I had the privilege of sharing at a men’s ministry event recently and a conversation was still fresh on their minds: “If it’s ‘work’ I don’t want to do it! Isn’t striving or toiling contrary to the rest and peace we have in Jesus?”
What a great question and worthwhile discussion! So, we dove right into to the ideal, paradisal world of Eden…
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Now, I don’t know what your image of paradise or Eden is, but if you are expecting to spend eternity without any work to do, I think you better get with God on what His plans are, because it’s clear He thinks part of paradise is work.
How can this be? Why is rest so valued as part of the New Covenant?
Well, hold on there partner – God rested long before we had the New Covenant!
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all His work.”
It seems that God works and rests, and has designed us to work and rest as part of His perfect grace toward us. Without work, we are not used by God. Paul said that he works with all the strength of Christ within Him. Jesus, when rebuked for working miracles on the Sabbath, said His Father is ALSO always at His work. Work is GOOD! Through God’s gift of work we experience His power, we share in His agenda, we witness His impact, and we participate in His kingdom building process. We are designed for, have need of, and enjoy work!
So, what is spoken against in the New Covenant?
Look at Matthew 11… 27All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28″Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
See – we often take God’s rest out of context. The the words “I will give you rest” really means “I will vacation you” or “cause you to cease, to vacate”. But the vacation He gives is not from work, but from weariness and burden. The previous verses show that to know the Father we have to know Jesus, and to know Jesus we have to come to Him. He gives us rest from the burdens of working for ourselves, and gives us work (a different yoke of teaching according to His sufficiency) to be involved in with Him. The difference is that instead of performing to establish our sense of identity by our accomplishment, we are sufficiently defined by His infinite value of us and in us. We work not out of some performance standard we are trying to meet, but out of an availability to God because we have no agenda of our own we must meet!
God wants to give you rest, but we should think of it as a kind of “working vacation”! We have nothing we MUST do, but there is still so much in Christ we GET to do.
Join in with God’s work, God’s power, and God’s plan. You have nothing to gain for yourself, but lots you can do WITH God, and His work in and through is has only just begun! I like what Paul said to the Philippian believers, “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God’s work through you (your work to be done) is a work He is doing IN you, and He will accomplish it, as you come to Him in faith for whatever He will do WITH you.
You are a tool in the Master’s hands, designed for divine work. He is carving His kingdom out or Living Stones (that’s you and me). But more than that, He is using us to shape His image in each others’ lives.