The Book

imagePutting God to Work is intended to help others see work as a ministry, a way to express Christ-likeness in the workplace and to grow in one's faith.

Book Facts

  • Length: 206 pages
  • Genre: Christian non fiction
  • Release Date: 12/1/11

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Synopsis

A successful entrepreneur and corporate executive had always assumed that if he wanted to serve God, he'd need to leave the business world and go into full time ministry. So he put God on hold until retirement. That is until he clearly sensed God speaking a message to his heart. What makes you think I am somehow separate from your work. The revelation launched him on a quest to honor God where he is…in the marketplace, right now. Putting God to Work is his story, presented as the 10 pivotal lessons he has learned during the journey. These principles are somewhat counterintuitive and definitely countercultural, and unapologetically biblical…and they work.

He admits that he's learned most of them the hard way-and that the learning process continues with each new day. Through his candid stories, business savvy, and sincere heart for God, you will be inspired and enabled to stay true to God on the job and to live your faith in the workplace. So you don't need to park your faith at the door when you go to work. God means business. Discover that true success comes from living and working as He wants you to live.

Excerpt

Chapter Seven
Rosebud’s a Killer

Principle 7: Trust God.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.

–Psalm 31:14-15

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

–Psalm 37:5-6 (niv 2011)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

–Proverbs 3:5

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

–Psalm 118:8

Before getting into the very serious subject of trust, let’s take a brief interlude for me to share the story of the first two days of marriage to my wife of twenty-five years. I promise you, this detour will make sense eventually.

When Deborah and I got married, we first lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In my attempt to be romantic and unique all at the same time, I decided that our honeymoon spot would be someplace exotic and cold rather than someplace tropical. After all, we lived in a warm climate and had the islands available to us almost every day of the year. So I booked a trip to Kitzbühel, Austria. We would learn to ski in the Alps and begin our marriage with a great adventure!

This was the first of many, many mistakes.

After an exhausting day of wedding fun, we hopped on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and landed sometime the next morning with very little sleep to speak of. We were supposed to be greeted by English-speaking tour guides, but no such luck. They had our itinerary as well as the logistics and directions to take us to our final destination. It was supposed to be a ninety-minute trip to our warm and comfortable ski lodge.

After sitting in baggage claim for about two hours, I left my new bride with our bags and went in search of information on how we could get to our final destination. I was able to slowly piece together that we could catch a bus to Vienna and then transfer to Kitzbühel. It would be a four-hour journey, but it would get us there eventually, and at this point that was all that mattered.

Excited to finally have an action plan, I started threading my way back to Deborah. What I did not realize was that baggage claim had recently been designated a secure area because a terrorist threat had put Frankfurt on lockdown. (To give you an indication of the level of tension at the time, there were tanks parked outside the terminal.)

I could not read any of the airport signs, and no one spoke English to help me find my way back into the secure area. When I saw a security guard leave baggage claim, I waited until he was looking the other way and slipped through the doors before they locked behind him. Quite pleased with myself, I smiled and proceeded toward the area where Deborah was waiting.

Just as I began walking in her direction, I heard the distinct sound of guns being cocked behind me. “Achtung! Halt!” more than one voice shouted. I don’t speak German, but I’ve watched Hogan’s Heroes enough to know that this is not a good thing to hear from behind you.

I raised my hands and turned around to see three young German soldiers pointing machine guns at my head. All shouted at me loudly in German. If it’s possible, they were more nervous than I was. But since they had the guns, I got down on the ground and did my best to demonstrate the demeanor of a subservient puppy.

One put a gun to my head while another patted me down for weapons. The third gunman searched for my wallet. Unfortunately (an understatement to say the least), I didn’t have any identification on me. I had given Deborah my travel portfolio, which contained the contents of my wallet, our tickets, my passport, and all the travel-related information we had. I was anonymous, and as far as my captors were concerned it was a sure sign that I was a terrorist.

One hour and two colonoscopies later, I was finally set free into baggage claim, where my new bride was slumped over a pile of bags in tears. Deborah had no idea where I’d been and had been panicked that something terrible had happened to me. I was thinking that she’d be extremely happy to see me, but this was total naïveté on the part of a day-old husband. She was infuriated. After the first of what would become many heated exchanges that day, we headed out to find our bus.

The bus ride was its own adventure, and we were relieved to finally arrive at the hotel, where we could get warm and even sleep for a couple of hours. But as we walked into the lobby, we discovered that it was actually colder inside the hotel than outside. Our hosts had used up their allotment of heating oil for the week, so there would be no hot water or heat for the next 36 hours.

How could we make the best of a crazy situation? Since we had not counted on all the travel delays, we decided to move directly into our first evening adventure–a candlelight bobsled run down a local mountain.

On the bus ride up the mountain, we were handed a release form. In the United States, these things are often three pages of fine print. In Austria, it was one sentence that basically said, “We acknowledge that we will probably die tonight.” At this point, death seemed like sweet relief, so we both signed and proceeded with our plans.

At the top of the mountain, they filled us with hot-spiced wine and, after a few glasses, we felt as if things might be looking up. Then they marched us outside and handed us our sleds. I was expecting an Olympic-style bobsled, but what they gave us was something similar to what I used back in the 1960s to sled down the little hill outside my house. In fact, I think my sled back then was bigger.

I laughed, but they didn’t. They said something in German to each other and gestured us toward the hill. I asked them for the second sled for Deborah, but they replied that this sled was for both of us. I laughed again. They didn’t laugh again. They just muttered something to each other in German and gestured us both toward the hill.

The only instruction we received was that if we wiped out, we needed to get off the track immediately because, thirty seconds behind us, another couple would be screaming down the hill at two hundred miles an hour on a sled made for children with blades that would slice you in half if they hit you at that speed.

Then they loaded us on the sled and, as they pushed us away, hollered at us to watch out for the ramp after the third candle. I turned around to ask, “What ramp?” but Deborah and I had already hurtled off into the darkness.

I was in front with my legs dangling out over the tiny sled. Deborah was in back with half of her rear end on the sled and the other half off the back of the sled, putting her latter half only a couple of inches above the ice. This created sparks as the buttons on her jeans grazed the ice during our downward plunge. While uncomfortable for Deborah, the sparks provided the only light on the mountain, and for that I was grateful.

We passed the first candle about two minutes into the run. I remember wondering why they called this a candlelight bobsled run. We were getting only three candles on an entire mountain, each providing about five seconds of dim light. We also didn’t have an actual bobsled. We had a miniature version of Rosebud, the sled from the movie Citizen Kane. We had been sucked in by the propaganda of the travel agent. I thought, Oh well. At least the legal release was truthful. Surely we will die tonight.

We had long since stopped trying to control the sled and just acknowledged that we were at its mercy. We had approached terminal velocity by the second candle, but we were now laughing hysterically. By the time we got to the third candle, I had forgotten all about the warning of the ramp. Impending death has a way of getting you focused on the present moment like nothing else, and you tend to forget all worldly warnings and distractions.

But I would remember the ramp soon enough. It was the only thing that had light on it on the entire mountain, except for the hot-spiced wine house. The ramp was a twenty-foot wall positioned at nearly a ninety-degree angle to the direction we were currently heading in. I saw the light in the distance as the ramp quickly came into view.

I was later told that this obstacle was intended to slow us down gradually, but I’m not sure how approaching a wall angled at ninety degrees at two hundred miles an hour qualifies as gradual. My eyes grew very wide, and I dug my heels into the ice. In retrospect, I’m not sure how both of my legs didn’t snap right off at the time. Behind me, Deborah started screaming in my ear. Between the sparks coming off her rear end and the ice particles flying into the air from my boots, we looked like the final act of the Ice Capades.

We hit that wall, which actually was slightly curved, and soared about fifteen feet up the embankment. Somewhere at the top of our arc, gravity took effect, and Deborah dropped off the back of the sled. (We later discovered that she literally broke her tailbone that night.) Eventually, Rosebud and I also returned to earth. We landed only about a foot to the right of Deborah as my head bounced off the icy floor.

Dazed, I looked up to see Rosebud continuing its way down the bobsled run, into the darkness. Deborah and I were sliding down the track as well, but then we hit a flat spot and stopped. Both of us were lying on our backs in the pitch black. I think we were both moaning, but I can’t be sure. I do remember looking up and thinking how nice the stars looked in Austria. Or maybe it was heaven. I couldn’t be sure about that either.

I could hear something off in the distance and at first thought that it might be angels. But then I recalled the first warning–“If you wipe out, get off the run immediately.” I started yelling to my bride to wake up and get off the ice. She wouldn’t move. I became more insistent, as I now clearly heard words hollered in delight by the couple flying down the track behind us. But Deborah would not move.

I got up to get to her but kept sliding. When I finally reached her, she was still not moving. I picked her up as best I could, slipped and slid over to the wall of the bobsled run, and threw her over the wall. I could hear the thud of my bride landing in the snow. But I also could hear the blades on the ice of the couple behind us. I couldn’t see them, but I knew that they and Rosebud’s younger brother were barreling in my direction.

I finally leapt over the wall, feeling the whoosh of their sled as they flew by. I landed somewhere near Deborah. We did not move. We did not speak. I’m not sure if we were even breathing. It seemed as though five minutes passed with no sound. And then Deborah said something that still haunts me to this day. Out of the darkness, in the still of the night, with nothing but God and the stars surrounding us, I heard her say, “The honeymoon’s over!”

Remember, the honeymoon had not even begun. From the instant we were pronounced husband and wife until this very moment, we had been on planes, trains, automobiles, and Rosebud. Our hotel room was twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit, and we had done little more than move our bags into our room before heading to the bobsled run. So this was not a good thing for a newly married man to hear.

But the rest of the trip was even more bizarre. Our room was haunted by a cigar-smoking ghost (or at least that’s what Deborah said); there was an active bowling alley right below our room; and the ski instructor we booked for a week spent the entire time trying to get my wife to run off with him. It was perhaps the wackiest honeymoon ever and an inauspicious way to start our marriage.

A Not-So-Humorous Journey

This long story is meant to illustrate that life is crazy. Things don’t work out as you plan. Stuff happens. The pudding hits the fan, and people get messy. And while the example I’ve shared is hopefully a bit humorous to you, there are also plenty of examples in life that are not quite so humorous. We all have stuff that can come along and dramatically change everything. We have our stuff, and you have your stuff.

In our case, most of our next twenty-five years turned out to be what most would consider a hard life. Our youngest daughter, Amanda, was diagnosed with cancer at a very young age. By age six, she had survived cancer three times. By age eighteen, she had endured more than one hundred and twenty-five surgeries, including two liver transplants. She’s had her eardrums reconstructed twice and is now quite deaf without hearing aids. We’re still dealing with late-term effects of the physical and emotional impact of a childhood that entailed at least five death sentences.

You might imagine that during that time I developed quite a trust issue with God. I prayed to him again and again but seemingly to no avail. I poured my heart out night after night and sometimes all night. But I got no answer. I never stopped believing in him–that would have been easy. I knew he was there. The hard, painful part for me was the apparent silence from heaven, which made me wonder if God didn’t care or if he was deliberately causing this to happen. Neither option was a valid one for me. I grew bitter and came to believe that God cannot be trusted. (Our journey is chronicled in my earlier book, Amanda’s Gift.)

While the issues that led to my lack of trust might have been more tangible to me than for some other people, I guarantee that we all have trust issues. Do you trust God–I mean, totally, unconditionally, completely, no matter what the circumstances? Most of us have never really thought it through, or we else think we trust God, but our trust has never gone up against a serious test. To see what I mean, grade yourself honestly against the following criteria. I confess that I have personally failed every one of these situations many times:

  • I never, ever feel anxious about anything because I know that God will fix every problem in every situation.
  • I give away everything I have because I know that God will meet my needs tomorrow.
  • I never worry about the future.
  • • I never feel the need to plan for the future because I know God will bring me exactly what I need exactly when I need it.
  • I never worry about the things I did today.
  • I never worry about what people think of me.
  • I have total confidence that I’m going to heaven.
  • I never feel condemned.
  • I never get upset about a situation at work because I know that God will fix it for me.
  • I would have no concern if someone held a gun to my head or came to attack my family.
  • Once I pray, I stop thinking about my problems because I know that God has my back.

The list could go on, but I hope this little exercise helped you to get a better glimpse of your true level of trust in God. We’re human; we all fall short of complete trust in our Lord. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most of us trust a spouse, friend, or family member more than we trust God. And that, my friend, is the reason why many of us do not receive answers to our prayers. It’s why many of us struggle from day to day, whether at work or at home. Unmitigated trust in our heavenly Father is a fundamental part of the prayer equation.

Jesus taught that if we have faith (trust) the size of a tiny mustard seed, we can tell a mountain to move from here to there, and it will do as we say (see Matthew 17:20). The converse of his statement is that if we don’t have at least that level of faith, then the mountain isn’t going anywhere. And when the mountain doesn’t move, we get frustrated, sad, and angry. It’s a vicious spiral downward into despair, wondering why God doesn’t hear us. I have spent far too much time in that place.

It’s Easier to See the Big Stuff

While I eventually started to see how my trust issues were weakening me in the face of my big problem (my daughter’s health), I was missing the point in the hundreds of small problems I encountered every day–everything from difficult customers to problem employees to the guy who cut me off in traffic. Every day, all day, you and I have a series of little mountains standing in our way, and we fail to see that we have more control over our circumstances than we think.

God gives us hundreds, maybe thousands, of opportunities daily to move mountains. When I finally started to get it, I began the adventure of regarding these problems not as annoyances but as opportunities to grow in my faith and to watch God at work. I can testify that it has become almost fun to see how quickly problems get resolved now that I understand the faith dynamic that’s in play.

I’m thinking of a situation that took place many years ago with a $30 million customer our company had struggled with for several years. No matter what we did, these people seemed determined to be unhappy. If we fixed a perceived problem, they found something else to complain about. When they ran out of problems, they hired consultants to review our operations and unearth more perceived problems.

This cycle continued for five years. During that time, many of us canceled vacations at the last minute to try to resolve this customer’s issues. It was not uncommon to schedule meetings or conference calls before 6 a.m. to discuss how we would engage the client that day or after 10 p.m. to debrief how our recent action plan worked in meeting their needs the previous afternoon. If hundreds of jobs had not been on the line, I would have resigned from this account long ago. But jobs were indeed on the line, so we continued to deal with these people’s irrational behavior.

During that turbulent five years, they put their business out to bid multiple times. But we kept winning the business back because we had the best deal on the table. When they put their business out for bid the fourth time, a competitor submitted a proposal saying that they could save the customer millions of dollars. We knew the numbers were incorrect and protested the bid.

The relationship got mired in a legal mess. More than once I reconciled myself to just letting our competitor have the business even though theirs was a faulty proposal. But as I’d pray about it, something inside kept telling me to stick with it. The legal battle went on for nearly a year. It was exhausting. I kept praying and thinking, Surely this can’t be what you want, God. But I kept getting the message to be persistent.

Then one morning the message evolved. I normally get up very early and use that time to read, pray, and just relax into God. On this day I was up extra early and was able to do all of that and still take the dog for a long walk. As usual, Max was running wild, excited to be out and about in the morning air. While walking behind him in the dark, I silently prayed about a number of issues, including this customer. I asked God again whether it was right to keep going or if we should just give in, take our losses, and move on.

This is one of the many times that I was working on my trust issues with God. And since I had the strong feeling deep inside that I should stick with the battle, I didn’t want to give up if God was wanting me to stay faithful. But I also didn’t want to be ungodly by protracting a legal battle that was ruining the lives of all the people involved. I was very confused as to what was the right path, the godly path.

That’s when a new revelation struck me. I can’t say it was as clear as the message I had received in my basement, but on this crisp morning walk with my dog I got another very strong message, a very lucid thought that stood way out from my normal mental chatter.

If I deliver this account to you, will you trust in me?

I was a little stunned by the question. “Of course I will,” I said out loud. “I’ll also trust in you if you don’t deliver the account. But if you want to deliver the account, that would be splendid.”

When I “woke up” from that conversation, Max had stopped in front of me and was looking back as if to ask what on earth I was doing. I was stopped in the street, talking out loud. I looked around to see if any neighbors were awake and peering outside. Fortunately, they were not. We walked home in silence as I contemplated yet another amazing spiritual experience.

Over the next six months, the actual events that occurred with this account were not quite as clear as the message I had received that morning. On several occasions it appeared that we had lost the battle. This account was not just on life support–it was dead. Gone. I remember praying something to the effect of, “That’s okay, Lord. I’m sure I did something wrong here. No problem. Thanks anyway.”

But each time the account seemed to go away, something happened, and we would be back in the game. Difficult people at the account would quit. Lawyers would change. Enemies suddenly became champions. But just as our hopes would rise, something bad would happen, and the cycle would start all over again. The contract would appear dead in the water, then it would miraculously return to life. We rode this roller coaster at least six or seven times.

But something was happening inside me. As I daily sought God’s guidance and watched him work, this difficult customer ceased feeling like a thorn in my side. Instead, they were a source of joy! It was exciting to anticipate what would happen next. I couldn’t wait for the day when we could announce that we had retained the business.

But that’s not what happened.

The lawsuit was arbitrated, and we actually lost the business. It was indeed over. I was completely deflated. All of that anticipation, all of that hope, all of the faith I had built up was shot. I just couldn’t believe it. Clearly I had misunderstood the message from God.

I wondered if perhaps this was a test for me to keep my trust in God despite the outcome. I did my best to hold on to some of that lesson. Still, I could not help but feel let down. I pretended to trust, but in reality I lost what little trust I had. In the months that followed, I kept a stiff upper lip but lost my sense of wonder and excitement over the stuff that happened every day. I forgot about trusting God. I didn’t stop trusting him; I simply forgot to even think about it.

In the days following the announcement of arbitration, we tried to figure out how to fill the hole left in our budget by this loss of $30 million. It was a struggle, and we knew that on the day they left us we would fall behind in so many important ways. People would have to be fired. Bonuses would be lost. We would let our company down. Although I never said the words out loud, I was thinking, See, I told you so. Don’t trust God because he can’t be trusted. He doesn’t really answer prayer.

But that’s not the end of the story.

As we worked to unwind our legal situation, it turned out that the customer owed us a considerable sum for breaching the contract. The amount of the settlement was actually more than the profit we would have made from this customer in eighteen months–more than enough to help us make budget for the year.

It also turned out that our competitor could not move fast enough to take over this customer by the agreed-upon date. So we got three extra months of business that we thought had been lost. Then, on the day we left the account, the customer announced that they were in dire financial need and had only ten days of cash on hand. The CEO resigned, and the place went into chaos.

As our competitor took over the account, it proved to be too much for them. They couldn’t run the business properly, so they started pulling resources from their other customers in the area. As these other customers saw their resources go away, they became angry and approached us to take over their business. These new customers were better partners and more profitable in aggregate than the customer we had lost.

I later flew back into the city where this difficult ex-customer was based. I felt a complete sense of relief to visit with our new clients, who wanted to talk about strategic ways to improve our partnership rather than all the transactional ways we could argue about the business. It became fun to do business again in that city, and our numbers eventually grew to be better than before.

This definitely was not the way I would have envisioned having the account delivered to me. It was far better! I had trusted in God to show me the way and had given him enough room to work his blessings in a manner that I could never have imagined on my own. It was an awesome experience. It invigorates me to this day and gives me tangible proof that God can be trusted when I have the faith to put him to work. Since that time, I have had three similar situations in which the account was eventually resolved in a way I never could have expected.

We will have tribulations in this world. Jesus said so according to John 16:33. But he also said that we should be of good cheer because he has overcome the world. These tribulations are our opportunity to trust in God whether they are small problems or large and whether they are emotionally distressing trials or comical circumstances at which we can look back and laugh.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Trust in God is an inner confidence and faith that, no matter what circumstances we are going through at the time, God has our best interests at heart and will lead us through the wilderness–in a way and time that he knows is best for us. There will be plenty of times when you will think you have failed or that God has let you down. It’s sometimes part of the learning process. My account problem did not resolve overnight. It took months, and I had many moments in which I doubted God. My daughter’s health issues were twenty years in the making, and they created a lot of heartache and disappointment in my relationship with God. But all of these circumstances have brought me to a place of trust that I never would have attained without them.

Take stock of your trust level. See how you can put your faith in a God who wants only what is best for you in the long run. That does not imply that it will all feel good at the time. But it does offer a long-term peace that surpasses all understanding.

For Reflection and Discussion

  1. What does it mean to trust someone?
  2. Is God really to be trusted?
  3. Why does Christ say that in this world bad things will happen? Why can’t things be good all the time?
  4. Is it possible to develop trust with someone (or God) if you’ve never been put into a situation in which trust was needed and demonstrated?
  5. Have you ever trusted someone you’ve never met, like someone you’ve only talked to on the phone or the Internet or seen on TV?
  6. Are you willing to accept the struggle that comes along with your faith journey, or would you rather things be comfortable for now?
  7. When things are really bad and appear impossible, how would the world view someone who still believed in the promised outcome?
  8. If you are sick, can you trust God to heal you? If so, would that be every time or only when it’s in your best interests?
  9. Do you trust someone more on earth than you trust God? Who is it and why?
  10. Would you trust God to save you if you were thrown into a lion’s den or a fiery furnace?

Preparation for the Week Ahead

Consider the many mountains in front of you this week. How could you turn these big and small problems over to God and trust that he will resolve them in due time? Notice what happens when you trust him. How does it make you feel? Are you willing to give God a chance to turn the hard things into opportunities rather than problems?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Father, if I was completely honest with myself, I’d admit that I don’t trust you. I know in my head that you are good and that you want the best for me, but most of the time that thought doesn’t translate into my everyday life. I think I need to fix the problems, I think I need to solve the puzzles, and I think that there’s no way you’d step in and catch me when I fall. That stuff only happens in Bible stories from thousands of years ago. There’s no way you’d do it now.

But how can I say you are my God and not trust in that? How can I see all the loving things you have done and not have a faith that can move mountains? How can I say I am yours but then act as though you are not there, active in my life?

I remember that during the Exodus from Egypt, the people saw pillars of smoke during the day and fire that guided them by night. They saw you part the sea. They saw manna fall from heaven. And they still didn’t trust you. We are often a weak-minded people. I confess that sin before you.

I do not want to resign myself to a life filled with confusion or fear or doubt. I will continually seek your presence. I will wait to feel you move in me and know that I have a God in my life who can do anything, even the impossible. I will trust in that . . . until the next time I don’t. But then I will repent and trust you again until it becomes who I am.

Guide me on this journey, and make yourself known to me as I struggle with insecurity so that I might be bold and confident in your presence and in your grace. It is in Christ’s name that I pray. Amen.