The Importance of Listening

I call it, “the bull elephant trumpeting the herd.” Know what I mean? I’m thinking about the person who comes into a meeting at work, or worse yet, at church who has all the answers and is bound and determined to make sure everybody in the room knows it. He is not there to listen or seek to understand; he is there simply to stir the pot and leave others to clean up his mess as he makes his grand exit.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Proverbs 13:10

Merriam-Webster defines strife, “(1) bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; (2) exertion or contention for superiority.” Why does one behave this way, especially in professional and church settings? This is where pride rears its ugly head. Pride tells a person he must always be right. Pride tells a person she must always be the smartest in the room. Pride tells a person that the people in the meeting with him are of small importance and have little to offer. Pride says, “I will speak, you will listen.” In the church and in business, such behavior not only impedes progress, but it needlessly builds dissention and disunity – both of which can destroy a church and a business if allowed to take root. “Don’t be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

In his book and seminar entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This, my friends, is wisdom. Wisdom casts personal pride aside and puts to interests of the group first. Wisdom looks around the room, sees value in everybody present, and earnestly seeks to hear what they have to say. Wisdom says, “I know I don’t have all the answers, but these people can help me discern the right path.” Wisdom seeks truth and understanding before forming opinions about what to say or what strategy to deploy. Wisdom listens first, asks meaningful questions, and thanks the team for their contributions. “Be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

Which Jeff will I bring to work today? The prideful, arrogant Jeff (he’s there, trust me)? Or the wise, discerning Jeff (he’s there too, thank God). I seek wisdom for my life through God’s Word and the counsel of Christian friends whom I trust. Through this, I am equipped to leave the prideful, arrogant me in the background as I seek to lead my team with kindness, love, and – yes – wisdom. Time to go to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Workplace Harvest

Sometimes I feel like the world has gone crazy (sounds like a song lyric, doesn’t it?). As I read about current events, navigate through the plethora of misinformation in social media, and scroll through the channel guide on my TV I often become discouraged. This morning, God reminded me in His Word that I am to use my discouragement as motivation – motivation to be out in the world, working for Him.

And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’

Luke 10:2 NASB

Indeed, all of those things that cause me to feel discouraged are evidence of a vast, rich, ripe harvest longing to be gathered. And, just as Jesus sent His disciples into the world to share His Word, so He sends me and each of us who follow Him.

Like many of you reading this, much of the field in which I find myself is my workplace. And, like most workplaces, we have rules about what we can and cannot say. Even so, God gives me a new opportunity every day to go into that field and reap His harvest. How can we reap while complying with the rules of conduct each of our employers have implemented? Here are three things each of us can do today in our respective harvest fields:

  • Take God’s Word with you. I’m not talking about walking around the office with your Bible tucked under your arm. I’m talking about carrying God’s Word in your heart and in your mind. Take today’s verse for example. How different might your day look if you memorized this verse and repeated it to yourself as you walk around your workplace, attend meetings, take calls, compose emails and perform your other daily tasks? Might you see your coworkers and colleagues from a different perspective? I work with a group of really wonderful people, many of whom I have no idea where they stand with God. I would hate for my behavior to dishonor Christ to the extent that a non-believer becomes more entrenched in his non-belief. Rather, I want to be salt and light in my workplace as evidenced by my conduct, trusting that God will use that to His glory and as an implement through which His harvest yield may be increased. Carrying God’s Word in my heart and on my mind helps me keep that salt & light perspective.
  • Take a prayer break. “Yeah, right,” you might say. I’m busy, but I try to take a few minutes several times a day to talk to God. I find this very grounding. Sometimes I take a walk. People I pass by have no idea that I’m speaking with the Lord, seeking wisdom, clearing my mind, or asking guidance about a problem or issue that has come up. Sometimes I sit at my desk and say a quick prayer, just a few seconds, to refocus and reground. I take a brief moment to pray before each meeting, asking God to guard my thoughts and mind my words. Every once in awhile, I walk over to our in-office Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee and sit in one of the comfy chairs looking outside as I talk with the Lord. These quick prayers help me break through the blur of a busy day while helping me stay focused on what God wants me to do.
  • Be available. Several years ago, a coworker told me she felt I was unapproachable. She told me that I’d get a look of annoyance on my face when she appeared at my office door. She said I seemed to resent being interrupted. I was horrified, as I’ve always considered myself to be a good “people person”. My expression was communicating a message that I had absolutely no intention of conveying. I thanked her profusely for telling me and I’ve never forgotten the important insight on myself that she gave me. If we are perceived as unapproachable, uncaring or unconcerned – if we believers are so focused on our daily tasks that we are unavailable to those around us – our harvest work is impaired. Our salt and light become bland and dim. Be available to those around you. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in what people have to say. You may be surprised at some of the doors that may open.

As I write this, I’m excited to head to my office. Today is a day stacked with meetings. I have a full email in-box. I have an abundance of opportunities to serve my employer, my coworkers, and my God. Indeed, the harvest is plentiful and I feel up to the task. Time to get to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com

“What is it Like…?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. It was January 6, the first Sunday of 2019. I was sitting in the pew next to my wife listening to the first sermon of the year. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I read the title in our bulletin: “Living Under the Influence: Resolve”. Great. A sermon on New Year’s resolutions. Not exactly what I came to hear. But as our pastor spoke, I realized that my prejudgment was (as it often is) way off the mark. Preaching on a portion of Acts 14, Pastor was speaking of how critical a proper attitude is to living a life that glorifies and honors Christ as we seek to make Jesus visible to the world around us. Then he suggested we ponder this question:

What is it like to live with me every day?

Rev. Dr. Trey Little, Grace Presbyterian Church

Wow. I have never considered that. Glancing at my wife seated next to me, I wondered how she might answer that question. After all, I’m not always the easiest guy to live with. Then I thought about my coworkers at Sysco. If I were to ask them what it is like to work with me every day, how might they answer? Am I supportive? Am I approachable? Am I respectful? Am I trustworthy? Next I considered people with whom I do business – insurance brokers, claims professionals, attorneys, and various consultants. How might they answer? As I’ve pondered this over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that these answers are important, but their importance is less about me than it is about Him.

My chief mission in life is to conduct myself in a manner that honors God while seeking to be salt and light to the world in which I live, just as Jesus Himself described.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

See why I say the answer to the question is more about Him than it is about me? I do not seek the “right” answers to these questions so I can puff up my chest and be proud of the great man everybody thinks I am. No. I seek the “right” answers to these questions because I want to be a beacon in this dark world. I want to be different from the world so God can use me to draw the lost to Him through me – by whatever manners and means He chooses to use. I want my life to glorify Him.

Ever since Pastor posed this question I’ve sensed some change. The question is written in my prayer journal to remind me to ponder it each morning. Indeed, I am God’s work in progress. I stumble every day. I say stupid things. I make mistakes. Thankfully, I know that God will not give up on me. And neither will I.

So, what say you? Does this question give you pause as it did me? If so, what are you going to do about it? As I go into my work place this week, I pray that God will equip me to conduct myself in a manner that draws others to want to know Him. How about you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com (2019)

Happy New (Work) Year!

Why do we work? Our impulsive answer to this question may be something like, “to put food on the table, numbskull!”

While that is certainly true, there is a bigger, more important reason behind the work that we do each day. Work is mentioned many times in Scripture, beginning with…the beginning:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” ~ Genesis 2:15 NIV

You see, God did not create Adam to simply exist in the beautiful world God created. Not at all. After creating Adam, God immediately gave him work to do, a vocation if you will. God put Adam in charge of His creation. Adam’s calling was to cultivate (work) the garden and keep (take care of) it. But this passage is not just about the Adam of Genesis. Did you know that “adam” is the Hebrew word for “mankind”? That’s right – this passage is about you and me, too.Have you ever thought of your daily work in this context? Have you considered the notion that God has called you to do what you do each day for a reason? That your calling, or vocation, is actually a gift from God given to you as a means of caring for His creation? This is a game changer! When we understand that our work is given to us by God, it repositions everything. What was once drudgery is now a pleasure. What was once mundane is now exciting. What was once considered unimportant is now critical. What was once viewed as a job is now a calling, a vocation, from God.Of course, none of us are in the Garden of Eden. Some of us work in office buildings, some in schools, some in restaurants, some in stores, some in warehouses, some behind a wheel, some at home, some outdoors… No matter where you work or what you do for a living, know this: You are surrounded by God’s creation. Each day presents an opportunity to make a difference. You can influence your world for Christ. At work. Every day.Next time you are in your work place, take a look around. Every person you see is a child of God. Some know it, some don’t. Let’s join together as followers of Jesus and commit our work in this New Year and beyond to Him. Let’s do all that we do knowing that He has each of us where we are for a reason. If we will work in this way, God will work through us to cultivate and reap His harvest.

Happy New Year!Soli DEO Gloria

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019