And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.  Luke 12:29-32

Sometimes work stresses us out.  There’s always a lot going on and a million things to attend to.  We can feel like we’re behind and the deadlines are streaming by like telephone poles when you drive down the highway.  You don’t want to admit you are overwhelmed (that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the people you work for) but sometimes that’s the truth.  It’s like trying to walk in the surf on the beach and every time you try to stand up the waves smack you down again.  You keep swallowing salt water and drowning feels like a very real risk.

So the best we think we can do is to attend to all our issues and assignments with all the focus we can muster.  And we worry.  We work late, work early, work on weekends, and worry all the time we aren’t working about what we are missing.  My wife once told me that anxiety is trying to attend to everything at once.  I’ve never thought of myself as an anxious person but some days that certainly describes me.

Is there a way to get out of this pounding surf?  Absolutely, but it may not be what you think.  Encouraging someone fraught with anxiety to “not worry”, without more, is usually not helpful.  If you try it, you will often get a litany of all the issues they are attending to thrown back at you.  (That is probably what you would get from me.)

The answer to our anxiety, whether from work stress or family problems, is not a commitment to “not worry”.  The answer is in placing our faith in the omnipotent God rather than our own energy.  The answer is in giving the issues to a perfectly loving Father, and taking back His generous peace in exchange.  He knows what we need.  He is a good Father with a good plan for us.  Try turning over your problems, really turning over the outcomes – the brilliant success or unmitigated failure, of the issues in your life, and learn to ride the waves in the joy He gladly gives to us.

But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 4:30-5:1

We are all of us creatures of habit.  I have commuted the exact same way to work for so long I believe my car could do it without me.  Perhaps you are the same, or perhaps you have eaten the exact same toast every morning your entire life or read the same daily newspaper (now news feed) for so long that if you can’t get it your whole day is thrown off.

Habits aren’t necessarily a bad thing, or, for that matter, a good thing.  The problem is, that tendency we have to repeat habits is the same whether they are good habits or bad.

I had a friend when I was a young banker named Wally (yes, that was his real name).  Wally used to go to this greasy cafe next door to our building every day for lunch.  It was easily the worst food in town but we were in an ugly, industrial district that was a dining desert.  Wally’s choice was literally the only one for miles.  Then one year the company moved our whole operation downtown.  Suddenly we were surrounded by amazing restaurants of all kinds.  We were at the center of the dining universe.

But Wally would get in his car and drive all the way back to get heartburn at the same greasy spoon he always had.  Why?  Force of habit is not just a phrase.  We can feel compelled to do the things we have always done, even after much better options have become available.

The same thing is true in our spirits, my friends.  Once in Christ, all that old sin we used to do every day as a matter of course no longer has a hold on us, and yet sometimes we will continue in it simply through force of habit.  We will keep using unworthy words, just because we always have, or thinking unworthy thoughts of others, just because that is how we have always thought.  New, better habits are available to us.  Use your freedom to choose them, over and over and over again, until the freedom to do good becomes a force in you.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

Many of us were raised on the Greek ideal of the “golden mean”, all things in moderation.  It is OK to eat ice cream, as long as you don’t eat too much.  It is good to give gifts to your children, but don’t spoil them by being overly indulgent.

It’s a commonly applied principle in business, too.  It is essential in business to compensate employees, but excessive compensation is frowned upon.  Cooperating with government regulators is considered good business practice, but blowing the whistle on your own firm is often considered disloyal.  There is an old Wall Street saying, “pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.”  Being a pig is good, but one should not be a hog.

I have known people who applied this same principle of the golden mean to their faith.  Spending time with God is good, but if you start to spend too much time in prayer it would mean you were not busy enough.  Pursing purity and holiness is good, but if you didn’t have a little vice in your life you were just “peculiar”.

Sadly, even those of us who would never articulate that view, often live as if we do.  We sometimes make it to church, some days say a little prayer, occasionally choose holiness over the vices we enjoy.

That was never our calling.  One of the great comforts about loving the Lord is you just can’t overdo it.  We are called to follow Him with ALL that we are and ALL that we have.  When it comes to the Christian walk, the mean is not golden.  Our reward lies in complete abandon to the will of God.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  Hebrews 12:5b-7

It is amazing how few times I think I am wrong.  In almost any dispute I can remember, I think I know all the relevant facts.  I have done all the necessary diligence.  I have applied disciplined logic to the situation and resolved it in the optimal way.  I know this.  This is what I know.

It is amazing how many times I am successfully challenged.  It may be my coworkers who have more facts than I do.  It may be my boss who has a larger perspective than me.  It is often my wife who just plain knows things about which I have no clue.  Whoever brings the challenge, I eventually determine they have a better solution than I did.

It is amazing how long it can take me to realize my error.  I like my arguments.  They are like my children.  I created them ex nihilo.  They sprang from my head like Athena from the brow of Zeus.  Others’ arguments are foreign and hostile to me.  They lack the elegance and persuasive power of my arguments and yet they ultimately prevail over my own by simple virtue of their correctness.

It is embarrassing how much it pains me to be wrong.  It’s hard.  The problem of course is that I see myself as a qualified professional with advanced degrees and a lot of experience, not as a child.  And that is where I am wrong.  My identity as a child of God supersedes any other description of myself.

It is no surprise this is a repeated experience in my life.  The Lord loves me.  The pride I have in my own head work is dangerous to me and to others.  The opposition I experience is a gift of God’s mercy.  He actively intervenes in my life to keep me from temporal trouble and also to change my eternal soul – to make me more like him.  Let’s rest in the rebuke we receive my friends, it is proof positive of the Lord’s love for us.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”  Mark 10:18

As professional people in the world, we have many masters we must serve.  Our customers and clients all need things and we are obliged, on the whole, to supply those needs.  Our bosses have expectations, sometimes lots of them.  Our companies have expectations, which may or may not match those of our bosses.  The government has expectations for us reflected in legal and regulatory regimes that govern our lives.  Our professional organizations have expectations for us that we are required to meet if we want to remain in the profession.  There are a lot of standards to take into account.

Sometimes it feels like we are forever balancing one set of stakeholders’ demands against another’s.  We can’t get the product out the door like our bosses want unless we fail in the quality our customers demand.  We can’t abide by all the regulations that govern our employees unless we completely disappoint those same employees in how we treat them.

Fortunately, when it comes to the ultimate questions of right and wrong, good and bad, there is only one source.  Only God is good.  If He likes what we are doing, it is good.  We don’t need the approval of anyone else.  If He does not like our activity, it is bad, and all the approval in the world won’t change that.  There is no right of appeal from God’s commands.  They are right, and we will be only as right as we conform to them.

Rest in that my friends.  Every day in our professional lives we will please some and disappoint others even doing our best.  Not so with God.  Our Lord is not just the best standard of holiness, He is the only standard.  As we bring our lives into line with His will, we become right, no matter what anyone else might say.