Once upon a time, I felt like I was invincible. I mean, I got hurt a lot doing what I was doing for a living (I was a police officer) but I never really felt like death or pain or anything like that could touch me. Despite the pain and death and violence I saw, sometimes on a daily basis, it just never seemed to affect me. The risks I took seemed perfectly normal to me.
I also found out during that time in my life what work ethic meant. I mean, I kinda knew because I came from a long line of workaholics. The whole male side of the Garrison family was really hard workers (for the most part). So I grew up knowing what hard work was and knowing that hard work paid off in the end…well, believing that anyway.
Isn’t this the American way? Work hard. Then when you’re tired and worn out, work harder. After all, the harder we work, the more we earn and therefore the more we matter.
Let me give you a rundown of the last five years of my life. In the last five years, my wife and I have moved to North Carolina for seminary (with no jobs and no place to live), started our own business, went to seminary full time, had two kids, moved to three different states, planted a church (see below). We’ve been busy.
Over the last two years, work has ramped up to a whole new level for me. From May 2015 to June 2016, we were church planting in Indianapolis.
Well, we were trying to anyway.
I discovered a whole new level of work while church planting. I found out that there is some work that our enemy, Satan, hates with all his wicked heart and he will do everything within his power to stop us from doing. Church planting is one of those things. The gospel of Jesus going out, people hearing that gospel, repenting and believing is something that Satan will not stand by and watch happen.
But, we were working hard. I was working a ton; meeting people, sharing with them about Jesus and His good news, trying to fund raise and form partnerships with local pastors and others. I was working a lot. It was hard.
When it was over, I crashed.
Like physically crashed to a level I had never experienced.
I was so sick and spent that my wife literally asked me, “Are you dying?”
I felt like I was. I felt like I did, at least a part of me. Then, the company I currently worked for called me and offered me a job. We needed groceries so I took it. So we moved…again. When I took over management of the job I now have, the situation was kind of a mess. I ended up having to fire one employee, suggest another one find another job elsewhere and generally cleaning up a mess left behind by the former manager.
I was working a lot. Like 60 plus hours a week a lot. I was tired, angry, frustrated. So was my wife. We had a newborn and a three year old and it was crushing her to basically care for the kids on her own while I worked like a man possessed. It would seem that I had learned nothing from the past.
Then 2 weeks ago happened. I had a bit of a medical scare. I won’t go into gory details but we’ll just say there was blood emitting from places blood isn’t supposed to emit from. Off to see the doctor I went. ‘We need to do a colonoscopy’ they said. I thought everything…cancer, death, my wife a widow, my kids orphans…it was not good.
The results came back.
My doctor said, “There is no medical reason for you to have ulcers so it must be something else.” I know what it is.
I’ve spent the last 21 years of my life in a pressure cooker. First it was law enforcement, then small business ownership, then parenthood, then church planting, then move and new pressure packed job…I was stuck on the merry-go-round of effort and success.
My wife and I talked about some things and my boss and I talked and I’m grateful that he’s understanding and gracious. I need to work less and play more.
I think it’s the same with the gospel.
See, we too often fall into the temptation to work for our own salvation. Now, we good reformed types will never say that. But I think we’re really doing that in actuality. I think we try hard, hoping that we will somehow earn God’s love and favor. The truth is you can’t.
You earn nothing when it comes to the gospel. It’s all given to you. You and I literally bring absolutely nothing to the table when it comes to relationship with God. He has done, is doing and will do it all. Now please don’t think I’m espousing some type of antinomianism (see previous post ‘Walk This Way’).
What I’m saying is this:
If you are my brother and sister in Christ, do yourself a favor. Just rest. Be free in the love of God for you. If you are in Christ, there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or less. After all, you are clothed in the very righteousness of Christ. You are, in the eyes of God, the same as Christ.
Think about that for a minute. Let it soak into your soul. This is amazing grace! Not only has Jesus laid down His life for you but, by your faith in Him, you have been clothed in His righteousness. Put that in your work pipe and smoke it.
Stop trying so hard. He’s not gonna love you more or less. You’re gonna give yourself an ulcer. Just rest, bask in the righteousness of Christ that is yours. Then, from that overflow of love and grace, get up and work with joy!
Soli Deo Gloria!