Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place — and I did not know it!’”
Throughout this past week, I have been using the wisdom of Brother Lawrence to help us learn how we might recognize God’s presence in our workplaces. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to get to the point where, unlike Jacob in Genesis 28:16, we might say about the places where we work: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did know it! In fact, I know it every day!”
Today, we end our reflections based on The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. I want to draw our attention to a couple of sentences in the “Fourth Conversation” between Lawrence and Father Joseph de Beaufort. The focus of these sentences is sanctification. That’s a word you don’t hear much anymore, though it’s an essential dimension of our growth in Christ. Sanctification is the process by which we become more like God, more holy. When we first receive God’s grace in Christ, we are declared holy by God. We are saints. But our lives are not instantly transformed and perfected. Rather, we begin a lifelong process of becoming more and more sanctified, more and more like God.
We often think of sanctification in terms of new things we do to help us grow in godliness. We devote ourselves to prayer, worship, Bible reading, Christian community, generosity, justice, and the like. Through actions motivated by the Spirit, we are shaped in heart, mind, and behavior. We participate in a process of sanctification, something motivated, empowered, and governed by God through the Spirit.
What Lawrence has to say about sanctification is a bit different from the standard Christian understanding. He explains, “Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works (assuming they are not sinful of themselves). Rather, sanctification depends upon doing for God’s sake what we commonly do for our own sake.” So, becoming more like God is not primarily a matter of doing new things. Instead, it is learning to do “for God’s sake what we commonly do for our own sake.”
How fascinating! And challenging! When it comes to work, then, sanctification is a matter of doing my daily work — not primarily for my benefit, and not so that I might be fulfilled or make money. Rather, I will become more like God when I learn to do my daily work for God’s sake, for his purposes and glory.
This perspective reminds me of a passage in Ephesians, where Paul says that slaves should do their work not primarily for their earthly masters but, rather, for their heavenly Master. They are to be “slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6). Lawrence would add that by working for God’s sake, they become more like God in the process.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you consider your daily work, does it make sense to you to do this work for God’s sake?
If you were working each day for God and his purposes, how might this make a difference in the way you work? In your goals? In your relationships? In your practices?
Gracious God, thank you for the calling you give each of us to live our whole life for your sake. Forgive us for how easily we seek to serve you in some things but not in others. Teach us how to do for you that which we do for ourselves. In particular, we ask that you would help us to do our daily work for you. May you be glorified in our work and may we become more like you in the process.