Work: Growing spiritually at work


Rick Warren


Romans 8,

Work Series. 1st – actually worship through your work.

2nd – work is a place for a mission, that you can witness through your work.

3rd – work is a place for ministry, you can serve God by serving others.

This morning – work is a place for maturity.


40% of our time, we will spend working during your lifetime, and if we don’t learn how to integrate work into our spiritual life, 40% of our life is wasted in the area of personal development and growth.  {If you don’t go out to work at paid employment – you still work and these principles still apply!!!}


What is God’s goal for your development?


Romans 8:29 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, …. (NIV)From the very beginning God decided that those who came to him should what?  Would you read it with me? … should become like His Son.”


Ephesians 4:13 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)


God’s goal for my life is that I will develop the character of Jesus Christ.


How does my job make me like Christ?

Well, there are many ways.  There are many aspects of your job that God can use to build Christ-like character in your life.  But this morning I just want to look at three (3) aspects that God uses at work to help you grow spiritually.


1.       God Uses Pressure At Work To teach Me Responsibility.

                   2.       God Uses People At Work To Teach Me Relationships.

                   3.       God Uses Problems At Work To Teach Me Character.


  1. God Uses Pressure At Work To Teach Me Responsibility.


This first one is very important because we don’t hear much about personal responsibility today. Every job has unique pressures.  And, a certain amount of stress can be beneficial to your spiritual growth?

Have you ever had a task that you had to complete, that you didn’t feel like completing, but you did it anyway?  You were developing responsibility.


Responsibility is when you do the right thing whether you feel like it or not.

Ephesians 5:15  Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, )

“Live life, then with a due sense of responsibility, not as people who don’t know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” 

In our society there is a great decline of personal responsibility.  Everybody today talks about “my rights.”  Few want to talk about my responsibilities.

It’s “blame everybody else, pass the buck, it’s not my fault, it’s all your fault.”

Most psychiatrists will tell you that personal responsibility is the key to mental health–it’s a starting point.  Accepting responsibility for your own actions and behaviour is also one of the keys to spiritual growth.

We grow by being given responsibility.  It stretches us.  Any time your boss gives you responsibility, any time a parent gives responsibility to a child, we grow through it.


How?  Well there are many, many ways.  Let’s look at 3 or 4 ways you can develop personal responsibility through your work:


By keeping promises.

Psalm 15:1-4

1  LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,

….      who keeps his oath even when it hurts, (NIV)

God blesses the one who always does what he promises, no matter how much it may cost.”


Today fewer and fewer people can be counted on to keep their word.  God blesses the people who keep their word.  Would you agree that people don’t keep promises today?

  • Look at the divorce rate.
  • Did you know that airlines deliberately overbook by 30%.  Why?  They are expecting 30% no-shows and they don’t even call to cancel.
  • It’s like the contractor who underbids a job and half way through it realises he’s going to go short on it, so he figures out a way to leave the job unfinished.
  • Or the teenager who gets a job at McDonald’s and stays out at a party on Friday night and on Saturday morning they’re tired so they just don’t go in.

God says, “If you say you’re going to show up, you show up!”  One of the marks of spiritual maturity is you keep your promises.  You learn to develop responsibility and you keep your word.


By meeting deadlines.

Proverbs 18:9 says “The one who is slack in his work is a brother to the one who destroys.”


What He is saying there, that if I’m lazy, I’m sabotaging the work of my boss.  I’m sabotaging his business.  That when I waste time that I’m being paid for, I’m being destructive.  By meeting demands, by getting things in on time, that develops personal responsibility because God is watching me and He says He wants me to be responsible. {If you are a boss then you are responsible NOT to make unreasonable demands!!!}


By working without supervision.

Ephesians 6:6-7 6 Obey them [masters] not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, (NIV)

Don’t work hard only when your master is watching…work hard all the time, as though you were working for Christ.”


Now, we’ve talked about this many times.

ILLUS.: I heard this week about a customer, who said to a clerk, “I want you to do this dishonest transaction, but don’t worry, your boss is out.  He’s not going to know about it.”  The clerk was a Christian and he said, “My real boss is never out.  He always knows about it.”


A mark of responsibility is when you serve in spite of whether you are being supervised or not.


Luke 16:10-11 10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (NIV)

Bible has two words for responsibility: faithfulness and stewardship.

If we’re not faithful in little, we’re not going to be faithful in much.”

  1. God Uses People At Work To Teach Me Relationships.

He uses pressure to teach me responsibility, He uses people to teach me relationships.

One of the biggest problems in any office, in any work is personality problems.  “Oh, I love my job; I just can’t stand the people.  I just don’t get along with them.  And there’s conflict and we bang heads.”

Rockefeller said, “I’ll pay more for somebody who knows how to get along with others than any other skill.”

At work you have to deal with all kinds of strange, weird and wonderful people? Here’s a list here of common types of cranky co-workers.  Maybe you are one or are married to one!! {DON’T LOOK AROUND or NUDGE ANYONE!!!}

1. The Sherman Tank.  A Sherman Tank will run over you if you let them.  You know, they are pushy, they are always demanding their own way.  They use threats and intimidation very frequently.  Any of you work with a Sherman Tank?  Look at that!  Amazing.


2. The Megaphone.  The Megaphone, this person doesn’t know how to be quiet.  Their mouth is always in gear.  They talk to you all the time, it doesn’t matter what the topic is, if you get a Megaphone on the telephone, you’re in trouble.  Any of you work with a Megaphone?  They love to talk.


  1. The Bubble-burster.  This person has a knack for spoiling everybody’s fun.  They see something negative in everything.  Their favourite phases are:  “It won’t work, it can’t be done, it costs too much, it’s impossible.”  Any of you work with Bubble-bursters?  You see?  Isn’t that interesting?


4. The Volcano.  This guy’s got a temper like Mt. St. Helen’s.  You never know when they’re going to blow up.  You always walk on eggshells.  Anybody got somebody they have to work with like that?


5. The Cry-baby.  These people are always getting their feelings hurt.  And they love to manipulate you by pity and guilt.  They love to get attention by whining.  Anybody work with a Cry-baby?


6. The Nit-picker.  The Nit-picker finds something wrong with everything.  They are an unpleaseable perfectionists.  They are hypercritical.  Anybody work with a Nit-picker?


7. The Space Cadet.  These people come from another planet.  I mean, it’s like, “Earth to Mars,” you know.  They live in their own world, they’re absent-minded, they make their own rules, they park where they want to park.  You can talk to them, but it doesn’t do any good.  You say, “Read my lips.”  Do any of you work with Space Cadets?


How am I supposed to deal with people like that?  This is a whole series of sermons BUT let’s look at one passage –

Romans 12:16-18 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.


Here’s five practical suggestions on dealing with people at work:


“Work happily together.”  (LB)  Would you write out to the side of that, co-operation.  That’s the quality that God wants to teach you in dealing with other people who are difficult.  Co-operation.  Work happily together.  Then He says:


“Treat everyone with equal kindness.” (JB)  Would you write out to the side of that, fairness.  God wants to develop fairness in your life.  The only way He can do that is to put you around other people.


“Don’t become set in your own opinions.” (Ph)  That’s flexibility.  Don’t major on minors.


“Never pay back evil for evil.” (LB)  You know what that is?  That’s humility.  Humility is the ability to absorb a hurt and not retaliate.  Never pay back evil for evil in the office.


“Do all you can to live at peace with everyone.” (JB)  That’s compromise.  God wants to teach you how to compromise.  Compromise is not a dirty word.


Did you know that God specifically puts people around your life at work to irritate you?  Did you know that?  He does!  It’s intentional!  He puts irritating people around you, — “Heavenly sandpaper.”   And He wants to shear off your rough edges, sand them down and make you mellower, more Christ-like.  He wants to teach you how to relate.


1 Corinthians 16:14 summarises it all:  “Do all your work in love.”  Now, how would you rate yourself on relational skills?  Do you know how to get along with anybody?  You say, “Well, most people I can get along with.”  Do you know how to get along with everybody?  “No.”  God wants to work on you. And He’s using work-pressures to build responsibility and people to build relationships. To teach you how to relate like Jesus would.  Then comes along problems.


  1. God Uses Problems At Work To Teach Me Character.

We all have problems at work, you think you’ve had a tough week, I thought I’d read you this claim form to an Insurance Company.

Dear Sir:  I’m responding for your request for additional information on my accident.  In block number 3 of the Insurance Accident Reporting Form, I put “poor planning” as the cause of my accident.  You said in your letter that I should explain more fully.  I trust that the following details will be sufficient.


I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new 6-storey building.  When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over.  Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them down in a barrel by using a pulley that was attached to the side of the building on the 6th floor.  Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, slung the barrel out, loaded the bricks into it, then I went back to the ground to insure a slow decent of the 500 pounds of brick.  You will note in block number 11 of the Insurance Accident Report Form that I weigh 150 pounds.  Due to my surprise of being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope!  Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building.  In the vicinity of the 3rd floor I met the barrel coming down.  This explains my fractured skull and broken collarbone.  Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid accent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were 2 knuckles deep in the pulley.  Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and I was able to hold on tightly to the rope in spite of my pain.  At approximately the same time however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel.  Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 pounds.  I refer you again to my weight in block 11.   As you might imagine, I began a rather rapid decent down the side of the building.  In the vicinity of the 3rd floor I met the barrel coming up.  This accounts for the 2 fractured ankles and the lacerations on my legs and lower body.  The encounter with the barrel slowed me just enough to lessen my injuries when I fell on the pile of bricks.   Fortunately, only 3 vertebrate were cracked.  I’m sorry to report however, that as I lay there on the bricks in pain, unable to stand, and watching the empty barrel 6 stories above me, I lost my presence of mind and I let go of the rope!   Thank you.   Joe B. Sheriden.


Romans 5:3-4 3 … we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

(LB), “We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know they are good for us–they help us learn to be patient.  And patience develops strength of character…”

God’s much more interested in your character than He is in your comfort.

He wants us to have the character of Christ. … the fruit of the Spirit.

…  love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. … Gal 5.

How does God produce those things in my life?

LOVE – By putting some unlovely people around you.  It’s easy to love the lovely, it’s easy to love people like you.  But He put some jerks around you to teach you genuine love.

JOY  – Joy is not happiness. Happiness depends on happenings, circumstances.  God wants us to know his joy through disappointment, through failure, through discouragement, through problems, through grief.

PEACE –   To teach you real peace He puts you in an office of chaos or a home of chaos–in all kinds of problems and difficulties and stress and pressures and deadlines, teaching you inner peace.

PATIENCE – He gives you an irritating boss.  He puts you in a traffic jam going to work.  He puts in delays.

KINDNESS –   He puts some people around you that have obvious emotional needs to teach you to be kind to them.

FAITH – He puts you in situations where you have to take risks.  Where you’re tempted to doubt, where you’re tempted to withdraw, where you’re full of fear–He puts you there so you have to have faith.

GOODNESS –  He brings some ethical decisions into your life, where you have to make the right choice.  He allows you to be tempted – seduced to do the wrong thing.

GENTLENESS – He’ll allow you to be criticised.  Opportunities to forgive others who have hurt you and not retaliate.

SELF-CONTROL –  He’ll put you in a place where you have no supervision.  It depends on your discipline.  When you’re tempted to seek revenge, He’ll say, “No.  Have self-control.”


That’s the fruit of the Spirit.  It takes time for fruit to ripen.

ILLUS. Have you ever eaten a gassed tomato?  You know, that’s how they turn green tomatoes red–they gas them and it turns them red.  They don’t taste anything like a vine-ripened tomato.

Fruit develops slowly.  And God has to use pressure and people in your life at work for the purpose of making you like Jesus Christ.


Now the reality is, you need to ask, “God, what are you trying to teach me in this situation?”  When you are having problems in your work.  Sometimes problems are overwhelming to you.  What do you do when problems overwhelm you?

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (NIV)


Two things you need to do when you’re overwhelmed by problems, whether at work, at home or anywhere else:


1st – Turn the problem over to God through prayer.

2nd – To join a small group of friends who can encourage you.  –  12x Paul uses “we” / “us” / “our”  Paul’s not in this alone, he had other people who encouraged him and helped him.


You need somebody you can sit down and pray with, talk with, share with–you need a small group.


That God wants to build you through your work.  That the most important thing you bring home from your work is not your paycheque!  It’s you!  How are you different?  How has it shaped you and moulded you and made you more like God?


PRAYER> Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Word.  Apply it in our lives, help us to use what we learn on Sunday to make a difference on Monday.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.




God’s Goal:

That I will develop the Character of Christ.




  1. God Uses Pressure at Work

to Teach Me Responsibility


  • By keeping promises.                     Psalms 15:4
  • By meeting deadlines  / standards       Proverbs 18:9
  • By working without supervision     Ephesians 6:6-7




  1. God Uses People at Work

to Teach Me Relationships



      Romans 12:16-18

  • “Work happily together.”
  • “Treat everyone with

equal kindness.” 

  • “Don’t become set in your opinions.” 
  • “Never pay back evil for evil.”
  • “Do all you can to live at peace

with everyone.” 

  • “Do all your work in love.” 

1 Corinthians 16:14





  1. God uses Problems at Work

to Teach Me Character


Romans 5:3-4 / 2 Corinthians 1:8-9























… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. … Galatians 5:22-23



  • Take your problems to God in prayer.
  • Join a small group of friends who can encourage you and pray with you.



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