Victory in a Job Loss
Gary originally wrote the following article in 2012 as a conversational blog post with a disheartened, unemployed photographer. It has been edited and updated to fit this format.
The positive thing about the Christian life is that in Christ we are 100% victorious -- all of the time! Christ has gained the victory over us and leads us with His triumphant message that to die to oneself is to gain life eternal. On earth, victory is counted as more points than the other team. In the Christian walk victory is dying to self in every battle. To those who believe, dying is a sweet fragrance of life; but to those who don’t believe, dying only leaves the awful stench of death.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2Cor.14-17; ESV)
You might say, “So How Will That Put Bread on the Table?”
Bread on your table is a part of the “Contract of Grace” with Jesus. My dear wife, Sally, and I
have benefitted from that contract, going on 49 years. (See Matt. 6:25-33). God has "added" to my wife and I the things we have needed. And in our eyes, the list is incredible! -- things like me rarely “having a job;” that is, not being dependent on an “employer” to pay my salary.
As a new believer, I saw that the Apostle Paul had a trade and was willing to "make tents" with his ministry team. (That example encouraged me to prepare to do the same. I left college after my conversion, worked for $2.50 an hour as a carpenter's helper to learn a trade which helped us pay my way through school.) After Bible College, we set aside establishing permanent housing, rented and launched out as church planters with one child. Following Paul’s example, I kept food on the table doing whatever odd jobs I could find. However, God "added" a whole lot more!
Today we can testify that God's promises are true. We “own” a small farm of 7.67 acres, raised 10 children and were blessed to home school them all on the farm. Today we have 45 grandchildren and most of our children are embracing the same heritage. Having children creates a lot of necessity! Providing for that necessity is a necessary stress intended by God in order to teach us to trust Him. (See Romans 8:20; 2Cor. 1:9.) As parents, we have no greater joy than to see our children embrace their spiritual heritage: “Hitherto has the Lord been our help!” This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. When we have been victorious in dying to self, we are always being led in triumph in Christ. The fragrance is unmistakable!
And to watch the lives that we touch, it gives us the fragrance of life. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Therefore, our primary need is to learn to call on the Lord.
Jeremiah 29 speaks of family-based hope in the most destructive of national circumstances. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles…: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. …For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes… declares the Lord.”
Here are Jesus’ Contract Terms:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:25-33)
Are You Living Your Life All Wrong?
Answer that question! The miracle of America has certainly pressed heavily against the sound foundations of what we often have called the “Protestant Work Ethic.” This dates back to the Thessalonians who were in danger of focusing on the Lord's return to the failure of providing for their own house. Paul's clarifying instructions give life today in the same manner they did nearly 2,000 years ago. Here they are…
1Thess.4:11-12: ”Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (NIV)
Here’s Paul's follow-up in 2Thess. 3:6-15 “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (NIV)
“Okay,” you may say, “that is all well and good. I was laid off more than two years ago. I have applied to well over 70 places, many of them multiple times. I have gotten two interviews. I am soon to be 54. I am a photographer with more than 30 years of experience yet I have to compete with hobbyists who since they already have jobs can charge a fee that no one can live on. Even though I was brought up in the church and have read those Bible verses I’m at a point where I don’t even understand what they mean. I am idle through no fault of my own and I’m just finding that there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to anything anymore.”
Don’t Lose Heart!
You were created for adversity. Hardship has more to do with victory than success. To come to the place where “there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to anything anymore” is to approach the very door of the glory and grace that God preserves and provides for them that call upon His name. Remember Jeremiah 29:12-14: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes.” The fortunes He will restore include your necessities (not necessarily your wants) now and your inheritance forever. This is your sanctification: God is bringing trials to purify your faith so that you might walk in works beyond your own ability or vision.
The true Christian servant will never be at a loss for work to do if he is willing to do the most menial tasks before him. The key is to “be faithful in little things” and “endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” When you find joy and hope in Jesus Christ at the bottom of the proverbial barrel, then that hope will become your life, your joy and your crown. The mark of a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ is the cross: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24, ESV) While the cross is the instrument of your death -- and you willingly lose your life for His sake, the shape of the cross is the adversity He sends personally to you as his disciple.
Pray that agonizing prayer that asks the Father to take away your cross, for that is the doorway to victory. Jesus prayed it, Paul prayed it and so must you! God will hear you, but your victory may seem like the stench of death to the natural man… “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” This is the victory of yielding to the death of the cross, that is the mystery of the gospel! Your break-through-to-victory point is that moment you find comfort in all your trouble, comfort by the hope of resurrection -- not the avoidance of death. Here is Paul’s testimony:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too… For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5; 8-9)
How dearly is the Father’s love brought to you in the very adversity that strains every fiber of your life! Don’t give in to despair! Surrender to His craftsmanship and let go of your life on your terms. Trust Him as did Esther of old, for who knows if you have come into your adversity for such a time as this? If you die, you die. What matters is: “What are you looking at?”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (Hebrews 12:1-12)
If this present life were the final victory, then there isn’t much point to anything anymore, and Christians are of all men most miserable!
However, resurrection is real and we are being prepared by our loving Heavenly Father to share an inheritance with Christ, and that means we must also share in His sufferings.
What about Practical Work?
“In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not which shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both [shall be] alike good.” (Eccl. 11:6 KJV)
Simplify your life, diversify your labors and make the most of every opportunity. God will prosper you know not what, but he who is faithful in little things will be given greater, not only here, but more importantly, in heaven! Run your race, finish your course, keep the faith! Henceforth there shall be a crown of righteousness that the Lord will give to all that love His appearing.