Rest is something that seems to be evading us today. Our days and lives are filled up with tasks that are often too large to overcome given the time we have. I know many who come into work early, work all day, leave work late and yet they are still not able to get everything done.
Since I was a child I have known did not want to be one of those people. I have no desire to stay into the late hours of the evening at work to return the next day to the exact same daunting tasks. I do believe it is ok to have some long nights at work, that sometimes a weekend here and there may need to be sacrificed, but if a person is applying themselves and focused in their task, then they should accomplish their job at the given pace or the job should be broken up into multiple days and sections.
I have seen families destroyed by over-working, children unable to know who they are because of the constant back-and-forth of sports games and youth events and wives left abandoned for the sake of the company (or church). Others I have known have had large financial estates, and yet continued to take on jobs on the weekends and holidays to accumulate more wealth.
While I have known I do not ever want to become someone who is constantly at work, I am delighted to find that God does not want this either. While work is a gift from God and something that man was commissioned to do prior to the fall (Gen 2:15), working out of pressure, anxiety and fear are not the design nor the right way for the Christian to live.
Work should not be our master, Christ should.
Often this thought of working invades our understanding of God and salvation. The Reformation taught clearly that salvation comes by grace through faith echoing the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 2:8). Even with clear teaching on this knowledge of salvation Christians can occasionally find themselves striving to achieve something that only the perfect obedience of Christ could obtain.
Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Paul wants us to understand that the believer is not one who works to earn righteousness, but who believes and rests in the accomplished salvific work of Christ.
Christians should be people of rest. We should be hard workers and honor the Lord in the jobs we have, but those jobs and titles certainly should not define us or provide us with any confidence in ourselves. Christians, of all people, should know that anything they have is from the Lord and that while they do the work that they can it is only by His power and grace that they accomplish anything… even breathing.
The believer rests in who Christ is, and what Christ has done, and they delight in the fact that the saving work of Jesus has been accomplished.
It is difficult living with this “almost but not yet” worldview. Part of the Christian knows that eternally everything is as it should be and the Lord rules and reigns sovereignly over all things. The other part of the Christian, still here in this earthly state, sees and feels the pain and suffering longing for a better day to come. The believer should minister to those in pain and suffering as they possess the mindset of what is coming upon the return of Christ.
People have often argued over whether or not someone is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good and vice versa, but the Christian should find themselves consistently Christ-minded utilizing the grace and comfort that has been generously given by God to show and imitate His love to others.
Hebrews 4:1-2 says, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
Here the author of Hebrews is saying that Israel heard the good news of the gospel and yet only those who listened and were united by faith benefitted; only they were able to enter “his rest.” The rest of God is where the Christian dwells eternally with Christ now in a mirror poorly reflected (1 Cor 13:12), but in the appropriate time fully enveloped by the rest, peace and joy of Christ.
It is out of this rest that the Christian can work well and in freedom, not motivated by striving for salvific achievement, but by the joy that comes from the Lord in His salvation. Once a person understands that Christ has accomplished the most significant task, others are easier to bear. So the believer rests in the confidence of Jesus’ work in defeating death and the grave, and in that rest works.
So while the work we do with our hands here on earth in this life does matter and should be done with excellence, we rest in the knowledge that complete and joy-filled rest is coming — a day where instead of working “as though” we are working for the Lord (Col 3:23), working as we dwell with Him in the fullness of His rest.