Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 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.
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.
As we seek to re-enthrone Christ in our hearts during this season of prayer and fasting, we must dethrone another common rival that jockeys to take His place, the idol of work. While work was created by God from the beginning as a good thing for humans, we can sometimes mistakenly view it as our supreme source of fulfillment, happiness, and security—which is a bad thing for humans! Other times we can view it as our master, the one voice that has ultimate authority over our schedule, our budget, and our energy. When work calls, we come running. When work says jump, we ask how high, even at the expense of our walk with God, our family, and our sanity. While working with excellence and diligence is commended in the Scriptures, making it our god certainly is not. We see this principle in Psalm 127 when God tells us that all our “anxious toil” is in vain if He’s not the purpose and power behind our work. When we rely on ourselves for strength, we’ll burn out. When we look to work to be our all in all, we will “labor in vain.”
To balance our pursuit of work, God has given us a built-in weekly ritual of Sabbath, seen in Exodus 23, that forces us to rest and trust in Him to take care of all the details we simply can’t as limited humans. There will always be more to do, another list to power through, another email to check. However, to combat our obsession with work, God desires for us to enjoy an entire day given to rest. In ancient Israel, this rest extended to everyone, including a household’s family, servants, children of the servants, and even the working animals. To embody our belief that God is God and we are not, and that He is the one powering all of our work, we also take regular Sabbaths to be “refreshed,” communicate our trust in Him, and to commit our work to Him. This “work” includes things like our vocations, our roles inside the home, our ministry endeavors, and our hard work at all of life’s little maintenance issues. If work has moved beyond being a worshipful thing to being an idolatrous thing for you, take some time now to invite the Lord into this struggle. Ask Him for help, and always remember Philippians 2:13—that His work in you is the very thing empowering your work in the world!
- How quickly do you obey when work asks you to do something? How quickly do you obey when God asks you to do something? What does this tell you about who you truly consider your master?
- What other areas of your life suffer when you worship work? What practices can you put in place that will help you treat work in a healthy way instead of an idolatrous one?
God’s Mission, My Mission
The Sabbath day was made for you to rest, slow down, reflect, and reprioritize. Each of these is important for your ability to reach the lost. Rest allows you to think clearly and have energy to go the extra mile. Jesus said, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41 NKJV). Observing the Sabbath day also requires you to slow down. The hustle and bustle of life can be overwhelming at times. You can get lost in the busyness and miss the forest for the tree in front of you. Lost people are around you every day. Do you see them? The Sabbath day also persuades you to reflect and reprioritize. As problems arise, deadlines approach, and days quickly go by, we need to reflect on our accomplishments and reprioritize as needed.
Pray that God would give you a vision for how to spend your Sunday (or whatever day you have designated as a day of rest). Pray for the conviction to follow through with a plan. Then expect to be reenergized and reinvigorated to be on a mission.