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Lessons I Learned from Getting Fired

Written by Ansee, Singapore

The Outlook notification chimes at the corner of your screen.

 A calendar invite for a meeting. It’s from your reporting officer and your boss.

 It’s one of those meetings you wished you could click “decline”.

 But this is no normal meeting.

 With a heavy heart, you click “accept”.

 And then you go on with your work, churning out the tasks you are hired to do.

 The meeting’s title?

 Two dreaded words: “Work Chat”.

 You saw it coming.

This was just one of many disciplinary meetings  I have faced in the workplace.

 In Genesis chapters 1–3, before mankind’s fall, work was designed as part of man’s worship and was given as a fruitful, joyful task. Alas, mankind chose to rebel. Since then, the experience of work became warped, a joyless toiling in a cursed land.

As a result, our workplaces have become characterised by these familiar situations: Excessive, dark competitiveness. Crazy bosses. Treacherous colleagues. Questionable ethics, not just seen in others, but perpetuated by us as well.

During the “work chat”, I was told that I was ego-inflated, tardy, and lacked discipline. My unconstrained selfishness had cost my teammates extra work and I lost their trust and my reputation.

Now that I am 30, I can look back and see many good things that came from that fateful meeting. Just as God’s redemptive heart remained the same after mankind rebelled against Him, I have seen that though we now toil on cursed ground, God uses all of life for our sanctification. Our experiences at work is just one of those tools.

 

God Uses Human Bosses to Discipline Us

Sometimes we feel like we are living out our dream jobs—the work is amazing, bosses and teammates bring such joy, and we look forward to working daily with them. In other seasons, we are surrounded by toxic bosses and malicious colleagues. We experience meanness at our workplaces. Sometimes we witness acts of injustice too, even from the very top levels of management. We retch in disgust and hope we don’t end up like our bosses.

However, amongst other agents, God uses humans to discipline us. In spite of their insecurities, flaws, and quirks, God establishes people to be in authority over us, believer or non-believer (Romans 13:1-5). And when we are going through discipline, we must internalize this truth: Our Daddy God loves us. And because He really loves us, He disciplines us as his sons and daughters for our godliness. (I encourage you to read Hebrews 12 in full.) God’s goal in our lives is to make us holy, not to help us gain a greater promotion, paycheck or sphere of influence. Even though it was painful to hear my bosses’ words of criticism, I came to realize that bosses may be placed in our lives to help us see our blind spots and weaknesses, so that we may grow in Christlikeness.

 

Getting Fired Reveals Our Heart Condition

Disciplinary episodes in our workplace may reveal not just our work inadequacies, but also point us towards certain deep-rooted character flaws.

For example, when we have been taken to task for our tendency to procrastinate, delve deeper and we might find that our heart has deceived itself to believe that our immediate comfort and rest will bring us more pleasure than continually working hard at our tasks. Dig even deeper, and we might find our bad habits stem from a certain sinful foothold in our lives. Never, never forget that the blood of Christ is powerful enough to help you deal with any sin.

How do we react to disciplinary action? Do we start to get bitter and badmouth our bosses? Do we start to sabotage the team’s work? Or do we give up completely and resolve to put in the minimum effort? Such incidences serve as pointers to help us assess our own heart, and to reflect on how badly we need a Savior.

Currently, I’m grateful to have a good boss. Once when I told her about a flaw I have been fighting for years, she said: “Don’t fight it. Deal with it.”

Often, our character gaps and bad habits sabotage us in the areas of our work performance, as well as our relationship with our teammates. Identify what these gaps and habits are, and deal with them decisively. Keep letting the Spirit renew you daily, acknowledging your need to rely on God. “The Lord will fight for you; you only have to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

 

Getting Fired Can Help Us Become Better

Besides helping us see our character gaps, disciplinary episodes provide an opportunity to unveil the strengths that we can work on.

Being fired might reveal that the job was simply not right for us. We may find that the job requires us to perform on metrics not suited to our personality, work style, and such. And because we have been fired, we may find a different job or an organization that suits our God-given temperament and predispositions better, and where we can serve God and our colleagues more efficaciously.

For example, after I was reassigned to a new department, I took on a more strategic role that helped me realize I thrive best when I’m involved in setting the culture of an organization or exploring creative ways to start new ventures and ensuring they are sustainable.

Working on our weaknesses while simultaneously growing stronger in the areas we are naturally predisposed to could help us develop areas of specialization in our career development.

 

Should I Quit My Job?

Sometimes, we may find ourselves being unjustly disciplined. Power politics or chaotic workplaces might be our daily reality. There are times when you might have to decide to resign for the sake of your own soul.

Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Our colleagues and bosses are people we essentially spend most of our waking hours with. Because we spend such great amounts of time together, we will naturally and inevitably be influenced by the culture at our workplace.

Are the values of your work environment pleasing to Christ? Are your colleagues the people you hope to emulate? Resign when you know the emotional and spiritual toxicity is taking a toll on your soul. Resign when you do not want to be like the people around you.

I once worked at a place where the bosses were incompetent and insecure, and this resulted in some of my colleagues literally spending all eight hours of the work day simply gossiping about the bosses.

That toxicity affected not just my work life, but seeped into all other aspects of my life. I became the toxic one to my family, church, and friends. My soul dried up. Instead of speaking life, only poison flowed from my lips.

Sometimes, it may seem impossible to leave a job. For example, you may have to work off your scholarship bond. Even then, God may graciously rearrange things so we can live right before Him even if we have to stay in a particularly trying work situation.

Once when I was going through a tough time at work, God led me to two passages:

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:1, 10)

After I surrendered my situation to God, He restored it and delivered me from my predicament. I was reassigned to another team with a supportive boss who exercises good leadership.

Ultimately, we must realize we are not God. Neither are our colleagues and bosses. That’s what the Psalmist in Psalm 46 exhorts us to do. In being still and recognizing our helplessness even over our circumstances at work, we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and allow Him to use people and even our dreadful circumstances to help us rely on and walk with Him in full trust.

What Does It Mean to Be Sanctified?

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

Someone recently wrote “#holy” on my dorm room door. I live in a dorm at a Christian college and facilitate a weekly Bible study on my floor, so this innovative hashtag made me smile. It also brought to mind a question I have been wrestling with for the past several weeks. What does it mean to be “#holy”? Or in other words, what does sanctification mean?

I’ve grown up in the church, so the term “sanctification” is not new to me. But I’ve never felt that I had a clear understanding of the term. My interest in learning more began one day when I was reading 1 Thessalonians 4:3, which begins, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” The verse ties sanctification to avoiding sexual immorality, but I wondered what sanctification might mean on a bigger scale.

My mentor brought to my attention Romans 6-8, where sanctification is also mentioned. Romans 6:22 describes how we are dead to our sin, have been released from slavery to sin, and have now become slaves of God. According to Romans 6:22, this “leads to holiness”, or as the ESV translation puts it, “leads to sanctification”. But how exactly does this work? What does it mean?

 

It Begins with Being Set Free From Sin

I recently heard a sermon about forgiveness. In this sermon, the pastor used an illustration based on American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the story, a woman who commits adultery is made to wear a red letter “A” on her chest as a mark of her sin. During the sermon, the pastor explained how Jesus takes away our sin and forgives us, metaphorically peeling away the sinful letters we wear on our chests. I think this can be a great illustration for how sanctification begins. Sanctification begins, as Romans 6:22 says, when we are released from slavery to sin and are set aside as slaves of God.

That sermon about forgiveness helped me to connect the term “sanctification” to its role in the story of the gospel. I am fundamentally un-right and covered with different letters. But when I am forgiven, Jesus doesn’t see the letters, or the decay of sin, but rather a new creature. He sees me as holy, reborn through His love and work on the cross.

However, there is still a problem, which Paul outlines in Romans 7. We still have to deal with our sinful nature. Paul says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). This is perhaps the central struggle of all Christians. We’ve all struggled, and continue to struggle with sin. We are all caught up in an inner battle of good and evil.

For example, I (sometimes) try to eat healthy. I know I should eat healthy, I want to eat healthy, but for some reason, when I see one of my favorite unhealthy snacks, I eat that instead, even though I know what it does to my body is bad and I want to try and live a healthier lifestyle.

God has forgiven my sins and sees me as holy, yet I am still continually torn between desiring holiness and desiring sin. I’m tempted to say to God:  Just relax. Take it easy. I’ll do all the right stuff. I’ll come to you, I’ll read my Bible every day and be nice to people. It’s fine. I got this. You don’t really have to do anything, I can take care of myself.

 

It Involves God Working in Our Hearts

But, this is not how sanctification works. Sanctification is an ongoing process that God works in my heart to change my desires. It begins with God’s forgiveness of my sins, and then it continues throughout my whole life as I walk in relationship with the Lord and learn how to become more like Christ.

Paul comforts us in our sin by reminding us that “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can quench our desire to sin and make us desire righteousness instead. 1 Peter 1 tells us that the Spirit works in us to sanctify us for obedience to Christ and for a life of holiness. And so, we are confident that the God who began this good work of making us holy will carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

It is by His grace alone that I was able to believe in the first place. It is by His continued grace that I walk the road of holiness, until I am presented before Christ, without blemish. But I don’t walk this road alone.  One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 41: 13, which says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

I think of 1 Thessalonians 4:3 again, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; […].” This verse reminds us that as Christians, we are set apart. It is the Lord’s will for us to become more like Christ, to become sanctified. Even though we still sin and suffer the consequences of our sin, God is working in our lives to change our hearts and show us what it means to be like Jesus. We do not have to be afraid, and we don’t have to be defined by the sinful letters that stick to us. Jesus holds us by our right hand and walks with us; all we have to do is humble our hearts and be willing to walk alongside our Lord.

There’s nothing I can do to make me right before God. There is nothing in me that can sustain my pursuit of holy living. But I’m sure glad that the all-powerful, gracious God has done it and is doing it for me. It is the sanctifying power of God that makes me “#holy”.

ODJ: dressed for success

January 10, 2015 

READ: Colossians 3:12-15 

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (v.12).

A few years ago my husband and a friend of his attempted the Three Peaks Challenge—climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours. This included scaling Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 meters. It was sunny at the foot of Ben Nevis as the men, dressed in just T-shirts and shorts, started their ascent. As they approached the summit, however, the weather changed; they hit ice and thick fog and their skimpy clothing simply wasn’t enough. They made it down the mountain, but the challenge was off.

Just as we might listen to the weather forecast before selecting what to wear, so too we should check out the wisdom of God’s Word as we prepare for the day (Joshua 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). As believers in Jesus, we need to enter our day ‘dressed’ appropriately—putting on mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). This includes being prepared to allow for the faults of others, forgiving anyone who offends us and remembering God’s forgiveness as we forgive others (v.13).

We should also never leave the house without first putting on love—it’s essential in keeping us connected to the needs around us (v.14). Finally, before we get dragged into the unpredictable frenzy of a new day, we should pause and allow the peace of Christ to rule in our heart as we reflect on how thankful we are for His blessings and provision (v.15).

When we become busy, it can be easy to leave the house dressed spiritually poor. At the start of a new year, let’s become familiar with Jesus and His message so we can be an accurate representation of who He is to others (vv.16-17). —Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

365-day plan› Genesis 18:1-15

MORE
Read Romans 13:12-14 and see what Paul says about clothing and putting on the presence of Jesus. 
NEXT
What spiritual ‘clothing’ have you not been wearing lately? What needs to change so that you can be dressed for success in living for Jesus? 

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ODB: The Presentation

December 28, 2013 

READ: Colossians 1:21-23 

He has reconciled . . . to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. —Colossians 1:21-22 

My wife, Martie, is a great cook. After a long day I often look forward to the smell of spicy aromas that promise a tasty feast. Not only does she know how to prepare a meal, but she is also a master at the presentation. The colors of the food on the plate, beautifully arranged in a harmony of meat, white puffy rice, and vegetables welcome me to pull up my chair and enjoy her handiwork. But the food was not so attractive before she got her hands on it. The meat was raw and squishy, the rice was hard and brittle, and the vegetables needed to be scrubbed and trimmed.

It reminds me of the gracious work Jesus has done for me. I am well aware of my frailty and propensity to sin. I know that in and of myself I am not presentable to God. Yet when I’m saved, Jesus makes me a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He takes me just as I am and makes me just as I should be—“holy, and blameless, and above reproach” (Col. 1:22). He presents me to our Father as a thing of beauty worthy to be in His presence.

May His transforming work on our behalf stimulate us to live up to the presentation and to be humbly grateful to Christ for His finishing work in our lives!

— Joe Stowell

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me—
All His wonderful passion and purity!
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. —Orsborn

Jesus takes us as we are and makes us what we should be.