Are You a Victim of Your Circumstances?

Are things happening to you or are they happening for you? What perspective should you hold? The mindset we adopt can have a huge impact on how we handle what comes to us and what God can accomplish.

There are many reasons why adopting a victim mentality is not the best approach. To be clear, I’m not referring to being a victim in the sense of a crime, but in the sense of our mentality within our daily situations.

A Victim Mentality Limits Opportunities

When we act as though we are victims, it closes the door to our problem solving abilities. Our minds can’t flow to solutions when we are fixated on the unfairness of our circumstances.

It can be difficult, but we must to learn to embrace where we find ourselves. That doesn’t mean we approve of everything that is happening, but it positions us to deal with it the best way possible.

On the water, wind and waves can wreak havoc on a sailboat. But if the crew continuously adjusts the sails to take advantage of the wind, they can use it to their benefit.

The wind isn’t in control of everything that happens with the boat. The crew simply responds to use the wind to get the boat where they want to go.

A Victim Mentality Limits Transformation

We know that God doesn’t waste anything for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). If we adopt a victim mentality it can short-circuit the development that God has planned for us.

There is an aspect of our circumstances that God wants to use to shape us, but they never control us. Just as the sailboat crew can use the sails to get where they want to go, God can use these opportunities to get us where He wants us to be.

A Victim Mentality Produces the Wrong Focus

Adopting an attitude of victimhood goes further than just focusing on the victim. It places the focus on the unfairness of a situation.

This focus entirely undermines what God may want to do in a situation. The Bible is filled with seemingly unfair situations and circumstances that God was able to use for His glory and even to bring about His will.

Joseph was sold into slavery, Paul was beaten, and Stephen was killed. Each of these were used by God in incredible ways.

If Paul and Silas had been focused on the unfairness of being thrown in jail, the jailer and his family may have never been saved (Acts 16:23-34). We need to keep our focus on Christ and what God wants to accomplish in every situation.

We don’t want to waste what God has plans to use.

A Better Mentality

Jesus always responded to His circumstances from a position of control. He never let the circumstances control His attitude. He was always intentional in how He responded and never took the place of a victim.

Our circumstances never take God by surprise. We are always in a place where God has a clear path forward. We may not see the full path, but we will always see enough to take a step.

The Challenge

We are to be intentionally handling situations and things that come up, not allowing ourselves to be controlled and manipulated by them.

We can often limit what God wants to do in the situation with how we see things.

Are there any circumstances that might be impacting you more than they should today? What does God want you to take charge of and get intentional with? Ask the Lord to show you and adjust your sails to use the wind today.

With the right mentality, you will be amazed at how quickly things can change.

Does a Soft Answer Turn Away Wrath?

Have you ever responded to someone in a way that felt great in the moment but eventually embarrassed you? Perhaps you wished you had handled it differently? Sometimes this seems like a never-ending cycle, but it doesn’t have to be.

There is a Better Way

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

I must admit that I have spent plenty of time saying just the right thing to increase the wrath from others. Fortunately, I have also come to see the benefits of not doing so.

Have you seen how a timely gentle response can completely defuse a situation? It can quickly calm down a raging person and can completely shift the atmosphere in an entire room.

There is a spirit of peace that comes with a controlled response. Much more than what our eyes alone can see.

To be clear, I am not talking about letting people walk all over us. I am talking about an assertive, firm and calm response. One that is not solely driven by uncontrolled emotions.

A Necessary Disclaimer

Understanding and using this concept biblically doesn’t mean that a harsh or dramatic response is never appropriate. But it is a reminder that most often a calm, calculated, assertive response is exactly what is needed.

Jesus often gave what seemed to be harsh responses to people, especially the religious leaders at the time. But He was always speaking to what was in their heart. He never lost His cool or had any regret over how He handled Himself.

The Every Day Reality

We may think that we don’t have a choice in how we react, but when patterns show up in our lives, we make a choice whether to let them continue or to deal with them.

I have handled some situations very well and some not so well. As I reflected on each interaction and why they had different results, I could see that how it went often had more to do with me and my own heart than it did with the other person.

God loves you. And God loves the people he puts in front of you. Think about it: you have an opportunity to be different in those moments. Of course, there is the importance of remaining professional, but there is more to it. You are representing Christ.

This doesn’t mean we give a robotic response, but it means we should always have a response that we are still proud of an hour later.

We Need A Helper

It might seem impossible to do in your own strength. If you believe that, you are right.

We need God’s Holy Spirit to live through us to respond in this way. Our will power has a limit, but the power that Jesus had on earth and that we have in us today has no limit.

If we love people, we need to seek to see them the way God sees them. We need to separate the way they act from who they are and how much they matter.

Many times we have a choice to make in how we respond. Does anything come to mind for you? How can you ask God to get engaged and rely on His strength, so you can always be ready to make the right choice?

Do You Work With Excellence?

God does not do half-hearted work. It is in His nature to do the best work possible. But does He expect the same from us today?

Our Biblical Example

The Bible is filled with examples that demonstrate not only the importance of working with excellence, but also the requirement of working with excellence.

In the Bible, Daniel worked with a spirit of excellence that was even recognized by others (Dan. 6:3, Dan. 5:12). God was able to trust Daniel with delicate situations because he was faithful to Him and always did excellent work.

What has God already trusted you with? God often wants to see our faithfulness in small things before He can trust us with bigger things.

Joseph is another paramount example of working with excellence. Everything he did was to the best of his ability. So much so that his managers were concerned about nothing that was under his responsibility (Gen. 39:6, Gen. 39:23).

Often times we may not feel that we have the right abilities, but are we truly using all the abilities we do have?

Your Work is A Witness

The greatest witness a Christian can provide is often through their actions rather than their words. We have a great opportunity to demonstrate our faithfulness to the One we serve by the excellence of our work.

As author Tom Nelson writes in his book, Work Matters, “The excellence of our work often gives us the credibility to speak of the excellence of our Lord Jesus.” Nelson also recognizes that diligent stewardship is an authenticating mark of a true follower of Christ.

Would you want to listen to someone talk about Jesus if they were careless, complaining or lazy in their work?

Jesus and the Apostle Paul

The apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians under the assumption that they would excel in everything (2 Cor. 8:7). He wrote to Colossians that they should do their work with their whole heart as though they were working for God and not for man (Col. 3:23).

How often do we just see our work as something we simply do, rather than something we do for God?

Jesus told His followers to let their light shine for others to see, so they could glorify their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Our light should shine in how we talk, how we act, and in the kind of work we do.

It seems quite difficult to imagine Jesus or the apostle Paul doing work that wasn’t done to the best of their ability. How much confidence would you have in buying a tent made by the apostle Paul?

Do people have that kind of confidence in the work we do every day?

What About You?

Sometimes we can become complacent if we aren’t careful. It’s good to take time to reflect and ask ourselves whether we are truly giving our best in everything we do.

Are you stuck or lacking motivation? Get alone with the Lord and ask Him to help. He has prepared everything for you to walk in and has exactly what you need to move forward with confidence and purpose.

Is it important to you to do your best work? What will you do this week to work with excellence?

Are the Events In Your Work Arbitrary?

What if all the circumstances in your work over the past few years were sovereignly ordered by God for your education? Would that change how you viewed some of the events? When you start to see God around you in your work, you will quickly begin to see how God can use everything.

If you are a follower of Christ, God’s Word promises that He will use everything for your good.

It may be difficult to believe at first, but God will not waste anything. Not even the mistakes we make, the difficulties we encounter, or the victories we enjoy.

Remember that God is always in charge

I recall a time when I felt betrayed by a coworker. At first, I kept busy stewing over how unfair and wrong their actions were, but eventually God was able to use it to teach me about relying on Him. He gave me the steps I needed to take to resolve the situation and to restore the relationship. This initial problem even led to other benefits within the team that I would have never expected.

How much are we missing out on because we have our eyes on the wrong prize? We think our work is about us and not about the God we serve.

How often do we complain and fail to recognize God’s hand and ability to use what comes to us? We waste time grumbling over details like how we have been wronged, all while God is waiting for us to look to Him so He can use circumstances for what He desires.

There is a better way

We don’t have to waste time grumbling. We can rise up and trust God with everything that comes to us in our work. Whether its good or bad, easy or difficult, clear or confused.

When we make up our mind to trust that God will not waste anything, we must remember that we have a spiritual adversary that wants to distract us from the truth.

This enemy wants you to focus on yourself and to forget the fact that God will use everything for your good. But we can walk and work by faith and trust in the promise of Romans 8:28 – that God will use all things for our good.

That means that no matter what you have been through and no matter what you are going through, God has plans to use it for your greatest benefit. He does so according to His complete knowledge of you.

It all comes down to one question – will you trust Him?

Do you trust God with your work? Do you trust Him to use you where you are today? Do you trust Him to develop you for where you’re going?

If we don’t see our circumstances through a lens of trust in God, we can disrupt what He wants to accomplish in us. We can even delay what God wants to prepare us for.

It’s time to lean in and embrace our circumstances.

What about your own work?

What can you see that God has already used for your development? Is there anything going on right now that you need to trust Him with more?

Is Work Important in the Bible?

Does work matter in the Bible? What does the Bible even say about the topic of work? The answers to these questions are foundational to our faith at work journey. You might be surprised to find out just how prominent work actually is in the Bible. You may be equally surprised at how much God uses work.

Work is a primary means God uses to bring about His will and His plans for mankind. Once we recognize it, it becomes clear that it is everywhere from Genesis to Revelation.

Major Ideas of Work in the Bible

The Bible has a lot to say about work. The Bible speaks directly to how we should work and even provides countless examples for us to follow. The Bible includes many different types of work, ranging from manual labor and household duties to teaching, managing, and leading.

Many overarching work-related themes are found in the Bible – here are just a few:

  • God works through people and partners with them in their work
  • God uses the work of His people to accomplish His will
  • God uses work to shape and develop people
  • God doesn’t waste anything when it comes to the work of people and the circumstances of their lives
  • God uses the work of people to extend His Kingdom on earth and expand His influence

These important work-related ideas, along with many others, are found throughout the whole of Scripture.

Work in the Old Testament

The Bible begins with a description of the work God did in creation and points to God as a worker. Did you know that the first words God said to His created man and woman together were directions to do work?

Since God is a worker and we are made in His image, when we work, we are putting God’s nature on display.

It is fascinating to note that work existed before sin entered the world. While the fall of man and sin brought a curse upon the earth and changed human’s experience of work, the nature of work remained good.

The Old Testament includes examples of massive work, such as Noah building the Ark, and Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. It also includes smaller work, like pouring oil into jars or baking bread. And we can’t forget the important work of the priests, prophets, judges and kings.

Joseph and Daniel stand as incredible examples of what it is to work for God and in partnership with Him. Have you thought about how everything they did was working with God?

Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes give practical advice when it comes to work and applying God’s wisdom to daily life.

Work in the New Testament

Work and the marketplace played significant roles in the Gospels. The disciples were not pulled from the religious leadership of the time. Jesus found them in the marketplace where they were doing everyday work. The Gospels were written by workers, including a medical doctor, a tax collector and a fisherman.

The Rabbi’s at the time were expected to learn a trade to support themselves while they taught students. Paul was a tentmaker and Jesus was a carpenter.

Paul wrote about the basic expectations of work, including the importance of doing our work for God and not for man. He even warned the Thessalonians against idleness and went so far as to say that those who were unwilling to work should not eat.

Have you noticed that much of the apostle’s ministry activity was done in the marketplace?

Many of the parables of Jesus were related to work and included different types of work, such as management, farming, gardening, construction and shepherding.

Summing it Up

The prominence of the topic of work in the Bible speaks to its significance. The Bible contains work found in all segments of society, including: education, religion, family, business, government, arts, entertainment, and media.

From beginning to end, the Bible clearly reveals the sanctity and dignity of work. Work is found within the Creator Himself and humanity is called to continue God’s work on earth.

What About Today?

The breadth of work in the Bible has clear implications for today.

Can you see the significance of work in the Bible? Can you see the pattern of how God works together in partnership with people?

What do you think about the prominence of work in the Bible? How does what you see in the Bible about work affect how you see the work you do? Will you engage God in your work this week?

5 Steps to Connect Your Faith and Work

Did you know that God created you with your work in mind? He already knew the work you would be doing right now. Whether you love what you’re doing or are in a tough place, God wants to be with you in your work. But how can you make the connection between God and your work?

Here are 5 steps that will help you make that connection.

1. Think biblically about your work

God is a worker and He created you in His image. When you work, you are putting God’s nature on display.

You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary to do God’s work. God anoints people for many different kinds of work – He did in the Bible and He does today. Whether you take care of children, cut grass or run your own company, you must recognize that your work matters to God and is filled with purpose.

The way we think feeds our attitude, how we act and how we react. How do you think about your work? Do you see that your work matters to God?

2. Invite God into your work

After you recognize that God cares about your work, you must open the door for Him to lead. God desires to be your partner. He has big plans for your work and everything He wants to do through you, but you must let Him drive.

You can start by simply asking God where He wants to get engaged. He is the source of all wisdom and knows exactly what you need in your work.

Is God welcome in your work? How can you partner with Him this week?

3. Make room for God to speak

If we want to work the way God created us to, we must prioritize intimacy with Him. We can’t hear from God if our minds and bodies are always preoccupied. We need to carve out time to be alone with God.

It could be a walk, quiet time, Bible reading, devotionals, worship, journaling or any other practice that can help you to quiet your mind. We just need to carve out the time.

God is already speaking to us, we simply need to get tuned-in to the right station. How will you make sure you are tuned into what God is already speaking?

4. Recognize how God has already used your work

God doesn’t waste anything. He uses everything in our lives to shape us to become more like Christ. God wants to use your work to transform you, the people around you, and even the atmosphere around you.

If we don’t recognize that God wants to use something, we can easily get distracted by its difficulty or begin to feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, we should always seek to allow God to use what we are going through.

Think about how God has already challenged you to grow through your work. Is there anything going on now that He may have plans to use?

5. Work by faith

As followers of Christ, we must walk and work by faith. That means to walk in trust. To trust in what God has said in His Word and what He will do with our work. If you consistently work by faith, you won’t be easily distracted by the many things around you.

What do you need to trust God with today? A situation? A relationship? A tough project? Submit it to Him and watch what He will do. Ask yourself if you really trust Him with it.

Take the next step

You might be surprised to know that God has significant plans for everything that comes to you in your work.

Did God bring anything to mind while reading this post? What steps will you take today to connect your faith to your daily work?

Go With the Nudge

Have you ever had a tiny impression come to your mind? One that you weren’t sure where it came from? If you’re like most people, they often come through as a passing thought that you barely even notice. While they may be small and fleeting, what if some are there for a reason?

I was at a conference a few years ago and someone told me the that little nudges I was getting were more God than me. The intuition or the impression I have about a situation or a next step. When they said that to me, it hit home, so I decided to go with it. I decided that when a nudge came to my mind, I would act on it. Whether it was something to say, a call to make, a place to go, or anything else within reason.

What I experienced next amazed me.

When I took the step to act on the little nudge that I felt, it was like a flood gate opened. Things that seemed so small and irrelevant led to significant outcomes when I took the step. And they were thoughts I barely even noticed or just let pass by.

I remember a time when I was driving home from work and I felt a nudge to go through a fast food drive-through. So I followed the nudge and ordered a coffee. When I got to the window, a lady was celebrating and almost crying and said, “that is exactly what I needed today! Thank you!” She was pointing at a decal on my windshield that said KNOW JESUS. She explained that God had used the simple sign to show her that He was still in charge in the tough times. We never know how God may use simple obedience to the nudges.

Sometimes God speaks through a megaphone and other times it is like a distant whisper. We need to be attentive to when He may be speaking. Sure we will get it wrong sometimes, but this is about small actions, not big life changing decisions. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we miss it – but they are small risks. Just little impressions.

I often feel like I can just go along with my day and God will take care of everything. He will set me up. He will prepare the situation. He will prepare the other people. He will prepare the opportunity and the right atmosphere. He will even prepare the information I will need.

The more in-tune I get with following the right nudges that come to mind, the more it feels like a real partnership with God. I have my responsibility to just go where and say what I sensed. No pressure at all. I’m not suggesting some mystical far-out way of working or living – just following simple steps that come to mind. A phone call to make, a lunch to schedule, a even walk to take. Simple things that God will use to move your work and life in the direction He has planned.

Other nudges I have felt and seen God use are simple things like going to a specific area or place, taking a different route home, bringing a particular book with me, answering an email, ignoring an email, making a purchase, avoiding a purchase, taking a note, talking to someone in a line, starting a process, and giving a simple encouragement, along with countless others.

They are all simple. None of these examples seem significant on the surface. But each of them led to a story that made a difference. One that God used – whether it was for me, for another person or even for a project.

I’m certainly not claiming that every passing thought is from God, but what if you started to pay a little closer attention for the thoughts that could be?

Try following a nudge and God just may surprise you.

Time to Clear Your Mind

Have you ever felt your mind was clouded and overloaded? Unable to concentrate or focus on anything? Maybe its like that all the time, or perhaps just when you have a lot going on. Either way, there is a key I have found that can help to break open the productive flow in your mind again.

Get everything out of your head. I call it a brain dump. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with so many things pulling us in so many directions. This method is a way to get back to clear thinking again.

It is just as simple as it sounds – get everything out of your head by writing it down. You will quickly see the benefits. You can handwrite it or do it on your computer – whatever sounds best.

Most people capture over 70 items on their first list. It can be things that are unfinished, something from the past, things you need to start, or dreams you don’t want to lose. Whatever it is that is taking up space in your head, write it down.

You can do this simple trick anytime you feel overwhelmed or can’t seem to focus. It is amazing what this can do for helping you to feel relaxed and like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Why does this work? David Allen, known for his Getting Things Done methodology, says that our minds are for having ideas, not for holding them. When you get it all written down, your head will finally have space to think and be creative again.

Just clearing everything out of your mind will bring relief. The next step is to simply enjoy the feeling of having everything captured on paper (or computer). Even if it is a massive list, everything should feel less overwhelming. While that feeling is great, this practice will also quickly give you clarity on where to focus next.

When we have everything that has been on our mind in front of us, we can better see where we should spend our time and energy. Something will clearly stick out as needing your attention first. You will also see things that will need more planning, and others that can simply wait until later.

You may even see a way to naturally categorize the list. It should be easy to separate out urgent items and important items. You will also see sequential items that need to be done in a specified order. Different timeframes will also become apparent, such as: right now, within the next week, the next month, or longer. Many items will have no timeframe or even no action needed.

This practice of clearing your mind can be helpful in many different circumstances. It is useful when we have a decision to make, when we are not sure what to work on, or when we keep jumping between tasks without finishing anything.

This technique is also one I like to use to give God space to speak to me. It is difficult to hear God speak when we have hundreds of things going around in our minds. I often use the example of a jar with water and sand that keeps getting stirred up. You can’t see through the foggy water, but if you stop stirring it, the sand will settle and the water will be come clear.

This fog is what happens to our minds when they are always racing. When we get everything out, we can finally let our minds settle. This can bring the much needed relief and clarity, so we can see the best path forward.

You must to create space or your mind will remain filled with half-baked thoughts that can exhaust you and keep you from being productive. Take some time to start your list. You can manage it or add to it as needed. Just get it all out and enjoy the relief.

Time For Action, Just Start

Have you ever had a deadline sneak up on you? Ever put something off only to find that time keeps passing by? All the sudden weeks have passed with little progress? Fortunately, there is a simple principle that can help you avoid these situations.

Somewhere along the way in trying to be more productive, I learned about the power of starting. Just starting. It seems so simple, but I have found that whether I’m working on a presentation, organizing a messy room, or launching a project – the same principle applies. Just start and progress will take over.

Very often when we have something important we need to do, a subconscious resistance can keep us from even beginning. For some reason there seems to be a barrier. We may not even be aware of it. We just keep thinking that we will work on it later.

There are many reasons we can delay starting on something. Some can be valid, but more often it is just resistance in our mind. It could be that the task seems overwhelming or that we don’t know where to begin. It could be because we can’t see what direction to go or that we are waiting for a big chunk of time to suddenly appear.

Whatever the reason is, we can quickly overcome the resistance with this simple principle.

Just starting will get the ball rolling. After the ball is in motion, it is much easier to keep it moving. We don’t have to know exactly how we are going to finish – we just need to get started. You can’t redirect a ship that is still sitting at the dock. You have to get the ship out to sea and in motion.

God will always come through to direct us, but we need to take action. We can’t keep sitting at the dock. We need to get out to sea so God can help us navigate. We can trust Him to course correct if needed.

When we have already started on something and return to work on it again, the subconscious resistance is removed. Just get started and the direction will unfold as you move forward. But we have to start. Very often when I finally convince myself to start, I am able to advance what I’m working on to more than half done. When I return to work on it, I feel less resistance because I already have something to work with.

God can do amazing things through us when we take action and stay close to Him. He can put pieces together, get the right people in place, remove challenging roadblocks, and guide us more than we could ever ask. We don’t have to understand everything; we just need to trust that He will drive as we take the ship out to sea.

So what have you been putting off? What has been nagging you? Whatever it is, just start and trust God to direct you. Ask Him to help you and watch what He can do.

Take Ownership or Fool Yourself

Have you ever had a project or a goal that just didn’t seem to move forward? It could be because you haven’t given it attention, or it seems too difficult. Whether at work or in our personal life, we all have these moments.

The first time I felt this way was on my first engineering internship. During my mid-summer review, my manager at the time told me that I needed to take ownership of my biggest project. At first, I was insulted by the feedback. How could he say I wasn’t owning the project?

The more I thought about it, the more I could see that he was right. Unconsciously, it didn’t matter to me whether the project succeeded or failed. I felt it was too complicated for an intern and I couldn’t see an obvious solution – so I just took a casual approach to it. After he told me that I needed to take ownership, I could see that it was exactly what I had avoided.

If I didn’t “own” the project and it failed, my mind could believe that failure was outside of my control. What a sneaky trick. The truth was that if I didn’t OWN it, the project would never have a chance to be successful. When I got more serious about ownership, creativity and passion flowed around the project and I was able to find a solution in time.

I have applied this principle of ownership again and again. We can never be reminded too often about taking ownership. Former Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink, is a popular speaker on the topic of ownership. In his book, Extreme Ownership, he says, “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”

Whether you lead people, projects or initiatives, you are a leader. If we don’t own what we need to, we will always have excuses that stand in the way of our creativity and success. We must take true responsibility for results if we want to see them. We can’t let excuses take the lead.

In the Bible, God prepared Queen Esther for a time when she would need to take a risk to accomplish what she needed to. She was uniquely positioned and God had prepared everything, but it was up to her to own what she had to do. Esther took the risk. She took ownership and God saved her nation.

God has a path planned for each of us. He has designed it. He is always guiding, shaping us, and preparing us. Remember, we must be faithful even in the little things if we want God to use us for the big things. Sometimes we understand every detail and other times it seems like we know nothing. We need to learn how to trust what God wants to do through what He brings to us.

So, what do you need to take ownership of? Results? A relationship? A tough project? A broken process? Whatever it is, make certain that you are not fooled into making the same mistake I did years ago. Take ownership.

Colossians 3:23 tells us to do everything with our whole heart and to do it for God and not for man. Big or small, what will you take ownership of today?