This article is written by BCC Counselor Mark Johnson as part of our mini-series on biblical wisdom for the workplace.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose trust is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
We are often perplexed by the various decisions we encounter in life. We want to know: “Whom should I marry”, “Should I buy this car”, and “What about a house?”
One of the most frequent questions is “How do I decide whether to stay or leave a job?”
Let me briefly walk through some helpful concepts from a book by Dave Swavely. I’ve listed the book and a few others at the bottom of this article.
Walking in the Spirit
To walk in the Spirit means that we are obedient, listening to and following the voice of Jesus (Phil 1:9-11; John 10:27-28). We are putting off our old way of life, renewing our minds, and putting on the new activities of a Christian (Eph 4:22-24; Rom 12:1-2; Phil 1:9-11). We know we are walking in the Spirit when there is peace and not fear in the decision (Rom 8:14-15).
Trusting in God’s Sovereignty
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, so that we may follow all the words of this Law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29
I encourage everyone to underline this verse in their Bible and memorize it. The thing about secret things is that… well, they are secret. God isn’t in the business of revealing secrets except by speaking through prophets.
What kind of faith is it that must see before it trusts (cp Abram in Gen 12:4-5)? Instead, God holds us accountable for what He reveals to us through Scripture.
We must be reminded that just because we have an opportunity and a desire doesn’t mean it must be pursued. Paul saw an opportunity to visit the Roman church and had a desire, but he was constantly thwarted (Rom 15:22-24). We must trust that God is sovereign.
Praying for Wisdom and Providence
Space doesn’t permit me to enumerate how prayer orients our hearts to the Lord’s direction. One small example probably suffices. Paul mentions his constant prayers for the Romans and his unceasing petition to the Lord to visit the Romans in the letter to the Romans (Rom 1:8-10).
Step 1: Search the Scriptures
Without a doubt, this is the most critical step. You will not see billboards with “Take this job!” or “Danger, bad choices ahead!” regarding your decision. And the Bible does not provide a script of “do this, and you’ll know God’s will.” It provides a manual outlining the steps we are reviewing today.
Searching the Scriptures is hard but good work and is effective for bringing about godliness (1 Tim 3:14-15; 2 Tim 3:16-17). After all, would we purposefully select a job that gets in the way of being transformed into His image? (contrast 1 John 2:15-16).
In this step, you are looking at specific prohibitions that would get in the way of service to the Lord, causing me to live like the world (Gal 5:19ff; Eph 4:17-19). Am I tempted or even required to lie? Is the purpose of my job righteous or unrighteous?
Step 2: Pursue Wisdom
Application of Scripture
Of course, there aren’t any Scriptures that say, as in my case, whether I should or shouldn’t have taken a job as a computer programmer. It is an amoral profession. However, I must take Biblical principles and apply them to my circumstances.
Being a computer programmer for a company that helps individuals accurately calculate their taxes is different than being a computer programmer for a company that deceives poor people with a product that doesn’t work. Here I would view the oppression of the poor as a sinful act (Prov 22:16; Jas 4:16).
A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis is probably less familiar than the age-old method of creating a list of pros and cons. SWOT analysis takes that idea – strengths and weaknesses replacing pros and cons – and adds more thought-provoking ideas.
We see this kind of opportunity and threat analysis in Paul’s travels: “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Cor 16:9). The wide door is an opportunity; the adversaries are threats.
Are there opportunities at this new job that I otherwise would not have? Will I be able to learn more or grow in skills and abilities? What about the idea of service to the Lord – will this create a capability to do that?
Threats are just the opposite of opportunities. As with Paul, there are threats to our ministry, adversaries who are opposed to seeing us flourish. Are there risks that outweigh the opportunities? For instance, taking a new job in a new city might mean leaving your church or your relatives, the support system you have around you now, and you might find yourself alone.
Step 3: Examine Desires
You want good things from your job because it is part of flourishing in God’s kingdom. Work is God’s plan, just like He commanded Adam and Eve to work at multiplying, filling, ruling, and subduing the earth (Gen 1:26-28).
It is hard to imagine being obedient and not enjoying what you do when you follow God’s command (1 Tim 6:8)!
Step 4: Seek Wise Counsel
We’re all familiar with Jeremiah’s caution about the heart: it is deceitful and easily misleads us by disguising our true motives and desires. Yet the Lord knows it (Jer 17:9-10). God has woven the beautiful fabric of the local church to give us wise individuals from whom we can seek counsel (cp Prov 12:15; 19:20; 20:18).
For important decisions, I want to turn to people I trust and who love me so that my heart’s deceit doesn’t lead me astray; instead, I want to be blessed and be a blessing (Jer 17:5-8).
Wise counselors help me see blind spots and help me ensure my conscience is clear (Prov 19:22; Acts 21:4). They ask hard questions such as “Why do you think this?” so that my motives are exposed.
Determining to change jobs involves a certain amount of faith as opportunities and threats exist. Also, two people may not make the same decision after searching the Scriptures, pursuing wisdom, examining desires, and seeking counsel.
However, faith in the sovereign God brings peace when we trust in Him. That is what glorifies Him at the end of the day (Rom 14:4-9).
I’ve been helped immensely by the following books:
- Challies, Tim. The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Crossway Books, 2007.
- DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Moody Publishers, 2019.
- Swavely, David. Decisions, Decisions: How (and How Not) to Make Them. P & R Pub., 2003.