God, they’re gonna rip me apart. This is career suicide, Peter (pseudonym) thought.
Just obey me. Share.
Peter had been enjoying the business track at Urbana 12. The speakers had decades of experience, and he’d encountered a robust, new theology of work.
But then he started feeling convicted to share his faith with his co-workers. “They’re very hostile toward religion. I was like there’s no way I can share. I was a wreck,” Peter remembered.
The first day back at work he had a lump in his throat no amount of coffee could wash away.
Soon people started asking Peter where he’d been the last couple days. Hesitantly, he would begin to share about Urbana, but as soon as he mentioned it was a Christian conference, the conversation broke down.
“They actually started ridiculing me to my face, degrading me, talking behind my back, just treating me very unfairly,” Peter said.
Weeks went by. Peter would come home drained and frustrated. “What good could come out of this?” he asked God over and over.
God’s answer was to listen to the Urbana seminars online. Each time they’d remind Peter he wasn’t just working for a paycheck or to impress people. He was serving God and witnessing to co-workers through his work ethic.
One day an executive called Peter into his office. Nervously, Peter settled into a plush leather chair. Most supervisors wouldn’t hesitate to cuss someone out in the middle of a presentation let alone during a one-on-one.
“How do you do it?” the executive asked. “How do you deal with our director. He’s probably one of the meanest guys I know.
“You’ve just been acting differently lately,” he continued. “You’re…joyful.”
Peter took a deep breath, “Honestly, it’s studying the Bible. It’s God.”
Peter tried not to cringe as he waited for another tirade about how ridiculous Christians are.
“Well, I could use some more joy,” the man sighed. “Don’t know if you’ve heard, but my wife wants a divorce. She’s trying to get as much money out of me as she can. I’ve gotten more notices and bills from lawyers in the past month than I have my entire life.”
Still struggling to believe this was happening, Peter said, “I’m sorry to hear—”
The executive’s phone rang. “I have to take this,” he said.
Peter left the office, shaking his head and saying, “Wow.”
A couple days later a woman came to see him because he was a “super Christian” and wanted to know why one of her Christian friends was offended by being called religious. Peter explained how many Christians don’t appreciate that term because it makes faith sound like following a bunch of rules instead of admitting people need a savior.
More and more opportunities to share his faith came in the following months in the lunchroom, the hallway, between meetings. Peter also discovered his passion for his work was growing and made his testimony more effective.
“What’s really cool with me just working for the Lord and being faithful with what I was given, I got a promotion shortly after Urbana,” Peter said. “This was affirmation that God wanted me there. I was so joyful. For the first time, work and my faith were intersecting, and I never fathomed this happening.”
In all the success, Peter still had many glimpses into the darker side of the corporate world as he watched supervisors mistreat his best friend at work, increasing his workload and overlooking him for promotions. The situation worsened until his friend finally quit. Not only missing out on his friend’s support, Peter soon was pressured into taking on most of his friend’s responsibilities too.
Days at work grew longer and more stressful. In his rare moments of free time, Peter started sending out resumes. All the while he wrestled with God. Why all the success before and all the problems now? Was he supposed to leave or stay?
In response, God reminded him about Urbana, and Peter decided to return in 2015.
During one of the morning Bible studies, the leader spoke with authority, “The world of finance is ruthless. We want to rise, yet we don’t want to compromise. But the Lord sends you saying, ‘Go. All will know that I sent you. Those who mistreat you will know that I am with you.’”
The idea of going back to work with the pressure and politics made Peter shudder. But he clung to the message he’d just heard. Before leaving St. Louis, he committed the next six months to working diligently, loving people in their worst moments, and relying upon God.
Upon returning from Urbana, Peter held to his commitment and sensed God’s affirmation in many ways, two of them coming in the form of promotions.
“I think back and wonder, ‘What if I never went to Urbana?’” he said. “I would have gone back to my workplace continually beat up. I probably would have quit without seeing all the miracles God had in store for me when I placed my faith in him. I’m so joyful and glad that I didn’t take the easy way out and quit. God strengthened me and equipped me at Urbana.”