When all of my work is finished for the day, or when my brain is kaput, I give myself permission to read a novel or to watch a little television. I’m afraid that if I let myself relax earlier, well, nothing would get done.
Work first; then you’re allowed to rest. That’s how I organize my life’s to-do list. However, if I broaden my view to include spiritual to-dos, then my work first, rest later approach is completely backwards. It won’t work.
Christians must rest first, and then, and only then, can they do work that matters.
God’s teaching on work and rest begins in Genesis 1 and 2 when we’re told that God created the world in six days, and he rested on the seventh. God worked before he rested.
But man rested before he worked.
The wonderful little book on Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand, written by Watchman Nee, reminds us that man was created on the sixth day, at the very end of God’s creative work. God may have rested on the seventh day, but God’s day of rest was Adam’s first day.
“Clearly, then, he (Adam) had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed his Sabbath rest, Adam began his life with Sabbath; for God works before he rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work.” (p. 16, italics mine)
In Hebrew thought a day began with sunset. “And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31) The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday night and ends at Saturday’s sunset. With this understanding of a “day,” everyone rested first and worked later.
“Moreover it was because God’s work of creation was truly complete that Adam’s life could begin with rest. And here is the Gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need to do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of his finished work.” (Sit, Walk, Stand, p. 16)
The shocking truth of Christianity is that God did all of the work for us because we cannot do it ourselves. Jesus died and took the penalty we deserved, and we live forever in Him. We have done absolutely nothing to deserve it.
“The Christian’s secret is his rest in Christ. His power derives from his God-given position. All who sit can walk, for in the thought of God the one follows the other spontaneously. We sit forever with Christ that we may walk continuously before men.” (Sit, Walk, Stand, p, 34)
This truth is difficult to accept, even for those of us who believe it and have taught it and have tried to live it. We’re so used to work first; rest later that it just doesn’t seem right to rest first; then work.
But that is the good news. That’s what makes the gospel so scandalous. We don’t have to do any work to enter eternal life with Jesus, because He did it all for us.
Rest in that truth.
Do you find it difficult to let go of work first; then rest attitudes? How do you rest?