As this is a blog all about work, it seems right to ask the question then, can we apply them to our everyday work? Or does that somehow degrade them or perhaps seem like using something God given for our own gain.
Maybe it’s worth a brief foray into doctrine, theology and the Bible!
Work is a God given gift. Even before Adam and Eve’s fall he set them in the Garden of Eden to take care of it, and to nurture it. Something I suspect which was not without effort! We all know that work got a lot harder afterwards. Work remains a God-given gift though, and Ecclesiastes 5:19 states that to be happy in our toil is a gift from God!
We have examples of great figures in the Bible using not only their natural talents but exercising special giftings which gain them roles or help them to do the best in those positions (think of Joseph and Daniel). They may even use their natural abilities to serve an unbelieving or believing master (Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah). Lydia was a businesswoman in Acts who turns to Jesus through Paul’s ministry. Paul advises in 1 Corinthians 7:24 that 'each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them'. You don't have to change your job necessarily when you turn to Christ (though if you're in some kind of harmful or dishonest work, then you really should).
So work in itself cannot be a bad thing, and is most likely something our Master will want to use for his purposes. You should seek to minister to those around as best you can, at all times, and seek to complete the tasks before you (whether paid or unpaid work) as if you were serving the Lord himself (Colossians 3:23). And be encouraged that your Master sees what you do, and will be pleased with what you do, including those things done in secret.
It is of course possible that our Lord may call you to move on from where you are now. It is worth considering what skills, talents and giftings he has blessed you with. There are lots of books and teachings available around finding your giftings and lots of free online materials to help identify your inclinations and talents. Let them help guide you, rather than blindly believing any old output from the internet, and let the Holy Spirit form your thinking through other Christians, God's word, your intellect, your feelings and unique experiences and opportunities that then present themselves.
God will not have given you abilities he doesn't want you to use in His service. 'His service' may not mean within a specifically 'Christian' context. And he may not need you to use all of them all of the time. Certain ones may be useful in helping to provide for your needs; and others may be for a different kind of service.
Please don’t feel that God values a certain type of ability over another. The list of virtues contained in Proverbs 31’s description of a great woman, wife and mother are many and varied. She appears to be: a craftsperson (13, 19 & 24), businesswoman (18 &24), property owner and farmer (16), charity worker (20), and teacher (26). Now that’s multi-tasking!
Working with your hands rather than with your mouth or your brain is as valuable to God and his Kingdom as anything. No offence intended, but I’d rather be stranded on a desert island with a plumber, carpenter and engineer than a poet and a University Philosophy Lecturer. Though the latter two may help with the boredom once the practical elements had been taken care of.
We ALL have a part to play. We ALL have a place to serve. We ALL have something to contribute.
Finding that 'right' role takes prayer, persistence and the support of Christian friends, ready to offer support and advice; who can be a sounding board as you try and work out what God wants you to do. Why not create a mini-team and meet together to talk things through, over a coffee or a meal.
Map out your strengths, passions and things that others say you're good at or the kind of things they see happening when you're around (see paragraph above).
Find a website where there are lots of jobs listed with descriptions like National Careers Service and see if any leap out at you; any that make your pulse race. Do your abilities and talents truly match those required? Check out the job boards, like this one. Do the abilities mentioned need further development in you? Is it practical in your circumstances?
We believe in miracles, but consider whether the role is a viable one for you in your situation, with regards to current responsibilities, financial commitments or home location. Would God call you to something which damaging or impossible to fulfil? See if God suddenly changes those circumstances somehow.
Perhaps God is calling you to a composite career where you use some talents to earn money that then releases you to serve using other gifts in a different setting, perhaps in an unpaid capacity - both are work and equally valuable.
Finally, don't be afraid to admit that a path you have been examining no longer seems right. It may not be that you took a wrong turn, just that God wanted to show you that it wasn't the right one for you, so you could be fully committed to a different path.
God created you in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for you to do. If you've not done so already, go and find what those 'works' are and fulfil His purpose for you!
Frank Hutton is professional career coach. Visit Hutton&co to find out more.