Turning Toil into Rest

Turning Toil into Rest

Psalm 139:1-5 (ESV) O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages in the Word of God. Like a giant soft snuggly blanket on a cold night, I can wrap myself in God’s intentional creation and determination to love and keep me in the psalmist words. It makes the chaos of life stand still in God’s Supremacy. It makes me feel important when dark shadows of insignificance creep into my heart. God has carefully scripted the details of my life including every moment before I was born. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me and far too high for me to grasp so I am get caught up in the waves of busyness and striving that are the cast nets of the enemy to trip us up in the race of faith. To think personal appearance, qualities, abilities, and achievements even when applied to discipline, faithfulness and obedience to God in some way influences the outcome is ridiculous when I am predestined for the Kingdom – including every promise, blessing and prosperous moment that God our Father already planned and prescribed for us. Excessive pride and exceptional vanity cause the believer to strive for what is already given and long for what we already have. These two traits are the very essence of frustration. Greed for more is the appetite of pride. Discontentment is the adornment of vanity. Neither will ever bring peace nor rest in our life but a constant need to seek worthless things rather than heavenly rewards. God did not call us to live in poverty or lack. He is an excellent Father and wonderful Provider. God did not call us to walk around brokenhearted, sickly and diseased. He is the Healer. God still does miracles. Just as the plan of God was foretold, the process of God lies within us. Written on our heart, it must be opened and carefully read. There is a plan and purpose within us that will lead to full satisfaction and complete contentment. It begins in our heart not in our hands.

3 John 2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

I do believe the prosperity gospel. God desires to prosper us…just as your soul prospers. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) One of the greatest privileges as a believer is to enter the Kingdom economy on earth before entering heaven. Peter experienced such when he was asked who Christ was to him. His response opened the Hand of Jesus who gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Peter’s confession of Christ as the Son of the God established the platform of his life on which the Lord would begin constructing the church. Psalm 103 reminds us “bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Kingdom benefits and blessings belong to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and decide to make Him the Lord of their life. We must bless the Lord with the offering of submission giving Him access through salvation to our soul first and then placing the rest of our life under His Authority and Power which will release Kingdom benefits and blessings that make ordinary existence into the extraordinary life that is exceedingly and abundantly more than is humanly imaginable filling our journey with supernatural occurrences that will always point to God!

Ecclesiastes 2:22 (ESV) What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

Where did this journey in the Word begin? I love Saturday morning. It is the only day of the week when I do not have to wake up early. The alarm is not set for 4:30 AM as usual. This morning rather than relaxing and resting my mind woke me up. Swirling with my expectations for today mixed with others expectations of me roused me until finally I got up. Busy. What is busyness anyway? Everyone is busy. But no one is too busy. Oh, I hear you ready to lop off my head. God gives each person 24 hours in a day and the freedom to choose how to use it. All things are permissible but not all things beneficial – given all the same amount of time in any given day – it is up to us to decide how it will be portioned. The pressure I was feeling caused irritability to arise and I could feel the bristling of emotions. Walking into the study, sliding into my chair, I opened my journal and wrote the following: “How do I do it all? Lord, I need you to take control of my time.” Toil and striving for anything other than Jesus Christ and His Kingdom is the product of pride and vanity. Where do I get this from? Ecclesiastes – yes the whole entire book. We must place our priority on Kingdom first. No, I did not say “ministry” or “church” first. I did say, “Christ and His Kingdom.” It is the place of allegiance for the believer that allows all other areas of life to be successful. It somehow miraculously stretches our time and energy. The word “toil” is not a Kingdom word. It’s not. Toil means hard, continuous, and exhausting labor or effort. God calls us to rest. Jesus calls to those who “labor and are heavy laden” with the promise of rest. To rest in His Love, on His Promise and trusting in His Plan. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. However, in our toiling at home, work, ministry, church, and even in our hobbies and extracurricular activities – the enemy tells us that God is please with such exhaustive toil and really it does not bring the Father any glory because though it make a man rich it brings great sorrow with it. The blessing of the Lord does not bring us sorrow but complete satisfaction and contentment in all things. Toil is birthed by vanity which refutes the declaration that His Grace is enough for me. His Power works best in my weakness. Toil is vanity’s effort to self-assert itself over the completed work of Christ in us.

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV) ”Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness AND all these things will be added to you. It is a terrible cycle entered into by most creating a vortex that separates many from the lifestyle God intended from the beginning for each one of us. We are told to be anxious for nothing. Trust and confidence that God is our provider of all things pertaining to life. It says in His Word that God has already given us every spiritual blessing. Like the widow with one flask of oil, it is up to us to find the vessels to pour it into. Most hold that little bottle of anointing in one hand and work with the other. This is not the plan of God for our life but rather to pour out the anointing in us into every area of life. No duplicity. Faith in every approach. Giving the Lord authority in every area of our life. Instead, work becomes our priority because everyone needs to money to survive, right? So our life is poured into our job, career or climbing the corporate ladder. Seeking to acquire things becomes the focus of drive and ambition. Work gets the majority of our time. Work also makes play justifiable. There is nothing wrong with balance but soon our life is filled with busyness. Add on top of that trying to serve in church as well and what a chaotic mess develops. Why? Seek first the Kingdom of God. The filling of our life with Jesus and His Anointing makes everything we do prosper and purposeful. Trouble is most give the Lord what’s left which is a pitiful pittance rather than the extravagance of our predestined masterpiece life. We must discipline ourselves to seek the Kingdom first. Above all things and ambitious journeys. God knows every need, want and desire of your heart. It is only in trusting the Lord to do as He promises that a prosperous life is achieved.

I John 2:15-17 (ESV) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer, my perspective and priorities were radically changed. Not over time, but in a single moment. Funny thing is that it was not when the words rolled out of the doctor’s mouth sending my heart crashing to the floor. It was not in the two weeks of trying to reorder and reorganize our schedule to include fighting for his life. It was sitting in a parking lot waiting for him to arrive to enter treatment as I was texting the office assuring them I would be there next week. My son got out of the car and the Lord let me see with vivid clarity what death looked like. It was in that moment that the things of this world did not matter anymore. I needed Jesus. I needed Him close. I needed Him to be real. I needed Him more than anyone or anything else. I called the office in that moment telling my supervisor that I would do my best to help them but I would not be back until our son was in remission.

Friend, we must reprioritize our life. It is imperative that our heart and mind be set on Jesus and His Kingdom first. It is not an old-fashioned cry of the church but the modern day yearning of those who desire His Kingdom on earth and revival to come. The world will give as many cares, burdens, worries, fears, doubts and insecurities it takes to keep God’s People land-locked and not Kingdom-bound. The enemy knows exactly what it will take to discourage, distract, detour and dissuade you from seeking the Kingdom first. We are driven by so many drives, urges and emotions that striving just comes naturally. Comparison does not only kill our joy but chokes out contentment. King Solomon had great wealth so much so that he was able to indulge every indulgence. Nothing was kept from him yet he declares it all vanity. It’s sad because so many famous people who are envied by others end their life because of depression. I wonder if it is because when they attained what they thought would be bring them peace and happiness – they found it be an illusion of emptiness which was completely devastating. The true meaning of hopelessness, I guess, is having it all and finding it is not what you wanted. We have a hope that will never lead to disappointment. To acquire Jesus Christ and His Kingdom is to have it all. We must not get caught up in busyness. It is a prideful place of vanity that takes Christ out of the equation. Toil must be turned to rest in the peace of God that is afforded those who trust the Lord in all things. Lord, I cannot do it all. I am not supposed to. So let me do one thing and it is this one thing that I ask:

Psalm 27:4 (ESV) One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

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