While no title would have been sufficient to cover the varied content of this blog, I wanted to name it something that pertained to the mission of both our ministry and the blog itself. So, with help from our staff team, I chose “Labor to Rest”. Here’s why:
- In Campus Outreach circles, you would be hard-pressed to find a word that is more often used than “labor” (in some form). Our very mission statement is “Glorifying God by building laborers on the campus for the lost world” (italics mine). We believe that a great need in the world is for believers to expend their energy for the sake of the growth and progress of other people’s faith (Philippians 1:25). Jesus calls us to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Paul speaks of his labor to present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29), and he later tells the Corinthians that their labor in Christ is never in vain (I Corinthians 15:58). It is clear that the call to believers is to work with all the strength Christ gives, and so we aim to see our lives characterized by labor.
- Then there’s the other side of the coin. The offer of the gospel is not labor; it is rest. In fact, Jesus calls “all who labor and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28) to come to Him to find rest in place of their labor. Jesus labored on our behalf, finishing a work that we were unable to perform, and leaving us to rest in His love and righteousness. Rest is also a consistent theme in biblical descriptions of heaven, of which the gospel is a clear picture. God’s full presence, which is the essence of heaven, is actually called His “rest” in Psalm 95:11. So we would be remiss not to talk about rest with frequency and zeal.
- But how do these two seemingly contradictory themes work together? Are we building laborers or resters? Or is it simply both? I would argue that it is not simply both. There is a trajectory here, a progression, hence “Labor to Rest” as opposed to “Labor & Rest” (though the ampersand would have been cool). We do not simply sometimes labor and sometimes rest; rather, labor is the means and rest is the end.
It would be inaccurate to say that life in this world is simply labor while life in the new earth is simply rest (though I may argue that the second half of that proposition is true). This life is where the labor lies, but this life is also where rest lies in the aforementioned gospel. So we ought to be quick to aim our labor at the proper target: rest. We do not box as if beating the air. We do not work hard just to work hard. We fight for rest, both ours and others’.
When it comes to our personal battle, we know that our unresting, anxious flesh cannot be quiet. There is no peace for it (Isaiah 57:20-21). It is relentless, constantly clamoring for exaltation and unsatisfied as it plunders the idols of the world. But God calls us to be still in the knowledge of Him (Psalm 46:10), to calm and quiet our souls as weaned children(Psalm 131:2), to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). We are saved in returning and rest, in quietness and trust(Isaiah 30:15). His yoke is, of course, easy (Matthew 11:30). But because the fleshly nature still resides in us, and because we want desperately to rest, we are involved in a tooth-and-nail battle for that rest. It is an agonizing fight to the death, and with the Spirit in our hearts, showing us the glory of all that Christ is for us, we will win.
When it comes to laboring for others (the CO mission statement’s connotation), the same trajectory applies. We are not laborers just because Christians are to labor. We, as those who have received the good news of rest in Christ, toil that others might know and live in that rest. We know that they are harassed and helpless, unable to be quiet, just as we still can be in our own flesh. But they have no option for rest, so we labor to the end that they, by the quickening work of the Spirit, know the sweet relief of forgiveness, of unfailing love, of eternal hope.
So there will be lots about labor and lots about rest in the posts that follow, but make no mistake, one is always headed toward the other.