Balancing Career and Family with
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 6, 2003
Last week we started our
series on Canadian Idols. We explained that idols are anything in our
lives that take the place of God. God alone deserves and belongs in the
place of priority in our lives, and when anything or anyone pushes Him
aside, that becomes an idol for us. Historically, people have
worshipped images carved out of stone or wood or formed out of precious
metals. In our society, idols take the form of careers, recognition,
achievement, money, relationships, power, comfort, self.
We went on last week to talk about how idols do not satisfy us and
cannot meet our deepest needs. Only God our Creator can do that, and
therefore we put Him first. He meets our needs, He gives meaning to our
lives, He comforts and consoles us, He challenges and stretches us, He
loves us beyond all measure, and He completely satisfies.
Today we’re going to talk about two specific things which can become
idols in our lives: career and family. Neither one is evil in and of
itself… in fact, they’re both good things. God wants us to enjoy strong
and healthy family relationships. It’s part of His design for us. It’s
a blessing He has given us. And he’s all for us succeeding in our
careers. He wants us to be devoted to doing a good job and advancing in
Both of these are good and important parts of our lives. But neither
one should consume us and be our reason for living. If we start to
think that focusing on our family is the be all and end all of life,
and we direct all that we are into our family, we’re going to be left
disappointed, disillusioned, and we will not enjoy the full and
exciting life that God promises us in His Word.
On the other hand, if all our energies are focused into our work and
career advancement becomes our god, then when all is said and done…
whether we’ve had success or not… we’ll be left empty, small-minded,
one dimensional shells of who God intended us to be. Only when these
very good things are kept in balance with our faith, and God is kept in
the place of priority in our lives, can we experience life the way we
were meant to experience it.
So what we’re going to do this morning is this: we’re going to talk
about each of these potential idols individually, and then we’ll bring
them together and see how they fit with our faith. Okay? Let’s go.
First of all, let’s talk about our careers.
The Idol of Career
The people who make an
idol out of their career are driven by how people view them, or even
how they view themselves. Their identity becomes tied to what they do
for a living. “Who they are” becomes replaced by “What they are”. What
titles do they have, how successful have they been in their area of
business, what are their qualifications and credentials, how much
profit did they make last year… If their business is a success, then
they are a success. If their business is a failure, then they are a
And I’ve got to be honest with you. This is a big one for me. My
identity can be very much tied to who I am as a pastor. I’ve spent the
past few days at Beulah Camp in New Brunswick. It’s our annual family
camp for the Atlantic District of the Wesleyan Church, and I’ll be
heading back there again for the rest of this week. But over the past
few days a lot of people have come up to me and asked, “How are you
doing.” And my immediate response is to start telling them how the
church is doing. I’ll tell them that we have a solid group of good
quality people involved in the church and we have a hunger for growth
and we’re making a difference in the community and we’re strategizing
to make an even bigger difference… And then I’ll realize that I’m not
telling them how I’m doing… I’m telling them how the church is doing.
But when I start to think about how I’m doing, I find it very difficult
to separate that from how Sunrise is doing. So it can be very easy for
my career to become my idol.
I’m going to say something that may sound sexist, but I don’t think it
is. I believe men struggle with this more than women do. I’m not
exactly sure why, it’s just the way we’re wired. By nature we tend to
focus more on what we do than what we are. And we allow our career to
become an idol.
John Dos Passos said,
“People don’t choose their careers; they are engulfed by them.”
~ John Dos Passos
And when that happens, no sacrifice is too great or to costly for us to
offer to our idol of career. We become willing to give up just about
everything for it.
What are sacrifices you can think of that people are willing to make
for their careers when their careers becomes an idol? What are some
things they are willing to give up or willing to do to advance their
(give up family time, personal time, morals, ethics, stretch the truth,
lie, use people…)
We can become willing to give up a lot for our careers, even our
relationship with God. As I was preparing for this message this morning
I took the time to read something that a friend of mine wrote:
Christian men and women have walked away from God because He stood in
the way of their career. My neighbour had a new SUV and I commented on
it. He said, “I got it for my wife.” And I said, “Good trade.” But I
wonder how many people have traded a vibrant relationship with God for
a career? Not a good trade.
~ Denn Guptill
Is it wrong to
be career-minded? No.
Paul wrote in Colossians
Colossians 3:23 (NLT)
Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
We should approach our work with a level of pride and ambition. We
should want to do a good job and please our employer, we should want to
have success in our own business, we should want to get a raise or a
promotion. We should be known as hard workers, dependable, reliable and
people who have high standards of excellence. As believers we represent
Jesus and everything we do reflects on Him. So set a good example.
Perhaps your career isn’t a vocation. Perhaps it’s being a homemaker,
working at odd jobs (which I believe was the name of a James Bond
character), or perhaps it’s no so much a career as a source of income.
That fine. But in everything you do, do it to the best of your ability
because you represent Jesus and you don’t want the quality of His work
to be called into question.
Proverbs 10:26 (NLT)
Lazy people are a pain to their employer.
They are like smoke in the eyes or vinegar that sets the teeth on edge.
Is it wrong to
be career-centered? Yes.
Do you see the
difference? Our careers are important. But they can’t become
all-important. Check out these verses:
Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
…He will give you all you need from day to
day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary
Ecclesiastes 2:20 (NLT)
So I turned in despair from hard work. It
was not the answer to my search for satisfaction in this life.
Let me give you just three tips for keeping your career ambitions in
Career Ambitions in Check:
1. Set limits
on the amount of time you spend at work or thinking about work.
It may not be much. It
may just be for a few hours a week. But set aside a predetermined time
when you will not be consumed with your work or your career. For me,
it’s become Monday nights. I talked about this a couple months ago.
There are often things we do in the early evening which are work
related, and we have had to reschedule our date night from time to
time, but generally we take Monday evenings when we don’t deal with
How about you? Do you have a designated time when you refuse to deal
with your job? When you’re free to focus on other things and enjoy some
recreation or relaxation?
Biblical values at work, even if it costs you.
If your career is your
idol, you’ll be willing to compromise your values to get ahead. So
decide now that when the pressure comes, you won’t give in. Your career
will not be your idol and you will not compromise your integrity or the
standards and values God has called you to live by.
3. Remember it
is God who defines you.
It’s not your career,
it’s not what you do, it’s who you know. As a believer you are a child
of God. You are called according to His purposes. He gives meaning to
your life. He calls you by name. He adds value and significance to your
existence. And no career, no job, no vocation is going to be able to do
that for you.
That’s enough talk about
career. Let’s talk about family.
The Idol of Family
This is the idol that I
think women have more trouble with. Two questions:
Duh. In fact, the whole
idea of families is part of God’s design. It’s the way he made us, it’s
the desire He placed within us, and it’s the relational structure in
which He intended us to be brought into this world, to be raised, and
perhaps even to spend the rest of our lives in. Yes, families are
Let me explain what I
mean. When you make family all-important… when you make it an idol… you
start to believe that if you can just build a strong, close, committed
family all your problems will be solved. You’ll never have conflict,
you’ll never be disappointed, you’ll be completely happy and fulfilled,
and the troubles of life will be left a distant memory.
Well, that’s a nice concept. But it’s far from reality. Yes, family can
bring a level of happiness. Yes, you can experience joy in raising your
children. And yes, you can enjoy the romantic love of a marriage
relationship. But if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll never know
the full and abundant life that God is offering you… a life that has
its foundation on a relationship with Him.
After all, the idea of family and the concept of marriage are meant to
give us a rough idea of what a relationship with Him can be like.
That’s why He’s referred to as our Heavenly Father and we’re called the
children of God. That’s why the Second Coming of Jesus is described
like a bridegroom coming for His bride. These are physical, human
experiences used to describe the spiritual realities of a life with
God. Our primary purpose in life is not to build a strong, healthy
family, although that is one of the blessings created for us to enjoy.
Our primary purpose is to know God and love Him above all else.
So with that in mind, let me give you three tips for building a family
that honours God.
a God-Honouring Family:
1. Look to the
Word of God for principles for building your family.
When Moses had finished reciting these words
to Israel, he added: "Take to heart all the words I have given you
today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey
every word of this law. These instructions are not mere words--they are
your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you
are crossing the Jordan River to occupy."
The Bible has a lot to say about building strong, healthy families, and
contains a lot of great insights. Use the Word of God as your blueprint
for building your family.
A suggestion I would make to you is this: Spend time with your spouse
or with your family reading the Word of God and talking about how it
applies to your family. You may want to use a book like this… Quiet
Times for Couples. Shera and I have used this. It basically looks at a
passage of Scripture and talks about how it applies to our marriage.
There are other books like this which you can find that can help you
with your marriage or with your family. Just go down to the Maritime
Christian Bookstore down on Hillsborough Street and ask to see their
Family Devotional Books.
The second tip is related to the first…
2. Make the
spiritual growth of your family a priority.
I remember in my home
church growing up as well as when I was working in the church in
Bedford that we would have families in our church which would disappear
once the summer hit. They would take off to their cottage for the
summer or they would take weekend trips every weekend or they would
just take a few months off. We also had families where the children
were involved on hockey teams or baseball teams or some other kind of
team and they’re game schedules would keep them away from being part of
the Church 10, 15 or 20 Sundays a year. I don’t want to paint a picture
of gloom and doom, but this week when I thought about these families I
reflected in the divorces and the rebellion and the turmoil these
families experienced, and I think there’s a connection.
I understand the importance of having family time and having shared
experiences together. I even understand the desire to take a Sunday off
once in a while and relax. Sometimes I wish I could do that. And
occasionally those things are fine, but they shouldn’t be the norm.
Maybe once or twice a year, but you need to understand that regularly
getting together with the Body of Christ… the Church… is essential to
your own spiritual growth as well as the growth of your family.
Of course, you’re all here this morning and that’s terrific. I’m not
trying to scold you or make you feel bad for when you do miss a Sunday.
But I want to express to you the importance of being part of the Church
and making spiritual growth a priority in your family. So if you are
travelling or you are at your cottage and can’t be here for a Sunday,
that’s okay. But find a church nearby that you can join with for that
Sunday or for the summer.
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
And let us not neglect our meeting together,
as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now
that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
You need to make the spiritual growth of your family a priority, which
means you need to be part of a community of believers. It also means
that at home you put into practice what you’re learning from His Word.
You spend time together reading the Bible and in prayer.
3. Make God
part of your family decisions.
Let me emphasize that
God wants the best for you. He’s not a killjoy, He doesn’t want to ruin
your fun, He doesn’t want to lead you through life just to make you
suffer. He wants you to experience all that life has to offer. He loves
you and wants to direct you down the paths in life which will bring you
the greatest joy and blessing.
But here’s the thing: He’s knows what’s down each path… we don’t.
Therefore, we need to trust His judgement. We may look at one path we
have in life and think it looks terrific. God may look at the same path
and see what’s at the end of the road, and decide that we should take
another path. Remember, He sees the big picture and He knows every
possible outcome. So we can trust His guidance in our lives.
Of course, quite often He’ll still leave the choice up to us. He won’t
force us to take a different path against our will. But we would be
wise to pay attention to the gentle nudgings of His Spirit in our
lives. If you are praying and just can’t find peace about a decision,
if everything looks great but you feel like there’s just something
wrong, that may be God directing you down a different path.
Okay. So those are the
two idols… the idol of career and the idol of family. Neither one is
evil in and of itself, but they become an idol for us when they take
the place of God in our lives. Just as we wrap up here this morning,
let me talk about what it does for you when you keep your faith in God
as the priority in your life.
What Faith Does in Your Life:
The idol of family and
the idol of career are really at odds with each other. It seems like
either one or the other is always demanding your time and energies, and
it’s a never ending struggle trying to find the balance. If your career
is winning the struggle, your family is losing. If your family is
winning, your career is losing. And it can be tough to please both.
People who have their career as their idol would be willing to give up
their family or give up their faith. People who have family as their
idol would be willing to give up their career and allow their faith to
take a back seat to family picnics or minor league baseball. But people
who put their faith first have to take their career and their family
seriously, because God takes them seriously. Both your career and your
family can find a place of belonging when faith directs your life.
When all you are
concerned about is your career, it will dominate your life and become
all you can see. When your family becomes all-important, it gives you
tunnel-vision and you miss out on all the other blessing God has in
store for you. But when God is given priority, your faith in Him will
give you an aerial view of your life and you’ll begin to see how all
the parts fit together. Plus, you’ll see how your life fits into His
“Faith is the sense that we are part of something much bigger than
~ John Maxwell
Your faith can be the
North Star in your life. When the storms of life come and beat against
you, you can keep your sense of direction… you can keep your focus
because you can see your North Star… your faith in God.