Stuck in a Dead End Job (or Planted There?)

 

dead end jobGenesis 30

Michael Leamons in Reader’s Digest wrote the following for their “All in a Day’s Work” column:  “Although desperate to find work, I passed on a job I found on an employment website. It was for a waste water plant operator. Among the job requirements: “Must be able to swim.”(February 2000, p. 48.)

Some jobs are certainly more appealing than others.  Some may lead to future rewarding careers but others seem to keep us up to our necks in… waste water.

Last week we looked at two major decisions that Jacob made without the benefit of prayer:  marriage and career.  The first decision led him into matrimony with two jealous wives who used children in a game of one-up-man-ship for their husband’s affection.   The decision we look at this week is the decision regarding career which led Jacob into a dead end job with his scrupulous boss and father-in-law, Laban.  Lack of prayer landed him in a mess!  What can he do now?

Despite the less than ideal working conditions… chapter 30 reveals that Jacob still managed to prosper.

So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.  (30:43)

The short of it is this: there is still grace to be found… even marking time in a dead end job.

Many years ago I worked in Cincinnati, OH at a small food distributor that has since gone out of business.   I paid the bills for this company on an antiquated computer system in an office of crazies.   One women oozed bitterness to everyone.  Another swore like a sailor.  Another made train noises while she worked because it helped her think.  (I am not making this up.)  I was making a meager living but not very happy and not at that time pursuing my calling in ministry.  I was miserable.

Sometimes you are in a bad position by others or your own missteps, but just as Jacob learned to prosper even while getting the short end of the stick… you too can discover that God hasn’t lost track of His long term plan for your life.  My stint at the food distributor was part of God’s larger plan for me.  Little by little I learned to make the most of it.  I wrote songs on my lunch hour and on the way to the mailbox… which I later recorded onto an album.  This job also gave me enough there to get my family back on track financially.  And I made a few lifelong friends through the whole process.

Stop looking at your current job situation as a life sentence in a dingy cell.  Trace the source of sunlight through the bars.  Hope exists even where you are.  Ask:  “What blessings might God be trying to get me to notice here?”   Know that God can redeem your work and that your job site could become an altar upon which to better worship Him.

Greg Laurie remarks:  “Maybe you are at such a place in your life right now. You are laboring in obscurity. You feel as if no one notices what you do. Follow the example of Joseph: Work hard. Flip every burger for the glory of God. Create every PowerPoint presentation as though Jesus Christ Himself were going to inspect it. Hammer every nail as though you were building that house for God. Type every letter as if Jesus Himself were going to read it. Play every chord with skill and precision as if Jesus were listening. Because he is. Whatever it is you are doing, do it well. Be faithful—even if there are consequences.”  (Losers and Winners, Saints and Sinners, pp. 165-166.)

Author A. W. Tozer notes:  “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.”   Maybe that’s what God wants to speak into your life regarding your job:  THIS is where I can bless you now.  There may be other opportunities sometime later… but for now… THIS is where you are planted.   Examine where I have put the blooms onto your branches!

You who are caught in decisions of love and vocation. In the name of God stop and look at what you have.  It may be more than you think.

What blessings are you finding around the job site these days?  Are you sharing these things with a spouse or close friend?

Blessings!

 

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Running Out of Real Estate

Pick up the phone 2

 

  Acts 16:6-8cliff

  “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phyrgia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.”

Paul is seeking and reaching and praying… and he isn’t getting anywhere.  The Holy Spirit stops him from preaching in Asia.  The Spirit of Jesus won’t let him touch Bithynia.

This is different from his first missionary journey.  It was wondrous.  Paul and Barnabas traveled through Asia, founding churches and setting people on fire for the gospel. But after returning home things cooled off a bit.  They come back to a less than rapturous welcome from a Jerusalem church, who wanted to know what they were doing baptizing Gentiles!  Then there was a fall out between Paul and Barnabas.  The dream team splits.  Barnabas heads off with Mark and Paul journeys with Silas instead.

Now this trip is not going so well!  Bouncing from city to city they can’t plant a toehold in any of them.  They were prevented… they weren’t allowed!  Whatever form this took, it sounds to me like a lot of angry faces and slammed doors.

Faced any rejection lately?  Impeccable skills and a flawless resume have not turned up one good job interview?  Your past experience in a certain ministry field is now turning out underwhelming results?  What gives?  What can you do to find where God can use you best?

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said we were to “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”  You have probably heard somewhere before that the verbs for “Ask,” “seek” and “knock” are all present tense verbs in Greek… meaning they should be translated:  “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” and “keep on knocking.”

That is what Paul does.  He can’t find the place he is suppose to serve… so he keeps moving.  He Troaskeeps going and going until he reaches the city of Troas.  Now Troas was a sea port.  That means that Paul and Silas plumb ran out of real estate!  In the next few verses God is going to open their eyes to a brand new mission field.  But first, imagine the two of them “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”  They are painted into a corner, at the end of the road… Troas!  Maybe that’s where you are right now…  out of options and very desperate.

God may have you there because he wants to open your eyes to a whole new way of viewing your world.  And this often comes at the end of where your own ingenuity has taken us.  So don’t despair.  Keep asking!  Keep seeking!  Keep knocking!  God will grant a vision in His timing!

Many years ago, a young writer interviewed the legendary IBM president Thomas J. Watson.  He was given some unusual advice by the industrialist:  “It’s not exactly my line,” Watson said, “but would you like me to give you a formula for writing success?  It’s quite simple, really.  Double your rate of failure.”

Watson continued, “You’re making a common mistake.  You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success.  But it isn’t at all.  Failure is a teacher—a harsh one perhaps, but the best.”

Then he looked at the young writer and asked him a critical question:  “You say you have a desk full of rejected manuscripts?  That’s great!  Every one of those manuscripts was rejected for a reason.  Have you pulled them to pieces looking for that reason?”

Arthur Gordon, the man who had interviewed Watson, went on to become a nationally known author and editor.  He had originally gone to Watson for an interview, but Watson gave him something much more precious.  He gave him a new perspective on failure.   (Gary J. Oliver in How to Get it Right After You’ve Gotten it Wrong, pp. 26-27.)

Failing?  Running out of ideas?  Do what Paul did… keep moving… keep listening.

God may be ready to completely blow your mind with what He has in store for you.

Did I Make the Team?

phone ringingPick Up the PhoneGod‘s Call on Your Life

(Part One of Five)

Philippians 3:13 & Luke 7:30

A few Sundays ago I began my sermon with an illustration regarding the NFL draft.  I started by saying that the story I was going to share would probably only reach the men that morning.  Then I asked who was following the draft.  5 women and no men raised their hands.  Go figure!

A story on Yahoo! Sports caught my eye that weekend:  “E.J. Manuel says he didn’t share the rest of the football world’s surprise when the Buffalo Bills made him the first and only quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night. The Florida State signal caller was in on the secret that the Bills coveted him highly and the two sides officially became a pair when the team selected him with the No. 16 pick after trading back from the eighth slot earlier in the night.   Manuel was taken offguard earlier in the night, however, when someone accidentally dialed a wrong number and gave him a slight rush of excitement over the possibility of top 5 money.

E.J. Manuel said his green room hotline phone rang at pick 3. He got excited, then the voice asked if they could talk to Dion Jordan.”

 That had to be a rude disappointment.

It reminds me of when my boys were involved in sports.  After a couple of days or sometimes weeks of practice, they would wait all day by the phone to see if they made the team.  It was a tense time for them… and us!

Some of you are like that athlete in the green room or one of my sons.  You have been waiting ever so long for that phone to ring… for it to provide the answer to your future.  You want to say:  “God, could you help me out here.  I feel like I’m pick #167 or something.  Am I even wanted?  Will I get picked at all?”saints logo

Well first let me say:  Relax, you made the team!  You were picked the day you accepted Christ!  He gave you a new team (the Saints), a jersey (a robe of white) and a team motto:  “If God be for us!  Who can possible be against us?”

But maybe you are more interested in the specifics… What position will you play on the team?  What areas should you be training?  When will you get a chance to score for the kingdom?

I want to start this series with a pair of my favorite verses regarding calling.   The first of these is at the end of Paul’s mini-testimony in Philippians, chapter three.  “…I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”  There was a reason God had picked him for the team and Paul was in hot pursuit of that reason.  Are you?

The other verse is more an observation by Luke, than a complete thought.  In talking about the adversaries of Jesus in his Gospel, he write:  “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves…” (Luke 7:30)

Putting these two thoughts together I come up with two principles:  1) God has a purpose for your life that He wants each of us to pursue.  (i.e. You made the team!) and  2)  You can either accept or reject that calling.

Who God calls as a higher pick than you should be of no consequence.  Just pick up the phone and get your assignment.  That could be Him calling right now!