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On Working Against Your Will

by Joe Pursch on January 26th, 2012

In a recent devotional time that I led with our church staff, I brought some comments on one of the most well-known New Testament verses about life in the workplace:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

To illustrate the application of the text, I told them two stories, one drawn from my life, the other drawn from a famous figure of the the past

Years ago, a wise friend of mine gave me some counsel when I was languishing in a job that I felt was taking a tremendous emotional toll on my life. On the one hand, he encouraged me to do everything I could to trust God for a different position that would be healthier for me and my family. On the other, he admonished me to work with an eye toward the satisfaction of God while I waited. When I replied that I felt like I was wasting not only my time but God’s, my friend said “Doing any work for Him makes that work a great work.” I’ve never forgotten his words. They helped me get through several seasons of “missing motivation” when I found myself on assignment from God in a job that I knew was given to me to provide for myself and my family, but wasn’t necessarily right for the vision God had given me for the future. My friend’s wise advice helped me to be faithful while waiting for God’s best.

Decades ago, another man gave the world a different version of my friend’s advice in an earthier vernacular when he said, “You don’t have to be in a big place to do big things.” The man who said that was at the time the the most widely heard preacher in the world, having already presented the Gospel to millions. His name was Billy Sunday. Interestingly, Billy Sunday’s career traveled exactly the opposite arc from that which most people today seek after. He started at the very top of his game, in the eyes of the world. He was a star third baseman for the then Chicago Black Sox, but he left his baseball career at the height of his success after finding Jesus and receiving a call to evangelize men. Almost single-handedly, Billy Sunday started a turn-of-the-century version of what we would see today as the Promise Keepers movement, filling stadiums with tens of thousands of spiritually hungry men in an era when involvement with the evangelical church was distinctly seen as something only women were interested in. He roused the crowds with great stories of daring the devil down, and always at the end of his messages would re-create the drama of the baseball diamond when he would “call the devil out at home.” (You can see him making that call in the photo above, from 1902). Billy Sunday left money, influence and social adoration behind at precisely the moment when he had them all at his command. In short, he walked away from one of the most (humanly) satisfying jobs in the world.In exchange, he stepped out by faith to follow a stirring of God in his soul to seek men for Christ. As it turned out, he ended up playing for larger crowds than he ever appeared before on the baseball field. But I’m sure that even if his success had been much more modest, he probably still would’ve died a happy man, because he had listened to the call of God, and gotten into a game for the Master’s pleasure and not his own.

How about you? Is it possible that the game you feel may not be worth playing today, the professional game that you’re in, might dramatically change if you simply decided to change who you are playing for? You think about that.

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