God repeats things because we need it and so we "get it." Take our calling in life. Three times Paul tells the Corinthian believers to stay put. God will use them right where they are:
- Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. 1 Corinthians 7:17
- Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:20
- So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. 1 Corinthians 7:24
Despite the admonition to "remain," sometimes we think the better place is "over there."
- If I could just work in that office over there ...
- If I could just work for that person over there ...
- If I can just get out of this dead-end job...
- If I just didn't have to deal with this kind of client all the time ...
- If I could only work in the church ...
- If only more of my co-workers were Christians ...
Like Dorothy, we think somewhere over that vocational rainbow life is so much better. Not so! "In Paul's view, my station in life is under the sovereign and gracious direction of God. He assigned it to me and called me to it. Therefore,
Paul is applying the doctrine of God's providence (God's completely holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action) to our work.
Tim Keller writes,
Your life is not a series of random events. Your family background, education and life experiences--even the most painful ones--all equip you to do some work that no one else can do. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
You may be thinking, "All of this sounds good, but how do I bloom where I am planted? Let's take a cue from Joseph (Genesis 37-50).
If anyone had a reason to complain or to give up it was Joe. Sold into slavery by conniving brothers, Joseph ended up miles from home in a land he did not know surrounded by people whose language he did not speak. Study his life and you will discover a template for blossoming in difficult situations:
- We bloom where we are planted when we work hard. Alone, away from home, and seemingly forgotten Joseph could have celebrated with a big pity party. He could have lazily worked his way through life: "What's the use, I'll do just enough to get by." But Joseph did not do that. He knew that he was God's ambassador in good times and bad -- so he got busy and got to work. How is your work ethic?
- We bloom where we are planted when we rest in God's presence. Genesis 39 is Joseph's valley chapter. From all appearances it seemed God had forgotten him, but three times we read, "the LORD was with Joseph" (Genesis 39:2, 21, 23). The Lord is with you too. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is no such thing as a dead end jobs when Jehovah is on the job site. What are the implications of his presence for your work today?
- We bloom where we are planted when we replace bitterness with trust. Humanly speaking, Joseph had good reason to be bitter with his brothers, but when given the chance to exercise payback Joseph refused. Why? He had already replaced bitterness with trust. "'As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . . So do not fear; I will provide for you ....' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:20-21 ESV). Is there some area where you need to replace bitterness with trust?
- We bloom where we are planted when we stay faithful even in places of obscurity. Sexual compromise, laziness, petty theft.... It would have been easy for Joseph to let down his guard in Egypt. He was a nobody in Egypt and back home no one was watching -- but Joseph stayed faithful. He honored God with hard work, consistent stewardship, and moral purity. What does it mean for you to serve faithfully in your line of work?
William Barclay said, "Paul lays down one of the first rules of Christianity in 1 Cor 7:17-24,
You don't need a new job to do that. God has you right where he wants you.
Bloom where you are planted.
In Paul's view my station in life from Thiselton/Hays, quoted in The First Letter To The Corinthians by Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing. 2010. Page 309.
Your life is not a series of random events ... from Timothy Keller, "Vocation: Discerning Your Calling." Click here for pdf.
The true end of our lives ... from William Perkins, "A Treatise of the Vocations"