I love the Olympic’s story of Anna Sofia Botha, the great-grandmother who at age 74 coaches South African runner Wayde van Niekerk, winner of the gold medal in the 400 meters and new world record holder. While this was her first Olympics, she has been coaching since 1968. It has been her life’s work.
What is a life’s work for those of us who don’t lead some great cause or create a portfolio of great achievement—the kind of things generally associated with the phrase?
Your life’s work will likely seem ordinary. Botha said, “The whole coaching scenario is an everyday way of life for me. It’s nothing new, nothing out of the ordinary.”
God has designed us for his great kingdom purposes on earth. Each of us has a unique mix of gifts, abilities, and passions to point to our unique work. Most of us operate there without even thinking about it because it’s our ordinary.
Do you naturally encourage others forward? Do you love to care for the sick and hurting? Perhaps your ordinary involves bringing order to complicated problems or tasks. When you do these things, you are here to point others to the God who loves through you.
- A life’s work requires perseverance and commitment, staying the course even when things are hard or achievements seem small in the world’s eyes. Moving from one thing to the other in search of approval, renown, or ease makes it impossible to make a difference in any one place. Life’s work is truly a lifelong pursuit. If Botha had been set her sights on coaching Olympic runners, she likely would have quit years ago.
- To achieve a life’s work requires passionate pursuit and willing sacrifice for as long as possible. The best life’s work has meaning and purpose beyond personal recognition and is worth giving it our all.
- A life’s work requires us to see the big picture. Botha’s life’s work is her athletes. Van Niekerk says, “She doesn’t see us as athletes or as people; she sees us as her children.” There’s much more to that work than simply winning awards. Investing in people is a lasting achievement.
As Christ followers our work is done for his glory and kingdom. An eternal reward comes to those who focus on the big kingdom picture and yet realize that even small actions have eternal significance. We are here to make a difference.
When we persevere and see God in the midst of it, he will someday say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”