What does it mean to work “as unto the Lord”?
Honestly, when I first started this journey, I had no clue. I knew how to work hard & perform well but I always seemed to struggle with some aspect of my work life. Sometimes, it was office personalities, sometimes, it was our organization’s mission, and sometimes, it was the demands of my bosses. Whatever the reason, I always felt discontented in my work life and — up until I learned these lessons — I always believed my discontentment was someone else’s fault.
My journey into understanding how to work “as unto the Lord” began when I took a field-grade command of a Civil Affairs company in 2014. I felt the heavy responsibility of being a company commander and wanted to do things with more care than I had seen done, before. I began to regularly pray to ask God to teach me how to “lead like Jesus”. After I prayed, snippets of scriptures would come into my mind and I meditated on how to apply them to my Army Reserve unit. One of the scriptures, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not unto men,” (ASV) left me puzzled. I thought I had already been working “as unto the Lord” because I always gave my work everything I had! Yet, that didn’t seem to be enough.
My first practical lesson about working “as unto the Lord” started when I heard God speak a full sentence to me for the first time in my life! There I was, walking my dog around the neighborhood one night, not thinking about the Army at all when, all of a sudden, I heard the LOUDEST and most spontaneous thought go through my head: “IF I ASKED YOU TO LEAVE COMMAND, WOULD YOU?” It was so unexpected that I stopped dead in my tracks and looked up to the sky. “Uh… hello… God?! Is that you???”
“IF I ASKED YOU TO LEAVE COMMAND, WOULD YOU?”
“Uh… hello? God?! Is that you???”
I heard the thought, again: “IF I ASKED YOU TO LEAVE COMMAND, WOULD YOU?” I began to feel very upset at the idea! After all, I had waited a long time to be able to take command and I believed that doing well in command would prove that the post-traumatic stress I had been fighting since my medical evacuation from Iraq in 2007 would not break me. Up until that point, I had only been in command three months, but the unit I had been hired to turn-around was already showing progress. We began doing mission-specific training that motivated our younger Soldiers, so our unit went from 40% vacancy to 20% in just a few months! I had already solved a couple of so-called “unsolvable” Soldier-care issues, morale was generally climbing and I was sure everything was lining up to go just as I had always wanted. “But, I just got here!” I replied, unhappily. “Surely, God would not want me to leave command! This is the most important experience thus far in my career!” Another thought ran through my head: “ANYONE CAN COMMAND THE UNIT YOU’RE IN BUT I WILL SEND YOU TO ANOTHER UNIT THAT ONLY YOU CAN SERVE.” I steadied myself and considered my options. Perhaps he was going to send me to Afghanistan, where the war wasn’t going well but where I believed I could make a difference with my understanding of intelligence in a counterinsurgency (articles here and here)? Or perhaps someone from one of my former units would call my unit and say, “We have a mission only Tenay can do!” I figured it wouldn’t be so terrible to be moved in such a way. So I replied, “Okay, if this really is God and you really do want me leave, I’ll do it–but I won’t like it.” Suddenly, another thought came: “DO NOT REFUSE ANY UNIT THAT REQUESTS YOU BY NAME.”
Three months later, the changes I was hired to implement caused a backlash amongst one senior sergeant and one officer who had been used to not working up until that point. Their false accusations combined with a couple of incidents in which I told my battalion commander that what he was asking us to do was illegal or unethical led to his threatening me with a bad evaluation: “Either you leave and I give you a good evaluation or you stay and I give you a bad one,” he said. A part of me wanted to fight back against the injustice with all that I had! But just then, I remembered those loud, spontaneous thoughts which had ran across my mind months prior: “ANYONE CAN COMMAND THE UNIT YOU’RE IN BUT I WILL SEND YOU TO ANOTHER UNIT THAT ONLY YOU CAN SERVE. DO NOT REFUSE ANY UNIT THAT REQUESTS YOU BY NAME.”
Then, it hit me! I realized that just the day prior, a fellow major had called me on the phone to ask when I would be finished with command. “We need your skills to turn this unit around and it’s only 20 minutes from your house!” he said. I told him I was doing really well in command and would need another 12 months to really finish the work I had started. “Well, if anything changes, please call me,” he said. “This is a good unit but it definitely could use your passion to become what it’s supposed to be.” You can imagine his surprise when I called him two days later and told him I could report the following week. To his credit, he gave me the benefit of the doubt: “I don’t know what happened but I know you so I’m gonna assume it was the other guy’s fault.” I moved to that unit the next week and began the three best years of my career!!! That’s when I learned the first lesson on how to work “as unto the Lord”.
Lesson 1: Work where the Lord sends you.
It was not the prestigious by-name request I had been hoping for and, for a while, I was angry at God. I felt like he didn’t defend me when I needed him to pour out his justice! But after some prayer, I realized that God was teaching me a second lesson. He had seen how damaging the toxic environment in my battalion was to my physical and emotional health (in my traumatized, chronically fatigued, pre-diabetic state, my stress hormones would spike before every drill weekend and cause my body to shut down for days after I got home.) So, God did what a good dad does: he got me outta there! He later explained to me during a two-way journaling session that he cared more about my health than my reputation — and I should, too. And, so I learned lesson two.
Lesson 2: Succeeding in your work is not worth losing your health.
In the vein of lesson one, whenever I interview applicants to my company at Calm Castle Staging & Design, I tell them that we are not here to impress one another with “all the right answers”. Rather, I want our interview to be a two-way exploration of whether this is the job God wants for him or her and whether he or she is the worker God wants for us. If we aren’t a match, no hard feelings either way. If we are, our journey together will begin! Some of our applicants understand that they should turn down any job about which they don’t have God’s peace taking, even if it seems to have all the right conditions. Other applicants, who don’t yet have this type of relationship with God (or, perhaps, any relationship) tend to smile and nod, then tell me they want the job no matter what. In that case, the burden of prayer and discernment falls on me. It doesn’t always guarantee problem-free hiring but it does give me peace that those I choose to hire have the possibility of success in our team.
In the vein of lesson two, our company is designed with a hyperflexible schedule to allow our workers time to attend to their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs whenever they need. We don’t want them to sell their souls to our company; rather, we want our company to come alongside them in the journey God has for them for however long or short it is meant to be.
If you’d like to start your own journey of discovering how to work “as unto the Lord”, you can start by meditating on Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not unto men, knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ.” (ASV)
Read the scripture out loud, seven times. Then, close your eyes and allow God to put spontaneous pictures into your mind of what this may look like in your life, in a very practical way. Perhaps you need to not take credit for every good deed in the office. Perhaps you need to get to your meetings on time. Perhaps you need to encourage your coworker who is struggling. Write down whatever you see or hear in your journal that matches the good nature of God. Then, do it and watch what happens!
In addition to hearing God throughout scripture, you can hear him through your prayer dialogues. If you are new to praying for practical things, below is an example you can use. However, this prayer itself has no power, only the heart (subconscious motives) behind the prayer does.
Lord, I welcome your Holy Spirit deep into my mind and heart to transform me into someone who does everything as unto the Lord. Let me hear your instruction through spontaneous thoughts and pictures, dreams and scriptures, memories and song lyrics — whatever you need to communicate with me in a way I comprehend. Give me faith to believe that you can make me a new person in this area. Change my understanding of what a godly worker is. Give me supernatural wisdom on how to walk out this transformation in a practical way in my life. Send me helpers to guide the way. I pray in the name of Yeshua, amen.
Then, wait for these spontaneous thoughts to come and write any down that match the good nature of God. Then, do them and see what happens.
I pray your journey is as fulfilling as mine has been.