Stop Working So Hard
It has been my delight to pray for you this week. Not only have I brought your name before the Lord, asking him to increase your joy in him, but I have also repeatedly thanked God for you and the privilege of serving as one of your pastors.
Over the last six years, I have encouraged you week in and week out to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. A refrain I have echoed often has gone something like this: Nothing you do (or don’t do) will alter your standing before God. You belong to Him. And He loves you. So you’re free to stop worrying about your performance and just delight in the One who redeemed you and in whom every blessing is found.
Well, many of you have said, “Hallelujah! Praise God!” (ok, perhaps with not so much effusiveness, but nonetheless you’ve been comforted with the sufficiency of Christ’s mediatorial accomplishments). But some of you have said (and believe me, I understand), “How can this be? Aren’t we supposed to be about working hard and doing things for the Kingdom?” And I have answered by saying, yes we work and strive but from God’s acceptance not for it.
In God’s good providence, as I was reflecting on these things this week, I came across something so stunning (and convicting) that I had to share it. In Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Believer’s Present Rest”, delivered on June 6, 1873, the beloved preacher offered this:
“Let me remind you, beloved, that this rest is perfectly consistent with labour. In Hebrews 4:11 the apostle says, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” It is an extraordinary injunction, but I think he means, let us labour not to labour.
Our tendency is to try to do something in order to save ourselves; but we must beat that tendency down, and look away from self to Christ. Labour to get away from your own labours; labour to be clean rid of all self-reliance; labour in your prayers never to depend upon your prayers; labour in your repentance never to rest upon your repentance; and labour in your faith not to trust your faith, but to trust alone to Jesus.
When you begin to rest upon your repentance, and forget the Saviour, away with your repentance; and when you begin to pray, and you depend upon your prayers, and forget the Lord Jesus, away with your prayers. When you think you are beginning to grow in grace, and you feel, “Now I am somebody,” away with such spurious growth as that, for you are only being puffed up with pride, and not really growing at all. Labour not to labour; labour to keep down your natural self-righteousness and self-reliance; labour to continue where the publican was, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Man, I wish I could say it that beautifully! What sort of joy might we experience if we beat down the beast of self-righteousness (a favored phrase of Martin Luther) and learned to rest in what Jesus has done for us, rather than what we can do for him? What sort of courageous acts of obedience might we undertake if we recognized that it will be neither our success nor failure that secures for us God’s favor? It is already fully ours in Christ!
May God give us the grace to labor not to labor, but to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s finished work all the more.
Resting in Him,