Rick Warren - Building Character at Work
Now today we're continuing in part six of my series on building character. And if you missed my last message, you missed Kay's message on blind spots before that, be sure to go online and watch those two previous messages. In one of the messages in this series, George and Tandra Gregory talked about how marriage helps us build character. Today I want us to look at how God uses your work to build character. Your job, your career. Now that's important because the fact is you're gonna spend approximately 40% of your life at work in other words at your job. That's about 150,000 hours over your lifetime and surveys show that about a third of all people say I hate my job and other surveys show that nearly two third's of people are in the wrong job. You may not know this but you can even like your job and still not be in the job that's best suited for how God shaped you. Even many people who are successful at their work really don't feel fulfilled by their work. They're making money and they have a lot of income but they don't really feel fulfilled by their work and they're not really growing spiritually at work.
Now because you're gonna spend almost half of your life working God is deeply interested in your work. Work is a part of God's will for your life. It's part of your calling and if we're followers of Jesus there's no such thing as just a job. God has five purposes for your life here on earth and your job is one of the places that you can work on and fulfill four of those five purposes. Now on your outline I have noted that your job is a place to do four of those five purposes. First my job is a place to develop and use the talents that God gave me. And when you develop and use the talents God gave you that's called your ministry. Then your job is a place to honor God by giving him your best and that's your worship. And then your job is place to show and tell others about God's love for them. That's called your mission. And then your job is a place to grow in character, Christ-like character. That's your maturity.
Now today I just wanna focus on the fourth purpose. Work helping you grow to spiritual maturity. Work is an integral part of your spiritual development. You can not grow to spiritual maturity without work. You can't relax your way into spiritual maturity. Now each week in this series we've reminded you that God's number one purpose in your life is for you to grow up spiritually. And our model in character is of course Jesus. Notice here on the screen, Romans 8:29 "From the very beginning God decided that those who came to him should become like His Son". God's number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus. To grow in character. And Ephesians 4:13 there on your outline says this "real maturity is that measure of development which is meant by 'the fullness of Christ.'" Spiritual maturity means the more I become like Christ the more mature I become.
Now how does God use your work? How does God use my work to build my character? Well he uses many different ways but this weekend I want us to just look at three ways. He uses pressure at work. He uses problems at work, and he uses people at work. Are any of you vaguely familiar with these three things? Yes I'm sure you are. So let's look at it. Three ways God wants you to grow spiritually and become like Christ through your job. First God uses pressure at work to teach me responsibility. God uses pressure at work to teach me responsibility. Every job has it's own pressures and stress can be beneficial if you use it to motivate you to grow. Have you ever had to complete a task that you didn't feel like doing? Yes. Have you ever had to complete a task that you didn't feel competent to do? Yes. Well you were being responsible even though you didn't feel like doing it.
Ephesians 5:15 says this "Live live, then with a due sense of responsibility". Circle that, we are to live life with a sense of responsibility. Not as people who don't know the meaning of life but as those who do. The more you understand God has a purpose for your life, the more responsible you need to be. You see work is a school of responsibility where we learn how to be responsible. And of course that's a big deal because today responsibility is declining in our society. You don't ever hear anybody talking about their responsibility, you hear everybody talking about my rights but there are no rights without responsibilities. The courts are clogged by people who say it's not my fault and if you talk to most psychologists or therapists today they'll tell you that personal responsibility is the key to mental health. It's one of the big keys. It's also one of the big keys to spiritual growth. It's also one of the keys to career success. We grow by being given responsibility. Responsibility stretches us. Every time you're given a responsibility it's an opportunity for spiritual and emotional and personal growth. You say well give me some examples.
All right. Let me give you three or four ways to develop responsibility at work. This is how you grow in Christ-like character because Christ was responsible. How do I grow in responsibility? Well number one here write this down. By keeping my promises. When you make a promise at work you need to keep that promise at work. Psalm 15 verse four says this that "God blesses the one who always does what he promises, no matter how much it may cost". Is your word good? Are you a person of responsibility that people know that when you say it it's gonna be done? Do you keep your promises? That's a mark of responsibility.
Let me give you another one. By meeting deadlines. By meeting deadlines you grow in responsibility. Proverbs 18 verse nine "One who is slack in his work is a brother to the one who destroys". That word there in Hebrew is actually the word saboteur like somebody who's sabotaged something. And the bible says that when you waste your employers time at work you're like a saboteur. You're sabotaging the business. You're sabotaging the company. You're destroying the business every time you waste time.
And so meeting deadlines is another way of showing responsibility. Let me give you a third one. Ephesians six tells us that we show responsibility by working without supervision. By working without supervision. Ephesians six, six and seven says this "Don't work hard only when your master is watching". In other words the boss is in town. "Work hard all the time, as though working for Christ".
Now notice there he switches from saying I'm working for my boss to say I'm actually working for my real boss, Christ. And he says whether my boss is in the office or not, whether my supervisor's checking up on me or not, Christians should be known to not need a supervisor because they work on their own initiative. They give their best without having to be supervised 'cause they're doing it for God. They have character and they're responsible and they do their best work because they realize that God is their ultimate boss. Luke 16 verse ten Jesus said this "Unless you're faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones and if you cheat even a little then you won't be honest in greater responsibilities".
Now he's talking here specifically about the responsibility of being honest, of having integrity. Makes this first makes me think about a guy in our church who once told me about a customer who asked him to do a dishonest favor and the customer justified it by saying, it's okay buddy your boss is out. But this Christian guy in our church replied well my real boss is never out. And that's a good thing okay? That's the mentality of saying I'm not working for my boss, I'm working for my savior. I'm working for God. Who do you work for? Makes a big difference than if you're responsible or irresponsible. If you think you're just working for the government you might be irresponsible. If you think you're working for a boss you don't respect you might be irresponsible. But if you realize you're really working for God then it's a matter of stewardship.
Let me give you a fourth way to show responsibility. By controlling costs. By controlling costs. Did you know the bible has something to say about this? Luke 16 verse 11 and 12 says this, "if you're untrustworthy in other words unreliable, about worldly wealth who will trust you with with the true riches of Heaven? And if you're not faithful with other people's money, why should you be entrusted with money of your own"? You know I was thinking as I read that verse just now some employees spend their company's money you'd think they were the government. That there's an unlimited budget. This verse tells us that God says the greatest test of your character is how you handle money. Do you manage it well? Do you act as if somebody else's business is your business? Do you you know accept ownership even though it's not yours? You see God is watching and God says I will determine how much I bless your life on how faithful you are with somebody else's money.
So let me ask you, how would you rate yourself on being responsible at work? How would you rate yourself with your own finances? Do either of those show that God can trust you with greater blessings? So the first thing God wants to do with our work is teach us responsibility. Teach us how to be responsible. Let me give you a second way God wants to use your job to help you grow. A second way God wants to help you grow spiritually is this God uses problems at work to teach me character. He uses pressure to teach me responsibility. He uses problems to teach me character. Now there are no problem free jobs. And every job has it's own unique problems.
Let me tell you about one I just read recently. I read an accident claim form that was published in a magazine. It's pretty funny. An accident claim form turned in by a bricklayer to the Republic Insurance Company. This is unusual problem. It said this, Dear sir, I am a bricklayer by trade and on the day of my accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of bricks left over. Now rather than carry these 500 pounds of brick down six stories, I decided to lower them in a barrel over the side by using the pulley which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. After loading the barrel full of bricks, I went down to the ground and untied the rope holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the pounds of bricks.
Now he says, he goes on, you will note in block 11 of my accident reporting form that I weigh a 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forget to let go of the rope. Needless to say I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel coming down. This explains my fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly I continued my rapid ascent not stopping until the fingers on my right hand were two knuckles deep in the pulley. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and I was able to hold on tightly onto the rope in spite of my pain. At approximately the same time however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel in the barrel now weighed approximately only 50 pounds.
I refer you again to my weight in block number 11. As you might imagine I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the laceration on my legs and lower body. Now the encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell on top of the pile of bricks. Fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I'm sorry to report however that as I lay there on the bricks in pain and unable to stand watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my presence of mind and I let go of the rope. Thank you Joe B. Sheraton.
Now I hope the problems at your job this last week weren't that bad. But the fact is we all have problems at work and God wants to use those problems to build your character. Romans chapter five verses three and four says this "We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know that they're good for us that they help us learn to be patient and patience develops strength of character". I want you to circle strength of character. You've heard me say before that God is far more interested in your character than he is in your comfort. He's far more interested in perfecting you than he is in pampering you. God's goal in your life and in your job, in your work, is not to make you comfortable. God's goal in your life is to make you grow up. And he uses problems in your life to teach you character.
Whenever you've got a problem at work you need to ask not why, why am I having this problem, why is this happening to me, you need to ask what. Don't ask why ask what. Ask what do you want me to learn from this God? What are you trying to teach me? What's the character problem in my life? What's my blind spot? What do you want me to work through in this difficulty that it's revealing? What value, what attitude, what action, what responsibility needs to be focused on? What character issue in my life needs to be worked on? When you so allowed this problem in my life so what do you want me to work on? You see remember this simple truth. While you're working on your job God is working on you. And God, did you know that God can even use temptation the temptations that you face at work? A lot of people, many believers say, you know I don't really like working with unbelievers because I get tempted all the time.
Well you're gonna get tempted with believers as much with unbelievers and it's not a sin to be tempted. It's a sin to give in to temptation. It's not a sin to be tempted. You're gonna be tempted the rest of life no matter where you work. And so it's a myth that if I just get around Christians I won't be tempted by a lot of stuff. Jesus, the bible says, was tempted in every way like as we yet he never sinned. He never gave in. So it's not a sin to be tempted 'cause Jesus never sinned but he was tempted. Did you know that God can even use the temptations in your life for good? He can even use those temptations to build character because temptation is simply a choice. I can choose to do good or I can choose to do bad. Every time I choose to do bad, temptation harms me. Every time I choose to do good, temptation becomes a stepping stone for growth.
You see you can't justly truly say I'm an honest person unless you've ever been tempted to be dishonest. You can't say I'm a fair person unless you've every been tempted and had the opportunity and the choice to be unfair. You can't say I'm a responsible person unless you've ever had the choice or opportunity or temptation to be irresponsible. Every temptation that comes into your life, listen, is an opportunity for growth. Every temptation is an opportunity for growth. It's an opportunity to change your character, to build it, to develop strength of character. First Corinthians 10:13 is a wonderful promise. "Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience". In other words we all are tempted in the same way. "And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. And when you're tempted he will show you a way out so you will not give in to it". When you say it was too strong, I couldn't handle it. You're lying because God says I will never allow more on you than I put in you to bear it up.
Now the reality is that sometimes problems at work are just overwhelming and you feel like you're going under and you feel like you're about to be swallowed up. What do you do then? What do you do when you're overwhelmed? Well you do what Paul did when he was overwhelmed. In Second Corinthians chapter one verse eight and nine Paul says this, "I think you ought to know about the hard times we went through in Asia". These are times he was overwhelmed. He said "we were really crushed and overwhelmed and we feared we would never live through it. We saw how powerless we were to help ourselves". He said we are down, down, doobie doo down, down. We're powerless, we're overwhelmed. He said "but even that was good for then we put everything into the hands of God alone who alone could save us and he did help us".
Now listen very closely. When you're in a problem at work that is so overwhelming you think I'm going under with this, I'm not gonna survive this you do two things. First, like Paul, you turn the problem over to God through prayer. Say God, like Paul says, I'm overwhelmed. I'm helpless. I'm confused. I feel like I'm not gonna make it through. You cry out to God. You turn the problem over to God through prayer.
That's the first thing you do. Now the second thing you do is also in that passage but you probably didn't notice it. Six times in that verse it uses the word we. We, circle the six times the word we. Uses the word us twice. Uses the word we six times. You might circle those. Notice that when Paul was going through an overwhelming circumstance in his job, he was not alone. And this is the second key to handling stress at work. You need to be in a small group. You need to join a small group of friends who will study the bible with you every week, who will pray for you with you and for you every week, and who can encourage you when you've had a tough day at work.
The small group that I've been in now for probably 20 years now, everyone of us have come to that small group at different times with our job, with our work, with the things that we were doing and had to just unload them there in a safe spot people could pray with us and for us. You need to do that. If you're not in a small group, one of the ways you're gonna grow is get in a small group and be able to talk about the problems that you face at work. Okay? God uses responsibilities, God uses pressures at work to teach us responsibility. And God uses problems at work to teach us character. Let me give you a third one. God uses people at work to teach me how to really love. To teach me how to really love.
Now this is so important because one of the most important skills that you have to learn at work is how to get along with other people and this is so important to your Christian faith. It's so important to your spiritual growth because life is all about learning how to love. Life is the laboratory for learning to love. This is the most important lesson in life, learning to love. Why? Because God is love and he wants his children to be like him and so he's saying the most important thing for you to learn in life is not some job skill, most important thing for you to learn is life is how to love God and love other people. That's why God says in First Corinthians 16 verse four "do all your work in what, love". Circle that. Do all your work in love no matter what kinda work whether you're an accountant or an astronaut or a driver or a teacher, whatever you do do all your work in love. If you're a gardener you do your work in love. If you're a grocer you do your work in love.
Let me ask you a very personal question. Why do you do what you do? Well some of you way well I just put food on the table. That's a not a good enough reason. You're wasting your life if that's all your doing, putting food on the table. Why do you do what you do? You could be using whatever job you have, it could be the most mindless or menial job but you can use it to grow in character. Why do you do what you do? The highest motivation for any kind of work is love. And when you do anything in love that pleases God. You can rake and please God. You can pick up garbage and please God. You can clean a hospital room or a hotel room and please God. Why? By doing it in love. You can do anything in love. You know sometimes we do the right thing but we do it for the wrong motivation. And God says you don't get any credit for that. God is more interested in why you do what you do than he is in actually what you do.
Whatever you do, the bible says, do all your work in love. And you can't do something in love unless somehow you're going to have to influence people. You know people ask me all the time Rick how have you kept at the same work for 40 years? Well the answer is simple. I do it out of love. I love God and I love people. Love is the ultimate motivation. Love is what keeps you going when you feel like giving up. First Thessalonians chapter one verse three says this "We remember before God how you put your faith into practice and how your love makes you work so hard". How your love makes your work so hard. Work motivated by love keeps you going.
Now do you agree that at work you have to deal with all kinds of strange people? Yeah. Don't raise your hands but do you agree that some people are hard to love? Yeah. I wonder how many of you have to work with somebody you don't like. Don't point at 'em. Don't point at 'em. But you know who I'm talking about. You have to work with somebody you don't like. If you're going to grow up spiritually it means you're gonna have to learn to love those people. And if you're not becoming more and more loving then you're not growing spiritually. You may think you are but it's that simple. God wants you to grow in love. Now I will confess to you as your pastor, that by nature, in my human nature I'm not a loving person.
By the way neither are you by nature. As humans by nature we're pretty selfish people. We're pretty self-centered and nobody's more self-centered than a baby. The baby says feed me. Change me. Meet my needs. The baby can only thing of itself. That's immaturity when you can only think of yourself. And unless somebody teaches you how to be loving, then we grow up selfish. Now God has to teach us some lessons in loving and one of the places he does this is at work. One of the places he wants to teach you genuine love is through your job. How does he do that? Well you're not gonna like this but he does it by putting people around you who are the exact opposite of you. They're very different from you. God intentionally puts people around you who irritate you. I call 'em heavenly sandpaper. God puts people around you intentionally rub you the wrong way and they just get on your irritation.
Now it's easy to love people who are lovely but God wants to teach you to love the unlovely. And so he puts some real jerks around you. He puts some really irritating people around you. He puts some people who see life exactly the opposite way as you do. And you know what? He does this intentionally. In order to teach you love. It's easy to love people like you but he wants you to learn to love people that you consider unlovable or unlovely or unloving. Now to get very practical I've listed on your outline some very specific kinds of people that God wants you to learn how to love. So write these down. These are types of cranky co-workers. Types of cranky co-workers.
Okay write this down. First demanding people. Demanding people. These are the little dictators in the office. The little Napoleon's and they're controlling and they're intimidating and they dominate everybody. And they're oppressive and they can be rude and they make unrealistic demands and God says I want you to learn to love them. To return love even when they're demanding.
Here's another kind of people, dishonest people. These are the snake in the grass people. They don't have any integrity. They lie to you. They cheat. They tell you one thing and then they tell somebody else another thing. They promise you one thing and they deliver another. They stab you in the back. They can't be trusted. God wants you to learn to love dishonest people.
How about disagreeable people? That's a third group. These are the chronic complainers at your work site. They're the people who are always negative. They're always grumpy. They're always grouchy. They're never satisfied. They're never content. They love to argue, they love to complain. They can blow up without notice and they're very, very negative. You know who I'm talking about. God wants you to learn to love them. Another group at work are defensive people. These are the touchy people. They are thin-skinned. They get hurt so easily. They get offended so easily, everything you say it's kinda like walking on eggshells around them because you worry that if you say the wrong thing then they're gonna get hurt. God wants you to love them. And then even demeaning people.
Demeaning people. These are people in your office or your work site who are always putting you down. They've got the comeback. They think they're so witty. They're so insecure that they have to attack other people or you continually. They're insulting. They're disrespectful, they treat you like dirt. They're critical of everything you do. These demeaning people. How does God want me to show love to demanding and demeaning and discouraging and all these different kinds of people I've just given you? Well the bible tells us. Romans 12 verse 18. It says this, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone".
Now stop there for just a minute and look at that verse. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. God is realistically enough to realize there are some people you just can't live at peace with. No matter what you do, they're not gonna live at peace with you. So he just says as far as it depends on you, you make sure it's not your fault. You show love. You show grace. You show mercy. You show kindness. If it is possible as far as it depends on you, try to live at peace with everyone. Some people you just can't live at peace with but you do your best.
Now in Romans chapter 12 down in verse 16 to 18 it gives us a number practical suggestions on how to do this, how to live at peace with other people. Here are the suggestions in Romans 12. "Work happily together". "Treat everyone with kindness", that means everybody. "Don't become set in your own opinions". That causes a lot of rancor and conflict. "Never pay back evil for evil". You wanna be above people, you don't wanna get even with them, if you get even with people you're at the same level they are. You're no better than they are. You wanna respond with forgiveness and love. "Do all you can to live at peace with everyone".
Now let me summarize this. Whether God wants to teach me responsibility or character or love, it's gonna be hard because I have to respond to people the way Jesus would. Why should I do that? Why should I make such an effort to become like Jesus on my job? Well let me give you two extremely important reasons as we close this down. The first thing is this, the bible tells us that God is going to evaluate your work one day. Your job, your work, your career. God is gonna evaluate your work one day.
First Corinthians 3:13 says this "One day the quality of each person's work will be clearly seen when the Day of Christ inspects it". In other words everything I've done in my career and everything you've done in your career will be seen because Christ is gonna expect it. He's talking about the day of judgement. "On that day everyone's work will be tested by fire to show the character and quality of what each of us has done".
Notice God says you may think nobody's watching and there may be nobody watching, but I'm watching and one day everybody is gonna have revealed the character and quality of their work. That's a reason to always do your best at work. There's another reason and it's this. God is going to give eternal rewards for whatever is done in love. God is gonna give eternal rewards for whatever is done in love.
Hebrews 6:10 says this, "God is always fair. He will not forget how hard you have worked and the love that you have demonstrated for his name". You need to remember that verse on Monday morning. God is not gonna forget how hard you work you know giving it your best shot and the love that you show for his name. This is the reason why God says your work matters to him. Because one of the four purposes of life is becoming like Christ and God says you're gonna learn responsibility, you're gonna develop character and you're gonna show love. You're gonna grow in love in working with other people in the marketplace. Let me pray for you:
Heavenly Father this has been a very practical message because we all have to work at different seasons in our lives and a lot of times we feel like it's worthless or fruitless or it's just putting job uh money on the table or bread on the table. And yet we know that you wanna use even our work to help us grow in character. Help us to realize that all work matters to you. And that you wanna help us to learn responsibility and you wanna help us to grow in character and you wanna help us to learn to really love.
Now you pray. Say Lord... in your mind just say this, say:
Jesus I wanna learn to be more responsible by keeping my promises, by meeting deadlines, by keeping my word and by doing all of the things that show responsibility. And Lord I want, I personally want to grow in character and use even the problems in my life and in my job to help me to be more patient, to be more trusting, to be more joyful, to rely on you, to show self-control and all of the Fruit of the Spirit. Finally Jesus I want you to use my job to teach me how to really love people. I want to be known as a great loving person. And I ask you to love people through me even the people that I find difficult to love.
If you've never invited Jesus Christ into your life, say:
Jesus Christ come into my life and fill me with your love. Remove the fear and remove the regrets and remove the shame and remove the insecurities and fill me Jesus Christ with your spirit of love. I wanna follow you the rest of my life and I wanna trust you with my life and I humbly ask this in your name I pray, amen.