Faith ≠ Rest
Ok, before I'm lynched and hung on the heresy tree, let me explain:
I whole-heartedly believe and preach that a truly gospel-centred faith allows us to rest in the sufficient work of Christ. The gospel declares that I can now cease my striving and find peace in the finished work of the cross. The gift of faith was not something I earnt or produced, it was given to me at great cost by my gracious Father, therefore, I simply receive it with thanksgiving.
But I would still argue that 'Faith ≠ Rest', at least, not in the sense that I read it in the opening chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 1:2–10 (ESV)—2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The Thessalonian church was marked by faith, love and hope. But Paul identifies these three gospel-produced characteristics somewhat differently to how we may expect. Rather than seeing these three traits as purely passive, Paul links them with powerful descriptions of action—work, labor, and steadfastness (which conjures images of endurance).
Paul saw in this growing church a type of gospel-focused faith that led to action, a sweat-stained love, and a hope that endured through the harshest afflictions.
Faith provoked effort—but not the type that strived for a right standing with God, instead, it was a faith-fuelled work that proclaimed that rest could be found in the gospel of grace that saves.
Love labored under the weight of gospel concern—the church didn't work to gain love, they worked because of the love first shown to them.
Hope endured even when all hope had gone. That's what steadfastness is, it's getting up each and every morning—despite the opposition and affliction—and seeing your hope in the reality of your salvation as clearly as the day you received it.
But that is often not the experience of Christians today. Many Christians today pursue a faith that leads to passive consumerism, a love that expects others to serve them, and a hope that is as shallow as instant gratification produces. That's not what faith is meant to produce. That's not what love should look like. That's not how hope should be experienced.
A true gospel awakening will see 'faith, love, and hope', lead to 'work, labor, and endurance'.
Let's not be content with a false rest, which is no rest at all.
Yes, let us fully rest in the gospel, but let that rest drive us forward in the energy God supplies. Let's sweat for loves sake, and get up time and again, buoyed by the hope we have in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:14–16 (ESV)
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.