Excel at Work Through Grace
We live in a time of extraordinary advances in scientific and technological knowledge. However, wealth of knowledge is not synonymous with wealth of wisdom, which deals with the skill of living well. With work environments that are high pressured and extremely demanding we need wisdom on how to excel at our work without burning out damaging ourselves and our relationships with family and friends in the process.
The more we advance as a society the more I recognize the need to look to the ancient wisdom to thrive and flourish. In a letter written to group of people in ancient city of Corinth, the words of an ancient sage called Paul of Tarsus gives us great insight into our topic - excelling without burnout. I’d like to share his wisdom with you here.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preached and you believed. 1 Corinthians 15: 1
Paul’ s understanding of the grace of God in this passage can be life giving to those of us in the workplace. Especially those of us who work in demanding jobs and high pressure work environments. However, to benefit from its wisdom we have to understand and believe that God’s grace is not only for “spiritual work” (like being an apostle) but is for “all work” that is done to serve the common good of humanity.
By the grace of God I am what I am…
Paul understands that who he currently is (identity) and what he currently does (vocation) is because of the grace (favor and empowerment) of God. This grace took two forms in Paul’s life, firstly, it was “preparation through his history” and secondly, it was “present enablement to function”. Paul’s birthplace, education, citizenship, talents, social circles, successes and failures were all used by God’s grace to prepare him to be His representative to the gentiles. In the same way, God has called us to our workplace as His representatives and through our history, experiences, training, education, mistakes and victories God’s grace has also prepared you for your current task at work. His grace is sufficient and should give you great confidence that you can do what is required of you at work, even when you feel inadequate. No imposter syndrome here!
Not I, but the grace of God that is with me…
It is important to note Paul’s attitude here because it is instructive to us in the workplace. Paul says he does not take the grace of God in vain, meaning treating it as futile, empty, pointless or worthless. But how does he honor the grace of God in his life? By working hard. Even harder than his colleagues! We can have ideas that God’s grace works like “magic” and requires no effort from us. However, as we exert mental energy for that presentation, emotional energy for the board meeting, creative energy for the next project - we give honor to the grace of God by give it something to work with - our effort.
The grace of God that is with me…
Here in lies the mystery, Paul states earlier that he working and working hard at that. But at the very same time, as he is working he is aware of the grace of God with him in “real time” empowering all that he does. This empowerment is so pervasive, powerful and complete that he says its not him actually working but the grace doing the work. As we work in demanding and stressful jobs - we need to know what it is to be empowered in a way that even though we are working it is as if something else is working for us and through us. Where we are not relying on our own natural strength resulting in feeling burnt out. No, you have the grace of God as a resource for work, rely on it lean on it every day for every task.
….we preached and you believed
Success for an apostle’s ministry is that people come to believe in the Lord Jesus, that was one of his primary success metrics. Through the grace of God, Paul confidently shows that he excelled at his work, not because of his genius but because of the grace of God at work in his life. Likewise, you also have success metrics for your work. Things that you have to do and complete in order for your work to be considered well done. Just as the grace of God worked to bring good success to Paul,
Starting from today, let us not receive the grace of God in vain, by not working diligently or by ignoring it and not relying on it. Take 5 minutes to ask the Lord to cause you to work diligently while at the same time relying and depending on the grace of God through faith and prayer to give you good success in your daily endeavors.
Adrian is the co founder of The Nova Project. He is a speaker, author, bible teacher, filmmaker and entrepreneur. He currently lives in Geneva with his wife Robertha and two sons Levi-Hunter and Luke-Pierce