Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Toiling in vain?

Unless the LORD builds the house, 
   the builders labor in vain. 
Unless the LORD watches over the city, 
   the guards stand watch in vain. 
In vain you rise early 
   and stay up late, 
toiling for food to eat— 
   for he grants sleep to those he loves. (or "for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.")
Psalm 127:1-2

This passage has brought me great comfort over the past few months. You see, I have a tendency to think that hard work can fix any problem. And while hard work is certainly an important part of a successful life, it is good to be reminded that the success of any venture does not rest solely with me but with the Lord. At times I lose sight of this. I get so driven trying to accomplish some ministry or personal goal that my perspective narrows until everything else is blocked out. Unwittingly, I begin to think that it all depends on me. This is rarely an overt thought but I am realizing more and more that this must be the reason so many of us work ourselves to death. This passage lifts our eyes, broadens our perspective, and reminds us of the beautiful truth that ultimately all things depend on God, not us. This passage reminds us that at the end of the day we really are not in control of anything. Even working as hard as we might apart from God's blessing we will get nowhere.

I believe that all of this is part of the reason that God commanded Old Testament Israel to abstain from work on the Sabbath. All the other peoples worked seven days a week. It was odd in every way for a whole nation to shut down and rest for a full day each week. How could they hope to provide for their families with 14% less time to work than the nations around them? How could they be expected to take a Sabbath rest during the harvest when they were working against the clock to get the produce in off the vine before it began to rot? The answer was simple. The Israelites were to rest (at least in part) as an exercise of their faith. It was a practical way for them to live out their belief that God was in control.

So too we need to remember that God is still in control. Whether we are stressed about school or work, church or home, or whatever it may be, we must turn it over to Him. There's an old saying, "Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God." I disagree. I think we should pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on God blessing our best efforts. Throughout Scripture we find that God often blesses those who work hard in faith yet trust Him to provide whatever may be lacking in their best efforts. Rarely does God miraculously provide for the lazy. Likewise those who oppose Him or who continuously sin against Him cannot expect large portions of His blessing. So examine your heart today. Be sure that you are doing all you can in faith to better your situation. Be sure that you are in right relationship with the Lord through His Son Jesus. And be sure that you are not living in unrepentant sin against your God. After you have done the best you can in these God. Remember that you are not alone in your circumstances. God has not lost sight of your problems. Jesus himself says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). If you are carrying a heavy burden today, remember that God is still in control and only He can bring relief. 

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