Three Warning Signs that You Have Left Jesus in the Car
A reminder that apart from Him we can do nothing.
I had a friend recently who lamented about how he struggled to remain mindful of the presence of God while he was at work. This is how he explained it. “I drive to work listening to Christian music, praising God and sensing that Jesus is right there in the car with me. I pray out loud and enjoy some great fellowship time. Then I park at work and leave Jesus in the car. All day I work through frustration, disappointment and conflict. I leave exhausted, go out to my car, turn on my music, and Jesus is there again for the ride home. So why can’t I take him into work with me?”
How many of us leave Jesus in the car? On the subway? In the vanpool? Or even in the place we have our ‘quiet time’? Why do we choose to face the greatest challenges of the day without the One who said that ‘without me you can do nothing’? (John 15)
If we are to be faithful stewards, we must look for warning signals that we are going it alone in our life and work. It is a dangerous place to be, for us and for our people. Here are three warning signs we must heed and determine to address them as soon as they appear.
1. ‘Me, Myself and I’
This morning I was reading through my ‘To Do’ list for the day and week and I was becoming overwhelmed with the preponderance of work and the paucity of time. I caught myself reading through the list like this, “I need to get that done, they are counting on me for that project, I will have to work hard to get that done, my work on this project will be demanding…” See the pattern? I was following the woeful mantra I once saw on a colleague’s computer screensaver, “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”
What was missing was a mindfulness of the presence, power and provision of the God who called me into this work. My commute is about 20 feet from the kitchen coffee pot to my office chair. Yet in that short span I, like my friend, left Jesus in the car. I was attempting to go it alone. Once the Spirit confronted me on this I chose to develop a ‘To Do Discipline’. The goal is to read through my ‘To Do’ list without using the first person singular. It has transformed the day’s preparation into a discipline of mindfulness, marked by a diligent seeking after His guidance, listening for His direction and submitting every challenge to His care and counsel. The focus has changed from ‘me’ to ‘we’, and it has made all the difference.
Commit today to start your workday in dialogue with God, reviewing together your schedule, plans and projects. Ask for guidance, listen for direction and submit the day to Him. The key is cultivating a mindfulness of the presence of God in the beginning and throughout the workday.
2. ‘Be Anxious for…’
A second warning sign is the onset of anxiety, fear or stress. These are signs that we are going it alone. Why would we be fearful in the presence of Jesus? What could possibly cause us anxiety if we are communing with the God who promises to deliver us from all trouble? How could we be stressed in the service of the One who declares to us that His burden is easy and His yoke is light?
The key here is acknowledging who is in control. The more we seek to control our work, our processes, our people and the outcomes of each, the more we prove we are going it alone. We strive for a control we can never achieve while ignoring the One who always was and always will be in control of all things. We pretend we are owners and leave the true owner in the car. And as owners seeking control, we will always be rewarded with fear, anxiety and stress.
We must recognize these warning signs and respond by inviting Jesus into our workplace. Or more accurately, by acknowledging that He never left. The faithful steward understands that if God is the owner of everything – our work, our people, our strategies, our finances, our struggles and our future – then our first and most important work is knowing His will for all we do. When we take on our work from a steward’s mindset, we will surrender our penchant for control and replace it with a moment by moment reliance on the creator of the universe in whom all things hold together.
Commit today to know the victory that comes through surrender and choose to reject the ownership attitudes that usher in the fears and anxieties for which Christ came to set us free.
3. Absorb and Deflect
Here is a simple test to see if Jesus is in your workplace or in your parking lot. It goes like this; owner leaders absorb praise and deflect criticism, steward leaders absorb criticism and deflect praise. Simply put, owner leaders are in bondage to their ‘go it alone’ approach to leadership, and as a result they seek applause and bristle at criticism. Steward leaders find freedom in the mindfulness of their reliance on God and are set free to accept critique and let others get the credit. When we work in a constant mindfulness of Jesus’s presence and power, it creates in us both humility and courage. Without it, we are thrown back upon ourselves and our own cleverness and skills, which always disappoints.
Where are you on this scale? Have you been set free to work in the presence and power of Jesus to do his will with humility and courage? Or do you leave Jesus in the car, choosing to work in your own strength which results in a constant need for affirmation and an inability to hear the word of correction, no matter how fitly spoken?
These are the three warning signs that tell us we have left Jesus behind through either neglect or intention. Commit today to come against these leadership killers with a humble and contrite heart, ready to turn back to the God who never left, the Savior who never forsakes, and the Spirit who always provides.