[Blank] for the Lord
Justin C. Ha | APRIL 24, 2019 | 5 MIN READ
Like many post-graduates, I struggled to discover what career God wanted me to pursue – I still do.
I invested five years in an accounting program. Upon graduating, my peers accepted offers from prestigious accounting firms. I chose to wander off that path. I declined my offer and took a job opportunity at a major studio in Hollywood. I was convinced that this was God’s plan for me.
But one year later, in October 2018, I was laid off.
I was back to square one.
Several Sundays later, I heard a message on Ephesians. Paul’s self-description grabbed my attention.
“I [Paul] therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (4:1, emphasis added)...”
Since Paul was in prison when writing Ephesians, he obviously identified himself as a prisoner. But he added “for the Lord.” He wrote similarly to Philemon: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus…(1:1)” and “yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you – I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus (1:9).”
Paul’s primary focus was being for the Lord, while everything else was secondary.
For example, he was a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3) while running his ministry. He worked to support himself without burdening the church (2 Thessalonians 3:8). And he later became a prisoner in Rome because he brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Although his circumstances changed, his role for the Lord remained.
He probably couldn’t have cared less about his vocation (or lack thereof). His roles didn’t matter, so long as he could live for the Lord.
What Am I For?
On December 21, 2018 I left Los Angeles and returned home to Dallas. I decided to pivot job industries, and I was apprehensive. My peers who took the path I abandoned were in great resume-building jobs that would secure their futures. I felt behind.
But my thoughts about Paul challenged me.
He had this unmovable confidence despite his circumstances: from tentmaker and ministry leader to shipwreck victim and Roman prisoner. But Paul was unfazed because his attention was elsewhere; he was focused on being for the Lord.
My struggles felt overwhelming because I obsessed over them. But how could I not? Our career is the next phase in life. We need to make money to pay off debts and support family. If we have the luxury, we also want to find meaningful work.
So how could Paul not obsess over his hardships? He ran a tentmaking business and a ministry, which I’m sure was stressful. His plans to share the Gospel in Rome went awry when his ship sank. When he finally reached his destination, Paul was thrown in prison. Why was he insistent on being for the Lord despite these mishaps?
Paul saw beyond the present situation. He saw the significance in pursuing God and trusted in His faithfulness.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8)”... “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).”
Paul witnessed the reality of knowing God. There was something about knowing Christ that willed him to count everything else as rubbish. Knowing God surpassed everything, and this “knowing of Christ” convicted Paul to drop everything for the Lord.
In addition to the worth of knowing Christ, Paul trusted in God’s provision.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).”
Paul succeeded in not obsessing over his circumstances because 1) he believed in the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and 2) he trusted in God’s faithfulness to provide.
How I shifted my obsession
I wanted to find the same “knowing” that Paul valued. I changed my devotional habits by first acknowledging that I was an unemployed 24-year old living with his parents for the Lord. I accepted that He took me out of my previous job. Therefore, He will put me into the next one.
I repeated this confession each time I submitted an application or had an interview. Eventually, my obsession shifted from my circumstances to God’s goodness in my life. I found contentment despite my stagnant job situation.
My confidence abided in God, not my situation.
But now, I can testify that I am an employed 24-year old living in Austin for the Lord.
My story will not be the same as others’. Some people wrestle with greater hardships. And I can’t pretend to empathize with them. But I can share what Paul has shown me.
I learned that it was never about the outcome.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night.” (Psalm 92:1-2)
God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is enough. His redemptive work on the cross outlasts my situation. His glory, authority, grace, and love supersedes all my circumstances – just as Paul found contentment in Christ alone.
I pray that we can desire the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. May that desire lead us to utilize what we have been given for the Lord, without fear of our circumstances.
Soli Deo Gloria
Justin C. Ha graduated from the University of Texas at Austin (B.A. in Business Administration; M.A. in Accounting). He attends Acts Fellowship Church based in Austin, TX. He currently works at an E-Learning startup that teaches cloud computing (A Cloud Guru). Outside of work, Justin enjoys reading to learn new subjects and perspectives. He hopes to write in a truthful manner that honors God; he has posted articles on Medium and now SOLA.