Four years ago, my husband Clint was interested in getting a promotion. He had been a loyal employee for nearly twenty years, had always shown up to work on time, had great skill and technical knowledge, had gotten along well with his coworkers and bosses, and had consistently received positive performance reviews. He had seen others receive promotions and believed it was now his time. Eager to earn this accomplishment, he asked his manager what would be required, and she laid out the parameters needed: going beyond the basic requirements, leading projects, supporting extra voluntary events outside of work, and demonstrating that he had significantly exceeded expectations. Armed with this information, Clint set out to meet these requirements and achieve his goal. When the next evaluation period rolled around, knowing he had met all the requirements his boss laid out, he was confident he’d be rewarded. In his mind it was a slam dunk. He had earned it.
Surprisingly, his manager rated his work as “Satisfactory”. On a scale of 1-5, according to this rate, he was a solid three. There were only so many rewards to go around, and he fell in the middle of the bell curve, in spite of his raising the bar to meet expectations. There would be no promotion. His first reaction, understandably, was frustration. There was no doubt he had earned it. In his frustration, he struggled; it was unfair, it was political, it was unjustified.
While I had no doubt that he was a hard worker and had indeed exceeded the expectations laid out, I was concerned with the bitterness that seemed to be creeping into his heart. You see, normally my husband is one cool cucumber. In fact, he’s the kind of guy who you look to as the voice of reason during stressful times. His internal thermostat is a constant 72 degrees. This time, however, his reaction was different. He was very frequently on the verge of being frustrated with every little thing happening at work. Things that normally wouldn’t ruffle his feathers were indeed bothering him. It so happened that during that time I came across the following verses from Colossians 3:23-24: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
The apostle Paul was addressing slaves living in Colossae sometime around 64 A.D., but these two verses apply to college-educated professionals, blue-collar workers, and stay at home moms of today too, and they resounded in my spirit. Here’s why:
It honors God. Isn’t that the reason we’re all here, to glorify God and bring honor to His Name? Working at whatever you do with all your heart is part of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Something seemingly mundane can fulfill the Greatest Commandment. Work becomes worship when done with the right heart.
It represents God to others. When we profess to be Christians, yet do the minimum to get by, or complete our tasks sullenly, we give the impression that following Christ has no effect in our lives. There’s no sanctification, no setting-apart, if we act like others who don’t know the Lord. It would be like your child telling everyone he’s your son, yet behaving in such a way that others question what you’re teaching him at home. When we work with excellence, we stand out in a positive way, which leads to the next point.
It creates a platform to share the gospel. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, telling us to go and make disciples, He wasn’t just speaking to those called to far-off mission fields. He was speaking to every believer. Putting in our very best effort, whether we’re mowing lawns, creating spreadsheets, changing diapers and folding laundry, or performing quality control checks, especially when conditions are unfavorable or unfair, opens up conversations with others who ask how we can persevere with a good attitude. This enables us to share the good news, and how our relationship with Christ enables us and empowers us to serve with excellence.
It sets the example for others. Misery loves company, but do you know what else is true? Enthusiasm is contagious! A positive attitude and great work ethic sets the example for those around you, and people are often drawn to upbeat, positive influences. You may change the atmosphere of the whole workplace, home, or group.
We get a reward! Hey, that should be an easy motivator, right? It may not come in the form of tangible, physical or monetary rewards, but the point Paul makes is that our ultimate reward comes from God, when He commends His “good and faithful servants.”
It places proper perspective on your situation when the going gets tough. A strong drive to work with excellence to honor God, to work as though you’re working for Him, enables you to arrive at an eternal perspective, a bigger-picture perspective if you will. That can carry you through difficulties and strengthen your character.
I began to encourage my husband with Col.3:23-24, and we prayed daily that Clint would have the courage to walk out these scriptures. Every day he went to work with a determination to work for the Lord and not for men; he fixed his bitter attitude and strove for excellence in all that he did. He continued to go above and beyond to honor God. Guess what? In time, Clint not only received a promotion, but he was granted a raise and a significant bonus as well! God went above and beyond our expectations (Ephesians 3:20)! It was not immediate, it was not easy, it was not always pleasant, but Clint will tell you that repenting and aligning his attitude to obey God’s word produced permanent development in his character. That may, in fact, have been the greatest reward.