This week I can’t stop thinking about those who have pushed their way through the first stage of the pandemic. Working in a new environment, with insufficient tools or supplies, new methods of communication, and dire, life-threatening needs is exhausting. About eight years ago, I was in danger of burning out in my work. I felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities, insecure in my position, and discouraged about one project that wasn’t going as planned; I was also physically weary. I knew I was on the verge of “burn out” because my solution to my fatigue was doing more, not less, thinking that the work would never be complete unless I did it myself. Have you been there? Are you there now? Weary from your work, whether it’s at home on a computer and phone, with the children, at a hospital, or an office? “Consider the drivers, IT experts, teachers, nurses, pastors, and counselors who work harder than ever before: you need to rest, especially if you are the type—like many pastors—who acts as if rest were for other people. No doubt, the people who depend on you are glad you toiled ceaselessly through the opening phase of the pandemic. Churches and their leaders had never faced this challenge before…After weeks of unstinting toil, it’s time to re-establish healthy, God-given patterns, including a day of rest.” (1)
In 2012, after I cried out to the Lord, he intervened. I worked at the home office in Florida for ten months, in a very satisfying job with limited hours, having my medical needs met, with time to travel in the U.S. and plenty of time alone with Jesus. He strengthened me for another five years on the field. Like others who have rested, I continued to bear fruit patiently with joy and thanksgiving, strengthened by His power. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9-12) “Remember, the Christian calendar is like no other…We start each week with rest and worship. Reclining in the finished work of Christ is the starting point for each week. It’s an idea we need to recapture today.” (2)
Paul and Timothy prayed for their brothers and sisters to “be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” “[They] did not pray that they might have a ‘knowledge’ of this will of God, for some knowledge of it they had already…and therefore what he asks for is, that they might be ‘filled’ with the knowledge…a larger measure of it, and such a fulness of it as they were capable of…that they might have a ‘spiritual understanding’ of the mysteries of grace…by ‘the prudence of the Holy Ghost’ who searches the deep things of God, and reveals them to the saints, and improves and increases their spiritual and experimental knowledge.” (3) It’s hard to yield to deep, biblical convictions when we are rushing to fix a problem. Perhaps what you need now is the endurance and patience that results from the spiritual wisdom, understanding, and power that the Lord will provide in rest. Have you been one of the essential workers? You are among the people I am especially thankful for and the ones for whom I have the most concern. Obviously, you want to bear fruit. According to Colossians, though, you will produce more fruit more patiently with joy and thanksgiving, through greater knowledge of God, strengthened by His power.
The example of Christians who will successfully navigate through the crisis will be models for living “in a way that pleases God” (Colossians 1:10a). Paul explains what he means by living in a way that pleases God—“bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (v. 10b) Our increasing knowledge of God informs our work, commitments, and, therefore, our schedules. “Saints are trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord; good works are the fruit, which, under the influence of divine grace, they bring forth…being ingrafted into Christ the true vine, and deriving life, sap, and nourishment from him, they are filled with the fruits of righteousness by him, which they bring forth and bear, to the glory of his heavenly Father; and being such, they are pleasant plants to him, as fruit-bearing trees are to the owner of them…” (4) When we consider the profound nature of biblical fruit-bearing we tend to reduce it to the bare minimum. Otherwise, we must stop in our tracks and cry out to God, which is precisely what we should be doing. “A yes is not simply a yes. Saying yes to time with the guys means saying no to that one-on-one time he and his little girl have been enjoying after dance class. It means saying no to some of his son’s games. In many cases, when important things fall off our plate, we don’t even notice. Sadly, those are often the people we love most! Saying yes to heading into the office an hour earlier every morning to get more work done can become a no to that exercise routine you have been trying to develop. Yes to taking a night class to further your education could be a no to a full night of sleep. None of these yeses are bad, but all have consequences.” (5) Is one consequence of your work an inability or hindrance to grow in your knowledge of God; is it time to stop and rest? Have you prayed for a way to get alone for spiritual refreshment if you’re a parent who has been at home with your children? The hardest part is stopping your busyness, and you may need help from others.
Which of us doesn’t want to be “strengthened with power, according to God’s might? (v. 11) The resurrection power of Christ is ours through the Holy Spirit through Christ’s great sacrifice. And yet, because of our human nature, we settle for our inferior human power. “Power belongs to God, is a perfection of his nature, and has been, and is gloriously displayed in many things; as in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the upholding of all things in their being; in the redemption and salvation of sinners; in their faith and conversion; in supporting the saints under various trials and exercises; and in the safe keeping them through faith unto salvation: from this glorious power of God saints may hope to be supplied with all might, or a sufficient supply of strength for every service, and for every difficulty.” (6) “The purpose…of this God-given power is to provide the divine strength needed for the believer to attain Christian virtues, to persevere in the faith, to resist temptation and deceitful teachers, and so to know the joy of the Lord [‘for all endurance and patience with joy’].” (7) Whether we like the idea or not, we need to endure through the entire pandemic, not just for a few months. We can bear fruit patiently with joy and thanksgiving, through our knowledge of God, strengthened by His power.
What will happen if you stop to rest, right now? Most of us know from experience that resting results in “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12) When we take a break, catch our breath, and remember what Christ has done for us, “justifying [us] by the righteousness of his Son, and so making [us] heirs according to the hope of eternal life, and forgiving all [our] trespasses for Christ’s sake; cleansing [us] from all in his blood, so that being the undefiled in the way, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, [we] are fit for the undefiled inheritance; regenerating [us] by his Spirit, and implanting principles of light and life, grace and holiness, in [us]…we] have abundant reason to give thanks to the Father.” (8) You who have been redeemed by Christ, are kept by his Spirit and have endured through the first stage of the pandemic, is it not time to rest before confronting the second? Has your patience worn thin because of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual exhaustion? Won’t you retreat with God to be filled with all spiritual wisdom, understanding, and power? Do you trust the Lord to work in you to bear fruit with joy again? “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
(1) Dan Doriani, “Now’s the Time For Rest,” May 25, 2020, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/nows-time-rest
(2) Doriani, Ibid.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Colossians 1:9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/colossians-1.html
(4) Gill, Ibid.
(5) Harney, Kevin G., “No Is a Beautiful Word,” Chapter 2, Zondervan, 2019, Kindle Edition.
(6) Gill, Ibid (Colossians 1:11).
(7) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Colossians 1:11, Crossway, 2008.
(8) Gill, Ibid (Colossians 1:12)
May 29, 2020