Canadian Idols Part 2
Balancing Career and Family with Faith
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 our work.

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 failure.

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 careers?

PARTICIPATION

(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 3:23;

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 concern.

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 check.

 

Keeping 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 work.

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?

 

2. Maintain 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:

 

Is family important? Yes.

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 important.

 

Is family all-important? No.

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.

 

Building a God-Honouring Family:

1. Look to the Word of God for principles for building your family.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47 (NLT)
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:

 

1. Faith provides balance.

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.

 

2. Faith provides perspective.

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 great plan.

“Faith is the sense that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.”
~ John Maxwell

 

3. Faith provides focus.

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.

 

Let’s pray.


 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2003 SunriseOnline.ca