Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gospel Hope for Work (and Home)

On Tuesday Glen Allen High School opened its doors to students. A new academic year had begun. While on one hand I was pretty excited to see all the new faces and ponder what the next ten months will be like, as usual I also had a lot of anxieties about the upcoming year, especially in such a high-expectations environment as a brand new, tech-savvy, innovative school.

But by God's grace I realized that each day's success is not based on whether I garner my administrators' approval, or if my students have high grades and do well in the Virginia Academy of Science, or if I'm integrating enough technology and "21st-century skills," or if my lessons are really interesting and engaging to wide variety of students, or if the cross country team does well. In God's eyes success comes from whether or not I worshiped him in all I did (1 Cor. 10:31). Did I perform my job to the best of my effort and know-how (Col. 3:23)? Did I use my time, abilities, and opportunities to serve and strengthen others (1 Pet. 4:9-11)? Did I treat students with gentleness, patience, and understanding when I could've otherwise been strict, harsh, and demanding (Phil. 4:5; James 3:17)? Did I turn to the Lord in prayer during frustrating, perplexing moments (Phil. 4:6-7)? Did I look for reasons to rejoice in my students and circumstances instead of dwelling on negatives (Phil. 4:8-13)? Did I die to my desires and rights so that I could help others (Phil. 2:3-11)? Did I trust God's presence and his promises that he is, and that he is in control (Isa. 26:3; John 16:33)? Did I step out in faith at the Spirit's leading and share a spiritual lesson or speak about God's holiness, justice, and grace in Christ (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:2-6). Did I live for God's approval rather than my colleagues' (Gal. 1:10; 1 Sam. 16:7)?

To the extent that I do these things, every day is a success, because God's purpose for me is to form Christ in me (Rom. 8:28-30). I know that the list above in many ways this sounds like an unrealistic burden. And we could look at it simply as that--a burden of God's desires and demands under the law. But the good news for me and for all of us, I believe, is that in Christ we are forgiven of all our sins and failures. And through him God has also given us his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ himself alive and active within our hearts and minds to "will and to work for [God's] good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). The watching world of my students, bosses, parents, and colleagues may not see it--all this is foolishness in a world of performance-based righteousness and earned love--but the Lord does not see as man sees; he looks at our hearts, which he possesses and is working to renew (1 Sam. 16:7).

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q & A 1)

If I love, worship, and glorify God, I've met my telos, my goal. And even when circumstances are tough and comforts flee, I have this sure and solid comfort in life and in death: "That I am not my own, but belong--body and soul, in life and in death--to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. . . . Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 1).