Labor Day: Come and find rest

I realize the majority of America is probably enjoying one last trip to the lake or having friends and family over for a BBQ (that’s what we’re doing). But I can’t stop thinking about the motive and the meaning behind Labor Day. What in the world is this desire to find rest? And why in God’s name does this have any significance for us today? Since I can’t stop thinking about it, I figured it must be important. So, I decided to write a post about it.

Hopefully, this will spark some healthy discussion about what the Master Crafted, and why our daily experience seems to be anything but that.

Lord help us as we seek to understand what is right in a world gone wrong. Give us instruction. Teach us your ways about work and rest. We don’t want to labor in vain. We hunger to find rest for our souls. The words of King David echo in our ears, “Unless the Lord builds the house… Unless the Lord watches over the city… It is in vain that we rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil… Yahweh gives to his beloved sleep.” Show us the path of your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased, that we too will not strive in the flesh but be completely yielded to the Spirit. Your Spirit is always willing. Our flesh is always weak. Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways! Amen

Come and find rest

What are the experts telling us about Labor Day and finding rest…

Do a google search to try and find answers to the purpose of labor, how to find rest, pursuing work that is worthy, or to discover a job that would bring you happiness and you’ll find a “wealth” of information. It seems that everyone has any number of things complied in a nice and tidy list that will make your life more meaningful and help you find rest.

If you listen to the gurus about the meaning of Labor Day, you’ll find things like this top 10 list from Forbes that will “help you thrive instead of strive”. The article does a great job identifying the plight of the “hustle culture”. But the anecdote that was given to counteract “withdrawal, depression, irritability, anxiety, and ultimately burnout” I believe misses the point entirely. But for sake of discussion, here were the ten presented:

  1. slow down
  2. balance your life
  3. avoid multitasking
  4. set boundaries
  5. just say no to guilt
  6. come up for air
  7. unplug
  8. block time for relationships
  9. gain deeper insight
  10. celebrate Labor Day

Find rest in The Master Craftsman!

When Jesus was calling people like you and me to follow him he said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” There’s a great lesson here in the realities of our labor, and what it means to find rest. There is an amazing source from which we are supposed to start, continue, and finish our work.

Let’s read it again a little more slowly, pause after each statement and consider what He’s saying to us, why He’s saying it and if we’re bold enough, why He’s saying it to us today. It’s an exercise that requires some patience, but it’s a good one. Take your time – He wants to teach us a priority that will transform our lives forever!

Come to me…
all you who labor… 
and are heavy laden… 
and I will give you rest… 
Take my yoke upon you… 
and learn from me… 
for I am gentle and lowly in heart… 
and you will find rest for your souls… 
For my yoke is easy… 
and my burden is light.” 

Learning from Jesus our Master Craftsman

It’s good to pause and consider these simple straightforward statements of Jesus. Here are some of the things that I learned as I meditated on His words:

  • We all labor – it’s part of our nature.
  • There are many ways in which our labor can become heavy laden.
  • Jesus is offering us to take His yoke – a yoke which is easy.
  • The Lord desires for us to come and learn from Him.
  • He assures us that He is a humble and gentle teacher.
  • The lessons we learn from Him will cause our souls to rest.
  • He seems to communicate that the way in which he puts the work together means that the yoke is not a struggle, difficult, nor complex.
  • And finally, He wants us to know that His burden is actually a joy because it is light.

Jesus and Labor Day…

I get it, you might be wondering what all this Jesus stuff has to do with labor day, and my ability to find rest. But think about it, no one else in the cosmos understands more fully the concept of inspiring joy-filled work than Jesus. When we consider the courage and resolve – that true strength of character – that we see in Jesus to start, continue and finish the work the Father gave Him to do, it’s beyond impressive.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Do we see the difference?

As Americans, we’ve spent over 125 years parading for another holiday, lobbying for time off, providing sick days and vacation days for employees, longing for those longer weekends, and more family time. We want to find rest. Sure, it was good to legislate laws so that the working class was not subjected to 80-hour work weeks. But as I’ll point out later what was the motive for this legislation?

John Piper, speaking of Jesus enduring the cross and despising the shame, says it this way,

Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing. You are not worth comparing to that! I despise you. You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is my power! Not you, Shame. You are worthless. You are powerless.

You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you. I have a joy set before me. Why would I look at you? You are ugly and despicable. And you are almost finished. You cover me now as with a shroud. Before you can say, ‘So there!’ I will throw you off like a filthy rag. I will put on my royal robe.

You think you are great, because even last night you made my disciples run away. You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross — these tools of yours — they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.

Farewell, Shame. It is finished.

An excerpt from John Piper’s article entitled, ” What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise Shame?”

There was no shame in His work/rest!

What do we see in the example of Jesus? In the gospels, we often find him working from sun up to sundown. He is waking up while it is still dark to go to a solitary place to pray and at other times praying through the night. The crowds are pressing in on him. There were needs all around him constantly. Those kinds of daily demands seem overwhelming to us. Isaiah describes him as “a man who was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces… he was despised and we esteemed him not.” [Isaiah 53:3]

It begs us to ask some hard questions. Why is his compassion for others relentless? How is his joy in serving others seemingly limitless? From where does he derive this all-consuming desire to do the will of the Father? What would compel a man to live this way?

We tend to see work as exhausting and energy-zapping. In contrast, we see rest as life-giving and replenishes our souls. Jesus has a relationship with the Father that turns our common experience on its head. There is no shame in the work/rest He is doing.

Only once do I remember finding him asleep on a boat. Is he resting? Or is He doing something to prove a point about work? While men in their flesh were pulling hard at the oars, he was demonstrating that his trust was not in their abilities to overcome. Is our work derived from a faith that believes even the wind and waves are subject to the Lord?

Jesus never seems hurried, or rushed. But he was always determined, pointed and intentional with every word and deed. The reality is we don’t know the real meaning of work or rest, nor how they fit together seamlessly in God’s economy. We see them at opposite ends of a continuum.

Our Work & Rest are not the same

You and I don’t see our work or sleep as holy, given to us by our heavenly father. We see our work as enslavement. We see our work as part of the curse. We sleep because if we don’t we’ll pass out. We’re spent so we lay down. Many work themselves into an early grave.

Our motive is to figure out how we can work the least, and reap the most – so that we can go and do what we enjoy most. Yet Jesus sees the joy set before him in His work. The King of Kings sees the need of the people and engages in holy work that God has bestowed upon Him. In his work, his soul is at rest.

We see part of His true motive when he describes why He came. Mark 10:45 says it this way, “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Therefore, when he calls people like you and me and says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest”, he is not asking us to trade labor for rest. He’s saying come and I will teach the most valuable lessons about abundant life – things you and I will employ together for eternity to the glory of God the Father. These lessons express the yoke which he is offering to us:

His work is worship.

His service is stewardship.

His grind is glory.

His hustle is holy.

His labor is love.

His striving is salvation.

His compassion is completion.

His rest is redemption.

Repenting to find rest

So many of us are trying to define our success in terms of how many three-day, or even four-day, weekends we can accomplish in a year, and still accomplish the standard of living we deem desirable. We set up retirement plans, so that we can enjoy our later years. We have a vacation savings account, so we can escape and recoup. We save up for that new truck, boat, RV, or some other thing, so we can enjoy more time recreationally. We are always planning a getaway. The goal is to have fun, and get away from our work. We long to relax. Evidence that we are crippled under a burden that is heavy-laden.

These actions demonstrate that we view work as something other than a joy to us. Work is something that causes us to be heavy-laden and void of rest. It demonstrates that our work is apart from Christ, that our labor is in vain.

The Joy of being yoked with Christ

But for those who are in Christ, our work represents His redemption. It is no longer cursed but it is now blessed and becomes our joy. Jesus boldly declared, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Thinking about His statement we can learn several important truths that cause us to place our trust in Jesus. It also allows us to understand where things went wrong, and who can make them right. Jesus sheds light on the darkness and allows us to see clearly. The thief of our lives is bent on destruction, because of him our labor in vain. The light reveals the savior of our life who is making all things beautiful. Jesus is giving back what has been stolen. He is resurrecting what was dead. Christ is rebuilding what has been ruined.

Checking our motives in where we find rest

Could it be that the motive behind Labor Day, and all our thoughts about work, were derived from the thief?

As our history plays out, it appears the true motive was to get the working-class enough time off from work so that we could become the consuming-class and spend our wages on things that the thief convinced us were the pleasures and luxuries we truly need. The thief always wants us to enjoy life apart from God. This is yet another lie we can vainly pursue that grows the thief’s economy. He knew, that given the right environment, God’s rebellious entrepreneurs would seek to capitalize on this new “need” in the market. And that others would see these things and long for them.

Further enslaved and separated from the Creator.

This deception has continued to work its dark magic over creation. Men and women, in service to the thief, are set on exploring and inventing new ways to exploit others. This only adds to the harassment and helplessness that we all experience. Instead of pointing us to our need for Christ and the work/rest that we find in Him, the thief has pointed us to our own human desires being met apart from Christ. He entices us to find “happiness” in anything other than the only who can make your joy complete.

Are we flourishing or still frustrated?

Most still struggle with the type of work they are doing. People scoff at the concept of God giving them a calling which causes them to find great joy in their work. They believe that you work so that you can provide. They believe that if you work hard enough you can have extra so that you can play… and the harder you work the harder you can play.

All of these realities come from a wrong view of God’s authority over us. We all have believed a lie and trusted that there is a good life that is apart from God’s kingdom. But this simply is not true. We will flourish or be frustrated based on how we relate to God’s authority over us. If we submit, honor, and walk in His ways we will flourish. If we reject, scoff, and do our own thing apart from Him we will be frustrated. All of our labor will constantly be in vain.

Our Call to Action…

If there’s one thing I’ve done a good bit of in my day it’s observing the transformation of raw dirty wool after it is washed. It’s pretty amazing to watch something that is yellowed, stained, full of manure, and not that pleasant to smell be transformed into bright white, spotless wool that is brilliant and ready to be used productively.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

The Lord says come to me. He wants to reason with us. He has things he wants us to learn that will totally transform the way we look at ourselves and the lives we were given to live. We fear that we are too dirty and stained – that our sins are unreconcilable. We assume that we are not worth anything even if we could get clean.

But all of that changes when we place our lives in the hands of the Master Craftsman. In His Workshop, he employs tools and skills that bring about the glorious transformation of our entire lives. We find ourselves useful for good works and He leads us in the way that we should go. It is to this end that I believe He has called me to be an ambassador – as if God were making His appeal through me on behalf of men and women everywhere.

If we want to celebrate a Labor Day, let it be the work that God has done through Christ to reconcile men to Himself. Let us all come to the Workshop of the Master Craftsman and surrender our ideas of work and rest into His hands. Let Him teach us to number our days and gain a heart of wisdom. Let Him show us:

  • why and how we were created!
    • the purpose for which we were created, something that is so inspirational, redemptive and winsome – not exploiting and enslaving.
    • the call that He has on our lives to be holy is awesome – and that through Him, it is not only obtainable but causes us to run with endurance without growing weary or losing heart.
    • the joy we find when we discover the good works he prepared for us to walk in, and we start doing them with Him.

The true measure of one’s labor comes from knowing and following Jesus, who is the only one who can give us real inspiring joy-filled purpose and meaning to our existence – to our work. And that’s really the message of this post – in Jesus, we can know that our labor is not in vain.

His Servant for your blessing,
JC

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