Pointing others to Christ

daisy-quiet-lifeBy Joe LaGuardia

We Christians are called to point other people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and draw attention to God’s glory instead of our own.

In a society that thrives on social networking, publicity, and instant communication, it is difficult to make these easy challenges a reality.

Instead of pointing people to Christ, we are too busy trying to stand up for Christ.  Instead of drawing attention to God’s glory, we build bigger schemes in drawing greater attention to ourselves.  Instead of glorifying God, we find new ways to be divisive or abrasive.

But the Bible is very clear on this issue.  Paul tells the Thessalonians, for instance, to “make it an ambition to lead a quiet life, working with your hands” (1 Thess. 4:11).  Peter gives similar advice: “Conduct yourselves honorably among the pagans . . . so that they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God on the day of God’s visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

As a pastor and author, I am acutely aware of how being a leader, preacher, and teacher in the community creates a tension with these commands.  I realized this when I had to set up a website for my book.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, and I certainly was not in the habit of trying to market my writing or my book on a large scale, but I had to do it to try and get it into the hands of people who need it.  Also, I had an obligation to my co-author to try my hardest to push it.

The spotlight can be rewarding at times, but it has its burdens as well.  Sometimes I’d rather crawl in a hole with a good book to read rather than to share.

I am not the only person who has this kind of stress and conflicted feelings.  In fact, many Christians I know would rather live a quiet life than be so public with their actions.  Social media does not help the cause, that’s for sure.

Peter does not leave us hanging when we wonder how it is that we are to “live honorably” and try our hardest to draw people’s attention to God.  In fact, his first letter to the early Christian church spells out exactly how to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus.

First, Peter tells us that we are born again and are to reflect the values and principles of Father God.  We spend so much time talking about being born again, however, we forget what it is that we are born into.

Peter states that we are born into the holiness of God (1 Peter 1:13-16).  This requires self-discipline and hope in Christ against steep odds.  It requires that we desire not the lusts and power of this world, but the humility and power of the cross.

Peter also encourages readers to be a “servant of God” first, and a good citizen of the community second (1 Peter 2:13-17).  Christians sometimes forget that we can glorify God by obeying the law and honoring those who are in leadership over us.

Although the Bible reminds us that all human institutions and governments are, well, human, God still expects us to lead lives of righteousness within the framework in which God has called us.  No matter if we are under the umbrella of capitalism, socialism, communism, or whatever -ism, we can still serve Christ and serve others.  If we are drawing people to God, it really doesn’t make a difference what political system we live in.

Living honorably also means being a good employee, child, parent, grandparent, and friend.   We are not to retaliate in face of persecution; nor are we to give people a hard time or a coarse word.  Instead, we are to “love one another, have a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

When we are divisive, attention-seeking, self-centered, and try to get our way, we work against one of the most basic commands the Bible teaches all believers.  We are, like Christ, to follow the way of the cross and point people to God’s heart instead of our own egos.

Spirituality is helpful in the workplace

bible study handsIt pays to be spiritual.

A few weeks ago, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, that outlined factors that benefit or hinder employee productivity.

At first glance, the numbers are dismal: A majority of workers in the United States and abroad are burned out; over half of the people surveyed say that their place of employment does not provide time for creative and strategic brainstorming.

Only 36% of employees feel like their work is meaningful, while only 25% “connect” to their company’s mission.

The researchers explain that companies can turn these statistics around by being intentional in meeting four “core needs” of their employees, including physical, mental, emotional, and–oddly–spiritual needs.

This prognosis is not from a spiritual or religious bias.  Both the survey and the company that performed the survey are secular in nature.  Yet, spirituality is named as a significant factor in increasing a worker’s overall health as well as commitment to his or her job.

For this study, the researchers argued that meeting one’s spiritual needs means helping employees make meaning of their work.  They encourage companies to connect them to the larger needs in society and the demands that communities have for providing a better world.

“Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations,” they write.  Meeting a worker’s spiritual need can make “the highest single impact of any variable in our survey.”

The Bible has attested to this fact for thousands of years.  Attend any place of worship and talk to any number of clergy, and they will affirm that people are spiritual beings, and connecting to something larger than themselves is an innate part of being human.

No wonder the first of the ten commandments is to avoid putting any idol before God (Exodus 20:3).  But we are so spiritual, we bow to almost anything that provides us with a sense of meaning.

We idolize money and progress, bowing to the almighty buck because we measure success by the amount we make.

We idolize beauty, worshiping celebrities and exercise plans that promise to make us mini-gods of our own choosing.

We idolize relationships, seeking fulfillment by placing our trust in each other, hoping that the “right” person will fill that vacuous, nagging hole in our heart.

It takes a survey in the world of business to tell us something we Christians have known for years: We were made to worship a God that is the only one who can fill that empty hole in our heart.

The author of Ecclesiastes, for instance, states that one’s work and toil are burdensome, but trusting in God can make our lives meaningful and valuable.

“What gain have the workers from their toil?,” Ecclesiastes 3:9 states, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (vv. 12-13).

After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, God gave them various “curses” as consequences for their sin.  Eve’s consequence was the pain and hardship brought on by giving birth.

Adam’s consequence was to work and toil in an unforgiving landscape.  They faced two different kinds of labor, but labor nonetheless.

A life of spiritual formation puts this lesson in perspective.  We realize that we have to work to make ends meet, and that most forms of work–no matter how meaningful–gets burdensome at times.

Yet, God gives us the ability to connect with Him in order to make a difference in the world around us, whether we work in a cubicle or farm the land.  Building time for spiritual exercises into our work schedule will only further that connection.