We have a family quirk. When we go on vacation, or even plan a short time to relax, it is always preceded by a flurry of activity. We try to get our chores caught up and the loose ends of life taken care of so that it is easier to sit down. We have dubbed this “working real hard so we can relax.” And we laugh at ourselves.
There is a verse in the New Testament that says “...labor to enter into rest...” I’d never compared it to our “quirk” before, but looking at the larger picture, this working hard to rest does illustrate the Christian life.
First of all, the Bible is clear - no one is given eternal life because they work for it and therefore earn it: “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His mercy He has saved us...” (Titus 3:5)
Instead, the work is a -result- of being changed by Him through faith: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The work a Christian does for their Lord is not to earn an eventual rest in heaven, but instead is part of the package. When Jesus Christ is invited into their lives, along with Him comes an assignment to live in a special way and to do certain work.
This work has the guarantee of the Lord’s enabling strength, grace, and help as we need it, but there is a danger - of becoming tired, discouraged, and fainthearted - then filling up with self-pity and quitting. Galatians 6:9 cautions: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Focusing on the fruit of our labors here and now helps us to keep going, working at what we are given without losing heart. It is like gardening. Weeding and thinning are a pain - but thoughts of the taste of home grown vegetables keeps that hoe moving.
The Christians promised rest comes later: “There is still awaiting a full and complete rest reserved for the true people of God.... therefore let us be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter into that rest...”
God never promised heaven on earth or results without effort. As I see it, our “family quirk” of looking forward to our mini-rests by working hard to be well-prepared for them, may not be such a bad idea after all.