Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lord, When Can I Quit My Day Job?

Lord, When Can I Quit My Day Job?
 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

I regularly come in contact with fellow artists through ministry and writing events, and often the topic of working vs. fulfilling dreams enters the conversation. Though many are thankful to have jobs, especially since there are so many without work these days, deep down inside, we all want to be full-time writers, singers, musicians, etc. I guess it’s expected that we “creative types” will always struggle to reconcile our grandiose ideals with life’s practicalities.

But more recently, I’ve come to realize that this struggle isn’t unique to artists. I was talking with a friend who’s a full-time, staff minister. For years now, she and I have gone back and forth about the book God has laid on her heart as well as a non-profit organization for children she hopes to initiate. Alas, accomplishing these goals would take time – extra time that may not produce income for quite a while. And as a single woman, my friend is in no financial position to take a hiatus.

This last time we spoke, she fussed in desperation, “Michelle, sometimes I feel like I’m so busy doing what I have to do that I don’t have time to do what I need to do with my life.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard her situation described more poignantly.

I know her pain.

Several years ago, this was my dilemma as well. I enjoyed my job (and my steady paycheck), but there was no way I could continue doing all the things God called me to do while holding down a nine-to-five. Even after shaving off non-essential commitments, I just didn’t feel like there were enough hours in the day to accomplish my daily tasks with excellence.

As the situation approached crisis level, I began to cry out to God in my journals:

Thursday, March 31, 2005
Not liking working w/others today. Not enjoying my work anymore. Feeling like
“BLAH” professionally.

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Oh, God, I thank you for the ability to create a work situation that allows me to 1)serve You; 2) serve my family; 3) serve the body of Christ.

Thursday, January 11, 2007
Father, I’m totally past doing things for the money or for me. I feel like a big fake and my integrity can’t take it. I’m too old to work for money anymore, and You have put too much inside me to settle for anything outside your perfect will. I only want what You want, and I only want to be in Your perfect well – not the permissive will. The perfect will. Life is too short to live it any other way.

While I continued to search the Word for His stance on the fruit He expected from my life, He set a series of challenges before me to prepare me for the change. To paraphrase Dr. Creflo Dollar: When you ask God to take you higher, you sign up for a training course. Crying out to God in my journals, then searching the Word and standing on His promises opened the door for Him to move

Here are three lessons in the course God gracefully developed (and continues to develop) in me, lining me up for His best in every area of my life – work included. I pray that these lessons will be helpful to you as well, and that God will continue to position you exactly where you need to be every single day of your life.

1.      1. Make the best use of the extra time I already had. "...Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV.) This frequently-quoted verse brings the light the importance of stewardship. One of the most important resources on the stewardship agenda is time. I had to ask myself: if I waste thirty minutes every day while holding down a day job, what would you I do with an extra thirty hours every week? The answer wasn't pretty. Cutting back on time-thieves narrows each day's focus.

On a practical level, this means:
·         Cutting back on television
·         Choosing a hairstyle that didn’t take 45-minutes every day to maintain (you know the one – four different curling iron barrel diameters??!!)
·         Putting things back where they belonged so I wouldn’t have to spend all morning looking for stuff. (Ouch!)
·         Utilizing “down” time. Time spent waiting around at my daughter’s gymnastics practice could be used to accomplish practical or spiritual goals. Bring my laptop to write or listen to the Word to build faith.

2.      2. Honor His Word.  "But now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained." I Samuel 2:30 NIV. All too often, I asked God to rearrange the universe on my behalf because…well…He can. But I failed to recognize that favor with God pours out of my relationship with Him. When God comes first, He handles the rest (But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Matthew 6:33 NIV).

On a practical level, this means:
·   Honoring His Word through obedience
·   Honoring His Word and His presence through daily Father/daughter time
·   Tithing fully

3.      3. Seek His Perfect Will. (Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Prov. 19:21 NIV). I don’t advise anyone to quit their “day” job without release from the Lord. Having His will for your life confirmed through the Word and the Holy Spirit will uphold you when challenges (namely bills) arrive to test your faith.

On a practical level, this means:
·         Spending time in the Word to know and understand His perfect will, and observe His faithful patterns (God’s will is His Word)
·         Being led by and obedient to the Spirit in “small” things so that His voice is more clear in the “larger” things.
·         Understanding that God is more concerned about my spiritual maturity than my immediate desires. He develops character in the process of answering prayers. (How awesome is He!)

I’m not perfect in all these things. In fact, I’m continually amazed at God’s grace despite my imperfections. I believe if He waited for us to act perfectly in everything, nothing would ever get done - but Jesus!

You don’t have to be perfect, either. What you do need is faith and wisdom; faith that God’s plan for your life will be fulfilled, and wisdom to know your part in the plan. Thankfully, both of these are available through His Word (Verses: Romans 10:17; James 1:5).

People say, “Be careful what you pray for” as a warning. I say it to you as a matter of notification, no negative connotation intended. Communicating your deepest desires to God, searching His word for His promises, and standing on His word in faith until you see the manifestation of His promises leads to His desired outcome.  Realize that when/if the time comes for you to leave your day job (or, in my case, go from full-time employee to independent consulting), God will have already filled up the time you used to spend working for your former employer with work for Him and extended time in His presence. Contrary to popular opinion, it is never God’s intent for His children to sit around chillin’, no matter how much money we have/don’t have in the bank or how much “extra” time we think we have on our hands. In Matthew 9:37, Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” You will always have a “day” job God in God’s Kingdom…and probably a night job, too!

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