February 24, 2010
The Formative Years
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17
When I reached high school, people warned me that I had better make wise choices or else, because those four years would determine my character for life. When I began college, people told me that high school had been important, but that college was critical. People assured me that college was really when a person comes into her own. When I got married, older friends broke the news that this stage of life would really hone my faith and character. They warned that marriage would be a sanctification process unlike anything else. Except having kids, of course.
Essentially every big step in my life from my first date to my first job to our first house has been accompanied with this forbidding prophecy: the choices you make in these next weeks/months/years will shape you for years to come.
Looking back - and forward - I think everyone who spoke such words was right. We face a constant temptation to decide we're tired of following Christ's example, don't we? We realize our feet our tired and look down at them, instead of focusing our eyes upward. From there, it's an easy step - well, slide is more like it - into a lower standard for ourselves. Just so long as we're being a little bit faster or a little more focused than someone else in our school, our office, our church, or wherever, we decide that counts as a job well done. Pretty soon, our lollygagging dissolves further, and we have to struggle to win back good habits and attitudes. It's so easy to form ourselves by inattention, by taking our eyes off the One whom we serve.
What's the alternative? Take the examples of just a few men of God. Consider Joseph in Egypt, who sought God's favor and won his master's as well. Joseph displayed such diligence and integrity in his work that Potiphar confidently handed over all his affairs to his servant. Take the hundreds of men who worked to build the first temple in Solomon's day, creating the place where God himself would live with his people. Daniel rose to second in command of Babylon for loyal service to a country that was not his home. Each man - and there are dozens of other examples - chose to honor their God with the best work they could do.
I smile at Paul's exhortation to the Colossians about their work: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Col. 3:23). The straightforward wording manages to include every stage of life, every vocation, and everyone who calls Christ their Savior. I imagine that this understanding helped Paul work on the tents he made with a smile on his face and a diligence in his hands, and carried him through his many joys and trials. That's how Paul shaped his life. How about you?
Intersecting Faith & Life: Whether you're a student, a homemaker, a businessman, a grandparent, a teacher, a brother, a soup kitchen volunteer, a retail worker, a mother, an editor, or anything else, this is going to be a formative year. What attitudes do you have toward your work, your friendships, your family relationships, your vacations this year? We have the opportunity to continue praising God in our lives this year, and that's worth doing wholeheartedly.