12 Day Advent Devotional For Business Students
A 12-day Advent journey to prepare for the arrival of Christ. This devotional was originally prepared by InterVarsity's Believers in Business, with the help of 12 wonderful ministers who work closely with students and professionals in business. They understand the challenges, and are sharing their wisdom and support here through 12 stories in the Bible of how God changed the lives of those who loved Him and lived for Him.
May this devotional help plough the field in your heart to receive the richness God wants to grow in you.
Day 1: Joshua (Joshua 3:5)
The word “Advent” means coming, as in the coming of Christ. It is meant as a time of preparation and sanctification, apart from every day “regular” life to prepare for the coming of the Lord. In our “regular” daily lives we prepare ourselves for events, holidays, special occasions. We must put in at least the same effort and attention to preparing ourselves to be used by Jesus, especially as we enter into the workplace, where there will be resistance to our manner of being. In Joshua 3:5, Joshua and the people of Israel are about to receive what God has promised and Joshua tells the people to prepare themselves. They separated themselves and cleansed, literally washed themselves and their clothes. This was both practical and symbolic, in that you were being cleaned from things not of God.
You too are going to receive the opportunities that God has promised and you too must prepare yourselves. During this advent period prepare yourself through prayer. Take extra time away from your regular activities to commune with God. If there are activities that do not glorify God, separate yourself. Invite co-workers to join you in reading and discussion. Invite them to join you in prayer. Prepare yourself for the Lord will do wonders among you.
What is it in your life (activities, places, people) that you need to separate yourself from so that you are available to be used by God?
Most Holy and Gracious God, You are our King and Lord. You alone are worthy of our praise. Thank You for all that You have done in my life. I come to You now asking that You are with me in my time of preparation. I expect that You will do great things in my life and want to be ready for them. I want to be ready to be a witness of Your power and might. I want to be ready to be used by You. . Show me Your ways and the work you want me to do, and mold me to be what You want me to be. Speak into to my heart so that I reflect your love whether at home or work. Set me apart from behavior that does honor You. I want to be prepared for Your second coming and I want to be used by You to prepare this world. I pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Contributor: Julius Walls, pastor of Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Yonkers, NY
Day 2: Simon Peter (John 21:1-9; 15)
“I’m going to fish,” says Peter, in the wake of his weep-worthy failure as a leader among God’s people (cf. John 18:17-18, 25-27). After three years of practical training and learning from Jesus, Peter felt disqualified for the business of following Christ and leading God’s people in any way except fishing. He heads for the sea and the boats where he feels most competent, confident and comfortable. It was a good sign for Peter that the other disciples follow him, but after another night of failure, Peter must have been deeply discouraged. Then Jesus shows up and not only meets Peter at his place of work, but also in his season of failure. On the shore, Jesus provides the warmth of a charcoal fire with fish ready to eat—which subtly but surely reminds Peter of his failure while also reminding him of the love and wonder of Jesus. After breakfast, Jesus says to Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Though it’s not exactly clear to what Jesus is referring by “these,” I’m convinced he’s referring to the nets and fishing equipment around them because it fits best with what Jesus is accomplishing here with Peter. Jesus is transforming Peter’s life by restoring his vocational priorities. Peter becomes again who Jesus called him to be: a “fisher” and leader of God’s people. No matter how prepared we feel we are for the future, the likelihood of failure is high. Recognizing that Jesus is both the source of our success and the way through failure is key to persevering in our calling. In failure and in success, being a faithful follower of Jesus and a competent leader in business is being able to confidently and comfortably answer Jesus’ question to us, “Do you love me more than these?”
1. Jesus transformed these fishermen to be “fishers of people.” In what ways can you view your business as a metaphor for your calling as a disciple in God’s kingdom?2. How does this Scripture passage demonstrate the way God restores and transforms us through both successes and failures? And how do you imagine such restoration and transformation can affect other people around you?
Gracious God, thank you that you are with us in good times and in bad times. Open our eyes that we may see your work of transformation in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation and the wonder of your love. Amen.
Contributor: Jeff Schuliger, Minister to Small Groups and Young Adults at Park Street Church in Boston, MA
Day 3: Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
Zacchaeus had climbed the ladder and become powerful and wealthy, only to realize that riches and influence could not bring the satisfaction and meaning that they had promised. He was so desperate that he ran ahead of a crowd and climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. He thought he was the one seeking Jesus, but as Jesus walked by He called Zaccheus by name, and invited Himself to his home for dinner. Jesus Christ was the one seeking Zacchaeus. That night, Zacchaeus’ life was transformed – He went from hoping in his own wealth and power to now hoping in Jesus Christ and His saving power. This transformation was evidenced by his drastic actions of giving the poor half of his possessions and paying back those he had defrauded. Salvation had come to seek and save the lost and that included tax collectors like Zacchaeus.
We have a helpful example in the life of Zacchaeus. His transformation shifted his view on what was important and led to real and immediate changes in how he handled his money and possessions. This is what happens when there is true repentance. From that night forward, Zacchaeus would work differently, think differently, spend and give differently because He had received salvation from Jesus Christ. He had received grace, transforming grace.
1) Has there been a time in your life when you were like Zacchaeus in that you had climbed the ladder, gained influence but found it lacking? How has encountering Jesus changed the way you live, work, study, handle your resources?2) Zacchaeus was transformed but not called away from His vocation. How can you be part of the mission to advance the gospel and seek the lost in Business School and beyond? What is your biggest challenge in doing that now?
Father, thank you that you sent Jesus Chris to seek and save the lost like Zacchaeus and like me! What extravagant and amazing grace you have freely poured out on sinners like us long before I ever thought of seeking you. I praise you for the transformation that you have brought about in my life and I pray that you would continue to transform me - help me to have a generous heart, a passion for godly actions and integrity in my studies now and in my future work, and the sensitivity o see people in need and empower me to take the gospel to my campus. Thank you for your mercy and grace to me. Amen.
Contributor: Curtis Cook, Pastor at Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, MA
Day 4: Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-6)
Ezekiel is initially confronted with a situation that leaves him utterly demoralized. He is shown a vision of a mass grave of his people and the dryness of these bones communicates a bleak futility of hope. Yet, this demoralizing situation becomes one where Ezekiel is empowered for his calling as a prophet. While God is never the cause of evil, He is sovereign over even death. It is God who brings Ezekiel to this valley because he wants Ezekiel awakened to His life-giving presence.
We are often so focused upon our situation that we disregard God’s active presence and power in the world. It often takes drastic situations for us to see the futility of our own abilities, because it’s in our brokenness that we see so clearly the surpassing greatness of God’s love and power. God alone is able to dramatically transform dry bones into a mighty army. Finally, notice that God commands Ezekiel to speak these life-giving words. God could have easily spoken these words directly to the bones, but he chose to speak through this “son of man”. God desires to transform this world through one person willing to engage the brokenness around him. We have in the gospel a greater hope and calling than even Ezekiel had. In Christ, we have been made alive and called to be prophets. Just as he called Ezekiel, God continues to call people to enter into pain and brokenness of the world so that incomparable transforming hope and power can be revealed.
1) Have you had disheartening life circumstances that left you utterly defeated? How could this passage encourage you? 2) What role does God have in transforming difficult or dark situations and what role do we have in it?
Heavenly Father, we are so easily overwhelmed by our circumstances, and often turn to our own selves for control and security. Yet, in your sovereign mercy you bring difficult situations well beyond our ability to manage. Lord, we pray that during these times you give us grace to come to you with humility and hope, faith to live out our calling to address the brokenness we encounter leaning upon your presence and power. Help us to be people who persevere amidst pain, so that the world can see your distinctive glory. Help us to be people who are so in love with you that we are able to look past ourselves to embrace the reality that our call is not about us but about the One who is renewing all things. In Christ name, Amen.
Contributor: David H. Kim, Executive Director, Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, NY
Day 5: King David (1 Samuel 16:1-13 & 17:1-58)
“What difference will you make in the world?” Hands down, King David was the major difference-maker in taking Israel from a fledgling to a flourishing nation. But how was David transformed into the difference-maker God desired him to be? Both passages narrate David’s movement from obscurity influence, beginning off-stage as the insignificant younger son out tending the sheep, but ending at the center of the action. The first story ends with David’s anointing by God’s prophet and recognition by his family as Israel’s future king. The second story ends with David triumphant in battle, revered by the Israelites and feared by her enemies. However, there’s a difference in his movement from insignificance to influence. In the first story, David is completely passive. It is the Lord who chooses, the Lord’s prophet who sends for him and anoints him, and the Lord’s Spirit who empowers him. In the second story, David is assertive and ambitious. Leaving the sheep behind, he rushes to battle lines; he investigates and gathers information; he defies his brother’s criticisms; he convinces the king that he can fight; he courageously faces Goliath; and he puts to new use his well-honed slingshot skills.
We have to read these stories together to get the full portrait of the emergence of a godly difference-maker. David’s step into influence happens only as he decisively leaves the smaller stage behind, shakes off criticism, convincingly sells himself and changes minds, and puts his skills and gifts to use. You will be called upon to exercise that same kind of ambition! Ambition itself is not bad. But what roots and steers your ambition? For David, it’s God’s prior choosing, anointing, and empowerment. Ambition without anointing will turn selfish; anointing without ambition bears no fruit. Make sure both are vital to your story!
Will Barnett is the Harvard Square Campus Pastor at Highrock Covenant Church in Cambridge, MA
1) What forms of ambition and discipline do you need to exercise to become the leader God has called you to be? 2) In what sense has God’s calling and “anointing” shaped your vision to be a person of influence?
Lord God, you are THE difference-maker at work to bring Your great kingdom! Thank you for calling me to make a difference in this world! Give me courage and ambition to exercise influence well. Help me connect my influence to a vision of your kingdom. Keep me dependent upon your Holy Spirit to guide and steer my development as a leader. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Contributor: Will Barnett, Harvard Square Campus Pastor at Highrock Covenant Church in Cambridge, MA
Day 6: Daniel (Daniel 3:16-18)
Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego - who have committed their entire lives to the one true God - find themselves promoted to positions of prominence in Babylon. Then one day, they hear about the king's edict that everyone must bow down to a statue of gold. They meet together and decide that they cannot bend their knee and give their devotion to any other god than the God of heaven and earth.
At every point, they've been met with nothing but disappointment , but their response to the king was to testify to their faith in the God they serve: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we're thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king." What an amazing statement of faith! And yet, what follows is perhaps even more stunning: "But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.“ "Even if he does not..." In other words: "Even if God doesn't come through in the way we're asking, we will march to our death singing hymns of praise to the only God we will ever serve or love." Our God is able to answer your most desperate prayers. Even if he does not, is you commitment to Christ contingent on getting what you want from God?
Is there anything in your life that has been keeping you from following Christ with utter abandon? Have you been bending your knee to the gods of self-interest, status, or achievement?
Gracious Father, because of your Son, you lavish me with your love. What more could I possibly want in life or in death? Serving you is the greatest privilege and the purest delight imaginable. And by your amazing grace, you have liberated me from the bondage of smaller gods. Thus, I forsake the momentary pleasures of this world that promise me nothing but empty shadows of your good will, and run to the only source of abundant joy, Jesus Christ - the only one who has saved me, is saving me still, and one day will completely save me. In the name Jesus I pray, Amen.
Contributor: Sung Kim is the Lead Pastor at the Grace Ann Arbor Church in Ann Arbor, MI
Day 7: Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
Understandably, this time of year brings certain challenges for students: finals, getting into the class you need next term, applying for jobs/internships, etc. While these are valid things to prayerfully navigate, I am certain that they are not as great as the trial that Joseph faced some 2000 New Years ago. “Hey Joseph, you know that sweet little thing you’ve had your eye on? Well...there is a little situation going on with her that might take some gettin’ used to. You have picked a fine gal, but she’s gonna come with some baggage. Like 8 lbs. of it over these next nine months...and by the way, His name is Jesus.”
Makes whatever we are facing seem a little less overwhelming, doesn’t it? I’m talking about real and substantial issues like broken families, failing health, haunting loneliness, addiction, unemployment, overwhelming debt. There is NOTHING you or I are going to face this year that the good hand of our sovereign Lord doesn’t already know all about, and just like God brought comfort to Joseph in the midst of his confusion, He wants to bring comfort and assurance to you. Your “situation” might be a result of man’s (or your) rebellion more than God’s revelation, but take comfort in knowing that whatever your situation, the Lord wants to bring insight, wisdom, instruction and peace into your heart as you deal with it. The result of Joseph facing his challenge ended up being part of God’s provision to bring grace into the world. This “unplanned” pregnancy didn’t meet a tragic end, and as a result, we can enter into today, tomorrow and even death “pregnant” with hope.
1) Life can be stressful, but what situations are you facing that could seem less challenging with the perspective of eternity? 2) Read Romans 5:3-5. How can you face challenges with hope in a way that causes the world to marvel at who God is?
Father, we know that in all things You are good. Thank You for saving us through Your grace and mercy. May we constantly seek You as we go through all of life’s challenges, both large and small. With your help, we pray for perspective to see the things that are a source of frustration and fear for us in light of what You are doing to show Your glory. Help us to be faithful to You in all things. Amen.
Contributor: Todd Wagner, Senior Pastor at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX
Day 8: Moses (Matthew 2:13-15, Exodus 3:11-12)
Matthew provides the sole historical testimony to Jesus’ flight to Egypt, and he does so with a bit of creative Bible reading. Matthew quotes the prophet Hosea, as if Hosea predicted this moment in Jesus’ life, when in the original context, Hosea is referring to the nation of Israel being called out of Egypt, only to turn away from God in idolatry. Matthew, though, linked the childhood of Jesus to the life of Moses. Jesus, like Moses, will lead people out of slavery and idolatry and into freedom.
Perhaps we can also remember Moses not only in his strength, but in his vulnerability. Moses wasn’t good enough to lead his people. Several times he tells God this, and God never disagrees. Moses isn’t eloquent or faithful or powerful enough to fulfill his enormous destiny. But God is. God will be with Moses, God will reveal his power, God will supply partnership to make up for Moses’ weakness. Just as God protected the infant Jesus from an insecure, corrupt and violent power-broker of his age, God protected and equipped Moses for bold and transformative leadership. Any God-sized work and calling will require more than what we have. It will require God’s protection, equipping, presence, and power. To imagine we are self- sufficient or to despair because we aren’t is to return to the slavery of Egypt or the idolatry of Hosea. To trust God to be all that we are not, and to lead and empower us to do great things, is to live in the faith of Moses, and of Jesus himself.
1) Where do you feel underprepared, inadequate, or under-resourced these days? Speak honestly about your limits to God. 2) What great thing might God be preparing you to do through your education? Ask God to prepare and equip you for it. 3) How can you ask Jesus to be your rescue and help, and trust God to be with you as he was with Jesus and Moses?
Jesus, like you as a child fleeing to Egypt, I am weaker and more helpless than I like to admit. Beneath my skills and accomplishments, I am not courageous or motivated enough to do anything truly great. Please equip and empower me to do all that you have called me to. As Moses was uniquely situated to lead the Hebrew slaves to freedom, help me discover the work that will benefit others that I am uniquely situated to do. Be with me in my needs and weakness today. I entrust every part of my past, present, and future to your leadership and care. Amen.
Contributor: Steve Watson, Senior Pastor at Reservoir Church in Cambridge, MA
Day 9: Judah (Genesis 44:1-45:15)
After Joseph’s brothers visited him in Egypt, Joseph framed Benjamin for an imaginary crime, and claimed Benjamin as a slave in recompense. Judah emerged as the group’s spokesman. What gave him the standing to take on this role? He had broken faith with his family by marrying a Canaanite, had raised such wicked sons that the Lord put two of them to death, had treated his daughter-in-law as a prostitute, and had hatched the plan to sell his own brother as a slave. But the story Judah told Joseph showed a changed man. He exhibited unexpected compassion in telling of the family’s heart-wrenching experience of starvation, of his father’s undying love for Benjamin, and of Judah’s own promise to his father that he would bring Benjamin back home, lest Jacob literally die from grief. Then, in an ultimate expression of compassion, Judah offered to substitute himself in place of Benjamin to be retained in Egypt for the rest of his life as the governor’s slave.
The change in Judah moved Joseph to see that his brothers could be trusted, and to bless his family as God intended. As one writer put it, “Trust requires trustworthiness.” Judah’s trustworthiness make it possible for Joseph to enter into a right relationship with all his brothers. God is more than able to bring his blessings to the world through deeply flawed people. But we must be willing to continually repent of the evil we do and turn to God for Transformation.
1. With whom do you identify in this story? Joseph, who succeeded despite his life and work being nearly destroyed by his brothers’ betrayal? Benjamin, unjustly accused for something he didn’t do? Judah, a flawed man transformed by love?2. Does your time as an MBA student bring you face to face with ways you need to be transformed? Is it driven by failure and harsh realities, or by success and love you discover in yourself? How have you experienced Christ?
3. Are there others you need to learn to trust or to forgive? What transformation in them / you is necessary to restore trust?
Dear God, open us to the gift of transformation, whether success or failure. If we succeed, let us be humble enough to recognize our failings in spite of the success. If we fail, let us get something out of it by growing or being transformed. Give us a love for something or someone so big that we would gladly sacrifice ourselves for their sake. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contributor: Will Messenger, Executive Editor of the Theology of Work Project
Day 10: Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)
According to Acts 16:13-15 Paul on his second missionary journey to Europe met a wealthy woman in Philippi named Lydia. She was a merchant from Thyatira who sold expensive purple cloth. Lydia was not only known for her business skills but she was a worshipper of God and had a love for God’s word. When Paul spoke Lydia’s ears were perked and she was very eager to hear Paul’s words because the Lord opened her heart. In response to her acceptance of Paul and his message she generously opened her home to Paul and his comrade Silas.
When we are truly transformed by the Lord there will be a genuine openness to the Lord’s plan and will for our life. Jesus can open the hearts people we come in contact with to receive the message of Christ. When this takes place, we are open to listen to God and will become more receptive and generous with our possessions. Through Lydia’s openness to the gospel she became a powerful contributor to the church and its leadership. When we allow God to transform us from a closed and callous heart to a sincere and open heart, He can use us for His glory.
1) How is God is opening your heart to people that He is sending your way? 2) Are you listening to the Lord and His messengers and responding appropriately? 3) What can you do to be more generous with your time, talent and treasure to support the ministry of Christ?
Lord, we come with a need for open hearts. We live in a world that is very impressed by outward appearances but you are looking at our hearts. Lord, in places where my heart is cold, I ask you to touch it with the warmth of your love. Give me a willingness to listen to your voice and help me to listen to the wise people around me. As you open my heart I thank you for giving me a generous spirit that will express itself in joyful giving. Thank you for using me to support and impact lives for Jesus and to build His kingdom. Amen.
Contributor: Larry Ward, Senior Pastor at the Abundant Life Church in Cambridge, MA
Day 11: Onesimus (Colossians 4:8-9)
At first glance, this passage about Onesimus doesn’t seem important. But Onesimus wasn’t just anyone. He was a runaway slave. We know from the book of Philemon that Onesimus had been under the employ of Philemon, and had stolen from Philemon and run away. But at some point in his journey, Onesimus met Paul and became a Christian. Paul apparently wrote this letter at the same time as Colossians and gave it to Onesimus to carry back to Philemon. Paul appealed to Philemon to accept Onesimus back into his household, but as a brother in the Lord rather than a slave. By God’s grace, this thief, from the lowest rung on the social ladder, who had been mistreated by his boss, Philemon, had trusted Jesus. He was now a follower of Christ, and no longer a slave, but a brother.
As you lead in the business world, you’ll encounter many people like Onesimus. They’re on the run, trapped in the identity of social class, status, or subjection. When you do, what if you saw what Paul saw — a future “beloved brother,” who was trustworthy enough to bear the very words of Scripture?
1) How can you lead the Onesimus in your company and see his life transformed? 2) How does the gospel change the way we approach status, class, and wealth? 3) Do you love those very different than you? What can you do to show those under your leadership that you care?
Father, today help me to be bold and loving like Paul when I encounter the Onesimus in my life. As I lead others in business, help me care for more than profit and loss. Help me care for the people who are working for me that are on the run from you and others. Give me the grace to tell them the gospel, and call them up to be faithful and beloved brothers, not just employees who are lower on the social ladder than I am. Help me care like you care, speak what you’d say, and empower the Onesimus in my life to bear the gospel, even back to the very place from which they may be running. Amen.
Contributor: Adam Mabry, Lead Pastor at the Aletheia Church in Boston, MA
Day 12: John (Revelation 21:1)
“The gospel is transformational, but exactly what aspect of life does it transform? Is it merely my personal spiritual life? Or is the transformational vision of the gospel something much bigger?
Because of the narcissistic bent of our modern world, it has been our tendency to see the gospel in purely private, “spiritual” and self-therapeutic terms. In other words, how does the gospel help me? How does it fix my problems? How does it bring me spiritual comfort? These are all good questions—and things that the gospel indeed addresses—but do they do justice to the breadth of the transformational vision given in Scripture? Absolutely not! The early Christians were not merely interested in their personal salvation, but also in the salvation of the entire cosmos. And it was this cosmic vision that so transformed their individual actions in the world. They hitched their hope to a higher star. Take, for example, the Apostle John. He gives us one of the clearest visions of this transformation when he writes, “I saw a new heavens and a new earth.” According to John, the gospel transforms everything; it's global. Christianity is not merely private and individualistic, but public and universal. It has to do with our public work as much as it has to do with our private worship. Indeed our work is worship! What we need in the day-to-day grind is not merely a therapeutic vision for our individual lives but a therapeutic vision for the whole world.
1) In what ways is my work and study under the Lordship of Jesus? 2) How might living with vision of the renewed heavens and earth motivate and transform your work in the here and now?
Almighty Triune God, you are both the creator and redeemer of all things. By your pleasure all things exist and at your command all things will be renewed. I long for the day when the redemption that you have accomplished in Christ will be evident for all to see. In the meantime, please strengthen me by your grace to live as one who is both informed and formed by this coming reality. Help me to see that the everyday aspects of my work are indeed worship to you, so that I might render to you a life that is worthy of the greatness of your gospel. Amen.
Contributor: Don Willeman, Th.M., Senior Pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Hanover, NH