Tim Keller is at his pastoral best in the last chapter of Every Good Endeavor where he sharply diagnoses how, when we work without the gospel’s power, we are not “merely doing the work that draws the salary” but also “working to chase away [our] sense of insignificance.”
We are too often driven by acedia which, according to Dorothy Sayers, means “a life driven by mere cost-benefit analysis of ‘what’s in it for me,’” contrary to what its translated version, “sloth,” connotes. In fact, a person “characterized by acedia…does not necessarily look lazy at all.”
Keller exhorts his readers:
Instead of working out of the false passion of acedia, which is born of selfishness, you are working out of true passion, which is born of selflessness. You are adopted into God’s family, so you already have your affirmation. You are justified in God’s sight, so you have nothing to prove. You have been saved through a dying sacrifice, so you are free to be a living one. You are loved ceaselessly, so you can work tirelessly in response to a quiet inner fullness.
He points to two examples.
One is Eric Liddell who, as portrayed in Chariots of Fire, declares: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” The other is John Coltrane, who after his experience of the grace of God in 1957, was freed to make music “for the music’s sake, the listener’s sake, and God’s sake.”
Tim Keller concludes with these words:
You can accept gladly whatever level of success and accomplishment God gives you in your vocation, because he has called you to it. You can work with passion and rest, knowing that ultimately the deepest desires of your heart — including your specific aspirations for your earthly work — will be fulfilled when you reach your true country, the new heavens and new earth. So in any time and place you can work with joy, satisfaction, and no regrets. You, too, can say, “Nunc dimittis.” (That is, “I could die happy now,” the words of Simeon upon seeing the Messiah.)