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November 19, 2023 Book Review

Grace at Work: Redeeming the Grind and the Glory of Your Job

Grace at Work: Redeeming the Grind and the Glory of Your Job

Bryan Chapell

Reviewed by: Joseph W. Smith III

Grace at Work: Redeeming the Grind and the Glory of Your Job, by Bryan Chapell. Crossway, 2022. Paperback, 240 pages, $16.99. Reviewed by OP elder Joseph W. Smith III.

When I signed on to review Bryan Chapell’s book on a Christian approach to work, I assumed I already had a pretty thorough grasp of this subject. But we all know how assumptions work. Indeed, considering the many solid works by this author, I should have known what a treasure-trove of insight and wisdom I would find in Grace at Work.

Consider, for example, Chapell’s tantalizing one-word chapter titles: Dignity, Purpose, Integrity, Money, Success, Humility, Glory, Evil, Leadership, Balance, and Witness. Concerning the first of those topics, Chapell advances what could serve as a thesis for the book: “Your work is your mission field, and because of that, there is a God-given dignity in what you do” (17).

As he says in his intro:

All kinds of work possess qualities of divine mission—not just those of preachers or missionaries, and not just those of CEOs and brain surgeons. God is calling the cop and the carpenter and the concrete layer to experience the dignity of their work as he uses their jobs to help others, improve lives, and spread the influence of his kingdom in the world. (12–13)

I relished Chapell’s countercultural insistence that, particularly in the current economic downturn, Christians may not always find jobs that perfectly match their skills and callings—that our work will often feel frustrated and unfulfilling; yet we can still do it in ways that glorify God, obey his commands, and advance his purposes.

Chapell is a master of anecdotes and illustrations. His material on the long-held North Korean prisoner Kenneth Bae is especially hard-hitting—as is the story of a 1990s delegation to then-president of China Jiang Zemin. The author also includes plenty of his own experiences as a father, husband, pastor, and fundraiser, plus those of employees, families, and executives with whom he’s worked. At the same time, he incorporates a wide range of historical and cultural references. And of course, Chapell’s use of Scripture is terrific, eliciting fine new insights even from such well-known passages as Genesis 1–2, the Prodigal Son, and Daniel’s interactions with Nebuchadnezzar.

Chapell’s strongest chapters are “Balance,” bringing in issues of anxiety, family, and rest, and “Evil,” which covers temptation, persecution, forgiveness, and the inherently difficult nature of all work in a fallen world. “Don’t be surprised,” writes Chapell, “if your job is enduring your job with the strength Jesus gives you” (148).

Other catchy quotes: “We climb to the top of the ladder of success and find that it is leaning against the wrong building” (148). “Hellish busyness makes us unavailable to God” (192). And as a summary of Chapell’s approach: “In the mundane and in the magnificent, in the significant and the insufferable, in the skilled work and in the ‘good tries,’ in the successes and in the honest failures, God is expressing and extending his glory through faithful believers that honor his name in the work they do” (141).

 

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