Becoming Christ-Like

Today we believers often hear the call to “change your world.” Christian musicians title albums with these words. The words appear like a mantra in recruiting ads for Christian colleges. Those ads tug at an ambition many of us seem to share. “You can change the world.” Enroll in this school and learn how to “impact global society.”

These appeals help condition us Christians to see ourselves as change-agents. Having fed on this heady fare, we land in our “secular” workplaces aiming at the world as the target for transformation. A fairly recent graduate of a Christian school wrote: “I want to leave the world a better place than I found it.”

Shaped by such world-makeover thinking, we may have missed one prime reason God has placed us where we work: to change . . . us.

By the time Jesus offered the prayer we find in John 17, a band of followers had identified with him. But Jesus didn't urge them to change the world. “I am not praying for the world,” he said, “but for those you have given me” (v. 8). And what did he pray for them? That they themselves would be changed. That they would be completely unified (as Jesus was with the Father). That they would be truly sanctified (as Jesus himself was). In other words, Jesus prayed his own disciples would change to become like him. Those changes in them would then affect the world with convincing evidence Jesus really had come from God (vv. 21, 23).

How does God bring about change in us believers? True, he transforms us as his Word and his Spirit renew our minds. But as those work from the inside, God—as the Potter—also shapes us with pressure from the outside. The Message paraphrases James 1:2 in these words: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” As these tests and challenges do their work, we “become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Count on it. A job at any level in one of the world's workplaces will bring “tests and challenges.” Those make up the “painful toil” and the “thorns and thistles” God told Adam would fasten on his work as a result of sin. Apart from Christ, those can lead people to hate their work and become bitter. But in Christ, even those “thorns and thistles” have been redeemed and made into instruments for our spiritual growth in grace.

Even so, they still prick and sting. Your computer freezes when you're tight against a hard deadline. The boss rejects your ideas, only to bring them up as his own at the next staff meeting. A client you had cultivated for months suddenly switches to another supplier. Your corporation merges with another, and your job gets downgraded in the shuffle. Pressures of this sort put to us to the test. Do we really believe God works in all things for our good? Even these things?

You may not be able to see how your work is changing the world. But look again. He aims to use your job to change you.

Workplace Ministry