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God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life

de Gene Edward Veith Jr.

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490437,662 (4.12)1
When you understand it properly, the doctrine of vocation--"doing everything for God's glory"--is not a platitude or an outdated notion. This principle that we vaguely apply to our lives and our work is actually the key to Christian ethics, to influencing our culture for Christ, and to infusing our ordinary, everyday lives with the presence of God. For when we realize that the "mundane" activities that consume most of our time are "God's hiding places," our perspective changes.Culture expert Gene Veith unpacks the biblical, Reformation teaching about the doctrine of vocation, emphasizing not what we should specifically do with our time or what careers we are called to, but what God does in and through our callings--even within the home. In each task He has given us--in our workplaces and families, our churches and society--God Himself is at work. Veith guides you to discover God's purpose and calling in those seemingly ordinary areas by providing you with a spiritual framework for thinking about such issues and for acting upon them with a changed perspective.… (mais)
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Veith always does a good job explaining whatever he is talking about in a way that we can understand and apply to ourselves. The doctrice of vocation is a wonderful way to show how theology can help us in our day to day lives, how God works through us in our vocations in the home, in the workplace, in the community, in church to help others and to serve our neighbors. I don't think I ever made it all the way through A Purpose Driven Life. This would be a better book and the world would be better if it had sold millions of copies. Rather than search for a vocation that is rewarding, find the reward and the blessing and the way God is working in the often mundane tasks of our everyday lives. ( )
  Luke_Brown | Sep 10, 2016 |
Excellent book! Nice presentation on the term vocation. ( )
  shdawson | Apr 15, 2014 |
In evangelical Christian circles, you might often hear the encouragement to “do everything to the glory of God,” an exhortation taken from 1 Cor. 10:31. But just what this means or how this is to be done more often than not goes unsaid and ends up coming across as a meaningless platitude. While Christians should indeed pursue the glory of God in everything they do, how to go about doing this can sometimes remain a mystery.

In God At Work, Gene Edward Veith seeks to help Christians in understanding what has been called the doctrine of vocation, crediting much of his writing to Gustaf Wingren who in turn wrote on Martin Luther’s stance on the doctrine. It would be safe to say that this book is largely about how Christians interact with their culture and how indeed Christians find the presence of God in the ordinary, everyday activities of life.

For example, when we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread,” Veith writes sensibly that in meeting this provision, God does not simply rain down bread from heaven, although this certainly isn’t impossible as was shown during the Israelites’ journey from Egypt. Rather, God provides our needs by the hand of the farmer who grows the wheat, the baker who put this and other ingredients together to make the bread, and the many other people involved in the process. Or when we are sick and pray for healing, while God may indeed choose to miraculously heal us without any human intervention, the more common method is using the knowledge of physicians to diagnose and treat the illness.

Vocation then, according to Veith, is seeing how we and those around us interact with one another through roles God has placed us in and how God is honored when we do so. Veith rightly and quickly points out that while our relationship to God is not based on how we live out our vocation, our relationship to our neighbors is. He quotes Gustaf Wingren in saying “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

Chapters discuss how a person goes about determining what his or her vocation is, how we are to live within the vocations we have been given, and what certain vocations look like, namely in the family, in the citizenry and in the church. Veith provides an excellent discussion on how Christians interact with the culture around them in each of these areas, bringing it back to showing just how this does indeed bring glory to God.

Two areas are worth mentioning in detail, one good and one not so good. First, Veith excellently points out that the work that a Christian does most often will not look any different than the same kind of work a non-Christian does. As he puts it, “There is no distinctly Christian way of being a carpenter or an actor or a musician. Christian and non-Christian factory workers, farmers, lawyers, and bankers do pretty much the same thing.” The key to recognizing the difference between the Christian’s and the non-Christian’s vocation is that “Spiritually the Christian’s life is hidden with Christ in God” and that “just doing our jobs” is found in “ordinary men and women expressing their love and service to their neighbor.”

The not-so-good detail is that in one section of the book, Veith argues that our vocations are not our choice and are out of control, yet later seems to imply just the opposite. I can understand that our backgrounds and capabilities (physical, mental, etc) control our options as well as the desires of others (in other words, I can’t marry a girl who wants nothing to do with me!). The problem is that he then carries this forward to an illogical and incorrect assumption that ALL choices are outside of our control.

This last point aside, however, this is a great book for providing a framework in viewing how we as Christians interact with the world around us. Veith aptly points out that we are not called to be Christians who sit in a monastery, isolating ourselves from the world, but that it is our responsibility to reach out and serve those around us. ( )
  Eskypades | Jul 10, 2009 |
Some interesting passages:
The doctrine of vocation looms behind many of the Protestant influences on the culture, though these are often misunderstood. If Protestantism resulted in an increase in individualism, this was not because the theology turned the individual into the supreme authority. Rather, the doctrine of vocation encourages attention to each individual's uniqueness, talents, and personality. These are valued as gifts of God, who creates and equips each person in a different way for the calling He has in mind for that person's life. The doctrine of vocation undermines conformity, recognizes the unique value of every person, and celebrates human differences; but it sets these individuals into a community with other individuals, avoiding the privatizing, self-centered narcissism of secular individualism.
--page 21

What is distinctive about Luther's approach is that instead of seeing vocation as a matter of what we should do--what we must do as a Christian worker or Christian citizen or a Christian parent--Luther emphasizes what God does in and through our vocations.
--page 21

Vocation is a matter of Gospel, a manifestation of God's action, not our own.
--page 21

Most people seek God in mystical experiences, spectacular miracles, and extraordinary acts they have to do. To find Him in vocation brings Him, literally, down to earth, makes us see how close He really is to us, and transfigures everyday life.
--page 24

"In God's sight it is actually faith that makes a person holy," says Luther in his "Large Catechism"; "it alone serves God, while our works serve people"
--page 38

We often speak of "serving God," and this is a worthy goal, but strictly speaking, in the spiritual realm, it is God who serves us. "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
--page 39

Genuine good works have to actually help someone., In vocation, we are not doing good works for God--we are doing good works for our neighbor.
--ppage 39

Since God, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, is a relationship of persons that constitutes an absolute unity, it can be truly said that He is love (1 John 4:16), since love is a unity of diverse persons.
--page 42

Christians need to realize that the present is the moment in which we are called to be faithful. We can do nothing about the past. The future is wholly in God's hands. Now is what we have.
--page 59

Under Levitical law, people who insisted on working all the time, who refused to rest, were subject to the death penalty.
--page 64

Christians are not to retreat from the realm of the ordinary and the everyday; they are not supposed to be having mystical experiences all of the time, to be otherworldy, to neglect of the real world in which God has placed them. Many religions consider "the material world" to be evil or at least unspiritual; salvation lies in escaping the bonds of mundane experience through meditation or asceticism. Christianity, though, values the material world. God created it (not a demon, as in Hinduism) and "saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Moveover, God entered this material world, becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. He was born into a family, into a particular culture, where as the son of a carpenter He must have worked with His hands.
--pages 68-69

God works through vocation when it's done right. Imagine the potency of that. When you do right, it's God's acts through you. It is God working down through you to build up his kingdom.
--my notes on page 135

"The natural man is always aspiring to rise out of lowliness to the heights; he follows his evil bent to get away from serving. Through the very action of striving upward toward honor and self-complacent splendor, he separates himself from the living God, who in sacrifical love bows down to created things and stands close to all who are in the depths. This man forsakes his neighbor, so he lives not with God but with the devil who leads him away from the path of his vocation."
--page 148

In other words, the Devil tempts the holder of a vocation to the way of glory. Insisting on being served rather than serving, the calling becomes an occasion to wallow in pride. The mentality this creates is one of self-sufficiency. The person in this vocation feels no need for dependence on God. There is certainly no need for the Gospel, since the person in this successful position is doing just fine by himself. The Devil has twisted the vocation so that it undermines both love for neighbor and love for God.
--page 148

Trials and tribulations, even failure, keep Christians aware of their wekaness, aware of their utter dependence on God. And it gives them empathy for their neighbors in need and a desire to serve them out of love.
--page 149

"Prayer is the door," says Wingren, "through which God, Creator and Lord, enters creatively into home, community, and labor"
--page 150

Realizing that one does not have to worry about what will happen, that the future is in God's hands, is liberating.
--page 152

But "troubles and tribulations are to drive us closer to God; they benefit rather than harm us."
--page 153

For the person without faith, on the other hand, "life's bitterness is actually something evil. It testifies to God's wrath and hands man over to Satan's power, for he is constantly given to impatience, ill feeling and egocentricity. Through tribulations he is led not to heaven but to destruction." The problem of evil really is a stumbling block to those who have no faith in Jesus Christ,and their hardships lead them further and further from God and deeper into their lost condition.
--page 153 ( )
  spudart | Oct 13, 2007 |
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When you understand it properly, the doctrine of vocation--"doing everything for God's glory"--is not a platitude or an outdated notion. This principle that we vaguely apply to our lives and our work is actually the key to Christian ethics, to influencing our culture for Christ, and to infusing our ordinary, everyday lives with the presence of God. For when we realize that the "mundane" activities that consume most of our time are "God's hiding places," our perspective changes.Culture expert Gene Veith unpacks the biblical, Reformation teaching about the doctrine of vocation, emphasizing not what we should specifically do with our time or what careers we are called to, but what God does in and through our callings--even within the home. In each task He has given us--in our workplaces and families, our churches and society--God Himself is at work. Veith guides you to discover God's purpose and calling in those seemingly ordinary areas by providing you with a spiritual framework for thinking about such issues and for acting upon them with a changed perspective.

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