If you read the previous two posts, you have been introduced (perhaps re-introduced) to the idea that Matt 7:7 and Luke 11:9, where Jesus says ‘ask, seek and knock’, are not merely a treatise on prayer. Many other New Testament passages support the idea that God calls us to do more than just pray; we are to search and act as well. The difference between having your career dreams come true and just getting by with a job and a paycheck hang on this fundamental truth.
Of course, Jesus was not just referring to job searching, corporate ladder climbing, business growth or promotability. This teaching reaches far beyond our work life. And yet, since we spend eight to ten hours a day, five days a week, working – this teaching holds great power when applied to our careers.
It’s important to first realize that God gives us the victory. We can plan our career all we want but it’s the Lord purpose that prevails. As we dive into the practical application of asking-seeking-knocking, let’s do so with the humility taught in James 4:13-15
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
If it is the Lord’s will…amen! What a great way to start every day. For His is the kingdom and the power and glory, not ours.
Let’s now begin with ‘ask’, which we have already agreed was prayer – patient request, humble petition, earnest appeal, passionate entreaty. This can be easy to overlook for most of us, however. Sometimes we just forget to ask God for help. Other times we ask with fainthearted resolve, not even expecting to receive. James addresses this in 1:6-7
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
It is spiritually healthy to ask God, expecting to be heard and expecting a response. Consider how dysfunctional a family would be whose father literally ignores their children and refuses to directly respond even to trivial requests. God will respond. And he will not be slow either. Ask and expect.
That means when you are looking for a new job because you are unemployed, ask and expect. When you want God’s help dealing with a tough situation at work, ask and expect. As you pursue advancement in your company, ask and expect. When you desire start-up funds from investors, ask and expect. Whatever your pursuit, ask God and expect an answer…it will come
And consider asking God for the very specifics of what you want. Be as precise as possible. You can’t limit the creator of life. He is amazing and a giver of great gifts.
- Do you want a $23,500 raise? Ask for it specifically.
- Do want to find a new job by Christmas? Be detailed with God.
- Would you like to be called by at least five recruiters in the next 10 days? Ask it so.
- How about the type of manager you want? Fair, reasonable, a believer, inspiring, working in another state etc.? Ask!
Don’t hesitate to make your career request in the smallest of details. Very rarely do we see in the Bible a person asking in vague suppositions. The prayers are nearly 95% specific. Test this and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And always remember, “If it’s God’s will.”
Let’s take a look now at ‘seek’. This is where we tend to stumble in our own growth and insight. After all, learning to seek things in our career may at first seem to require classroom training from a career guru right? The truth is there are lots of places to get free and informative advice about any and all career endeavors. If you want to master LinkedIn, there are truckloads of on-line tutorials. Want to write an award winning resume? Type into your favorite search engine “write a great resume” and get hundreds of responses. Have a tough boss and want to know some ways to handle him? Go to Amazon.com and type in “dealing with bad bosses” and see the plethora of book titles returned. Want to ask for a raise? Try SalarySurvey.com and follow their amazing advice on building the perfect plan.
The trouble is not the lack of (or ease in finding) information on our given topic. Where the trouble resides is our desire for the quick and easy answer. We often settle for much less than excellence. We do quick searches, glancing at a few chapters of a book, speaking to an expert for only a few minutes.
Why? We allow negativity to wear us down before we even get started. We claim the victim role, feeling as though all opportunities were surely meant for someone else. The classic, ‘I’m not good enough’ mentality keeps us from really seeking as Jesus wants. We give up far too soon, wishing God would do it all for us.
It’s not that we don’t know how to put great effort into searching. There are plenty of examples from your very own past where you doggedly pursued a thing, not giving in. How hard do you search for your car keys when you lose them? How about losing your passport or your employee badge? What if you lost your child? Yikes!
There are lots of things for which we search very hard. When it comes to our career, however, we lose steam very quickly. This is the essence of Jesus saying ‘seek and you will find’. It is a powerful truth. You can’t find what you don’t earnestly look for. Ever heard, “it’s always in the last place you look”? That’s a tale about someone who doesn’t give up looking. For those who give up, the “last place” will always be out of reach.
And when you feel like quitting, remember the source of motivation…your very own thoughts. You lose enthusiasm for one and only one reason: You are telling yourself something defeating. “This is way too hard,” or “it will never happen” or “I’m just not qualified” or “my situation will never change”. It’s so common for human beings to get negative that God spends a great deal of time discussing positive thinking throughout the Bible. It’s everywhere. Take a look (or follow more of my posts in the coming weeks to see the examples).
For now, try getting on your knees, praying for God’s will to be done and telling yourself, “I can do this. Jesus wants me to succeed. I am a child of God’s. And his purpose will prevail.” There are many more practical ways to stay motivated. But this one is awesome! Give it a try. Motivation really does begin inside our own minds.
Now it’s time to discuss the ‘knock’. This is where courage materializes. This is where the rubber meets the road, where you make contact. Using baseball as an analogy, you can practice taking swings in the cages all day; it’s only when you step to the plate that your work pays off. So it is with career action. Pray all you want and seek all you want; without taking that last step, without making physical contact, nothing will happen. Imagine yourself standing at the door of an opportunity. And you just stand there. You don’t lift your hand to knock. You just stare at the door. What good will that do?
How does this apply in our careers? Consider all of those mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the Faith Hall of Fame. Each of them was commended for their faith in action. Abraham went out to a distant land not knowing where he was going. Noah built the ark years before the first rain drop. The mother of Moses hid him, fearing not the king’s edict. The Israelites fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. Rahab hid the spies from the rest of her town. They believed in God and took action. Risky, scary, uncertain, faithful action!
On which doors are you afraid to knock? Do you want a promotion? Go to your manager, after prayer and diligent research, and lay out your reasoning. Want to start your own business? Pray, get lots of advice from others who have walked the path ahead of you then go call those investors. Want a great end of year evaluation? Ask God for wisdom, analyze your current situation, then do the work your company and manager requires. Knocking is a vital step in accomplishing your career goals.
In summary, taking action becomes purposeful only after you have done the research. It probably won’t be very effective without it. Looking for answers and taking action are both meaningless without the blessing of God through prayer.
Ask – Seek – Knock.
Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience. He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to bring the power of Christ’s word, as the foundation of career success, into corporate and small business America.