Do rest and work go together?

“And that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that you may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that you may have lack of nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (KJV)

I was reading along in 1 Thes 4 and these 2 verses struck me as quite interesting. Just before these verses, Paul, writing his first epistle to this group of believers, talked about what great love they had for one another and he encouraged them to keep on loving and even increase their care for each other. He encouraged them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling in Christ. That’s the context where we find these two verses.

What struck me was that Paul wasn’t suggesting to them that they quit their jobs and run into full time ministry. He wasn’t asking them to do something on a grand scale so the entire earth would know what they are doing. In today’s world, the average believer feels a lot of pressure to “do something great” for God. It can produce a lot of guilt which only paralyzes the believer rather than motivate them to service for Jesus. If you have ever felt that way, theses two verses are encouraging!

“Study to be quiet.” The word quiet there actually means “to rest from labor.” But then he goes on to ask us to “do your own business.” That sounds kind of opposite, doesn’t it? But below the surface I believe Paul is talking about the rest of Hebrews 4 – not relying on ones own efforts to supply all that we need in this life. The Sabbath was meant to assist Israel to show God that they were relying on Him for their daily bread, and not just on the work of their own two hands. It’s interesting that Paul says, “study to rest.” Study?

The rest God is talking about here doesn’t come naturally. Human nature drifts towards work – trying and doing to make things happen, which feeds our pride. It’s all because we don’t really (deep down) trust God to work things out for us. We error thinking God needs our help when it’s the other way around. No wonder Paul encourages us to study to rest. Knowing what God’s rest is all about takes time; a change of mind to line up with God’s way of seeing and doing things. Rest means even in the midst of work, you are aware that it is God who is giving you the ability to do your job. God is supplying all your needs rather than yourself. Rest isn’t being lazy or taking advantage of the success of someone else. Restful work means leaning on the Lord to give you the work and the power to accomplish whatever work is before you. I think the labor Paul is talking here, is the striving type of labor. If you find yourself anxious, striving to make ends meet, laboring in such a way that you never can have any inner rest, that’s what Paul is talking about when he encouraged the Thessalonians to study to rest from labor (be quiet). Make it your aim to seek out what rest looks like in your life. Take a step back and ask the Lord to show you how to rest – His type of rest. God will bless your work ten-fold if you work in His way.

I think Paul is also saying that whatever your heart finds to do, that is your “own business.” We aren’t to compare ourselves with someone else. You have specific gifts God has given you. He desires you to use those gifts and focus on them rather than trying to “fit in” with the crowd. If you don’t like working in some field, get out of it and get into a field that you enjoy. Work is a gift. Doing something that brings you satisfaction is from the Lord. And try not to help someone in their business unless they have asked you specifically. Focus on what the Lord has for you to do and allow Him to assist those around you His way.

I find it also interesting that verse 12 says, “That you may walk honestly…” All of the things stated above, somehow lead to walking before God and others in honesty, not deception. If you are focused on the Lord and resting in His ability to help you accomplish whatever work is before you, it leads to being honest. The opposite would be to live a life always wanting to make yourself look good in front of others by “trying” to be someone you really aren’t. And this honesty that comes out of restful work, brings provision. Paul says, “that you may have lack of nothing.” Those around you, who may lack in material things, or rather, lack in knowing rest, will see your life being supplied and want to know the source of your provision. I think generally speaking, most people know if you are being honest or not. Even honesty doesn’t come naturally to human nature – just the opposite.

Another interesting thing in this entire chapter, is that before these two verses, Paul was talking about sexual purity – what a relevant topic for today – just as it was back then. I submit to you that, when we know how to rest in the work of Christ – His sacrifice for our sin that brings us total forgiveness of all our sin, past present and future – only then will any person have the power to overcome sin, especially sexual sin. When you find joy in the work He has given you to do there is satisfaction that can never come from any sin. The enemy deceives us into thinking that sin can bring us what we want. It cannot be further from the truth. So, study to rest from your striving and allow God to give you what you need. Receive from Him all the redemption, righteousness, forgiveness, purity and peace that only He can give you. You cannot earn any of it – it’s all His gift to you because Jesus paid the price for our eternal life.

So, know that the Lord is kind and good and desires your life to shine by Him providing for all your needs. Ask Him to bring you the work that is a great fit for you. Ask Him to help you to rest in His love and care for you. It reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” The KJV says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Lord loves to speak to us and help us live our lives day to day. He is aware of all that goes into our modern and fast paced lives. He longs to be your helper and assist you to rest in His ability to care for you!

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