Stopping the Hamster Wheel

1 Kings 8:1-21
1 Cor. 15:35-end
Psalm 127

What are you working for? What are you working towards? Really, take a moment to think about it.

Right now, some of us are at Beeson, working towards a seminary degree. For others, it may be to retire early so you can spend more time with your family, it may be to establish meaningful relationships, or it may be to grow your ministry. We are all working towards something, and those things may be good, they may be motivated by the desire to glorify God, and to usher in his kingdom. Or they may not. I’ll let you pray about that.

We live in a culture that tells us what we can get what we want and get it fast. It’s up to us to create ourselves, to get our “best life now” with quick, tangible results. As William Earnest Henley writes in his poem, “Invictus,”

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

It may be 10 exercises to get a ripped core, it may be 12 tricks to get financial security, or it may be 7 ways to grow your ministry. Whatever we do, we need to be GREAT and it needs to be easy and we need to be the ones who do it.

I’m probably one of the guiltiest people in here of this attitude. If anyone knows what the Enneagram is, I’m a 3. That means that my motivation is to achieve. It means that I like to collect my accomplishments like some people collect Pokemon cards. Gotta catch them all.

But our passages today fly in the face of this attitude. Psalm 127 declares,

Unless the Lord builds the house,

   those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

   the watchman stays awake in vain.

In other words, it’s not up to us. Even if we can exegete Scripture flawlessly for a lesson or sermon, even if we spend all of our time with the marginalized and forgotten, even if we become a nun or a priest, unless the Lord is there, it is all in vain.

The Psalm goes on

2 It is in vain that you rise up early

   and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

   for he gives to his beloved sleep.

How many of us are anxious about the future? How many of us are running incessantly on the hamster wheel of life to try and prove a point?

Even when it comes to children, our culture (and maybe we secretly too) think it’s up to us to decide. Rather than seeing the children God gives as a blessing, as a reward from the Lord, we may look at them as a nuisance, a distraction. In Iceland, almost 100% of babies with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. They aren’t seen as a “part of the plan” and so are disposed with. While we may all (or at least should) gawk at that, how do we treat those children of God who don’t fit in our plans? Be it our own or others’.

Do you believe God’s promises? Do you trust that the Lord will establish his kingdom and his rule? Are you clinging to Jesus or are you trusting in your abilities when it comes to your salvation or your worth?

Because we can’t save ourselves. We don’t create ourselves, and we can’t recreate ourselves. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and Son, to unite us with Christ, to worship the Father. In that equation, we only receive the grace of our Triune God. Our worth is not in how hard we work but is in the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Our “best” life is not found in 10 steps but in the feet of our risen Savior who crushed death, and gives us the power to say,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?

   O death, where is your sting?”

Psalm 127 is about the temple that David wanted to build. He wanted to build the Lord a house in order for the people to worship God. And what did God say? He said, “David, I’m going to build YOU a house. I’m going to give you an heir and  I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”

And Solomon builds the temple. But even more, Jesus Christ comes through David’s line. Not because of anything David did, but because that was God’s plan. And it is God who saves us, it is God who uses us, graciously, to do his work. And as 1 Cor. 15 shows us, it is God who will resurrect us, who will give us new bodies.

It is God who will do the work. Do we trust him for that? Do we trust in his promises today or are we trying to come up with a plan B just in case? Or do we just assume “our” plans are his plans?  Are we working in order to establish ourselves or are we open to receive God’s plans? While you wait for him to return, do you know that “in the Lord your labor is not in vain?”

I pray you do. I pray I do. I pray we all do. We can’t justify ourselves, even if we “do our best.” We can’t do anything but to receive from our blessed Savior, to allow his Spirit to form us into his image and to unite us with Him. It is only in Christ, that our labor is not in vain. It is only in Jesus, that we can find that beloved rest.

So today, let’s pray not to just “do better,” but to be more open to receive, to be more able to rest so that when we do labor, we do it not in our own strength but in Christ.


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