Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

 
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I explained that I’m taking a short, three-day detour from Genesis in order to share a wonderful hymn about God and work. “For Believers Before Work,” also known as “Forth in Thy/Your Name,” was written by Charles Wesley in 1749. It offers a moving prayer of dedication to God as we think about and commence our daily work.

Here are the first three of six stanzas:

Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

Preserve me from my calling’s snare,
And hide my simple heart above,
Above the thorns of choking care,
The gilded baits of worldly love.

Many things strike me here. In the first stanza, work is not just something we do because it’s necessary for survival or required by God’s command. Rather, work is a context in which to know God better. We are “resolved to know” the Lord, not only in so-called “spiritual” endeavors but in “all” we think, speak, or do. As we work, we not only offer ourselves and our service to God but also we have the opportunity to know God better. (If your work sometimes feels difficult or repetitive, you might consider the fact that the Son of God worked as a carpenter for most of his adult life.)

Similarly, in the second verse, we are invited to find God’s presence in all of our works. I wonder how our experience of daily work might be different if we consciously sought to find God’s presence in our labor?

The second stanza also follows closely the language of Romans 12:2, which urges us to be transformed in our minds so that we might “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (KJV). According to Wesley’s poetic paraphrase, “In all my works Thy presence find, And prove Thy good and perfect will,” we discern and demonstrate God’s will in all of our actions, including our daily work, as we present our bodies to God in whole-life worship (Rom 12:1).

The third stanza offers a word of caution in asking that we be preserved “from [our] calling’s snare.” All of us are called to God and to serve him with our entire lives. Whatever specific form this takes – our particular calling – can be something that turns us to God or away from God. Wesley understands that we can love our work too much, turning it into an idol we worship rather than an offering of worship to the living God.

Tomorrow, I’ll conclude my reflections on Wesley’s hymn. For now, let me encourage you to ponder the following questions.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Which words or phrases in “For Believers Before Work” speak to you? Why? Do you find God’s presence in your daily work? When? How? In what ways might your work be a snare that draws you away from the Lord?

PRAYER:

Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

Preserve me from my calling’s snare,
And hide my simple heart above,
Above the thorns of choking care,
The gilded baits of worldly love.

Thee may I set at my right hand,
Whose eyes mine inmost substance see,
And labor on at Thy command,
And offer all my works to Thee.

Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray,
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day.

For Thee delightfully employ
Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to Heaven. Amen.

“For Believers Before Work” by Charles Wesley (1749)

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