I really like this verse in Proverbs: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”,1 or a crushed spirit will sap you of your energy. It gives us very clear direction for our work. Our work, even when mundane, needs to be an offering to God. We need to make that offering our best work, regardless of what work we are called to do.
For me, when it comes to work, it all boils down to the idea of “working to make a living vs. working to make a difference.” To fulfill our task and calling, the attitude with which you choose to work can make all the difference. Working as a Christian means fulfilling your calling with joy and passion, but this is not an easy task for most of us. While many of us are eager to get to work and have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for what we do, I am sure we all have also had days where the “stuff” we needed to get done piles up and hampers that joy. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
In my own life, I strive to make a difference in my work in the following ways. Perhaps this advice can guide you as you work to make a difference as opposed to working to make a dollar.
1. Challenge yourself to have epic conversations.
This past summer, while at a conference for Christian sports executives called The Daniel Summit, Bob Beaudine urged us to try to “have an epic conversation” every time you meet someone new. He told us it would be very challenging, but if we set that as a goal we would be both exhausted and very satisfied when we went to bed each night. He pointed out that as we seek to find a job we have a passion for, it might help to have had a truly epic conversation: one that you could repeat to others, one you could laugh about when recalling it, one you could remember easily. His conversations were epic!
2. Concern yourself much more with what you do than what your title is.
In the power of conversation, Tony Dungy, NFL Super Bowl winning coach, shares an interesting story with us in a devotional book called Uncommon. In the book, he writes about a time when a person called him and asked if he would be willing to contact a friend who had shared a common grief–that of losing a child. Tony agreed and made several phone calls to help council this man, and on one of the last calls, the man asked what Tony’s occupation was. Tony Dungy told him he was a football coach, and the man asked if it was “high school or college.” The person in need of council had no idea who Tony Dungy was. Tony never bothered to tell him. I think the lesson in this is pretty obvious. What you do (in and out of work) is much more important than who you are. I am fairly certain God could care less about what our title is or what our name badges says, but God does care a lot about what kind of impact we are having on those around us.
3. Strive to make each day your masterpiece.
Although conversations are great, action is also important. Many years ago, I challenged our high school basketball team in Carroll, Iowa, to not wear anything with our team name or school on it for one full day at a week-long team camp. We would be forced to show we were Christians, not by what we were wearing, but exclusively by our actions. I was shocked at the behavior we were able to show and even more shocked at the number of people that noticed and took the time to share their impressions with me. To this day I feel that this was God’s way of affirming the importance of working as Christians and showing our love to others as we work.
One example of someone who truly loved what they did and worked hard at what they did was a former player of mine. I assigned each player a one-day task before practice that required them to use and read a quote to the team, explaining to the team why this quote was both important to them personally and to the team. One two-sport athlete that played basketball and volleyball used a great quote from John Wooden’s book Wooden. It simply says, “Make each day your masterpiece.” This particular player lived out that verse very well. She poured all of her energy, passion, and positive attitude into each day. She had a genuine care for and interest in her teammates. Because of this, she was well liked, very well respected, and she enjoyed each activity every day. She certainly made the most of her time in college and in intercollegiate sports.
How are you making today a masterpiece? How do you concern yourself with more of what you do than what your title says? How do you have epic conversations with those you meet? Most importantly, how is your work an offering to God?