Posts Tagged ‘work’

The Blessings and Danger of a Little Sleep

October 6th, 2015

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:10-11

Our roads have ditches on both sides, and in life there are dangers on the right and the left. On one side is the person who is lazy, who sleeps late and despises work, who does everything with a poor effort. On the other hand is the person who in a state of anxious worry and hectic activity frantically works and restlessly sleeps.The Christian and biblical ideal is the one who wakes up early and goes about his work diligently and at the end of the day rests peacefully.

The Proverbs 6 passage above warns of the ditch on the side of laziness. Psalm 127, however, warns of the ditch on the other side.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

We work better when we sleep well. Rest prepares us for work, but work should be entered into sincerely and diligently.

We begin with rest: We enter into life helpless. As babies we must be fed and cared for, watched over for years to keep us from danger. We attend school for a fifth to a third of our lives before we are able to make a serious contribution in this world. In the biblical mindset, the day began with sunset, to remind us we must rest before we work. Adam was created on the sixth day, on Friday, so the first full day of his life was the night’s rest before the day’s work. Adam witnessed a sunset before he ever saw a sunrise.

In Christ we also begin with grace, with trust, and with spiritual rest. In the Jewish experience, the deliverance from Egypt, the introduction of the Passover, and the victory at the sea from the Egyptian army before He gave them the Law. They were told, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today” (Exodus 14:13) before they were told, “Listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 4:1).

And this is consistent throughout the Bible: Abraham and Sarah were an elderly childless couple when God called them; Jacob was given the vision of angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth before he was given the name Israel. Saul the Pharisee was first converted by grace, his religious work in Judaism shown to be useless for attaining righteousness, and initially even as a Christian set aside for a time of spiritual growth before he became Paul the Apostle.

We stand and watch the miraculous work of God to forgive us our sins, to redeem us from self effort, to teach us to trust in Him and in His grace before we begin to serve. And in our daily work, even in our secular jobs, the Christian is to begin with faith and trust in God, by resting in His love and reliability, before we begin to work. Resting in Him is the foundation we need to build our confidence and prepare us to work.

Miles J. Stanford in his classic work “Principles for Spiritual Growth” poignantly observed:

It seems that most believers have difficulty in realizing and facing up to the inexorable fact that God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel they are not making progress unless they are. swiftly and constantly forging ahead. Now it is true that the new convert often begins and continues for some time at a fast rate. But this will not continue if there is to be healthy growth and ultimate maturity. God Himself will modify the pace. This is important to see, since in most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so many think, a matter of backsliding.

John Darby makes it plain that “it is God’s way to set people aside after their first start, that self-confidence may die down. Thus Moses was forty years. On his first start he had to run away. Paul was three years also, after his first testimony. Not that God did not approve the first earnest testimony. We must get to know ourselves and that we have no strength. Thus we must learn, and then leaning on the Lord we can with more maturity, and more experientially, deal with souls.”

In rest we enter into our service for Christ and into our secular work. The one who has learned to rest in Christ is now free to serve in Christ. Even secular work is considered service for Christ, because we are commanded, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). To trust in God and to work in the reality of His faithfulness and power are the basic ingredients for a successful life. The one who trusts Christ has more energy for work, has more peace after work, has more divine creativity within his job, and has a more cooperative spirit within the job place.

To be a follower of Christ is a call to a responsible lifestyle, to be someone who contributes to the health and wealth of society, to be someone who is a good neighbor in his community and among his colleagues at work. Resting in Christ does not mean laziness, and we should be careful not to give into slothfulness.

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First Things

August 25th, 2014

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25

The creation story ends with human life, male and female, created, brought into intimacy with God and into community with one another. The order of this account is beautiful and peaceful as well. Because we are made in God’s image, we human have godly ambitions, and though sin has marred us we still have within us a desire to know what we are made for, how we were made to function. We are not able to cope with the sheer idea of purpose – raw, formless, unattached to any means to function. We need some forms, institutions, concrete matters to see our duties clearly. And these God simply and beautifully supplies in this second chapter of Genesis.

This is not all that is said in the Bible about duty, but the simplicity of these first matters is beautiful in and of itself. Life in today’s world is too fast, too complicated, and too overwhelming for us, and within each of us there is the longing for something more simple, plain, concrete, clear, and this chapter provides it. It puts first things first – and I do mean “things” and not just ideas, concrete matters of life.

A job to do: We are bored without some purpose to give our time and energies to. We need rest but we need work more. God placed Adam in the garden to tend it and take care of it. The oldest profession is not prostitution but farming, or gardening. This is not just to sit and harvest without thought, to lazily pick the fruit that plants bear on their own. Rather it is to be actively engaged in helping and supervising the natural life of the plants. We also in our lives today need jobs to do, specific forms of work, and in this work to take pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.” Work does not demean us, rather it gives us dignity and significance. To find a job that God has led us to, that He has provided for us, that He has gifted us to do, that lays not just within our abilities but also within our interests and even our passions is a precious thing. Even more so if we can see that this job, this specific work benefits others, blesses the creation of God, helps provide needed commodities to those around us – food, life, enjoyment, education, health, protection, etc.

A family to enjoy: The initial marriage was one of love and support. The absence of shame refers not only to their physical condition, but to their conversation and life together. It never entered Adam nor Eve’s heads at first that the other would say anything unkind, that there would be any basis of rejection, that Adam would complain that Eve had let herself get a bit flabby, or that Eve would find a basis of rejection for Adam. In their love was acceptance, peace, harmony, and mutual support for what God had given them to do.

The sheer harmony of everything God created is seen in these early chapters, and we are wise if we take this lesson to heart. In this world our lives can so easily spin out of control, overly busy, distracted, harassed, pressured, and worn out. We need to return to these simpler days of our race.

A question we might ask is whether God intended Adam only to work and Eve to tend to the family matters. But the answer of the text is that Eve was Adam’s helper in all that he did – and this role was not a belittling of womanhood, rather simply the statement that she shared Adam’s work and purpose. And, despite the biological differences between the sexes, Adam also was concerned with what happened at home. They were a team together and derived support and strength from one another.

God to worship: The early forms of worship were different from our forms today. Since the advent of sin now we worship God through the sacrifice, through the promise of the Redeemer and our Redemption before Christ, and in the observance and celebration of His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection since He has come.

The early days of human life, however, were not like ours and their worship took the form of simple relationship. Though we now approach God through Christ our Savior, the outcome of the grace we receive today is similar to what Adam and Eve enjoyed in the days of innocence – intimacy with God.

So we may add prayer to this list of forms – work, marriage and family, prayer – that are given to us. In prayer we affirm our need of God and our trust that He cares for us. In our fallen-ness we have complicated prayer because of our senses of guilt and shame, our fears and worries, and prayer for us lifts our spirits as we pour out our hearts to God. But still the beautiful simplicity of the form of prayer, the celebration of relationship and the expression of intimacy with God, reveal to us the first things of life.

I will stop here, though perhaps we could add schedule for the week also seems to have been instituted by God, though there is some question about that, whether it came here or later on under the Mosaic Covenant. Too often our schedules terrorize us, and here in Genesis 2 there is no command to observe or not observe the Sabbath. No starting times or quitting times; it is all in harmonious balance.

So let me invite you to return to the simpler things of life – see yourself as God’s special creation and let these early forms help you in your balancing your life. Work. Family. Prayer. There is a sacredness about all three of these.

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