Never Forget: You are More than What You Do for God

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rest do work for God

We know it. You know it. Heading overseas is this tornadic level of activity.

I remember fantasizing about the moment I’d finally click my seatbelt shut on that 757: At least–after finally checking our exactly-51-lb.-bags, shuttling four kids through security with every device we still owned, and waving goodbye to the posse of weeping family–I couldn’t do anything else for nine whole hours. (Um. Except entertain a toddler and keep him from driving the rest of the plane bonkers?)

The Quiet Lie You Might End Up Believing

Our to-do lists morph once we move. And it often feels like the gravity has grown: Help the poor. Tell more of the lost about Jesus.

There can be a subtle message we internalize as global workers: My dad really values me for what I do. 

Courtney Doctor writes in her book Identity Theft of lies that tempt us from our core identity as children of God:

The lie of the slave says you have to work and work hard, to secure and sustain the Lord’s love…your worth is tied to your ability to produce and behave.

….The lie of the orphan says you’ve been abandoned and are all alone. No one really cares about you, provides for you, protects you, or loves you.

All That is Mine is Yours

Months ago, I was skimming through the story of the prodigal son (side note: do not miss Timothy Keller’s podcasts on these). My homeboy in this story has always been the elder son; the good one.

My heart actually bends for his hot anger: I can picture the tears on his face, his wide gestures. I’ve heard a translation of them in the stories of so many exhausted servants of God: Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29). (It is not lost on me that at the end of this story, it’s not the younger one who remains far from the father.)

Once, on a vacation taken in the midst of ministry, I found myself profoundly struggling with guilt. Everything in me felt like I’ve finally set down an overstuffed backpack. But Africa had stained itself on the inner walls of my cranium, and there on vacation I felt sickly indulgent. I’d seen too much poverty. Too much need.

But there on my getaway with a side of guilt, I tripped over the words of Luke 15 in a new way. Son [/daughter], you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 

When God is Your Excuse

This braided itself with the words of Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. He warns us not to use God as an excuse for avoiding pleasure he created for us:

God never asked us to die to the healthy desires and pleasures of life—to friendships, joy, art, music, beauty, recreation, laughter, and nature. God plants desires in our hearts so we will nurture and water them. Often these desires and passions are invitations from God gifts from him. Yet somehow we feel guilty unwrapping those presents.*

I see a similar take in 1 Timothy: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (4:4-5).

“It’s Not for Me”

Obviously we could use overindulgence as a willingly blind excuse for our own idols, our own selfishness. But imagine my daughter rejecting the gift I’m brought her from that vacation: I just can’t. It’s not for me.

Nope. I bought it specifically for the smile on her face; to remind her that even when she can’t see me, her well-being is on my mind.

I think of God’s seven-times-yearly scheduled festivals (and most of them breaks from work) for his people, his years of Jubilee, the Sabbaths he associates with himself. I think of my chief end as a person–not just to glorify God, but enjoy him.

Believe it or not, there’s specific biblical evidence of this for people just like me (and maybe you).

rest do for God

Paul and Barnabas Take a Beat

In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas have this crazy path of circumstances–not the least of which is a little stoning incident (you read that right) in which Paul’s left for dead (read=traumatic missionary experience) and then somehow rises when the disciples gather around him.

But get this:

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.

And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

And they remained no little time with the disciples.

Here’s what I read (admittedly drawing a few assumptions of my own):

  1. They left churches they’d started in charge of faithful caretakers.
  2. They went back to the place they were sent from.
  3. They shared their stories. They celebrated.
  4. They spent a good amount of time with their tribe, their people. They rejuvenated. Rested. Reflected.

Why Your Rest Matters to Your Gospel

I get the idea that Paul and Barnabas understood they were more than the numbers they produced. More than their churches.

I get the idea they saw themselves not as glorified slaves, but as sons.

Hearing any implications for that kind of soul-level rest? Of their acceptance and utter loved-ness, apart from what they do?

It almost sounds like…

The Gospel.

A friend recently reminded me of God’s reasoning for the Sabbath as described in Deuteronomy 5 (more on this in the next post.):

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Our rest, physically and spiritually, is a sign of our freedom. That we are more than worker bees, but rather cherished, fought-for, liberated children.

Our Western Christianity, often so intertwined with achievement and appearance and ambition, must listen to the heartbeat of the Gospel. We must start from the place of God’s acceptance, and work out of that love–rather than working for that love and acceptance.

When you rest, you restate the Gospel all over again to yourself, your family, and those you’re discipling.

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