Bob works for a boss who is very strident in wanting his employees to be very very precise in what they do. He is what some would call a perfectionist. What he requires is not impossible to do, but the working environment is very difficult. Bob is wondering how he can do a good job in a joyful way and how can he share Christ with his boss and co-workers.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
The principle is that Bob needs to rise above the situation (seek those things which are above) so that instead of serving the boss directly, he is serving Christ specifically and serving the boss because in serving Christ. Bob’s employment is a sort of secondary obligation. Second to his allegiance to Christ. Peter speaks to this when he said,
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13–17).
God placed Bob under the authority of his boss. So Bob needs to work for his boss because he is working for God. God is ultimately the one Bob is pleasing, not his boss. God tells Bob that as long as he works for this particular employer, he needs to serve him in a certain way because God is actually in charge. He is obligated to serve his Boss because he serves his Lord Jesus. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
The principle then is for Bob to see himself serving Christ first and, in this context, he will serve Christ by serving his boss. In doing this he will rise above the situation in terms of who he pleases and worships. Instead of seeing only a difficult boss, he will see his boss through the eyes of Christ.
When we look further down the page, in 1 Peter, we see that he gives an example of Jesus doing exactly what he’s telling Bob to do,
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:21–25).
In this passage, we see that Jesus “committed himself to him who judges righteously.” This means that though the soldiers were killing him, he did not take it upon himself to “fix” the situation. He could have gotten rid of the soldiers. He could have risen up from the cross and walked right past them (Jn. 8:59). He could have judged them and “poofed” them out of existence, the way he could have changed the stones into bread (Mt. 4:3). Instead, he gave space to his Father in Heaven to deal with the circumstance on his behalf.
It is important to notice two things here. First, trusting in the Father did not lessen the ordeal Christ was living through. He was still killed by those who hated him. Walking with God, rising above the situation, serving Christ first and then serving those he has called you to serve, does not necessarily change the circumstances. You might still die as you walk with God. We often think that trusting in God, relying on him, and obeying him will change our situation. We often think, “I tried that, but nothing changed.” Or, “I gave the situation to God and didn’t sin, but he didn’t rescue me. He left me to suffer on my own.” Notice again that Jesus’ reliance on the Father didn’t change Jesus’ situation, he still died. But it changed him in the situation. He died sinless, joyful, and triumphant.
The second thing to notice is that Jesus did not suffer in a passive way. He laid down his life voluntarily, actively, and aggressively. He did not let them kill him in a resigned way. He gave his life for those soldiers who were stripping, cursing, pulling out his hair, shaming, and killing him as an active and vibrant act of love for them and for the world. It is important to note that Jesus gave himself to the father, thus rising above the situation, and he did it in an active, purposeful way.
How should Bob put this into action in his situation? First, he needs to be actively and regularly reading his Bible. He needs to focus on being in the presence of God all the time. This includes reading, but it also means that he does a lot of talking to God. He needs to ask that God would help him to believe the truths God says about him. He loves Bob, he is good, he is sovereign, and he wants the best for Bob. This is how he should begin to “seek the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the father.”
Second, he should give his situation to the Lord. To do this he would tell God that he can’t do anything about his situation and instead he is giving it to God. “God, you take this situation and use it for your glory.” “God be pleased by how I comport myself in this job.” “Lord, use me to shine your light on my Boss and help me to love him with the Love of Christ.”
Third, Bob should believe that all this is true. God is in him, working through him. Because of his renewed relationship with Jesus, he knows that he is serving his boss now because he is serving Jesus. The boss is important, but not as important as Jesus. So, he is serving Jesus first, and he is serving the boss well because he is serving Jesus. He has risen above the situation and like Christ (when he was being killed), Bob is actively and aggressively, loving and serving his boss. Bob should do this regardless of whether his boss ever changes at all.
Finally, Bob will aggressively serve his Boss. This means he will work hard to do what his Boss expects, even to the point of anticipating what he wants. Bob has been at his job long enough that he knows what is boss expects and he can do those things before his boss makes it an issue. Suppose the boss tells Bob to get him a cup of coffee every morning. Bob usually gets upset with this because it isn’t really part of his job description. Now, however, because he is serving Jesus first, Bob can joyfully get the cup for his boss even before he asks for it. When his boss notices that things have changed and he gets even more irritable, Bob can rejoice in the recent changes and can use the new trials as reasons to rejoice and serve even more effectively.
Notice again, this has nothing to do with whether Bob’s boss ever changes. It has to do with Bob’s attitude, situation, relationship with God, with glory, pleasing, worship. And when Bob rises above his situation, he will be able to face any employment situation with grace and joy. He will not serve his employer because the employer is god, but because Jesus is Lord. And serving Jesus always gives joy.