The Significance of Living for Christ in a Professional Setting

Zach Henry

 

Have you ever thought or said of a prominent individual who seemed not to be living a Christian life, “If this man would be a Christian and live a Christian life, what a worldwide difference he or she could make for Christ”? Have you ever thought about placing your name in the question in place of the “prominent individual”? What a difference it would make in the world if I, Zach Henry, would, truly, be a Christian and live a Christian life?

 

The scripture has given us an example of such a man in the book of Daniel – a true professional of wisdom and science who lived his total life in a professional setting. Daniel was a young man who came from a select group of Israelites that was taken captive to Babylon. The king recognized that he was worthy of a “scholarship” to be trained and moved up. He had three Israelite friends that were moved up with him. But, that was not what made Daniel a significant character of the scripture. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself and convinced his trainers (captors) that there was a better way – He used his Influence!! In fact, he had such influence on his three Israelite friends that they were willing to be thrown in the fire rather than worship any god except the true God.

 

 You will remember that the three friends, with God’s help came out on top. He had influence over kings to make them turn to this true God. He showed such competence in his performance of duties and loyalty that he was made Prime Minister for at least three kings as one would overthrow the other and assume power. The kings came and went, but Daniel was constant and stayed. He maintained his faith and allegiance to the true God through all ridicule and even through such punishment as being thrown to the lions. I have often said that, if one has never sacrificed for his Christianity, possibly he should rethink his true allegiance to Christ. I cannot compare myself to Daniel. But, I can look to Daniel and strive, on a daily basis, to reach to such a level.

 

I was born in the midst of the great depression into a farm family that came from Christian roots. No money, no productive land, no earthly possessions except debt. But I did have a mother and a daddy that were dedicated to Jesus Christ and to being sure that their nine children were dedicated to Jesus Christ. My daddy was not much on politics but he did have influence and he did not like the party in power or the man that was President. For him, it was a matter of taking a Christian stand. Cotton was the only money crop and it was allotted by the government program. On the non-productive land, it was required that my family have at least 50 acres of cotton to obtain the necessities of life. The local politicians reduced the allotment to five acres with a promise of 50 acres if he changed his politics. My daddy stuck to his guns and gave me an example for life.

 

Then came the question of college with no money. I entered Georgia Tech at the age of 16 with a full course load and three part time jobs. Church was what you did on Sunday and, on a regular basis, I was found in church on Sunday morning and on Sunday night. Everybody that knew me knew where I would be on Sunday. It was a shock to me when a fellow student, not a Christian, approached me and said something like this: “Zach, you go to church every Sunday but yet, when we see you, you don’t live like a Christian.”  I do not know how I replied but it certainly took me quite a while to get past this. I have remembered this and have reflected on this many, many times.

 

In the years through college and beyond, the vicious satanic attacks that have been thrown at me have been beyond what I can even imagine now. The temptations have come from every direction and related to any and all kinds of sin. Some temptations were because I allowed myself to be in the in the wrong place at the wrong time and others were “sneak attacks” from Satan. I really did not want to be saved from so many of these self imposed temptations and sins. But, it seemed that God had plans for me of which I knew nothing. In every case where I found myself on the brink of ruining my life by indulging in deep sin, God seemed to put a non-removable barrier as if to say, “Zach you are mine, you can’t go any further.” Why did God spare me? I am sure it was because of my mother’s prayers, and later, my wife’s prayers. The value of a great Christian wife is beyond my ability to express.

 

As time went on, after military duty, and some industrial experience, I found myself on a University faculty.  I was always surprised that no one complained with respect to my identifying myself as a Christian in the classroom but I did have several cases of students that came from “Christian” cults complain to authorities. I want to relate a couple of the many situations where I was politically incorrect and then talk about a couple of times where God just poured out His blessings in such a big way.

 

Every faculty member of the Institute of Agriculture has statewide duties in research and in taking the latest information to the producer. As a young faculty member my department head had already learned my fundamental stand on Christianity and he took every opportunity to poke fun at me and my Christian stand. I was riding across the state in the back seat of the car with my department head and another department head in the front. My department head, in his usual way was trying to bring up a discussion that would lead me to make a statement that he could ridicule. After one of his ridicule remarks, he turned to the second department head and said; “Jake, what do you think about that?” Jake replied without hesitation; “Jesus Christ has been sufficient for me.” Again, God was with me and the conversation stopped without another word.

 

Most often, I have been involved in a prayer meeting of faculty and/or students somewhere on campus. This time, it was in my department building and there were about a dozen faculty. We would quietly bring out sack lunch and meet in an out of the way conference room. We did not hid it but were discrete. Then one day my department head called me into his office to inquire about the prayer meeting that I was holding in “his” building. After a short discussion, I was told that I could have a prayer meeting anywhere off campus that I wanted to but not in ‘his’ building. This man was quite political and a self proclaimed “Christian”. What he never knew was that there was a member of the Board of Trustees that met with us. Do these types of incidences constitute a ‘sacrifice’ on my part? Not for me, but I am sure that they were black marks when related to salary, promotion, tenure and other such things that related to bread on the table.

 

These above stories do not relate to the rewards. In the 1960’s and 1970’s we would have 5 to 10 international students in our home almost every week end and always took them to church. They were from all over the world but especially from the Middle East, India and the Far East. I never expected to leave the USA but eventually Norma and I were in several countries of the Far East.

 

In the mid 1980’s I was with a Christian mission in Thailand and met a faculty member at a prestigious University who was teaching in my field that had demonstrated that he was a brilliant man. He knew of my professional writings and he wanted to come to America to study for a PhD degree and I had an available assistantship and needed the graduate student. Upon returning, I made all arrangements to officially offer him the assistantship. My department head thought that I had found a Christian man to whom I was trying to do a favor and I had to assure him that the Thai man was Buddhist. During his tenure here, he was given the award as the top graduate student for our department. We did become very good friends. He came to my church with me many times but what I did not know until just before he left was that every Sunday that he did not go to church with me, he, along with his wife and son, went to Calvary Baptist Church. When I asked why he did this, he said “because I knew you wanted me to”. Just before he left to go back to Thailand he called my wife and I aside and told us that they wanted to be Christians – but they wanted to continue to be Buddhist. We explained that this was not possible. Yet, a few years later, when he invited me to be a visiting professor at his University, I found that he was one of a very few professors that did not have a small Buddhist shrine on the filing cabinet of his office. In addition, he let me know that the larger Buddhist shrine that stood in the corner of the large conference room was removed when he was department head. He is now Dean of Engineering and I am praying that God will remove all barriers from his heart and he will be totally and only Christian.

 

In 1997 I spent the month of December in Southeast Asia in four countries. While in Bangladesh, I became very close to a great engineer from Japan that was involved in teaching and research similar to mine. We were invited to visit a small Bangladesh village of a man who was building farm machinery. We were two people who were foreign to each other and in a land even more foreign. He, a Buddhist/Shinto, our Bangladesh friend, a strong Moslem and me a Christian. As we rode the crowded buses, went up the Ganges River in a small crowded ferry and spent the night in an unusual guest house, we bonded in a way that could not have otherwise happened. When I left, my Japanese friend gave me a big bear hug (not typical for Orientals) and said to me; “I know about your sons and now you have another son.” God let me use this to get him to my house in America and into my church along with his wife and two children. In turn, he arranged for the Japanese Society for the Advancement of Science to invite me to teach and lecture in Japan for a month. I experienced the society of Buddhism and Shintoism and was able to introduce into his home a copy of the Bible and Christian music from our church choir. I continue to see him from time to time when he visits the states and each time we discuss what Christianity can mean to him and his family.

 

Overall, as I examine the professional setting into which God placed me, I am most effected by the missed opportunities. It is so important to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) This is where Daniel was and where I needed to be. I ask God’s forgiveness that I missed the mark.