How does our faith in God create and sustain margin?
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith involves 2 things: “assurance of things we hope for” as well as “conviction of things we cannot see.” Faith has to do with our vision for the future (that God has made promises for the world, the church, and our individual lives and will certainly fulfill these promises) and faith allows us to hold fast to the spiritual convictions we hold so dear – without wavering.
Martin Luther highlighted the place of faith with respect to our “life-callings” (which I refer to as our visions for life). According to Luther, each of us are called by God to a set of life-stations. These stations might include marriage, singleness, parenting, a person’s profession, or a ministry within one’s church. Such stations are set by God’s providence, allowing God’s loving purposes within creation to be fulfilled. Badcock comments on this,
Through the work of a milkmaid, God sees to it that a child is fed, that the cheese can be made, and so on. Through the work of a ruler, God’s just law is upheld and wickedness punished. . . . Thus married life, too, is a “station,” together with all worthy human offices and occupations (Badcock, The Way of Life, 36).
A main distinction between a believer and a non-believer lies herein. The believer interprets his or her place in life according to faith. The faith of the believer transforms their career, marriage, or any life-station into a divine “calling.” The nonbeliever has stations in this world as well but does not embrace these in faith as “life-callings.”
How does faith create boundaries (“margin”) around each of our life-callings?
1) Through faith we serve God from within our callings (if you have worked through Life Bridge this lies in the area of PURPOSE). Faith allows us to know that our horizontal work has vertical significance. We do our work for a higher purpose, to know God personally and to worship God through our work. Our work, then, no longer takes a primary role in identity-formation. We work to serve God and others, not to build self-esteem. With this mentality we find it easier–and necessary–to set aside anything we do that is superfluous to our ultimate purpose.
2) Likewise, faith prevents us from thinking that our work can become a means for meriting salvation. We are secure in Christ, thus allowing our work to be an overflow of our love for God. “It is unbelief that leads one to search for works by which to influence God; by faith, however, the Christian can do what needs to be done gladly and willingly, without consciousness of reward, but solely out of a sense of love for God and in obedience to his commands” (Babcock, The Way of Life, 37).
3) Through faith our work glorifies God in the world (the area of MISSION). Actually we should say that through our work (done in faith) God glorifies himself! The quality of our work God is able to radiate his character to others in a variety of ways–beauty, intelligence, creativity, and design to name just a few. We do not have to strive to glorify God in this world; rather, the Spirit of God produces the “fruit” of God for the world to observe and even to “taste”!
4) Faith grasps our “worldly” tasks as given by God and as pleasing to God (the area of VISION). Luther held that our faith is distinct from our work; however, our faith is poured out through our work (just as Christ’s divinity is distinct from his humanity, and yet is poured out into it). Thus we know that our work, and its most difficult tasks, are ultimately given by God to shape our character and to prove our faith.
5) For those who are not in an “ecclesiastical calling” (i.e., church work) faith confirms that “secular” work is no less significant than “religious” work. All Christians are “priests” in the sense of having full access to God’s grace and in the sense of their responsibility to bring God’s grace into the world (through showing and speaking the gospel). In a scripture that seems to confront contemporary notions of church ministry, Paul tells the Ephesians that the role of the professional minister is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). In this verse “saints” is referring exactly to those NOT in professional ministry; “the work of ministry” is ministry performed by ALL the “saints” in the Ephesian church. Paul seems to assume here that those in the “secular” world will indeed have greater opportunity for showing and sharing the gospel than those working within the church.
Most importantly, faith tells us that our present “callings” are granted to us by God and not to be resisted. This understanding of calling runs sharply against contemporary notions of choice, freedom, and making one’s own way in the world. Such a “freedom”, though, has proven to be elusive.
A biblical understanding of calling”, however, leads to true freedom. It asks us to engage our current life-stations as platforms for divine service and for performing the role of an ambassador. Each “calling” can be transformed into a venue for shining forth the grace and goodness of God. Such a vision of one’s callings will lead to the need to protect one’s time, mind, and heart. We seek to focus only on what God has assigned to us. We seek to enjoy God in and through each life-station. As we draw near to God we grasp a clearer vision of who God is asking us to be and to become!