Christian.
Rather, the purpose for the Christian can best be summarised as love God and love your neighbour (Mark 12:30-31). This is a purpose that is profoundly spiritual and heavenly in mindset. And yet it is a purpose with significant implications in the here and now—not leading us to disengage from the world, but to engage passionately and enthusiastically in work, for the good of others.
So, as we think about how to practically set our minds on Christ during a busy workday, our starting point is to recognise that doing so is not at odds with our busyness. Rather, it is to shape how we engage in that space, namely, as people of love, loving God and loving neighbour.
For example, doing our work well so others are blessed and served by it, seeking to help our colleagues rather than tear them down for our own advancement and so on. In all these ways and more, we bring a heavenly mindset to why we work and so “set our mind on Christ” in our daily work.
How do we keep our spiritual purpose at the front of our minds when we are so busy, and have so many responsibilities?
A spiritual mindset is also a spiritual gift. Thinking God’s thoughts after Him doesn’t come to us naturally. Rather, we need His Spirit to continually prompt us to think this way. So, let’s commit to asking Him for this in prayer.
For many years, I have made it a firm priority to begin each day in prayer about my work. Sometimes I pray individually through all the activities and tasks I have before me that day. Other times all I have time (or the headspace) for is a simple “Lord, help me be motivated by love for others today”. Starting each day in this way helps me frame my purpose for the day with the desire to be other-person centred—to focus on the other person—and not just on myself and my needs.
Throughout the day, I’ll also aim to pray quick prayers as unexpected issues arise—a difficult encounter with a colleague, an unethical request from a boss, a challenging email to respond to. In these moments I’ll seek to simply pray, “Lord, help me to know what you would have me do in this situation. Please give me Your mind for handling this.”
Of course, in the busyness of the day it can be hard to remember to do this (believe me, the number of times I have set upon a course of action in my own strength only to think, “Why didn’t I say a quick prayer about this first?”). Which is why I also try and regularly pray, “Lord, help me to remember to pray first before acting”.
One thing that will help us remember is by praying with others. I cannot recommend more highly the value of having a small group of Christian brothers and sisters to pray with regularly (during the workday) about our work together.
Visual reminders can also be very helpful in prompting us to recall this heavenly purpose throughout our day. A simple image with the words “Love your neighbour” on your desk, or as your computer wallpaper or phone lock screen, can be very effective in keeping our spiritual priority at the front of our mind, especially when things get busy.
And such a message, if displayed in a place where our colleagues might see, is very attractive and inoffensive, yet radically counter-cultural, and can lead to great questions about its meaning and why it matters to us.
In a similar way, listening to music that encourages us to praise God can help keep this heavenly mindset at the forefront of our minds.
I personally find it helpful to listen to such music while I’m commuting for work, filling my mind with God’s perspective through song.
Some of us might have jobs that enable us to listen to music during the day, which can help us keep in view God’s heavenly purposes for our life. And like the visual reminders, this too may lead us to opportunities to speak of Christ to our colleagues.
A friend who works in a noisy factory often listens to praise music while she works. One day, she was singing along, thinking no one could hear her, only to be asked later in the day by a colleague what it was she was listening to! Once she got over her embarrassment about being heard singing, it led to a wonderful conversation about the words of the song.
In the Christian life it is often said that our hearts overflow into our habits. But the reverse is also true. That is, the ways we live also help shape our hearts.
When we practice love for others before ourselves, it can move us to have a heart that increasingly desires to love others in this way. For example, not cutting corners in our work, which creates more work for others, giving thought to how we can improve our product or service so that more people are blessed (rather than negatively impacted) by our work, or the simple but powerful act of taking burdens off our colleagues when they are overwhelmed.
So, another practical way of keeping our mind set on Christ during a busy workday is living as He desires us to live. Choosing in that moment to put the interests of others before ourselves is a way of prompting us to recall, “I live this way because this is the new spiritual, heavenly identity I have in Christ”. In doing so, we not only love our neighbour, but we also love God, for our love for Him is demonstrated through our selflessness toward others, and He is glorified in our lives.
All these suggestions come together in my final tip, which is to dwell on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the epitome of what it looks like to live and speak as a person whose mind was always set on things above. In all His actions, He was driven by the purpose to love God and love the neighbour. This drove Him to prayer and praise of His Father. This moved Him to perform others-centred actions as He healed, and fed, and loved.
And of course, this brought Him to the cross, a visual symbol that we must continually fix our minds upon, to be reminded of His sacrificial love.
One way to do so is by reading a portion of a gospel each day. Dwell on the person of Christ, and in so doing, see in human form what it means to live as one who has their mind set on spiritual things in the midst of the nitty gritty busyness of daily life.