Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle # 8

Principle #8:  We all need help and encouragement.

Have you ever tried to be the Lone Ranger and do everything on your own, refusing to accept or seek help from others.  Sometimes we get the mistaken idea that we have to prove we are able to do it ourselves!  Reminds me of children at ages 2 and 3 who are discovering their independence, and some of their first sentences are "I can do it myself!"

None of us can do it ourselves.  We need the Lord, and we need each other.  The Body of Christ is designed to be a support system for believers, where we encourage and help each other as needed.  In looking at the life of King David, another principle we learn is that we all need help and encouragement.

Shortly after David was catapulted into fame because he killed Goliath, Jonathan and he became best friends.  It was an unlikely friendship, since Jonathan was the son of Saul and by all accounts, should have been considered next in line to the throne.  Yet he and David became one in spirit and they made a covenant to be there for each other.

The friendship of David and Jonathan is legendary.  What a wonderful gift at just the right moment.  David needed a good friend.  His brothers weren’t going to fill that role for him; that was obvious in the way they treated him when he faced Goliath.  He needed someone he could completely trust; a confidant and counselor.

Even though David was strong and brave and successful, he still needed a friend.  We all need friends.  God created us to need each other.  He intends for us to support each other and be there for each other.  Friendships are a gift from God.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Friendships should make us better.  Do you have friends who inspire you to do more and be more?  Who encourage you and cheer you on?  Are you that kind of friend to others?

If you’re trying to be the Lone Ranger, or perhaps shyness or fear keeps you from forming close friendships, I would strongly urge you to pray that God will help you break that pattern and bring one close good friend into your life.  Not just anyone, but someone who will spur you on in your faith journey, one who will lift you up not bring you down.

And remember–if we want to have a friend, we must be a friend.  We reap what we sow, so if you need a friend, sow friendship in the life of someone else.  Give your time and love and help to someone else, and it will come back to you.

No matter how busy we are or how strong we are or how successful we are or how independent we are, we all need help and encouragement, just like David did.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #7

Principle #7:  Humility and assertiveness are not exclusives!

In the Bible we're frequently told that we should be humble, but humility doesn't seem to be the way to get ahead in the business world.  How can a Christian be humble and still be successful?   David is a good example of a strong man of God, courageous and brave, and truly humble.

Through his whole life from the time he was anointed to be king, David maintained a truly humble attitude about himself.  Yet he was a bold and courageous leader, and he was very successful in the place where God had put him.

We can be truly humble, as Christians are supposed to be, and still be assertive, still be leaders, still be the kind of people who step up to the plate and face the giants.  You see, the world system defines humility as weakness, but true humility is anything but weak.

True humility is recognizing who you are in comparison to who God is, and acknowledging that God is the source of your strength, your gifts and abilities, and your successes.  It is a teachable spirit and an attitude of total dependence on God.

When David faced Goliath, he said, You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. . . All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45, 47).

David is assertive, but he fully recognizes his total dependence on God. 

God is not looking for namby-pamby people who hang their heads and talk about how inadequate they are.  He’s looking for Christians who are not afraid to get into the fight and do the hard things, but who do so solely in God’s strength, at His command, and for His glory.

So, remember this principle from David–humility and assertiveness are not exclusives - and be ready to stand up against your giants.  But never, never do it in your own strength.  That is a recipe for disaster.  But if you always recognize that the battle is the Lord’s, not yours, then you’re headed for victory in Jesus.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #6

Principle #6:  Don’t try to be someone else; be who God has created you to be.

When David volunteered to take on Goliath, the giant, Saul reluctantly agreed to let him do it–only because no one else was willing to face this nine-foot killing machine. Then Saul tried to tell David how to do it.  "Here," he said, "put on my armor, take my sword."  And David tried, but he immediately recognized that he couldn't use Saul's armor.  "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them."  So, he took them off, found his five smooth stones, got his slingshot in his hand, and faced Goliath.

You know the story:  He takes aim at Goliath's head, hits him in the right place, and knocks him out.  Then he cuts of Goliath's head with his own sword, and claims victory.

How did David defeat Goliath?  By using his own slingshot.  That's what he was good at; that's how he had defeated the lion and the bear; that's the gift God had given him and taught him how to use.  If he had tried to defeat Goliath in Saul's armor, with a sword, he would never have won, and David was wise to realize that.

If you’ve ever tried to do your job the way someone else does it, you’ve probably had some hard lessons to learn.  I remember as a college student trying so hard to change my personality and be like another girl at school who I thought was the ideal Christian girl.  Surely God would want me to be like her, I reasoned, and I tried to copy her ways, her smile, her personality.  It was a disaster, and it took me many more years to learn that I didn’t have to be like anyone else in order to be who God wants me to be.

Notice that David got creative.  Everybody else thought that in order to defeat Goliath, a man would have to put on armor and defeat him in a face-to-face sword fight. But David said, "There's other ways to skin a cat."  He got "outside the box," as we say, and pushed the envelope, and by faith faced a giant and killed him. 

So, if you’ve been trying to kill your giants in someone else’s armor, let me encourage you to use your own slingshot and don’t try to be anyone else. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #5

Principle #5:  Little battles in life get us ready for the big battles.

While tending those sheep, David had faced lions and bears as he rescued his sheep from their mouths.  He had learned great courage in those small battles.  He had also learned how to use a slingshot.  Hour after hour sitting on those hills in Bethlehem, he had perfected his shot.

So, those little battles he had faced, which no one knew about but him, gave him the experience and courage he needed to face a really big battle – defeating a huge giant. David’s private victories had prepared him for that public victory.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus taught us that before He will entrust us with big things, He tests us to see if we’re faithful in small things.  To the two faithful servants in the parable, the master said, “Well, done, good and faithful servant!   You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew. 25:23).

Maybe you’re in the "little things" category right now, and you’re itching for bigger and better things.  But the question is, have you been faithful in the little things? Can you be trusted to do the little things well?  If not, God is not likely to entrust you with bigger things–and, by the way, neither is your employer!

So, if you are eager to rise to higher levels, that’s great.  It’s good to have goals and ambitions, but remember to be faithful where you are now so that you can be trusted with bigger and better things.  The little battles in life get us ready for the big ones!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #4

Principle #4:  Don’t let others intimidate you from pursuing what you know is right.

Whenever you attempt to do something, there will be someone on the sidelines trying to discourage you.  That was true for David, and from him we learn another important principle.

David was sent by his father to the battlefield where his brothers were fighting for King Saul.  They were aligned in the Valley of Elah, outside of Jerusalem, with the Philistines on one side and the Israelites on the other, and they were at a standoff.  That’s because the Philistines had a giant who had threatened and taunted them everyday for the past forty days, asking for some man to come and fight on behalf of his country.  But there was not one Israelite willing to fight Goliath–in fact they all ran when they saw him.

Along comes David, bringing food to his brothers. As David hears Goliath make his taunts, instead of being fearful, he was outraged. He asks: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). David couldn't understand why Goliath's challenge had not been taken.

His brother, Eliab, got very angry with David and basically told him to go back where he came from, tending the sheep.  He belittled David and insulted him, but David didn't let Eliab intimidate him. He didn’t let Eliab get him into a fight.  He didn’t come there to fight Eliab.  But he knew it was wrong for this bully giant to insult the God of heaven and earth.  And so, he did not allow even his older brother to intimidate him.

You know the story of how he volunteered to fight Goliath and won.  Suppose he had hung his head when Eliab confronted him, and turned around and gone home.  The battle would have been lost, and God’s purpose would have been stymied.

Is someone standing on your sidelines and telling you to forget it?  Perhaps they honestly think they are giving you good advice, but if God has given you clear direction, don’t let anyone intimidate you.  Maybe He has put it on your heart to share your faith story with someone at work, and a friend has said, "Forget it!  That person is too hard to ever believe in Jesus."  But if you know that is what you are supposed to do, then pray for wisdom to know when and how, and don’t be intimidated.  When we are doing God’s will, we have His strength, His power, His courage to stand against anyone who would discourage us.

So, don’t let others intimidate you or discourage you from doing what you know is right.  Thankfully David didn’t and he was able to kill Goliath.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #3

Principle #3:  Be patient in the waiting room.

When David was anointed to be the king by Samuel, he might have expected a coronation ceremony to follow quickly thereafter.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Did you know that from the time Samuel anointed him king until he was on the throne was about 15 years?

He was anointed by God’s prophet in obedience to God’s instructions, so in God’s sight, David was the king from the day he was anointed.  But he had to wait for God’s timing before he actually took the throne, and it was a long wait.

As you study the life of David, you have to admire his patience during this waiting period.  He seemed to accept it with incredible grace and contentment, convinced that God would work His purpose for his life at the right time.

Have you ever spent much time in God’s waiting room?  Did you wait patiently for God, or were you irritable and fearful and maybe even angry?  It seems to be one of my most difficult lessons to learn–to wait patiently for the Lord and trust His timing.

From these years of waiting, David gave us some beautiful words of encouragement.  In Psalm 37:7 we read

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

I’ve done my share of fretting over others who seem to be succeeding in their wicked ways, how about you?  David certainly was speaking from experience, as much of his waiting time was spent as a fugitive, running for his life from King Saul.  But from that he gives us great encouragement. 

So, when your patience is running low and you think God is just moving too slowly, remember David.  He waited 15 years for the job God promised him, and he waited patiently.  He wrote in Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

The same God who worked on David’s behalf during that long waiting period is the God who will work on your behalf.   Trust Him–He is a trustworthy God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #2

Principle #2:  Do more than your job requires.

Can you imagine going to work one morning, same ole’-same ole’, and before the day is over you are told that you have been selected to be the next president of the company? That’s a little like what happened to David.  He was doing his humble job, tending the sheep, when someone comes for him and the next thing he knows is that he is being anointed by Samuel the Prophet to be the next king.  Whoa!

David was a shepherd, the lowliest of jobs, and he would have had lots of time on his hands in that lonely job, sitting around doing nothing while the sheep grazed.  He could have simply wasted that time, daydreamed it away, slept a lot, or he could have allowed self-pity and anger to infiltrate his mind.  I can imagine sitting there all alone day after day, one could start to resent having to do this when all the other brothers are at home, in much nicer circumstances.

But what was David doing in this do-nothing, go-nowhere job? Well, for one thing, he practiced using a slingshot until he became an expert marksman.  And he practiced playing the harp until he became quite proficient as a musician. Somewhere he learned to write beautiful poetry.  No doubt some of it was written as he sat on those hillsides taking care of the sheep.  He didn’t waste his time in that lowly job. Instead of lollygagging his days away, he used that time for good and productive things.

Never could he have guessed how God was going to use those skills in later years.  But what his hand found to do, he did with all his heart, and that would pay off in big dividends in days to come.

Are you in a job that seems to be a dead-end?  Do you feel under-utilized, maybe under-appreciated?  What have you done lately to make good use of your time?  What could you do that goes outside of your job description, to improve your own skills and to help others?  Have you ever asked God to give you some creative wisdom in how to make your job more meaningful and how to do it with excellence?

It could be that God is withholding the next better job from you until He sees that you are a good steward of the job that you have.  Bloom where you’re planted, as the saying goes, and use the job you are now in as an avenue for growth and experience that will be useful to you later on.  It’s not mission impossible; pray about it and get creative and see what God will do!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Work Principles from King David - Principle #1

You may think that the Old Testament has lots of interesting stories and events, but fail to see its application to your life today.  But the life of King David, is richly relevant to us and there is much we can learn–yes, even principles that apply to our everyday jobs. So we’re going to look at work principles from the life of King David over the next few weeks. 

Did you know that more is written about David than any other person in the Bible? David’s name is recorded 1,127 times in Scripture, and 58 of those are in the New Testament.  Sixty-one chapters of the Bible are devoted to him, and 73 of the 150 Psalms are attributed to David.  He is the only one in all of Scripture to be called "a man after God’s own heart."  

So there has to be a reason that so much of David’s life was included in Scripture.  The Apostle Paul told us in the letter to the Romans that "everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  So, let’s take a look at some of the principles from the life of King David that can teach us and encourage us.


Principle #1:  Don’t let the exterior fool you.

You’ll recall that David became King of Israel following the reign of Saul, the first king.  Saul had been chosen because of his appearance.  He was a tall, dark, handsome guy, and he looked like the right choice. But soon after he became king, he became thin-skinned, hot-tempered, and given to seasons of depression, even thoughts of murder.  He was a very insecure, power-hungry, self-centered man.  He looked good; everyone, including the prophet Samuel, thought he was a good choice, but he turned out to be a disaster.

If you and I allow appearances and majority opinion to influence our decisions and attitudes, we’ll soon discover that we really can’t judge a book by its cover.  The majority are rarely right and looks can be very deceiving.

When Samuel was directed to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the king to replace Saul, Eliab the eldest seemed to be the natural choice. He was tall and good-looking, and Samuel assumed he would be God’s choice.  But God rejected him. In fact, Samuel went through seven of Jesse’s sons and none of them was God’s chosen.  Finally, the youngest one, the least likely one, the shepherd boy in the field, David, was chosen by God to be king.

Can you think of someone you know–perhaps someone in authority–who was chosen because they looked the part, but this person has been a great disappointment?  We are so easily fooled by appearances.  The next time you find yourself judging someone by appearances, either positively or negatively, remember what God said to Samuel as he was assuming that Eliab was God’s chosen king:

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

So, principle number one we learn from the life of David is "Don’t let the exterior fool you."  We should ask God to give us His perspective, His eyesight, as we look at people.  If you hire people to work for you, pray that God will give you wisdom that sees deeper than the outward appearance.  As you form opinions of others, ask God to prevent you from making judgments based solely on looks.  You’ll almost always be wrong when you simply judge people by the exterior.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Annoying Habits of Co-workers

I often think of the famous quote from Charlie Brown:  “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”  And you know, it’s the everyday little annoying habits of the people we associate with that can be more tiresome, more frustrating than more significant issues, don’t you think? 

Of course, we’re not quite so aware of our own little annoying bad habits that others may find troublesome, but no doubt we all have them.  So, I want to talk about some of these little annoyances that can become obstacles in good relationships.

Let’s consider annoying habit No. 1:  You work with a person who makes daily calls to his or her mate or partner, and since you work in an open setting, you can’t help but hear the conversation.  Depending on how they are getting along on any particular day, you may hear a nasty conversation with anger and accusations, or you may hear what sounds like sweet murmurings of baby talk.

Obviously, if you hold a supervisory position over this person, it should be addressed directly with clear instructions that those kind of conversations should be on personal time not on company time.  However, if you are not this person’s manager, you may be able to bring this to your coworker’s attention in such a way that they will see the benefit of changing that annoying habit. 

Proverbs 17:27 says, “A man (or woman) of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”  Your words would need to be carefully chosen, delivered kindly, and done with the right motivation.

For example, you might find the right moment—a private moment—to say something like, “You probably are not aware that your conversations with your mate can be heard by other people.  I thought I’d let you know, because I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want others to listen in to my daily personal conversations.  You might want to reserve those calls for times when you’re alone.”

There’s a lesson for all of us to learn in this, and that is, to use our working time to work, not to rob our employer of the time when we are paid to work with elongated personal conversations, whether they’re overheard by others or not.

As Christians in the workplace, these little annoying habits can do damage to our testimony for Jesus Christ, so we should make sure we’re not guilty of these.

Here’s annoying habit No. 2: That co-worker who just can’t ever seem to make it to work on time.  You know, someone who is habitually late is not committing a great offense.  This is simply an annoying bad habit.

I find that many who are guilty of habitual lateness frequently want to justify it by saying that they work late to make up for it, or they have a very long commute, and that may be true.  But the facts are, if your company has a certain start time, everyone should be there on time consistently.  Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do.

This is a management issue.  If it’s important for people to be on time, management must set the priorities, communicate them clearly, and hold people accountable.  There would have to be some kind of negative consequence for the person who will not change that annoying habit. 

However, if you’re not this person’s manager, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this annoying habit.  One thing you don’t want to do is make snide remarks about it, or communicate your annoyance with body language or harsh words.  Unfortunately, that happens too often where people don’t confront the real issue and instead display their displeasure in other ineffective and unkind ways.

If a coworker’s habitual lateness is having a direct negative impact on your ability to get your job done, that might be an indication that it needs to be addressed.  First, try to kindly explain to the coworker the need you have for them to be on time, and see if that might work.  But remember, unless you’re the manager, you don’t have the authority to demand anything from that person.

Isn’t it interesting how something so small as this annoying habit can so easily turn into a real issue between two people and eventually lead to other, more major problems.  That’s because we dwell on these little things, allow them to occupy too much thought time, and develop an attitude pretty quickly. If you are powerless to either change or address this annoying habit of a coworker, then it’s time to let it go. Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”   Just let it go—it won’t kill you!

Here’s annoying habit No. 3:  The coworker who tends to gripe and complain a great deal.  This can be terribly annoying and if you’re not careful, they can bring you right down to their level and you’ll find yourself griping and complaining more than you should.

One negative person can poison the atmosphere where you work.  It only takes one.  If you happen to work with that one person, you must first learn how to tune them out and not allow their negative talk to infiltrate your own mind.  Then remember that a person’s attitude is always their choice, and we don’t have the power to change anyone else’s attitude.  So, if your coworker chooses to gripe and complain a great deal, your best way to deal with it is to respond in positive ways.  Do it nicely, kindly, but firmly—don’t be afraid to be positive in the presence of a person who is negative.

And of course, pray for that person.  Underneath that negative exterior is something else that is causing the problem.  You may never know exactly what that is; it could be baggage from childhood.  But you can still pray that God will help you to respond in kindness, to have sympathy for that person, to show them mercy and grace even when you don’t want to.

It is in these small issues of life that we have the greatest opportunity to demonstrate God’s love.  Maybe not in words or by quoting scripture, but simply by remaining joyful and peaceful even when dealing with an annoying negative coworker.

Have you ever thought about your own tendency to be negative?  Years ago I finally began to pay attention to my own negative attitude, and realized I was far more negative than I thought I was.  I heard myself saying lots of negative junk in any given day, and I began to monitor my own attitude.  It’s a very good habit to form—to just make sure you haven’t caught the negative disease yourself.

Here’s annoying habit No. 4:  The coworker who interrupts you continually, sometimes for work-related issues, sometimes not.  But the interruptions are often unnecessary and they definitely impact your productivity—as well as annoy you.

There’s no doubt that one of our major time wasters is interruptions.  Every time we start and stop what we’re doing, we lose time.  So, you need to think of creative ways to avoid these interruptions.

First, determine if you’re doing something to encourage the interruptions.  For example, when they walk by your desk or office, don’t look up and give eye contact, which can invite a trivial interruption.  And if that candy dish on your desk is too inviting, you may need to remove it. 

Secondly, for necessary interruptions with work-related questions, it might be helpful to establish a daily time for interaction.  You might suggest that the two of you get together first thing each morning to go over the day’s agenda.  Frankly, managers can be the worst interrupters, and you could even suggest to your manager that an established daily meeting could save both of you lots of time—just to set the agenda and go over questions for the day.

Or you may have to become a bit more assertive, and simply say to the habitual interrupter, “You know, I just don’t have time to chat right now.  Can we talk later?”  That’s much nicer than showing annoyance through body language or harsh words.

Obviously this is not a major issue.  It’s just an annoyance. But these little things can start to add up and before you know it, you have a major issue on your hands.  So, think of a positive, pleasant approach to try to change that annoying habit, but don’t let it cause you to respond poorly. 

Paul wrote to the Colossians:  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone”  (4:6).  In responding to annoying people, we want to make this our objective—to be gracious and kind.

Annoying habit No. 5: is a coworker who is always in crisis mode and frequently asks you to “do them a favor” and bail them out.  But the reason they’re in crisis mode so often is because they procrastinate and put everything off until crunch time.  Are you supposed to continue to go the extra mile and “do them a favor,” as they ask?

In Matthew 5 Jesus exhorts us to turn the other cheek and go the extra-mile.  There’s no question that Christians are supposed to do more than they have to do.  So, on occasion when your coworker needs an extra pair of hands to get a job done, you should be willing to do that.  But I don’t believe Jesus intended for us to go extra mile after extra mile.  That would lead us to becoming enablers, making it possible for others to shirk their own responsibilities, and that is neither right for us nor for the other person.

So, with that crisis-mode coworker, you might say, “I’ll help you this time, but in the future, you can avoid this last minute crunch by . . .”  and then explain how it can be avoided, making it clear that you won’t be available to help with every crisis they have.  Again, these words need to be spoken in love, from an attitude of helpfulness, not annoyance.

You know, so often it’s the way you say things that makes all the difference, and you could help this person break a bad habit of procrastination by combining a willingness to help with a little softly-given advice.  Who knows; they might even listen and learn.

Remember, no one is in your life by accident, not even the annoying coworker.  And we are called not only to love mankind, but to love the individual who can be annoying!