Life Changing Work: Chris Gillies
This article first appeared on the Praxis Centre for Hope & Activism website. In The Hopeful Activists’ Podcast on 15 June, I explore how the world of wor...
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”
Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble…”
At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven
Daniel 2:1-5, 16-19
I used to be a consulting partner at a Big Four firm. One assignment from that time sticks out in my memory – and not for good reasons.
To be frank, it was a brief we never should have taken on. We weren’t sure that the client was clear on what they wanted to achieve, and I remember the sinking feeling when, after frantic and herculean efforts, we submitted the pitch on time and to budget – doubting we would win it. And sure enough, despite all the work we’d piled into it and the pressure we’d endured, we never heard back.
But months later I learned that the firm that had won the contract gained themselves a huge headache and a significant financial loss. They and the client were just not clear on the issues they were trying to solve!
It’s hardly a revelation that working life is often stressful. We feel the effects of the Fall in unhealthy pressure in our jobs, marring the good work to which we’re called. What does it look like to be a Christian in such situations? Should we just cut and run? Pray the stress away? Or are we called to more than that?
Well, picture the scene in Daniel. He was under severe pressure – of the extreme life-threatening kind. He may well have graduated summa cum laude from the premier university in the land, but now all his cohort were under a death threat unless they answered the brief before them. There was a significant problem: King Nebuchadnezzar expected the wise men, including Daniel, to bring the brief with them. You see, the king was no fool. A so-called ‘wise man’ could only be wise if he could first tell the king what precisely he had dreamt. Oh, and then there was that small matter of providing an accurate interpretation of the dream. No pressure then.
How did Daniel act under such pressure?
First off, he sought help. He consulted with his friends and got them to pray as he got ready to pray himself. Pause, consult, pray: not a bad approach. And the interesting thing was not simply that God provided the answer, but what Daniel did with it. He went to the king not just to produce the solution and garner praise: instead, he began by making clear where his wisdom came from. He shared with the king the source of true wisdom. Only then did he set about the task of answering the brief that God had revealed to him.
Some might term this ‘speaking truth to power’, yet in Daniel’s case he was simply being faithful to God. How many of us remember to publicly thank the Lord like this – even in our workplaces, when he provides us an answer, no matter how large and groundbreaking, or small and specific?
Someone once asked me: ‘Steve, is there sufficient evidence in your workplace to convict you of being a follower of Jesus Christ?’ It’s not a comfortable question! How often do we bring our work colleagues and the issues that concern them to the Lord in prayer? Do we have a group of colleagues or friends who pray with us regularly and together seek the Lord’s wisdom? Do we thank the Lord for that wisdom at work?
You can imagine my surprise when early in my banking career I was badly caught out. It was a bad day at the office and I had been less than helpful to a member of my team. One of the staff I worked with called me into a nearby office and said: ‘Steve, I’m really surprised at you. That was not a Christian way to behave.’ I could only reluctantly agree. But the real surprise? I cannot recall ever having mentioned my faith to my colleague, yet somehow, she knew what I stood for and was watching anyway.
When we live as disciples of Christ in all we do, people notice. That’s a joy – but it’s also a responsibility! What opportunities do you have in your work to model godly character and point to him as Daniel did?
Work Forum Director, LICC