Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 11, 2015
Our current sermon series is called “Working for the Lord,” and it’s all about our vocations, our daily labors, our jobs.
Last week, we talked about working hard, about diligence instead of laziness and industriousness instead of idleness.
We learned about that slacker from the book of Proverbs called the “Sluggard,” and how we don’t want to be “that guy.”
But now this week, we want to talk about a surprising companion to hard work in the Bible. Another four letter word. Work is can be a four letter word, but so is this word: R-E-S-T.
“Work and Rest”
I said last week that some of you will need this week’s sermon more than last week’s, though you might not know it or admit it.
Those who tend towards the slacker-side, will love the sound of this week’s message! “Yes! Rest! Finally!” but those who are workaholics or have tender consciences might struggle with this word “REST.”
That’s me. I struggle with rest. I’m not very good at it. This Summer, I ended up in the hospital, I think, in part because God said, “You need to rest, Matthew, and I’m going to see that you do.”
How about you?
Last week, I asked you this diagnostic question:
Did you work hard this week? Or did you hardly work this week?
Now, I want to ask you a different question:
Have you rested well this week? Or have you hardly rested this week?
Because God cares about our rest.
He doesn’t just care about our work. He does care about our work. We’re learning that. But He also cares about whether or not we rest, and how much we rest and what quality of rest we get.
Do you ever think about that?
That God cares about rest?
A few weeks ago I read you a part of question that came in to me on the survey sheets.
Here’s the rest of it.
Here's a work related question for your sermon series. How do you know when you are working hard enough or long enough to please God? If I get tired is it okay to stop and rest? I have found myself very convicted since the beginning of your sermon series. God has given me a lot to look after. I love and I get pleasure from my work, but I find it hard to let myself rest knowing ‘Master is watching.’That’s a really good question, isn’t it?
Last time we talked about it, we answered it by saying the good news is that we don’t work to earn our salvation or to earn God’s pleasure. Jesus’ work is perfect and already reckoned to our account. We don’t have to worry about working enough. He has worked enough for us.
But that’s just part of it.
Here’s another part of the answer.
Who is the Master that is watching us at work?
How does our “Hide the Word” verse end? “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Who is your Master? It’s the Lord Jesus.
And He’s the best boss there ever was!
He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.
#1. YOUR LORD WANTS YOU TO REST.
God doesn’t just care about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.
And the first place that we’re going to see that is where He includes rest in the ten big rules. The 10 Commandments given to Israel in Exodus chapter 20.
The fourth commandment that God gave His people Israel was that they were to cease from work one day each week and set aside that day as holy.
They were to work, yes. And work hard. But for only 6 days.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.
That was the pattern.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...Rest.
And that rest was for everyone. Not just for the rich landowner. But for all of the workers and everyone in the house. V.10 again.
“[T]he seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”
And that “alien” means an immigrant not something from Doctor Who or Star Wars.
Nobody works on that day in Israel.
And what was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath in this covenant that the Lord made with Israel?
Listen to Exodus 31:14-17 “'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”"
That’s serious stuff!
We need to be reminded that rest is a serious thing that God cares about.
Now, you and I don’t live under the Mosaic Covenant today.
Of all of the 10 Commandments the fourth commandment alone is not repeated in the New Testament as a binding part of the “Law of Christ.”
So, you and I as New Covenant believers are not under this commandment in the same way that we are under the commandments to not murder or commit adultery. I don’t believe that there is one day in seven that is the Sabbath now.
But even if the Sabbath day does not continue for Christians, the principle of rest is still there and the importance of rest is still there.
By the way, I’m not going to explain all of what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath today. There is too much to share and still stick with our theme of work and rest. But if you’re interested, I’ve written a little article about the Sabbath in the Bible and especially what it means for us today and I’m going to re-post on my blog this afternoon. It’s called “The Gift of My Rest.” I’d be glad to answer any questions that it raises for you.
The point I’m making here is that God cared enough about rest that He encoded into the Mosaic Law. This Lord commands that His workers rest.
Do the best employers include rest in their plans for their employees?
Of course they do! Days off and vacation and for some lines of work, sabbaticals.
And the best employers actually want their employees to take the rest that they offer.
To come to work rested.
And guess what, our Lord is the best boss there ever was.
Your Lord wants you to rest.
He gives rest to His people and even commands it of them.
So here is a way of thinking about it:
Sometimes your job is to rest.
You are required to rest.
On one level, no one can escape it. We all have to sleep. God has programmed it into our bodies that they require rest.
But we can push and push and push ourselves and deny ourselves the rest that God wants for us to take.
Is it hard for you to rest?
The slackers say, “No, it comes easy.”
But the workaholics say, “I don’t have time to rest.” or “I don’t enjoy resting. I’m not good at it. It’s too much work to rest!”
That’s what I often say. I’m not good at resting. It takes too much work.
Well, sometimes your job is to rest.
To play, to cease your work, to lay down what you’ve been laboring at and take a break.
Did you catch that in verse 11? And how it was repeated in chapter 31?
Why was Israel supposed to rest? “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
If rest is good enough for God, then it’s good enough for you and me, too.
And never resting is sin.
I was talking to a pastor friend a few weeks ago, and he said that he never takes a day off. He loves his work, so he never stops. He takes mini-breaks and portion of several days.
But he doesn’t have a day off, and he asked me what I thought of that.
And I said, “It sounds like sin to me.”
Now, I’m not his judge. I’m not his Lord. In the end, that’s between him and his Master.
But I know how his Master feels about rest. It is requested and required.
Now some of you have a tender conscience, and you are easily shamed. And now, this feels like another burden. “Oh no. I don’t rest enough! I can’t do anything right.”
Don’t forget the gospel. Don’t forget that Christ’s perfect track record of resting is reckoned to your account as well. Because you belong to Jesus you don’t have to get this right to be justified in God’s sight.
You can rest on Christ’s rest.
But think about that: Jesus rested. God rested after creating, but think about all of those places where see Jesus sleeping.
Sleeping in the boat!
Partying at a wedding.
Heading out by Himself to pray in solitary places.
Jesus wasn’t all work and no play. He worked hard but He also rested. Perfectly!
And He wants us to work and rest, as well.
So, how are you doing at this? Are you resting?
Sometimes, it’s your job to rest. So are you doing your job?
Do you take time off of work?
Do you use your vacation and rest?
Do you plan in enough time to sleep?
Do you take breaks?
Does your family believe that you rest enough? Your family needs you to rest.
I can’t tell you how much or when to rest, but I can tell you that God cares about that.
Do you feel that?
Or is your picture of God a slave master with a whip held up to his ear ready to crack behind you if you slow down?
I think that some people think they are resting, but they aren’t.
It’s good to figure out what is really resting for you and what isn’t.
I mean for some of you guys, a trip into the woods with a bow or rifle is really restful.
It’s really restorative for you.
For me, unless I actually fall asleep while hunting, it’s not very restful at all for me. It’s more like work than work is for me.
I’m still trying to learn how to do it right, but the effort of hunting isn’t very revitalizing for me.
But taking a long hike is.
Rest is not always sleeping, but it is always ceasing from work for a period of time.
And you know what that requires? Faith.
#2. YOUR LORD WANTS YOU TO TRUST.
Do you find it hard to rest?
That probably indicates a faith issue, a problem with unbelief.
Do you remember the manna?
The supernatural bread that God provided from heaven for the people of Israel.
How many days were they supposed to collect it? 6 days. And which day were they not supposed to collect it? On the Sabbath, right? He provided twice the amount the day before.
Why? What does that mean?
It was an object lesson, wasn’t it? Yes, God wants you to work for your daily bread, but no, you are not responsible, ultimately, for even your daily bread.
One day a week, you stop working, but God still provides.
That’s hard to do. It’s hard to stop and just trust God.
But we are not our own Saviors.
In the Deuteronomy version of the ten commandments, the LORD emphasizes not His own example of rest at creation but the fact that the Israelites used to be slaves in Egypt but God rescued them with His mighty right hand.
So now they rest.
Do you see the logic?
“You didn’t save yourself by your own mighty works. And one day a week, I want you remember that by not working at all. Remember, how I worked!”
Some people need to repent of laziness.
Some others need to repent of busyness.
And I’m talking to myself here.
When we work without sabbathizing, we exhibit unbelief in the goodness and love of our Lord.
The best Scripture for this is the one that Marilynn put on front of your bulletins. It’s Psalm 127, verses 1 and 2. It’s a psalm written by Solomon, actually.
And he starts it like this.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
Do you hear those familiar words from Ecclesiastes and the curse of Genesis 3?
Toiling and vain?
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
Is it wrong to build a house? Is it wrong to work hard at construction? Of course not.
But ultimately, it’s not up to our hard work whether or not the house gets built.
It’s not up to you! It’s not up to me.
We act like everything up to us. When we don’t rest.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
You can have 1 watchman or 2 watchmen or 200 watchmen or a 2 million watchmen, but if the LORD doesn’t watch over the city, your city is toast.
It’s not up to you.
When we don’t choose rest, we act as if everything is up to us.
Verse 2. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
You work and work and work and work some more.
You act like the fate of the world rests on your shoulders.
But yours are not those shoulders!
Instead, God grants sleep to those he loves. He gives rest as a gift.
Now, if you have the NIV, you see a footnote there for an alternative translation of verse 2, and I think it’s a more likely translation.
It would read, “For while they sleep he provides for those he loves.”
We know that God doesn’t always grant sleep to every believer.
I think that this verse is saying that even while we rest, God works.
Do you need to hear that today?
When you rest, you are exercising faith in your Lord.
He wants you to trust Him.
Because He’s always working.
Six psalms earlier in 121 it says, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (vv.3-4).
And that means that you and I can sleep.
It doesn’t all rest on you, so you can rest.
Are you trusting Him?
Or are you working like He can’t be trusted?
Remember, the Shepherd of Psalm 23 is your boss.
That description of someone lying you down in green pastures and leading you to drink from quiet waters and restoring your soul is your Boss. Your Lord.
You can trust Him.
You can rest.
Every week, we’ve been recognizing the hard work and celebrating a different group of hard workers in our congregation.
Today, I want to have the homemakers stand. If you are currently a homemaker or are a retired homemaker, I’d like to ask you to stand and be recognized.
The reason I picked the homemakers today is because when those kids are little, they almost never get a rest.
Sleepless nights and sleepless days!
Verses 3-5 of Psalm 127 describe how children are a blessing.
But they are a very tiring blessing, especially when they are little, and you ladies do an amazing job of caring for them so well on so little sleep. Hardest job in the world.
Guys, if you have a homemaker in your house, make sure you are finding ways to get them rest.
Make it your job to see that she gets the rest that she needs.
And that includes not just sleep but also time away from the kiddos. Date night. Girls’ night out. Whatever it is she needs.
Because her job never ends!
One more point this morning. Number three.
#3. YOUR LORD WANTS TO BE IN YOUR REST.
One of the reasons why our rest is not very restful is because we leave the Lord out of it.
We are not supposed to rest from the Lord but with the Lord.
The original Sabbath day was to be a day of rest from work but also for worship.
Turn with me briefly to Isaiah 58 where the Lord is explaining through Isaiah what genuine fasting and genuine resting is supposed to be like. Scan down to verse 13 and see these promises.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight (resting for the Lord is delight) and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
You see the joy in the Lord there?
Do you see that the Sabbath was to be the Lord’s day?
Resting is for God just like working is for God.
Don’t do it without Him.
Don’t do anything on your day of rest, on your vacation, on your holiday, on your breaktime that you don’t want to do with Him.
Take your breaks with Jesus.
The Lord wants to be in your rest.
Because He’s the one offering it to you.
The Lord Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
I know that this sermon raises more questions than it answers.
Some of you are wondering now about the Sabbath.
How does now work?
Read that article I’m posting this afternoon. And I’d be glad to talk with you about that more.
Some of you want to rest more but you’re not sure how.
How does this look if you’re a second, third, or fourth grader?
How does this look if you’re a college student?
How does this look if you’re unemployed or disabled or retired?
How does this work out if you have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet?
What does rest look like for you?
How do I “work” at my resting to improve it?
How do I truly stop working and let rest be rest?
I don’t have all of the answers for you for those particular questions (I don't have all the answers for my particular situation!), but I believe the answers are out there.
What I can say is that God cares.
He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.
He cares enough to request and require us to rest.
He cares because He wants to get the glory. We labor in vain if we try to get up early and stay up late and leave Him out of the equation!
He cares because He wants us to experience everything good that He has for us. He gives to his beloved in their sleep. While we’re resting, He is giving.
And the biggest, thing He’s giving in our rest is Himself.
So I know that I need to repent of my busyness and get busy learning more how to rest in Him.
You, too? Let’s do it together.
Messages in this Series
01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest