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“Work that springs from the heart’s delight of it—
Setting the brain and the soul on fire—
Oh, what is so good as the heat of it” ~ Angela Morgan[1]

Since I’ve officiated a number of funerals, I know what’s going to happen when I die: People will move on fairly quickly. As the minister is preaching my funeral sermon, people will be checking their text messages, wondering when the service will end so they can grab a bite to eat and get home. After all, they won’t want to be late for the game.

I’m not bitter, but I am realistic.

Contemplating death prompts one to think about what they’re accomplishing with their lives.

In our striving to matter we often wear ourselves out, longing to be the next Bono, the next LeBron James, John Grisham, or . . . you fill in the blank.

Tim Keller often says that the way to identify an idol in your life is to ascertain what that one thing is, which, if removed, would render your existence unlivable. According to Keller, if you can identify that one thing, you’ve identified what you’re really living for.

As I reflected on that question a few days ago, the words that came out of my mouth were, “meaningful work.” This means that I only feel that I have meaning when I’m doing something that I identify as meaningful. No, I’m not a millennial, but I share their desire to make a difference in this world. But as many writers have noted, ambition is a double-edged sword.

The seemingly noble pursuit to make a difference is like a goose chase without a goose (to borrow from Scott Sauls). And here’s why: Work will never fully satisfy me because I was made for so much more. I was made for God. Given the importance of one’s vocation, the challenge is to enjoy work without deifying work.

As I think about this challenge, my mind goes to the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonian congregation: “[W]e constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thess. 1:11, NIV, emphasis mine).

God implants sanctified desires, holy ambitions, and God-sized dreams within us. The challenge is to prayerfully discern which ones are holy and which ones are not, which ones arise from God-glorifying motivations and which ones are prompted by our lower nature.

Without locating our identity in our work or equating what we do with who we are, we must petition God for contentment while praising him for giving us a work to do during our earthly sojourn.

What are some deeds “prompted by faith” that God has placed within your heart? Are you prayerfully discerning which ones are from him? Can you think of any “deeds prompted by faith” that have come to fruition in your life?


[1] “Work: A Song of Triumph,” in Poems That Live Forever, ed. Hazel Felleman (New York: Doubleday, 1965), 439.