by Steven Preston
Over 35 years in the workforce, I have had a number of professional roles as a banker, a corporate executive, and a government leader. As a result, I have been confronted many times with the question of where I see God in my work. I think most Christians would agree that we must see our work as being within the realm of God’s purpose for and hand in our lives. We have to see him in the every day and the entirety of our lives, and our work often takes up the majority of that. For me, I have seen God work in three primary ways.
First, I have had the joy of working in roles where the actual doing of the work has brought me joy. Early in my career as a banker and later as a CFO, I found that working in the financial markets, leading the financial operations of major companies and understanding how financial value is created in a firm fed my intellectual interests and allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the organizations I was serving. Later, as I moved into roles where I led organizations, I was able to engage a much broader set of skills, which involved bringing together a leadership team to develop a vision for those we served, designing and implementing initiatives to achieve that vision, and motivating a broader workforce as we sought to enlist them in the process. In that knowledge, I am reminded of the quote from the Olympic runner Eric Liddell, from Chariots of Fire, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
Second, in those roles, I have continually seen the importance of our stewardship in God’s created world. God can use us to infuse the workplace with inspiring and principled leadership, an atmosphere of dignity and respect, and an expectation for ethical decision making. I have had a front row seat to a number of major crises that were enabled by deep moral failures. I was a junior banker during the insider trading scandals of the mid 1980’s, a CFO during the Enron and Worldcom accounting blowups, and the HUD secretary during the housing crisis. All were, in large part, the product of deep ethical breaches across the system. Alternatively, I have seen how principled leadership can turn crises into victories, a dejected workforce into one that is inspired and thriving, and a confused organization into a mission-focused juggernaut. And in that process, operating openly as a Christian shows others the source for the ethos we bring to the workplace. Each of us, in our own role, has the ability to bless others in unique ways by being the voice and hand of God.
Finally, in my case, the workplace has been God’s venue for doing his deepest work on me. As many of us have experienced, our greatest gifts can often line up with our greatest challenges. Competitive achievers face frustration when projects don’t progress quickly enough. Charismatic communicators struggle in the absence of adulation. Perfectionists become dejected when they miss the mark. And those preoccupied with success and image can play it safe and lack courage. Over many years, it has been in the workplace that God has brought me to a place of greater boldness in leading, openness in learning, patience in achieving and caring in shepherding.