There’s a story about a firefighter in Iowa who hit it big a few years back. He won $4.1 million in the state lottery. Yet, a few years later he was back at his old job. Only he had to go through training all over again and start at the bottom of the seniority list. Did he go broke? No. At the point when he returned to work, he was still receiving $150,000 per year from the lottery commission. So why would a millionaire go back to work as a rookie firefighter? He just wants to work. He simply got tired of sitting around managing all the property he’d bought.
There is dignity and fulfillment in honest labor. There is no better example than the labor God has performed, and continues to perform on behalf of His people. God never rests from His labors. And He expects His people to follow His example. He expects His people to labor on for Him until it’s time for our “eternal retirement.”
The Bible is our record of what God has done – and a promise of what He will do. And it shows that He’s a master laborer. God is not only the entire construction crew for all of creation, He is also responsible for maintenance.
When we talk about an artist’s creative output, we usually refer to his/her work. The work of Mark Twain, for instance, is not the hours of research and writing he put into his craft, but the literary legacy – the many books and articles he authored. Likewise, God’s great work is his creation – including us – all of which He created in six days. Despite the awesome nature of this work, however, we creatures still have the audacity to ask, at times, “what is He doing now?” (or “what has He done for me lately?”).
There have been many teachers who would have us believe that once God finished His work of creation He just went into retirement. If that’s so, it’s certainly the kind of retirement I can understand. People often ask me if I’m retired. “Yes and no” is my answer. I have left full-time pastoral ministry, but I am looking for work at the moment.
God’s awfully busy for someone in retirement. In John 5:17, Jesus tells us, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” The context of this verse in John has to do with compassion (specifically in this case healing). This is God’s work today: compassion. He is still at work. He sent Jesus to a world in need. He is busy sustaining the universe, saving sinners, answering prayer. God is not rocking on the front porch of the retirement home!
Christian Job Opportunities
Hebrew 4:10 states, “anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” We already know that God’s “rest” is not exactly a cessation of work. It’s just a different phase. This is also true of Christians. To say that a Christian will rest from his labors assumes something – that he or she labored in the first place. You can’t retire if you never worked. Verse11 adds the admonition, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” To “make every effort” is to “strive,” or “work continually, ” or “keep on working towards,” some goal.
When I lived in Switzerland, I noticed how the Swiss cut hay. They had sloping fields so used no machinery in this task. They cut by hand. Their work was slow and constant. I also noticed that when American students from L’Abri Fellowship worked with the Swiss farmers, they would start off at a much faster pace. Soon they were tired out and sidelined. No work was being accomplished while they tried to recuperate. Christians are called to be like those Swiss workers, continually working in the fields to which God assigns us.
Therein lies the next question. Just what is our assignment? Jesus actually explains this to us in several places. In John 9:4 He puts it this way, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” We – all of us who call ourselves Christians – are supposed to be about our Father’s work. Individually and collectively, we are to be involved in works of service; works of reconciliation. This involves, first of all the reconciling of man to God. It includes, however, works that help reconcile man to man and man to his environment.
There is a true retirement program for God’s people. Hebrews 4:9, tells us that, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” The “sabbath rest” mentioned here (and nowhere else in scripture) is not either Saturday or the Christian Sabbath, Sunday. Rather, it refers to eternal rest – in the future. God promises that there will come a time when His people will rest from their labors – and they will do so for all eternity.
As we contemplate the earthly, and American, version of retirement, we may entertain many, varied thoughts of pleasurable activities. Fishing (tops on my personal list), puttering, gardening, reading, needlework, all conjure up restful thoughts. God promises us rest – just as he rests. When He finished His creative labors, He did not go into hibernation. He is still busy. We will also rest from troublesome, sometimes unproductive toil. Yet, when we enter into God’s Sabbath rest, we will not be idle. This will be a time of uninterrupted worship and service to God and fellowship with God.