“O, this faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing! It is impossible that it should not be ceaselessly doing that which is good. It does not even ask whether good works should be done; but before the question can be asked, it has done them, and it is constantly engaged in doing them.”
I don’t know about you, but I find this quote intimidating. Is faith really like this?
It is impossible for it to not be doing good works.
It is ceaseless in its pursuit of good works.
It is constantly engaged in them.
This seems like a heavy burden, especially for those of us with busy schedules, lots of responsibilities, children, classes, work, and friendships. It seems like the pursuit of righteousness means exhaustion, late nights, no sleep, and denial of your own needs.
Could this really be the vision that Christ has for our lives? For us to just pour ourselves out over and over again until we collapse into bed, at the end of our rope every single day? I used to think that way, and it would certainly seem like our church culture can promote that kind of lifestyle, but I think we need to recapture the idea of rest as good work. Because if we see resting as a part of the good work we are called to do, then we can truly live up to Martin Luther’s vision of ceaseless good works.
There’s a fascinating article on the website for the publication Fortune called “How Much Should You be Working?”. The writer, Laura Vanderkam interviewed a number of professionals working in business and law fields and asked them how many hours a week they worked. On average they clocked in at around 60-70 hours, with some young professionals in emerging fields going higher. Most of them mentioned the “point of diminishing returns”, the number of hours which, if they worked past it, would see a decrease in the overall quality of their work. Many of them feared they were working past this point, but were afraid to work less for fear of missing out on business opportunities.
Here’s the point I’m trying to get at:
None of them worked 168 hours a week.
All of them had to rest, whether they liked it or not.
Most of them worried they were working too much.
God did not design human beings to exist in a constant state of work. Work is a good thing (look no further than Genesis chapter two, where God assigns work to Adam in a perfect world), but it must have limits. Even good work cannot be done ceaselessly, unless resting is counted as part of the whole system that makes good work possible.
So how do we rest well? I often find that if I go home, lock myself in my room, and watch Netflix until I pass out, I don’t feel very rested. Usually the opposite, in fact. I feel drained, I feel like I wasted the time of rest that had been given to me that day. I don’t think we can just kick back and do whatever we feel like doing and expect to be filled by God for tomorrow’s good work. So how do we do it?
Mark 1:35 tells us “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Again in Matthew 14:23 we read “After He (Jesus) had sent them away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone…”
Jesus found rest in solitude and fellowship with God, and I think we would do well to follow his example. Why not remove yourself from the business of the everyday grind, depart to a solitary place, and wait quietly for God to meet you there? You have access to him! You are his child and he is a father who knows how to give good gifts! He will not turn away a son or a daughter who is looking for comfort and fellowship, and God will be faithful to give rest to those who ask for it.
This is truly a good work of faith because it brings the person closer and closer to God, who will provide them with peace, comfort, knowledge, wisdom, and the power of his own spirit. None of us can go out into the world expecting to do good works if we haven’t first got down the discipline of resting with the one who gives us the strength to pursue the works that he has set up for us.