I have so much and give thanks so little. God has blessed me tremendously in all areas of life, and I return thanks to him so sparsely and so half-heartedly. This is my conclusion as I continue reading through John Flavel’s classic work The Mystery of Providence. In chapter 4 Flavel instructs the reader to acknowledge the hand of God in and behind our daily work. Along the way he offers every Christian 4 cautions related to vocation:
Do Not Be Lazy. Do not be slothful or idle in your vocation, whatever it is. This is true of those who work in an office environment, those who are workers in the home, and even those who are students. People who are negligent in their main vocational responsibility are almost invariably guilty of sin elsewhere. Looking to 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Flavel says, “He that lives idly cannot live honestly.” (We could also quote Spurgeon who says, “Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.”)
Do Not Be Idolatrous. While laziness lies at one end of a spectrum, idolatry lies at the other. Flavel distinguishes between a particular calling, which is your day-to-day vocation at this time, and your general calling, which is the one we all share as humans and as Christians—the pursuit and enjoyment of God. His warning is this: Do not be so intent upon your particular calling that it begins to interfere with your general calling. “Beware you lose not your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business.” He quotes Seneca who offers this wisdom: “I do not give, but lend myself to business.” Do not allow your vocation to displace or replace your God.
Do Not Be Proud. As sinful people, pride is our near-constant companion in this world, and it is never so near to us as when we experience success. Flavel wants you to remember that any success you experience in your calling and your earthly employment comes primarily by the blessing of God rather than through your diligence. Yes, diligence is important, but it is God who then blesses and rewards your hard work. Humbly commit all of your work to the Lord and thank him for every bit of the prosperity you enjoy.
Do Not Be Discontent. Finally, be satisfied with the circumstances and status you have now, and be content with the employment God has given you. You may be tempted to waste your days wishing that your life was better, but you need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and his calling upon you to succeed and excel right where you are. “Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident hath suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do, had you been left to your own option.” I don’t see this as a call to apathy or a call away from ambition, but a call to Christian contentment. When we acknowledge God, we acknowledge the good in our circumstances, even if they are not the ones we would have chosen.
We will continue our reading next week with chapter 5: “God’s Providence in Our Family.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.
The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.
If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…