Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord.

As someone living cross-culturally, with the ultimate goal of reaching the lost with the Gospel, I tend to both talk and hear about “the work” a lot.  When I use that phrase, I’m generally just talking about the task as a whole—the task of living intentionally, doing ministry, supporting local believers, and sharing the Good News. Sometimes that is our work. That’s what we do. That’s our focus.

However, sometimes we also work. This time, I mean an actual job—something we are committed (or contracted) to, something that earns money, something that can actually pull us away from that other work I mentioned first.

I firmly believe that the Lord gives us specific skill sets that he intends to use for His ultimate purpose. He provides ways for us to improve and grow those skills. I can’t imagine that the Lord would plan our lives so specifically and then not put us in a position to use the gifts He has given!

By the world’s standards, I am highly educated. I worked hard for many years and earned a doctorate in a healthcare field. When I first moved overseas, I very openly said that I was “okay” with never using my degree again if it meant going where the Lord was calling me. Now, I can look back and see how the Lord has used my lack of understanding of His ways to grow me.

God placed me in a field where healthcare needs are huge. He placed me on a team with other healthcare professionals. He opened a door for me to volunteer frequently at a local hospital. Most recently, He’s opening doors for me to treat patients in a very small, target city.

If I’m being perfectly honest, there are days when I don’t actually want to go to work. There are days when the hospital calls and it is just a completely inconvenient time. There are days when I get incredibly frustrated because I feel as if they just are not respecting my time or my family. There are days when I arrive at the hospital and my promised patients actually aren’t even there. There are days when I begrudgingly throw on my scrubs and hop in that taxi.

However, I have to remember that the Lord has given me the opportunity to “work” in an environment that doesn’t pull me away from “the work.” Of all the patients I see, at least 90% of them are Muslims.  I have met and built relationships with families simply because of my skills and ability to serve their needs. By addressing physical needs, I am two (or ten) steps closer to addressing their spiritual needs as well. There is a great level of trust and confidence needed between patient and provider when working in healthcare, and that same trust is needed when forming relationships with Muslims.

Chinese Muslims need Jesus. However, they also need good healthcare. The Lord chose to plant my family and me right in the middle of a Muslim community that is overflowing with needs. On those hard days, when I wish I wasn’t quite so “skilled,” the Father nearly always provides a person or experience that reminds me exactly why I am here. It can be easy to lose sight of the big picture, but as Colossians 3:23 says, I’m really not working for men. I’m serving the Lord, and that’s the best “work” I’ll ever do.