The title to this blog article may seem contradictory. How do we reconcile “labor” in the context of “rest”? The two seem mutually exclusive. Like much in the Kingdom of God, this is a paradox to our human minds. Yet this is exactly what the author of Hebrews emphatically urges us to do as Believers in Jesus: “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11, KJV).
To explain this paradoxical thinking, John 6:28-29 is one of the scriptures I refer to frequently. Jesus makes it so plain and simple what our “work” is under the New Covenant of God’s grace:
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
It seems so backwards to our thinking patterns and beliefs that “all” we have to do is believe in Jesus to “do the works God requires”. In fact, it’s so counterintuitive that it takes a very active and ongoing “repentance” (change in our thinking) to apply it. I believe this is why we need to “labor” to enter and remain in God’s rest and the finished work of Jesus as the answer and solution to everything in life. This is especially true when we have very practical, “real-world” issues in our lives that we feel the need to solve.
Joseph Prince communicates this brilliantly in one of his messages, entitled “Your Only Battle is Fight to Remain at Rest”. Jesus has already fought the battle and won the victory for us. Now, our ongoing battle and work is to keep the high ground against the world, the devil, and our own “flesh” (or “carnality”). I would like to suggest it’s the latter that gives most people the vast majority of their problems. We’re so hard-wired to work, earn, and accomplish things based on our own merits to receive rewards in this life.
Breaking free from this toxic and ungodly way of thinking is indeed an ongoing battle, for which we absolutely need the power of the Holy Spirit to effectively engage in and win. Apart from Him, there’s nothing whatsoever within us that bears witness to this truth. On the one hand it seems impossible, but on the other hand it seems almost too easy or good to be true. Any way you slice it, though, this is definitely “work” for our human minds to lay hold of. And according to Jesus, it’s the only work God requires. It’s also a work that has ongoing, or “residual”, benefits throughout our lives here on earth as well as the life to come.
From a business perspective, this process of “laboring to enter into rest” is perfectly analogous to the process of generating passive income. As a real estate investor, this is my first and highest priority right now. To generate enough passive income to live from on a monthly basis without having to work a job requires a lot of up-front investment: time, money, education, self-development, and building a relational network. The learning curve is steep at the front end. In fact, the work or labor required in the beginning is usually much greater than that required to earn a wage from working a job.
But the benefits over time will always enormously outweigh the up-front cost. I can tell you that first-hand from personal experience. It was very uncomfortable for me to leave my secure, stable job in the military and become self-employed as a Realtor. It was uncomfortable again two years ago when I spent the majority of my net worth on an all-cash, out-of-state investment property. But that investment is now paying off and giving my passive monthly income that had gotten me to a point of modest financial freedom, and is setting me up for much greater increase to come. As Dave Ramsey says in his “Financial Peace” personal finance program, “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else”.
Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to take the path of least resistance by staying inside the comfort zone of what is familiar, and therefore comfortable. This is true for most people, even if it requires working long hours at a demanding, high-stress job. As human beings we tend to prefer what is known and familiar to that which is unknown and unfamiliar, even if what is familiar is very taxing and difficult. Doing something different, or even doing the same thing differently, literally goes against the grain of our brain’s neural and synaptic wiring. This causes “cognitive dissonance”, defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”
This cognitive dissonance can cause such extreme discomfort and anxiety that it will hold us back from things we may even consciously know are really good for us. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. But maybe “the devil we don’t” is actually not the devil, but God Himself calling us up to a higher plane of thinking and being. In last week’s blog I talked about self-effort being the “principal” we must first give up in our “investment” in rest, so that we can receive God’s best. Our blessings and favor are based entirely on Jesus, and not any of our own work or accomplishments.
This was a radical paradigm shift for me that really challenged my thinking and stretched me when I received a revelation of God’s grace. It was so much more natural and comfortable to maintain my previous thinking, which was primarily focused on me: what I could do, what I “needed” to do, whether or not I had earned or “deserved” something as the basis of my expectation for what I could and should receive. I knew it was costing a high price and taking a real toll on me in the form of anxiety, pressure, and stress. But it was all I knew my whole life, so in another sense it was “easier” for me to continue living that way.
And there’s no doubt that kind of thinking can get results; but it will never bear fruit. I define “results” as being obtained directly by self-effort. This could be trading time for money as an hourly wage of salary, or by a white-knuckle effort focused on behavioral modification to live a “godly” life. “Bearing fruit”, however, is something that is not the result of direct effort. It is the effortless byproduct or overflow generated by previous “labor”. This could be residual/passive income from an investment property, royalties from writing a book, creating systems and training employees to run a business that no longer requires your direct involvement (like an assembly line in a factory), etc. It can also be the fruit of the Spirit that will effortlessly flow out of your being as you “live better accidentally under Grace than you ever did on purpose under the Law”, as Andrew Wommack says.
But it takes more time and effort, or “labor”, at the start to cultivate a fruit-bearing ecosystem. In all these examples, results are probably much faster and easier to obtain at first. The ratio of output to input (efficiency) will be much higher in the beginning for results. As illustrated in a previous blog article, it’s like focusing all your effort on building an assembly line. The person manufacturing goods by hand will probably be more productive and outperform the manufacturer who’s building the assembly line. But once it’s built, the ratio changes dramatically in favor of the one who built the assembly line.
Once the “system” is built on a firm foundation there will be exponentially greater productivity, efficiency, and profitability with far less work and stress. It can be summed up as an equation of sorts: “God’s Best = Less Stress + More Rest + Greater Success”. This is what I refer to as “A Better Way”. But there is an up-front “cost” to this investment opportunity: changing your thinking, with all the associated cognitive dissonance. Namely, by centering your thinking and focus primarily on Jesus as opposed to yourself. It sounds easy (maybe too easy), but it can be a fierce battle with the flesh to let go of well-meaning but misled religious self-preoccupation.
And that, brothers and sisters, is how we “labor to enter rest”.
Call to Action: Labor to enter rest by investing significant time, prayer, and thought on Jesus and how He has qualified you for blessing and success, on the basis of His finished work alone. Be willing to abandon old beliefs and thought patterns that don’t align with God’s Word and His grace. As part of this process, I highly recommend reading The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone, Destined to Reign by Joseph Prince, Grace Walk by Steve McVey, and The Hyper Grace Gospel by Paul Ellis. And soon, by God’s grace, Invest in Rest for God’s Best by yours truly!
You can learn more about the book and how you can support it at https://www.gofundme.com/f/betterwaybook
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