Table of contents
Foreword for Work and Rest God’s Way
“No one likes doing more than they absolutely must.”
As my fourteen-year-old son shared this sentiment with me my mind flashed back to when I was his age. As I engaged him, I couldn’t help but reminisce on what had changed my perspective. I began working full-time outside the home the week I turned sixteen. As the only son of a single-parent mother, I felt a great responsibility to help provide for the financial needs of her and my five sisters. Life dictated that I become a man early.
My first impression upon working forty-to-fifty hours per week was that I was going to die! I was so tired all the time. My muscles weren’t used to the physical strain, and my brain wasn’t used to waking up so early. One of the upsides of being homeschooled was being able to set my own schedule and work at my own pace. One of the downsides was that I hadn’t learned to be regimented. Being thrown into the deep end of the pool (metaphorically speaking) and told to swim was good for me, and my mother knew it. Continuing my education in the workplace was a way for me to add to the wonderful education I received at home.
What I hadn’t picked up in my schoolwork or church attendance was a scriptural understanding of work. At that young age, I hadn’t yet discovered that there was a biblical theology for, well, everything!
As my mind returned to my son who was sitting in front of me trying to give a defense for why he had done a half-hearted job on a chore, I realized that it was a combination of two forces that caused me to tell him, “I actually like doing more than I must.”
The first force for good in my life was simply the work itself. God created us to work so when we exert ourselves and press past the initial resistance, we usually find pleasure in it. It is part of our worship, fulfilling a major purpose for our existence. Isaac Newton’s principle of physics that, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest” is true of us humans as well. Getting moving is the most difficult aspect. As the old sneaker ad used to say, “Just do it!” Doing meaningful work and seeing progress being made spurs us on to do more.
As is the case with most of life, we can be led by either our emotions or our will. Being led by our will means we must engage our mind with what is true. The body says it’s tired, so the mind must tell the body that it should keep working. For that to happen, there must be a plumb line for what a “should” even looks like. In other words, we need a standard that tells us what is right and wrong regarding work and rest. What is healthy and what is obsessive? What is servanthood and what is self-seeking? Are we ultimately working for God or for ourselves? What is the purpose and meaning of work?
To be driven by the correct motivations, we must develop a biblical theology of work. The God who created work, blessed it, gave it to us as a gift, has also provided a blueprint in the Bible for how we should view and engage in work. Our goal, then, is to seek it out apply it effectively in our lives.
The great news is that the heavy lifting for such a study has been largely done for us! Scott LaPierre, in the pages of Work and Rest God’s Way, lays out the biblical guidelines for how we should think about labor, productivity, and rest. Having done much of the research on our behalf, we get the luxury of quickly and easily absorbing the concepts in a concise format.
As a father of ten, I am looking forward to incorporating these important truths into the training of my own children. Parenting involves both formal teaching and example. It’s a blessing to have a resource that can help them think correctly about work. Rather than seeing it as a curse and therefore something to be avoided (as much of even the Christian world does), they can begin to see it as a blessing if kept within its proper confines and restraints.
This is a great discipleship tool for families and churches that will help us think “Christianly” about our relationship to our vocational callings. It is my prayer that this book will lead a generation into, not only thinking correctly about this important issue, but also living in such a way that a watching world will “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Israel Wayne—Author, conference speaker, and director of Family Renewal, LLC
Introduction for Work and Rest God’s Way
My dad is one of the hardest working people I know. We grew up on a few acres in the mountains of northern California, and he always found plenty for us to do. School was more restful for me than being home. While most kids looked forward to weekends and summers, I didn’t. I knew it meant one thing: work.
I played sports throughout the year because it got me out of working, but there were no sports during the summer. Since I knew I’d be working if I was home, I got a job as quickly as possible because at least then I’d get paid. For one summer, I worked two jobs: bagging groceries at Safeway during the day, followed by waiting tables at a restaurant in the evening. Once, on the way to my second job, I was so exhausted I fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into the truck in front of me. I remember waking up on a stretcher in the middle of the road with paramedics leaning over me. By God’s grace, I didn’t kill anyone, but I totaled my parents’ new Isuzu Rodeo.
Working Myself to Death
After college, I served as an Army Officer, an elementary school teacher, and then I went into ministry. When I became the senior pastor of Woodland Christian Church in 2010, I had no idea how much work was involved in shepherding a church. By 2013, the church had grown, and my days (and nights) were packed with activities such as studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, responding to emails, administrative responsibilities, visitations, and benevolence issues. I rarely had a day off. Sunday would conclude, and then on Monday morning, I’d begin another exhausting week of trying to get everything completed before the following Sunday rolled around.
The stress took a toll on me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep because my mind was occupied with the work that needed to be done. I lost thirty pounds and started having anxiety attacks. There was constant pain and tightness in my chest. I’d go to bed and wonder if I’d wake up again in the morning. No one has ever wanted me to be a pastor more than my wife, Katie, but my anxiety worried her. She started encouraging me to go back to teaching. She was afraid she was going to lose her husband, and our kids were going to lose their father.
Trusting God’s Word
Why do I mention all the above? Is it supposed to make you think the following chapters are going to push you to work as hard as you can, and as often as you can? No. Much of this book is committed to the importance of physical and spiritual rest.
Instead, I hope to have some credibility with you while discussing work and rest. I have experienced firsthand the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience in these areas. Let me acknowledge that I’m also more than familiar with laziness. There are many times I don’t feel like working, helping my wife, getting out of bed, or serving people in the church. I need the same encouragement from the Bible as much as everyone else.
This brings me to my last point. I’m asking you to trust God’s Word through my writing. Work and Rest God’s Way is not a collection of my personal thoughts and opinions. Instead, it is filled with Scripture—truth I’ve labored over for my flock and for myself, and truth that has led me to conclude that God knows what is best for us. I look forward to sharing this truth with you in the following chapters.