One of the things that I have found in my journey with Christ is that reading scripture and what others have to say on it ultimately brings me to a deeper understanding of God and my relationship with Him. It is with that in mind that I write these words, while borrowing some ideas from a devotion I completed as we prepare to talk about rest as a church family.
Often I think we struggle with the tensions God has placed in our lives, mostly because it pushes us to discomfort. Ideas such as God’s sovereignty versus free will, grace and works, Jesus being fully human and fully divine, and God being all-powerful and all-loving are all concepts that are seemingly at odds. Yet, they are necessary to fully understand the character of God. Much like the strings of an instrument, it is the tension that creates the sound. One of these uncomfortable tensions centers around trust, hustle, and rest.
God knew that our own successes would make us readily praise ourselves, so He reminds us over and over again in the Bible that He produces the results, not us. He is solely responsible for the outcomes, which demands our trust in Him.
1 Chronicles 29:12 “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.”
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
That verse in Proverbs is so important because it sets the tone for our work: we need to TRUST FIRST. Then we hustle while trusting the results to Him. We don’t trust in Him and then “wait on the Lord” as an excuse for laziness or procrastination. Once we have a calling and have trusted that work to the Lord, He wants us to hustle. It is often through our hustle that He chooses to produce results.
Growing up, I played (or tried to play) every sport that I was exposed to. One of the things I learned early on was that hustle was rewarded. In the context of sports, it means giving your all and trying hard regardless of the outcome. You might run hard for a loose ball, and although you may not have gotten to it first, you hear the coach say, “great hustle out there!” Now, I hear hustle in different ways, especially with work. It is almost like everyone I know has their hustle and their side-hustle. And there is nothing wrong with working hard. In fact, we see in scripture that we are to “work with all our hearts as working for the Lord” (Col 3:23). But without the tension of trusting the Lord for the results, hustle alone becomes nothing more than a worthless idol. Proverbs 16:9 highlights that tension: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” We recognize that it is the Lord forming our steps, but it is also good and right for us to plan our course, to work in our gifting and calling. We have to remember that work existed before sin entered the world and is inherently good and designed by God to reveal His character. Our drive and ambition for work can be a good thing, but needs to be accompanied by trust.
Finally, in addition to balancing trust with hard work, we also need rest. It is pretty easy to see in our lives that we are a restless people. We all talk about craving rest, working for the “weekend”, but even once we are home, we never can truly physically or mentally disconnect from our constant demands. We check emails, social media, calendars and more. We are constantly doing. And even in those moments when we finally relax, it is for physical sleep. St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Without God the Father, we won’t find the rest we so desire. It is with this balance of working hard and completely trusting in the Lord for the results that we can rest. This rest begins with our submission to the God-designed practice of the Sabbath. Tim Keller wrote, “We are to think of the Sabbath as an act of trust. God appointed the Sabbath to remind us that He is working and resting. To practice the Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” When we practice Sabbath rest, it serves as a powerful reminder of who God is, and a tangible example of trusting in Him.