I’ve been asked on several occasions this question, “How do you juggle between work and ministry, the secular and spiritual?” Well, I see work as an extension of ministry. They’re not competing for my time, but complementing. The key is that I don’t make a distinction between work and ministry because of the understanding of this one word, “Avodah”.
“Avodah” is a Hebrew word used in the Bible whose root has three distinct yet intertwined meanings – worship, work and service. For example, in Exodus 8:1, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) Me’.” In Exodus 34:21, “Six days you shall work (avodah), but on the seventh day you shall rest…” In Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord.” What Joshua meant was that he and his household pledged loyalty to the Lord by worshipping Him through work and service.
It’s a powerful image to think that the word for “working in the fields” is the same word used for worshipping God. This tells us that God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living. In other words, your work is your worship.
So often we think of worship as something we do on Sunday, and work as something we do on Monday. This dichotomy is neither what God has designed nor what He desires for our lives. Your work outside of church is as spiritual unto God as your worship in church. Your school work or office work is as spiritual as preparing for the Bible study. And to all the stay-home moms, what you do at home for the family is not a lesser call, but is spiritual and a worship unto God; and we honour you for that.
When you realise that whatever you do is a worship unto God, everything changes. You’ll want to give God nothing but your best, both in the big and small tasks. God becomes central to every sphere of your life; you become more aware of Him wherever you go and in whatever you do.
One of the areas you become more aware of is the area of “excellence”. The story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 4 tells us that the Queen of Sheba “saw” all the wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom is invisible. So how can you see wisdom? Unless it’s manifested through excellence.
The queen wasn’t just impressed with the exterior of the buildings and the obvious. She was in awe of the details of the interior, the food and how King Solomon’s staff organised and conducted themselves. It’s hard to impress a queen. And for her to even notice the staircase in Solomon’s house, that must be some impressive staircase! I mean, how many of you noticed the staircase on your way to church?
Excellence is prophetic and powerful because it reveals and declares the nature of God. All the buildings, constructions, infrastructure, food, servants, their clothing, furniture, and even the staircase cried out and declared His nature. So much so that after the queen had seen all these, we’re told “there was no more spirit in her”, or one translation describes as “she nearly fainted”.
The queen went on to commend King Solomon and acknowledged God in verses 8-9, “Happy are your men and happy are these your servants…” and “Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you…” This is the effect you create in people when you conduct yourself with excellence. The people around you and under your care are happy and God is glorified.
Likewise, every time when people come to the House of God (church), let’s personify excellence in the best way we know how to – help maintain cleanliness and orderliness of the church compound, the warmth of our greetings, ensure no one looks lost in our area, the experience of our services, etc. Being excellent is another way of preaching the Gospel. The reality is that sometimes people SEE what we do before they’ll HEAR what we’ve to say!
Excellence is not perfectionism. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have at every moment. Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are – be all there.” Make it your ambition to live out your gifts and talents to the fullest. Andrew Carnegie said, “An average person puts only 25% of their energy and ability into their work. The world takes its hat off to those who put more than 50% capacity in, and stands on its head to those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” In other words, there are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.
May we be a people whose worship, work and service cause people to “nearly faint”, in a good way and glorify our Heavenly Father!
Pastor Kevin Koh