“The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” –Genesis 39:2
Indwelt By God
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. When he had created all that he wanted, God made man and put him in charge of all that he made. “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground”, God told the man (Genesis 1:28). God put man in the garden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15).
But what was the kind of man that God put in the workplace that was the garden of Eden? It was the man who bore within him the life of God and carried around within him the presence of God. When God formed the man from the dust of the ground, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). The presence of God was right inside of him. Even though God would come in the cool of the day to visit with the man, he never really was separated from God for God dwelt within him. Later, Job testified: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).
The presence of God is not something like a work tool that can be taken up when there is work to do and dropped at the completion of such a task. That has never been the divine plan. Carrying God’s presence in the workplace therefore does not begin with when one has work to do and there is a felt need to invoke a supernatural force; the presence of God is to be borne perpetually by the believer. It is that constantly borne presence that is taken into every sphere of existence, work included.
Even in the dispensation when the Spirit was not poured out on all flesh, God had promised: “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people” (Ezekiel 37:27). It is those in whom God dwells that can bear him about in their places of work. It begins by a surrender of one’s life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and an indwelling of the surrendered life by the Spirit of God. Only such a person can carry God’s presence to their workplace.
At Home, In Prison and In The Palace
Joseph very well exemplifies the kind of life we are talking about. It did not matter where he was, the indwelt divine presence shone through all his endeavours. In the comfort zone of his father’s house, he stood out among his brothers; his life contrasted theirs and became a source of conflict. That conflict led to his being sold into slavery to Egypt. He found himself in Potiphar’s house and who he carried within shone forth still: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2). Joseph prospered because the Lord was with him. That presence also gave Joseph favour in the eyes of his master, who put Joseph in charge of all his household and all that he owned. In fact, Potiphar, the Bible says, “did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate” (Genesis 39:6). But it was not only about an intangible presence of the Lord that Joseph bore as he worked; it was also about how honestly and diligently he carried out his duties. When Mrs Potiphar tried to lure him into usurping his boss’s rights over her, he would not succumb.
Carrying God’s presence in the workplace goes beyond bearing a name. Like Joseph, it must reflect in the way you conduct the business assigned to you. Are you diligent? Are you trustworthy? If your master entrusts his ‘household’ into your hands, what will happen to his treasure, his ‘wife’? Will you violate ‘her’?
Of course his honesty landed him in prison, but it was a stepping stone to the throne. While in prison, the life that Joseph possessed still shone. He found favour in the eyes of the prison warden who put Joseph in charge of the incarcerated. Again, he too paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with him and gave him success in whatever he did (Genesis 39:20-23). God ordered what might appear to human eyes as adverse circumstances that took Joseph from prison to the employment of Pharaoh and this time his jurisdiction was nationwide. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; He shall not stand before mean men” (Proverbs 22:9). Again, Joseph excelled such that his employer cared nothing about any business entrusted to him, but never suffered loss. One of the reasons why Joseph’s life of service was recorded was so that when it came to your turn, you would know how to conduct yourself. Paul says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). To carry God’s presence in the workplace therefore, is to conduct your business in a manner that is worthy of, consistent with, and brings praise to, the name of Christ.
If there is one word that captures Joseph’s disposition to work wherever he found himself, it is consistency. He was consistent in his walk with God and his commitment to his duties. Home, master’s household, prison or public service, it didn’t matter; he carried the presence of God and served wholeheartedly. As a child of God, scripture says, “serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men (Ephesians 6:7). It is while serving in the secular workplace that the Bible urges that you serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not men.
Character and Competence Reinforced By Prayer
Another worthy example of bearing the divine presence in the workplace is that set by Daniel. The criteria set for his employment into the service of the King of Babylon were physical as well as mental. He passed both. While the Babylonian civil service didn’t give two hoots about his God, it was what underpinned Daniel’s excellence at work. When Darius ascended the throne, he found that Daniel had so distinguished himself in service that he was made one of the three administrators of the kingdom. That he was a Jew in a foreign land didn’t matter; competence stood him out. Verse three of Daniel Chapter Six says, “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom”. His colleagues became jealous and tried to find grounds for charges against him but were unable to do so; they could find no corruption in him. Why couldn’t they? “Because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (Daniel 6:4). They gave up trying to and said they could only find something against him if it was in relation to his God. They found it in his prayer life. Their attempts to stop him from praying failed. The man maintained three times of daily prayer despite his increased work load and threats to his life. His prayer life was what undergirded his public service. You cannot carry God’s presence in the workplace if you are a stranger in the presence of God. You can’t carry around what you don’t possess. But note that like Daniel, that alone is not enough; it must show in the way you conduct your business. The Persian authority was only concerned about how well Daniel exercised his duties and it was his excellence at work that stood him out to them. He was neither corrupt nor negligent. A situation where you lead in prayer meetings and staff fellowships, won’t falsify figures to enrich yourself but have files lying on your table for weeks on end is not the type of example Daniel set. You may not be corrupt but are you negligent and careless? When the kingdom of Babylon would not suffer loss, they turned to Daniel (Daniel 6:1-2). Can your employer count on you not to suffer loss? Carrying God’s presence there means that you ought to be neither corrupt nor negligent. Like Daniel, all of that excellence must derive from a living relationship with God; one marked by a consistent prayer life that increased workload or enemy threats won’t impact.
To distil it, only a person who carries God within can carry God’s presence to their workplace. That presence must show forth in integrity, character and competence. The carrier of the divine presence must be neither corrupt nor negligent. All of these must be undergirded by a vibrant prayer life.