I love Matt Perman’s book on “Gospel-Driven Productivity” called What’s Best Next. My wife and I recently led a married couples retreat focused around that topic of how to structure our lives to be most productive in the things that matter most. Being productive for the Kingdom of God is a very good thing.
I now am reading a book called The Radical Pursuit of Rest, with a subtitle of Escaping the Productivity Trap. It has been an interesting contrast! So I was intrigued by a paragraph in the second chapter that puts rest and productivity together.
Rest is a practice because the “work” of rest is rooted in the finished work of God. The effort of the Christian life is energized by rest. Biblical rest does not make us passive or unproductive. It is the secret to all productivity in the Christian life. But before rest can be a practice, it must be a spiritual location. Rest is a state of being that is essential to Christian living; it is the engine that drives all Christian action. What we do for God is dependent on what God has done for us. Here is the fundamental difference between God’s rest and ours: on the seventh day of creation God rested from his work. We enter this same rest when we rest in God’s work. [pg 43-44, emphasis added]
When he says that rest is the secret to productivity, I don’t think this author means merely that recreation or sleep rejuvenates us so that we can work harder and be more productive (which is essentially the habit of “sharpening the saw” that Stephen Covey speaks of in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Instead, this author is saying to us as Christians that because our position is anchored in the finished work of Christ, the work that we do “in Christ” comes from a state of rest. We do not, by our work, gain a right standing with God, nor do we earn His favor through what we do–our standing and favor with God comes through what Christ has done. Thus the work that we do for God flows from that place of resting in Christ’s work, and because it is not frantic striving for acceptance and favor, it can be truly productive for the Kingdom.
And for the same reason, we are free to recreate and sleep when that is needed, because we do not gain any greater standing before God by our restless (and reckless) striving. We are still anchored in Christ, even with unfinished work and unmet goals. Our standing in Christ allows us to work passionately and to rest peacefully.