Looking for Leaders
intersect, where the bible meets life
No Rest for the Weary...Yet
When shown sights and sounds from the beyond, the Apostle John wrote, “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them’” (Revelation 14:13).
Embedded in these words is the implication that Christian people labor, that we work for God. We look forward to the rest of Heaven, but in the meantime we carry out the deeds of earth.
The Lord designed us for labor. Work is the means by which we accomplish God’s will. He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden to enjoy it, but also to work it. He hallowed hard, hands-on labor when He established Jesus as a carpenter. In a word, God likes work. He worked six days before resting Himself, and He set up that schedule as a pattern for human behavior.
We work not only for ourselves but also for the Lord. He is our ultimate supervisor, our eternal job foreman. This drives us to labor faithfully, to push ourselves to perform duties that sloth might leave undone otherwise. Laziness surely calls to us, but we refuse to answer. We hear a higher voice.
Interestingly, in the midst of our work, difficult though it be, we find peace and contentment. Joseph Caryl said: “Saints have here a rest in their labours; they shall hereafter have rest from their labours.” Resting in our work comes from the knowledge that we serve God, and the labors we perform are for Him.
This disposition of working for God transforms the mundane into the heavenly. Roman philosopher Cicero, when discussing occupations, wrote, “There is nothing noble about a workshop.” The Scriptural examples of the wall-builder, tent-maker, and carpenter argue otherwise. Paul said, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). To Ephesian slaves, and through them to all of us, he wrote: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” (Ephesians 6:7).
This exposes the error of those who have fallen prey to the idea that work, even for Christians, falls into two categories—the sacred and the secular. They envision the work of plumbers and mechanics as being lower in God’s eyes than the role of preachers and missionaries. God, however, makes no such distinction. His kingdom-plan aims at encompassing the whole of human endeavor, and while one might be a “hand” and another an “eye,” no part of the Christian body is elevated above the other (1 Corinthians 12:14). Whatever we do, we do for God and His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Doing our work for God, whatever it may be, puts everyone into “full-time Christian service.” Martin Luther saw this clearly: “The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks . . . all works are measured before God by faith alone.”
In A Treatise of the Vocations or Callings of Men, the great Cambridge Puritan scholar William Perkins took aim at the same truth. “In a good work are three things required: first, it must be done in obedience; secondly, in faith; thirdly, it must be directed to the glory of God. . . . And the action of a shepherd in keeping sheep . . . is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching.” In the arena of work, the motive of serving God is the great equalizer.
What we do on Monday in the workplace is no less pleasing to God than what we do on Sunday in the worship-place. Each has its place, and each pleases the Lord—the shop and the sanctuary.
So we work, yes, but then there is that final rest, the day when it’s time to lay down our tools and clock out. “Blessed” are those who can say, “It is finished.” On earth, toil may take its toll, but in Heaven, rest will swallow up all weariness.
So labor on, Christian office worker. Work hard, homemaker. Don’t quit, laborer. Rest will come…just not yet.
Intersect: where the Bible meets life is a regular column of ONE Magazine.
Dr. Paul Harrison pastored Cross Timbers Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1991-2013. He served 17 years as adjunct professor at Welch College, teaching church history and Greek.