How to keep your faith strong in a secular work environment

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

JOHN 16:33

As redeemed daughters of God, we spend our days on earth constantly passing between two worlds: our personal lives and the secular workplace. In the morning we leave our home where we are free to paint our lives with the joy and freedom that Jesus brings. But then as we arrive at work we step into a very different place where Jesus is unwelcome and our selves unwelcome because of him.

If you’re like me, you feel a very real tension between your two worlds and have not quite mastered the act of passing between the two seamlessly. Of course we understand that we shouldn’t act differently, and that we shouldn’t  fear the judgement and persecution of the secular world. However, we also firmly stand on the heritage of boldness and hope exemplified throughout scripture as we seek to live our faith out where it can be seen. (Matthew 5:14-15; Romans 1:16).

I confess that I struggle with my identity in Jesus and the identity that the world expects of me. I want the best of both worlds. I want to be regarded highly both in church and at work. I want to be able to express my faith boldly in both arenas without skipping a beat and without receiving dirty looks or being avoided.

You may be getting a sense that this topic applies to much more than just being Christian at work and you’d be right. Even with a heavenly calling on me, I can get caught up in sin in spite of myself. The line gets blurred constantly. Things like gossiping, grumbling against management decisions, or even participating in less-than-godly conversations just to fit in can knock me off course at work.

So how do we maintain our purpose and razor sharp focus while the ruler of the world works to render us inefficient? Here are some practical ways that we can reinforce and realign our minds in the face of this great “tug-of-war”. 

Commit to being in the word of God daily

The Word of God changes us as we read it. And as you are being changed, your heart will naturally linger over Truth as you go about your day, even if you aren’t directly thinking about it. Romans 15:4 says: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

Hope. This is what we need when in the thick of it every day. The world is an ugly place, and everyone acts ugly in it at times. But the scriptures were meant for our benefit and instruction so that as long as we don’t give up, all the encouargement of our heavenly Father would produce hope. Not “I hope I win the lottery hope.” The joy and confident expectation of our salvation which we all await. 

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

JOHN 14:26

[Author’s note: There is no substitute for reading scripture for yourself without the added opinions of Bible scholars and other authors. While commentaries and devotionals certainly have their places as we grow spiritually, I would exhort you to make a point of getting to know God’s word with all your heart and all your mind, and depend on the Holy Spirit to do what He is best at: teaching and guiding us. The point is that you will be letting it change your heart. And as you persevere in making scripture a priority on a daily basis, I think you will find, as I have, that you become hungrier for it and stronger from it.]

Gather together – whatever that looks like

Christians aren’t meant to work alone in a vacuum. We are wired for community, especially in a gospel-hostile environment. Do you happen to know any co-workers who are Christian? Or people who might be on the fence? Taking extra care to pray, discern and respect comfort zones, be empowered to approach someone about starting a bible study. Depending on circumstances, suggest meeting over lunch once or twice a month. Perhaps you could work through a published study, or just read chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible. And then see what happens.

I recently had this impression that I should approach a certain co-worker of mine to see if she would be interested. I honestly had no idea where she was in her walk of faith or if she was even Christian. To my complete surprise, she was super enthusiastic about the idea and told me she had always wanted to do a bible study but never had the chance or tools to think it possible. 

Perhaps you don’t know a soul who would be interested right now. That’s okay. In the meantime, consider asking one or two other people from your church or social circle. Meet regularly to study and pray. Don’t be afraid to share the highs and lows of what it means to be a Christian in a secular workplace.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

MATTHEW 18:20

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 PETER 2:9

Pray for your workplace

Make a commitment to pray regularly over your job, co-workers, leaders, organization, and physical workplace (if you have one). Pray that Jesus would be on display first and foremost in your words and actions. Pray for hearts to be softened in order to receive the gospel message and that they would come to know the Lord if they haven’t already. While your prayers do not have the power to accept Jesus on behalf of others, God will certainly hear your intercessions and work things to the good of those who will come to know him. You’ll be changed too, as you pray for others, the bible tells us that our hearts are being sanctified too.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 TIMOTHY 2:1-5

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

COLOSSIANS 4:5-6

Reflection

In what ways do you maintain a vibrant faith at work? What did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Witnessing without words

I was recently at a coffee shop chatting with a friend and a man came to sit at the table near us. Feeling his stares, we both turned to him with a questioning look. “Would you ladies mind if I drew you for practice?” He pointed to a large sketch pad and pencil. We agreed, and about 30 minutes later when we got up to leave, he held out his drawing of us. Delighted at his talent, I encouraged his perseverance in art and turned to leave. My friend, however stood still and bluntly asked him a question. “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?” I admit, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to such blatant evangelization. People nearby turned their heads to listen in and I silently prayed for her to wrap it up so we could leave.

For a long time I considered this as the only way we Christians could share our faith, and it turned me off the whole idea. As a follower of Jesus, I know that we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all the nations”; this isn’t an option. However, for years I chose to ignore this command because, let’s face it. I care way too much what people think of me. I could never be that bold. My reaction that day in the coffee shop was shameful, but a small seed was planted that day, what would mature when the time was right.

Thankfully the Lord has ways of bringing certain topics around again when we are ready. Recently I was studying Acts chapter 16 and it dawned on me that the aggressive brand of evangelization I had experienced was NOT the only way we are able to reach out to others in the world. It was the story of Paul and Silas in prison that taught me my preconceived notions of witnessing were inaccurate.

I highly recommend reading the chapter for yourself in order to place this passage into proper context, but here is a snippet:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Acts 16:25-34

Notice that up until this point, Paul and Silas had not been sitting in their cells trying to convert every single prisoner and guard. They had not been preaching, or shoving pamphlets in their faces, or aggressively asking about religious beliefs. They were simply praising God and singing, doing their own thing. They were basking in the joy that comes from knowing God’s greater plan was at work whether they were inside or outside the prison walls. 

What I love about this story, and why it gives me so much hope for my shy, terrified-to-share self is that while the seeds of faith were planted by faithful humans just doing their part, God orchestrated the larger circumstance of the earthquake to bring those seeds of faith to sprout. The point is that direct witness (sitting someone down to recount the gospel) is NOT necessary all the time. And that is okay. Sometimes we are simply called to be ourselves wherever we happen to be.

My faith hasn’t changed since that day back in the coffee shop, but it has matured. It is strong enough to permit me to enter into the hard dark places with people at work. I can no longer sit nearby to hurting people, comfortable in my salvation bubble, while the ones close by are hurting. Nor am I a lion tackling a gazelle, leaving it dazed on its back with a pamphlet in its hand. I’m gently and lovingly being myself, constant, in my daily path. And when circumstances arise, I am there doing my thing, in full belief that His will WILL be done.