Here’s another book I read on the quest for an answer to ‘rest’ and ‘work’ and I can report it’s well worth the time!
The first half of the book looks at principles in the Bible and sheds light on how we can view time and busyness in a more godly way. The second half looks at an area of life in each chapter including work, family, church, and leisure.
I really love the author’s choices of Bible passages and how he applies them to each topic. For example, the book starts with Ecclesiastes 3 about how time itself and satisfaction from work are gift of God. Chapter 2 identifies the sources of our ‘heavy loads’ in life by unpacking the words “weary” and “burdened” in Matthew 11.28. Chapter 3 explains the ‘rest’ that Jesus offers by looking at Deuteronomy 12.10 and Matthew 11.28-30. Chapter 4 finds the ultimate solution to anxious toil in Psalm 127.1-2. Chapter 5 covers time-wasting, by expanding the ‘parable of the talents’ to time: just like the gold in the parable, time is also generously given by God for us to use to grow his Kingdom. Chapter 6 shows that we don’t have time to do everything we desire but there is time for everything God desires for us to do because of Ephesians 2.10. Chapters 7 to 10 set boundaries between ‘floor of obedience’ (under which is neglect) and ‘ceiling of obedience’ (above which is idolatry) to each area of our lives: work, family, church, leisure, so we have freedom to choose how to live. It does not forget to remind us by quoting Luke 10.38-42 that above all else, there is only one thing that matters: listening to Jesus. At the end of the day, we can trust God and sleep like King David even in grave danger (Psalm 3) because we know God does not sleep and watches over us (Psalm 121) (chapter 12).
That’s a quick overview of the book. Below are a couple of my thoughts after reading this book.
“rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety”
Chapter three unpacks the meaning of ‘rest’ and this chapter has some overlap with The Art of Rest.
The biblical meaning of rest was like a dark room to me. I had been learning from here and there what the room looks like for years, but a few paragraphs in chapter 3 suddenly turned a light on. I can see what ‘rest’ looks like so much better. The light is Deuteronomy 12.10:
But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety…
For Israelites, rest in the land is not sitting under their fig trees doing nothing. They’ll sow and reap. They’ll build houses and weave cloths. There will be a whole load of productive activities. But they will not have to worry about enemies who invade the land, destroy the crops and houses or kill their families and friends anymore. They live in peace and rest.
This sheds a clear light on our everlasting life in the New Creation. I’ve heard people asking questions like, wouldn’t people be really bored, sitting on a cloud and doing nothing all day, forever? No! That’s completely the wrong image. ‘Rest’ doesn’t mean ‘doing nothing’. I also heard people say, work will be less satisfying if there are no problems to solve. Firstly, I quietly wondered if they’d ever worked at all to be able to say they love problems. But fair enough. In light of the Deuteronomy passage, my thoughts are that there are different types of problems. For a writer, I would still have the ‘problem’ of creating interesting characters and exciting plots. But I wouldn’t have the ‘problem’ of the computer suddenly dying and losing all the manuscripts. Would I still be able to make grammar mistakes and typos? I’m not sure. But this is New Creation I’m talking about. Who knows how wonderful it’s going to be.
“Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands”
At one point the author asks us to assess our lives and all the busyness, and to make some decisions. Why am I so busy? Am I distracted and wasting my time on earth? Am I doing the most important things for God’s Kingdom? “The reality of eternity must shape our life here and now as much as the ticking clock does. (p135)” One specific question is “When I’m retired and sit in my rocking chair, what will I be most delighted that I gave my time to?”
If you haven’t heard, after being an active member of the international ministry of our church for the last ten years, I’m stepping down this year and having a break to have some rest and do some thinking. I’ve only been ‘retired’ for three months or so, and I can already look back over those years and say the best thing I gave my time to was the studies and the discussions we had. It’s a pleasant realisation to come to. When I was in the thick of things: preparing, reading, writing, rushing like a headless chicken, I couldn’t honestly say I enjoyed all of that. But reflecting back from a distance of three months, I do think those were the best things I gave my time to.
And may I always be able to say, “Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90.17)!