Work It and Rest It
Rhythm — We thrive on it. The toe-tapping beat of a tune is the rhythm of music; the inhaling and exhaling of air through our lungs is the rhythm of breathing; and the daily cycle of waking and sleeping is the circadian rhythm of living. Without the contrast that rhythm provides, we would be unable to benefit from the essential strengths of each rhythmic extreme. The rests and pauses between the notes of a song call attention to the musical sounds that follow each moment of silence.
As we look at the Church – the people of God that have been portrayed as the Body of Christ – we see a particular and important rhythm it is designed to practice: the rhythm of work and rest.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of this rhythm as a primary distinguishing mark in the lives of believers and their community in the Body. He is not referring to the nine-to-five employment of labour followed by evenings and weekends of leisure. He’s talking about a different work-rest rhythm the Body of Christ is called to adopt. It is the working and resting rhythm of faith.
RESTING. “Now we who have believed enter that rest…” (Heb. 4:3). “There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (Heb.4: 9,10). The author is speaking to cultural Jewish people who understood the work-rest rhythm of the historical account of creation. God worked for six days, then rested. He uses this rhythm to picture a contrast between the striving, do-it-yourself labour of those who have tried to gain peace with God through their own good works. To rest is to relinquish our self-made attempts and accept by faith the saving work of Jesus. He alone was able to work to secure for us a recovered relationship with God. We must rest in that.
We members of the Body of Christ are called to rest in the saving work of Jesus, and also to encourage the other members of the Body to remember this rest. It is so easy to forget. It is so easy to begin thinking our church-going routines, our devoted study of the Bible, and our feverish acts of charity in the community are securing for us a relationship with God. We can help each other remember to rest in Christ with an encouraging word, by recalling the truths in God’s Word that speak to this rest, and by promoting spiritual retreat.
WORKING. “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God” (Heb. 6:7). The author of Hebrews goes on to illustrate the Body’s role of work by picturing agricultural land. He is saying that the Church acts as an environment for producing rich resources. The Apostle Paul describes those resources as fruit produced in and through the lives of believers: the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Jesus also uses the same working analogy of our lives as crop-producing fields in a parable called the Sower and the Seed (Luke 7:4-15). He summarizes, “The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” The work of the Body of Christ is to absorb Christ’s words and persevere in obeying them. Every member of the Church knows that only the indwelling Spirit can accomplish this work. It is He who waters the soil of our lives with His love, nourishes us with the nutrients of His truth, and produces a great crop of blessing with His grace.
It’s all about rhythm. We rest and we work; Christ somehow takes this motley mixture of introverts and extroverts, musicians and theologians, men and women, and makes us His Church – a living, breathing, organic Body of believers. Who needs Church? All who rest in Christ’s work, and work by His Spirit. It’s rhythm.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Bob Embleton)