According to one recent report, one in twenty Americans lost their job in the last five years.  Imagine what the percentages are over a lifetime.

Yet most think this will never happen to us.  We don’t think our company will close, downsize, or move jobs overseas.  We don’t think we will fall out of favor with the boss or underperform to the point that we are fired; that we will ever commit a moral transgression or that our company will ever be caught in an ethical scandal; that a robot will ever take our job or that new technologies not yet invented will make our job obsolete; that we will be the target of someone’s jealousy, revenge, or false accusations. However, every day something like this is happening.

The day has long been gone when a person retires from the same company he or she started with.  In addition, if we never develop relationships in the office or in the workplace or with colleagues throughout our industry, this does not bode well for people in times of transition.

Back in 2009 in his fourth year of teaching, a cousin of mine was informed that he would not have a teaching job at his school in South Georgia because of major cutbacks.  He eventually entered into that deep valley of the long-term unemployed.

For six years he filled out applications and interviewed for teaching jobs.  While he worked at Walmart, he continued to substitute teach in two different school systems.

He and his wife have prayed for years that he would get another teaching job.   He considered giving up many times but he has always felt led to be a teacher.

Recently, he was hired at Ware County High School in Waycross, Georgia. His prayers have been answered!  He said, “The position came out of nowhere.”  But actually it didn’t.

Every day that he showed up as a substitute teacher on time, prepared, enthusiastic, eager, passionate, and excited about being in the classroom, he was actually interviewing for this job.  These days of substitute teaching served as his official interview. The principal already knew his character and his abilities.

Jesus once told a parable about  a master that went away and gave his servants various amounts of money to invest. One servant received only a single talent and so he buried it to make sure he didn’t lose it.  The other servants received a lot more and they invested theirs and received a return on their investments.

The master praised each one when he returned: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

It is in lean times that faith is most important, but it is also the most difficult. It’s easy to fall back into a hoarding spirit when we think we don’t have much to offer.

God wants us to be faithful with the gifts we have and the calling we have heard, whether that workplace earns a paycheck or whether it earns the satisfaction of caring for family or others. It’s all about using what we’ve been given.

To live up to our potential we need to continually strive to increase our skills. Mediocrity should not be an acceptable part of our jobs whether we are painting with brushes or with words, changing tires or diapers, running a company or a local store.

Since most Americans will hold several different jobs in life, we should be preparing ourselves for the next opportunity through our hard work, constantly learning new skills, maintaining high ethical standards, and networking across our respective industries.

Even if retirement is the next step, that’s an opportunity that needs lots of preparation.  Some people create and do more for the Kingdom of God and their communities in retirement than at any other time in life.

Those who demonstrate that they have done the most with their talents and have a well-connected network of colleagues will be the first ones hired when a job opens, whether they already have a job or whether they are standing in the unemployment line.

Whichever line we are in, one day we will be judged based on what we were given.  If we have been good stewards, then we may hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”