Summer Wise Summer Not
Week 8 – Succeeding at Work
This summer we have been in a 8 week series called “Summer Wise Summer Not”.
Today’ we’re concluding the series by looking at what it means to succeed at work. You’re going to spend about 80-90,000 hours of your life working. That’s about 40% of your waking hours for some people. If you’re a mother of a preschooler, bump that figure up to100% of your waking hours!
You will spend more time working, commuting back and forth to work, and thinking about work than you will eating, drinking, playing on weekends and vacationing in the summer combined.
Work has a way of dominating our lives if we are not careful. God has something to say about that. In fact, Proverbs tells us that God wants us to succeed at work.
“Commit your work to the Lord, then it will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3 (NLT)
The book of Proverbs admonishes us to commit our work to the Lord.
Then comes the promise that when we do, we will succeed. I want to succeed, so what does it mean to commit my work to the Lord? The Proverb writer gives us 4 Keys to Succeed at Work. This is how we commit our work to the Lord. You have to do four things:
1. Seek GOD’S DIRECTION.
Ask “Lord, what do You want me to do? “The LORD is pleased when good people pray.” – Proverbs 15:8 (GNT) “Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be joyful.” – Proverbs 16:20 (NLT) Prayer and planning go together. This seems to be a major theme of Proverbs, a planned life.
In order to score a touchdown, you need a game plan. I know a lot of people who work hard and who are going nowhere fast. It most cases it takes more than hard work to succeed. It takes prayer and planning. It is about seeking God’s direction. You say, “God, what do You want me to do with my life? What do You want me to do with my career?” You seek God’s direction. I am living in this mode myself right now.
“Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.” – Proverbs 13:16 (NLT) Do you know anybody like that? Think before you act. Set some career goals.
Let’s use vacations for example. How many of you love spontaneity when it comes to your vacation? How many are like me, and you love to plan you vacation? I love to plan the vacation. That’s half the fun for me. But I can actually do a hybrid when it comes to a vacation on the motorcycle.
We do some cross-country motorcycle riding. We get up and see how the weather looks, and we make a plan and go from there. We know where we are headed, but we may adjust our route and our schedule to get there. You might call it a pinball vacation. We bounce around some. But there is also a plan.
Vacation for me is no schedule, no demands, no responsibility. But no plan is not a vacation. I want to know where we are going, where we will eat, and where we will stay. I don’t have to know weeks, or even days in advance, but I don’t want to ride into town at 6 pm and start looking for a place to stay. We need to do that at lunch time.
Here is my point. No solid plan may be ok for vacation, but it is a horrible way to live your life. A well-planned thought-out life is the way you get things done. Think ahead. Successful people think further ahead than people who are not successful.
Seek God’s direction, pray, and plan and think ahead.
Where do I want to be in 10 years? What do I want to be in 10 years? Ask “God, where do You want me to be in 10 years?” God, what do You want me to be in 10 years? Write it down! Set some goals. Seek God’s direction.
2. SHARPEN your SKILLS.
It is wise to develop the talents and abilities that God has given you. Sharpen your skills and never stop learning. “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NLT)
Skill is what brings success according to the Bible. We need wisdom. We need skill. And we need a plan. If you have a dull axe, and you are chopping wood, it’s going to take more time and more energy. But if you’ve got a sharp axe, it just doesn’t take as much time or effort. This is about learning to work smarter, not harder. Develop your skills. This is taught all through the Bible.
Look at Joseph, at Daniel, at David. They were men who sharpened their skills and even in the face of some horrific circumstances they rose to the top. Let me ask you an important question. Are you more valuable to your company/business today than you were a year ago?
How do you know? You become more valuable by continually learning, developing, and growing. Leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning you stop leading. Even though you may be out of school, you can continue learning, growing, and asking questions.
There are basically Two Ways to Sharpen Your Skills:
1. Learn by TRIAL and ERROR.
This can be learning the hard way. It can be painful. You just learn in the school of hard knocks. You learn by experience.
2. Learn from other people.
It’s wise to learn from experience, but it’s wiser to learn from the experience of others. Let’s face it, you and I don’t have time to make all the mistakes ourselves.
Life’s too short. We need to learn from other people. The way to sharpen your skills is by asking for advice. “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” – Proverbs 15:22 (NLT)
Get all the advice you can get. That shows wisdom and it leads to success. Without sound advice and solid counsel, you are setting yourself up to fail. Talk to people who are doing what you want to do. Ask what is working and what isn’t working. Learn from them! Build a network of advisors and sharpen your skills.
I believe Christians ought to be the most skilled people in the workplace. I believe Christ followers should be the most honest and trusted people in the company. Believers ought to be the hardest workers. Part of the reason is because we have committed our work to the Lord.
What does that mean, anyway? What does it mean to commit my work to God? It means I seek His guidance (“God, what do you want me to do?”) and then I’m continually sharpening my skills for the glory of God. I’m trying to be better. I am learning, growing, and improving.
Next week I want to do a better job than I did last week. I am committed to always stay on a path to learn, develop, improve, and grow. I want my life to bring glory to God. That’s what it means to sharpen our skills.
3. Share the PROFIT.
When I commit my work to the Lord, it means including tithing part of that income back to Him. We talked about that in week 5. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” – Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)
Note again, there is a premise and a promise. You honor the Lord with the first part of your income, and He will fill you barns to overflowing. That means He’ll bless your business. He’ll bless your ministry. He’ll bless your life. What do these men have in common?
• William Colgate, founder of Colgate-Palmolive Corporation.
• Henry Crowl, founder of Quaker Oats Corporation
• William Proctor, founder of the Proctor and Gamble Corporation
• R.G. LeTourneau founder of the LeTourneau Corporation, Earthmovers
• Wallace Johnson – founder of Holiday Inns
• Robert Welch – founder of Welch’s grape juice
• John D. Rockefeller, Sr. – Standard Oil
• J.C. Penney –
What do they all have in common? All of them have published testimonies how tithing was the big difference-maker in their business. From the very beginning of their business they said, God is going to be my partner and I’m going to tithe the first 10%, as a minimum, back to Him. As they began to prosper, some of them began incrementally increasing their giving to where one year they gave 10%, then they bumped it up to 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, and more!
Several were giving 80-90% when they died and living on 10%. They made God their business partner. I read about a young man who began a small cheese business in Chicago. He failed miserably and went deep into debt.
One day a friend told him, “The problem is you didn’t commit your business to God. And you haven’t worked with His help.”
The young man said, “If God wants to run the cheese business, then He can do it and I’ll work for Him, and we can share the profits.” From that moment on God became the senior partner in his business. That man’s business prospered until one day it became the largest cheese company in the world. The young man’s name was J.L. Kraft.
Is God your partner? Have you committed your work to God? If you’re going to spend such a significant part of your life working, if God is not involved in your work, it is difficult to say He is involved in your life. Seek God’s direction and continually sharpen your skills to be the best you can be and share the profits.
4. STAY with it.
Persistence is one of the major themes of Proverbs. If you’ve been reading through the book these past two months, you know there’s a guy that keeps showing up. He is called the sluggard. The sluggard is the lazy guy. The scripture will say, “The lazy guy does this… but the diligent guy does this…”
“The sluggard does this… but the persevering man does this…”
Perseverance, persistence, diligence, determination, tenacity, endurance — these are qualities that Proverbs says are ingredients for success in your work. It’s the ability to keep on keeping on. It is about the determination to be a hard worker.
Over 40 years ago I received this very on a Bible Memory card. I have never forgotten it. “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.” – Proverbs 12:24 (NLT) Persistence pays. You conquer by continuing. You can become a success simply by outlasting your critics. Keep on keeping on.
There is a saying about an oak tree. A large oak tree is just a little nut that refused to give up its ground. Keep on keeping on. After Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, he was asked why the British army was so successful? He said, “It’s because the British army has been trained to always fight for an addition five minutes longer than anybody else.”
Most people give up too soon. Successful people don’t quit on their dream.
They just keep on keeping on. “Steady plodding brings prosperity.” – Proverbs 21:5a (TLB) Somebody asked William Carey who was the first modern missionary “What is the secret of your success?” He said, “I can plod.”
Do you know how to do that? You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in life; you just have to be persistent. Keep on keeping on. Keep plodding. Keep going. Keep on working. Persevere. Enduring with a tenacious determination.
Thomas Edison is one of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time. Edison exerted incredible influence on modern life, contributing inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera. Edison had about 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the incandescent light bulb. Some thought of this as failure.
Edison knew 1,000 things that didn’t work, which meant it was 1,000 steps closer to success. Aren’t you glad he didn’t give up? Instead of calling it failure, consider it an education. Steady plodding brings prosperity.
Someone said, “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all the evidence you even tried.” Proverbs says hang in there. There is no short cut to success. Don’t give up. Ask God what He wants you to do. Get in tune with His plan for your life. Start developing your skill. Tithe your income. And you stay with God’s plan. Don’t give up!
What keeps you from giving up when you feel like giving up? Truth be told, we all feel like giving up at times, don’t we? Some of you are discouraged right now. Some of you are so frustrated with your job. You’re ready to quit.
Before I close, I want to ask you to think about three types of motivation. In order to keep on keeping on, especially when you get discouraged, you need to understand where motivation comes from. We are all motivated to work for one of three reasons.
Motivations that Matter:
1. EXTERNAL motivation.
This is the person who works for a paycheck. They are trying to win the trip to Hawaii. They work to pay their bills and stay out of jail! Many people only work because of external motivation.
2. INTERNAL motivation.
This is the person who would say work makes them feel good. Work brings the satisfaction of accomplishment. They work because it raises their self-esteem. It makes them feel better about themselves. These motivators are fine, but they will never carry you through a crisis. Proverbs says you need a third kind of motivation.
3. ETERNAL motivation.
To be eternally motivated means that I do the work that I feel called to do. You can be called, whether you are a machinist, a salesperson, a manager, or a parent who feels called to stay at home with the kids. Whatever you’re doing this eternal motivation is what will keep you motivated. Because when your work is a calling, it means you understand you are not working for man, you are working for the Lord.
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” – Colossians 3:22-24 (The Message)
You have a boss but he’s not really your boss. Your real boss is the Lord. It changes how you work when God is your boss. He is going to reward you because He’s the One you ultimately serve. The thing that has kept me going for 37 years of pastoral ministry, through all the ups and downs, has been the fact that I have been working for the Lord.
I have never looked to any single person, or to the church as a whole, or to the Board, or to the District Superintendent, or to the denomination for my reward. My focus has never been on the here and now.
I have always tried to keep an eternal perspective about the work I’ve done.
Because one day I want to stand before Jesus Christ and hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” That’s been my motivation. And that will be all the reward I need. Stop looking for the promotions here on earth. Quit worrying about what everyone else thinks and focus on what God thinks about your work.
He is watching what you are doing. He is your master. He is the One who will reward you. God is going to reward you if you do what He has called you to do with the right attitude. That means you do what you do as though you are working directly for the Lord. If you are a Jesus follower, a significant part of your testimony is wrapped up in how you work.
Shouldn’t Christians be the most dedicated workers wherever they are? Shouldn’t they be known for going not only the first, but the second and third mile? Aren’t believers the ones who should be showing up with great attitudes? Aren’t they the ones who can be counted on to show up on time, stay till the job is done, and put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay? The way we work can be a powerful testimony. I hope you do your best.
Do you want to be successful? Solomon tells us how to be a success. “Commit your work to the Lord, then it will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3 (NLT) Some of you are tired and frustrated. You came in here, or tuned in, ready to give up and quit. Let me remind you that most people do not want you to succeed. The devil certainly doesn’t want you to succeed.
There are very few people in life that want you to succeed. In fact, if you don’t succeed – if you fail – then they’ll condemn you. If you do succeed, they’ll be jealous. If you’re mediocre then you’ll be accepted by most people. God help us for wanting to be acceptable! and mediocre!
What are you tempted to give up on this morning? Your work? Your marriage? Your kids? Your school? Your family? Your health? Your finances? You want to let go! Successful people don’t QUIT! They learn to work, as though they are working for GOD HIMSELF, because they ARE!