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Increasingly, in a post-Christian world, Christians will serve in positions of influence under leaders who outright reject the Christian faith. Though our culture rejects the Lord Jesus, I believe that God will continue to providentially place Christians in positions of influence. The question that we all must be able to answer is, What is the Christian strategy for work in a post-Christian world? Let me offer three principles that form a biblical strategy for serving under hostile authorities.
First, we must strive to serve virtuously. The Apostle Paul makes a fascinating statement at the end of his list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23. He says, “Against such things there is no law.” In other words, virtue is not contraband. No society, regardless of its immorality and godlessness, has banned the greatest of all virtues: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (vv. 22–23). In a world dead-set on moral decadence, Christians possess both the spiritual ability and the moral mandate to display true godliness. In many instances, we will be the only Bible people will ever read. So, our lives must attest to the holy God we worship. As Jesus commands us, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist is asked by some new disciples how they can continue serving in their current secular positions:
Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (3:12–14)
It is telling that John the Baptist’s imperatives are all moral. His disciples were not to resign their positions. Rather, they were to serve virtuously.
Second, we must endeavor to serve excellently. By “excellently” I mean that we, as believers, perform outstanding work. Proverbs 22:29 states: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” The cream rises to the top. Our superior work is not only a great testimony to our Lord, but it also puts us in positions of influence for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. For example, one of the qualities that is so striking about Joseph is how exceptionally he served everywhere the Lord placed him. He excelled in Potiphar’s house as a slave (Gen. 39). He excelled as an inmate in an Egyptian prison (chs. 39, 40). And finally, he excelled as Pharaoh’s second-in-command over all of Egypt (ch. 41). Of course, all this can be credited to the Lord’s favor in Joseph’s life; nevertheless, that favor manifested itself in visible excellence. When Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes if he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the gates and the city wall, it is clearly evident that Nehemiah had found “favor” with Artaxerxes. Not only did Artaxerxes grant his request, but he also asked when Nehemiah would come back and resume his cupbearer responsibilities (Neh. 2:6).
The excellence of our work is a powerful testimony to our Christian faith, and it places us in positions where we can do much good for the kingdom.
Finally, we must make every effort to serve transcendently. By this I mean that we must be God-centered. Our ultimate goal is His honor. Our greatest work is to obey Him. Our ultimate joy is to know Him. We might serve under hostile authorities, but our greatest authority is our kind and merciful Father. Let me give two practical applications of this principle. First, we should be quick to ponder God’s providence in placing us in our current places of work. We should ask, “Why has God placed me in this position of influence in this time of history?” This is essentially the question that Mordecai puts to Esther in Esther 4:14: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” We must ponder anew how we can serve the Lord in our current work, knowing that we are in the exact position the Lord wants us in. Second, we must remember that there will be times when we, like the Apostles, “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We can never violate God’s law to please a superior because we have a higher authority who demands our allegiance. Like Daniel, when commanded not to pray, we must pray anyway (Dan. 6:10). When commanded to bow down to an idol, we must refuse (3:6).
Of the three principles outlined in this strategy, living a God-centered life is the most foundational. It is from Him that our virtue and excellence ultimately come. We might live in dark days, yet these are the exact days that God has appointed us to live in. May we trust Him and vow to serve Him faithfully.