At times the grind of leadership can seem futile.
One that could attest to that reality would have been the Old Testament prophet Daniel. He had every right to wallow in self-pity, thinking that his life and leadership were a waste. The Sunday School conception of Daniel’s days was like a continuous prime time flick of hanging out in the lion’s den, interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, receiving historic prophetic visions, and seeing handwriting on the wall. But all these experiences made up a very small part of his work life.
Most of his nights and days – week after week, year after year – were spent much like yours and mine. He performed minor routines. In fact, he had a pretty awful job. Daniel’s boss was the despicable king of Babylon. Daniel’s workdays were spent laboring in a monotonous government bureaucracy. His coworkers were a sorry lot. Sorcerers surrounded him. He invested his entire adult life influencing others to improve a nation that had devastated his hometown, Jerusalem.
It would be hard to overstate the seeming futility of Daniel’s leadership assignment.
He spent his entire career building up an empire that God prophesied He would destroy. Daniel spent a lifetime on a project that ultimately would amount to nothing.
The mind-boggling part of Daniel’s story is that God instructed Daniel and other exiles to work hard to build up Babylon, and to make it prosper (Jeremiah 29:4-7). So, Daniel obeyed. He did not complain. And he pursued excellence with uncommon zeal. He was a man whose confidence was in God.
In his book Significant Work, Paul Rude wrote:
The daily grind of our lives leaves far more than a tiny fingerprint on eternity. It strikes cosmic hammer-blows that forge the very shape of eternity. God pulls from the forging fire of His sovereignty. Then, like master to apprentice, he entrusts the hammer to our hands. He says, ‘Strike it. Strike it right here. This is your place. This is where I want you to shape eternity. Live the life I gave you to live.’ And so, in stammering awe, we take up the hammer. We live our lives… our regular, everyday, toilsome lives. The hammer falls. Sparks fly. Eternity bends, and the Master is delighted… Daniel saw sparks fly on the white-hot ingot of God’s eternal masterpiece.”
Daniel invested himself fully into his work because he knew he was fulfilling the leadership assignment God had planned for him in the unfolding drama of eternity. God put him there, and God commissioned Daniel to shape the future from this place, to play the hand God had dealt him in the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ.
Daniel’s book concludes with God’s ringing words: “Go your way to the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of your days (Daniel 12:13).
Thousands of years later, these words also ring true as you and I head to work on Monday morning. In these words we find the ultimate meaning of our daily work. The significance of whatever we do is wrapped up in the glory of the One who assigns us our place. When we view leadership and do our work from that perspective, then no assignment is ever small or mundane or futile ever again.
1Paul Rude, Significant Work, Discover the Extraordinary Worth of What You Do Everyday, Everyday Significance