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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

27- Holy labour and rest By giving rest to others

 

The spiritual man does not run away from labour in search of rest. But he rejoices much in toiling for God’s sake.

He searches first for the relief of his conscience, for his rest in the Lord As for the physical rest, it concerns him the least. He would rather toil for the sake of a spiritual gain. He sees his comfort in this toil that would take him to God and in it is the building of the kingdom.

We distinguish here one type of holy toil that has many examples in the Holy Bible:

Among that is toiling in preaching and teaching, in the service generally, and toiling in the spiritual struggle. St Paul, when some thought of him as being less than the other Apostles, said defending his Apostleship: “I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15:10). And also said: “Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a foolI am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often” (2 Cor 11:23). And also said about his service: “A night and day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters”. So his main boasting was in labour, and said about its reward:

“Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1Cor 3:8).

He also praised the priests: “Who labour in the word and doctrine” and said about them: “Let them. be counted worthy of double honour” (1 Tim 5:17). And he said to the Thessalonians: “We urge you, brethren, to recognise those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (I Thess 5:12,13).

St-Takla.org Image: Two Christian friends with the Holy Bible and the Cross, spiritual friendship, by Amgad Wadea صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صديقان مسيحيان، الصداقة المسيحية، صداقة روحية، بجانب الصليب والكتاب المقدس - رسم أمجد وديع

St-Takla.org Image: Two Christian friends with the Holy Bible and the Cross, spiritual friendship, by Amgad Wadea

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صديقان مسيحيان، الصداقة المسيحية، صداقة روحية، بجانب الصليب والكتاب المقدس - رسم أمجد وديع

And in his Epistle to the Romans, St Paul mentioned the names of saintly women, who laboured in the service and said: “Greet Mary, who laboured much for us. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have laboured in the Lord Greet the beloved Persis, who laboured much in the Lord ” (Rom 16:6,12).

Any labour one experiences in the Lord is a loved labour that God will not forget. And that is what the Apostle said:

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown towards His name” (Heb 6:10).

It is good to say that you love God. But your love has to show in your labour for His sake. And God will reward you for the love and for the labour. And so the Apostle said: “I have not run in vain or laboured in vain” (Phil 2:16). And said to the Corinthians: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).

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The one who labours rejoices in the fruit of his labour.

For example: The farmer who labours as he plows the land, sows and irrigates it, clears it from weeds.. till the time comes for harvesting then he rejoices. He realizes that his labour was not in vain, but the Lord rewarded him with a blessing according to all his labour....

All man’s labour for a spiritual aim and in a spiritual manner, for the sake of God, is counted and recorded for him by the Lord. And so the Lord said to the angel of the church of Ephesus:

“I know your works, your labour and your patience” (Rev 2:2)...

It is a comforting matter that God knows all your labour, writes it in the Book of Life and will definitely reward you for it in the happy eternity, and may be in this world also. He will also support you and give you strength in your labour. Or he may say to you, as He said to St Paula of Tamouh in his struggle: “Enough labour, my beloved Paula”. And He always says:

“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

He will give us rest by lifting up the heavy weight for us, or give us spiritual comfort in our labour, or present to us His beautiful promises, or gives us pleasure in labour till we long to labour more or reminds us that all we do for Him will follow us to the happy eternity. As it has been said in blessing those who departed:

“... That they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them” (Rev 14:13).

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Therefore, the spiritual man when he labours for the Lord, he feels a blessing in this labour. And as there is a crown for each labour, he does not ever lean on comfort in this life, remembering always the Divine inspiration in the Book of Proverbs: “In all labour there is a profit” (Prov 14:23).

And as the Holy Bible presented to us examples of those who labour for the Lord...

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The history of the church also presented to us examples of holy labour.

For example, St Athanasius the Apostolic. How much has he laboured for the faith, how many persecutions has he experienced from the heretics, the followers of Arius. How many false accusations, many oppositions issued against him, councils judged him, complaints to the emperor and sentences for exile.! Till it was said to him: “The world is against you, Athanasius”. But he endured all this labour in patience and joy, in order to protect the faith, receiving the blessing of this labour...

Likewise and more is the labour experienced by the martyrs.

From threatening to trials ,imprisonment, and horrible types of torment .The suffering they experienced is indescribable. But it was a holy labour for the Lord and they received crowns for it and became worthy of eternal rest.

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The spiritual man rejoices in labour and finds rest in it.

It means that he finds inner rest by this outside labour, or finds rest for his spirit in the labour of the body, or finds eternal rest in this temporary labour, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. He is willing to labour here in order to rest there.

St John the Baptist experienced hardships in rebuking Herod for marrying his brother’s wife and was imprisoned then beheaded. But he put his conscience at ease in order to rest in eternity. And he gave us all a strong example of courage in defending the truth.

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We should not also forget the labour of those who were faithful in the service. They placed before themselves the Lord’s saying:

“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).

“Until death”. Would there be labour more than that? But it is an expression of Man’s love for God. Look at David the Prophet when he says:

“Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty God of Jacob” (Ps 132:2,5).

He would not let himself get physical rest, until his duty is completed and his responsibility in serving the Lord has been established. Then he would rest spiritually and physically. He would sleep, comforted within...

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The spiritual man does not escape from labour. The one who escapes from labour, escapes from God.

He who escape from his duty, his responsibility, he is actually escaping from the prepared crowns! While the one who labours, shows by this labour the extent of his love for God, the extent of his care about God’s kingdom on earth and his care about serving God in His children...

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Therefore if you want to give your heart rest, labour to give others rest.

All those who gave comfort to others felt inner happiness because of that, even in the field of social life. And many are the examples about that:

The doctor’s conscience and heart find rest when he gives comfort to his patient and relieves his pain. The caricaturist finds comfort in making happy those who see his drawings and read his jokes. Likewise any artist, as he finds his comfort when his art gets to the heart of people and gives them rest.

The one who searches for his personal comfort could be selfish.

As for the spiritual man, he always thinks about the comfort of others. There are souls that we may call comforting souls. Whoever mixes with them finds comfort. They are always a source of comfort. We give examples for that:

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+ An example of that is motherhood and fatherhood:

The mother labours much in bringing up her daughter and labours in preparing her trousseau. She also rejoices in her daughter’s marriage because she settled down in her life. And although she has been deprived of her company, she still feels happy for her daughter’s happiness. She may even sell her jewellery, if necessary, to buy her trousseau. Likewise the father in bringing up his children, looking after their education and their future. He feels that his message in life is to obtain all the means of comfort and happiness for his children. For all that, we find that our Righteous Lord gave Himself the title: The Heavenly Father.

What is important is that the father and mother give comfort to their children on correct basis.

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+ Another example about giving rest to others is the shepherd and what he does for his sheep.

He does not work for his own comfort, but he does his best for his sheep. He brings them to green pastures and still waters, protects them from any attack and any danger. For all that, the Lord assigned shepherds for His people to take care of them and to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Lord even compared Himself to the shepherd and said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). And in the Old Testament, the Lord said in the Book of Ezekiel the Prophet: “I will feed my flock, and I will make them lie down” says the Lord God, “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick” (Ezek 34:15,16). All is giving, for the comfort of his sheep...

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+ All that gives us an idea about rest in giving.

The spiritual man finds happiness in giving and finds his comfort in the happiness of the recipient. The nursing babe finds his comfort in the one who nurses him, whether if was his mother or another. And the nurse finds her comfort in his comfort, and if he smiles, she would feel great happiness. Many are the things done for children. It is comfort that comes through giving...

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Many are those who work for the society in all fields.

Such as firemen, ambulance men and life-savers, organizations such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. They all find comfort in comforting others and feel happiness in saving others. Likewise all those who are involved in social work and humanitarian work.

The psychiatrist feels happiness when he cures his patient from anxiety, confusion, fear, illusion or doubt; no matter how much time or exhausting effort it costs him while dealing with an abnormal person...

Likewise are the scientists who work hard for nights to present to people inventions that would make their life comfortable or medication that would save them from diseases and relieve their pain.

Would that you find rest in serving and comforting others... and in solving others’ problems or keeping problems away from them

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The spiritual man finds his rest in God, no matter how problems surround him.

He places God between himself and the problems. So he does not think about the problem but about God who will solve it. In every problem that faces him, he says: “The Lord exists”. His faith that God will interfere to solve the problem gives him inner comfort and peace in the heart, based on faith in God and in His work.

I remember that near the end of 1967, we had to move to the yard of the Theological College, in the open air, for our meeting. Some said to me: “What are we going to do about rain when it is winter?”. And I said to them: “The God of winter will provide for that.”

St-Takla.org Image: A girl presenting her anxiety and worries to Jesus Christ, and He is saying: "I care for you sweetie, don't worry: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7) - 18 October 2047 - used with permission - sketch by Christine Adel, Cairo, Egypt صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: فتاة تحمِّل يسوع كل قلقها وتوترها، وهو يقول لها: "إنني أعتني بك يا حبيبتي، لا تقلقين": "ملقين كل همكم عليه، لأنه هو يعتني بكم" (1 بط 5: 7) - 18 أكتوبر 2017 - سكيتش - موضوعة بإذن - رسم كريستين عادل، القاهرة، مصر

St-Takla.org Image: A girl presenting her anxiety and worries to Jesus Christ, and He is saying: "I care for you sweetie, don't worry: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7) - 18 October 2047 - used with permission - sketch by Christine Adel, Cairo, Egypt

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: فتاة تحمِّل يسوع كل قلقها وتوترها، وهو يقول لها: "إنني أعتني بك يا حبيبتي، لا تقلقين": "ملقين كل همكم عليه، لأنه هو يعتني بكم" (1 بط 5: 7) - 18 أكتوبر 2017 - سكيتش - موضوعة بإذن - رسم كريستين عادل، القاهرة، مصر

The spiritual man finds rest in the life of submission that he lives.

He leaves all his affairs to God who will provide for them. As the Book says: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you” (Ps 55:22). And also: “Cast all your care upon him, for he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). And he trusts in the Lord’s promise which says: “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28) . Why then don’t you turn to God in all your problems and labour, and He will give you rest?

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The spiritual man finds rest in prayer.

Or he may find it in a comforting verse that makes his heart rejoice, or finds comfort in remembering the Lord’s promises. For example, it is enough for him the Divine saying “Be strong and of good courage. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5,6). Or: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Or: “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Is 49:16). He rejoices in all that and finds rest in his heart, relying on God’s promises.

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How beautiful is this phrase that St Augustine wrote in his confessions, saying to the Lord:

“Our hearts will remain restless till they find their rest in You”.

The one who is far from God lives in trouble, because the real rest is only in God. Therefore it is good what David the Prophet said: “But it is good for me to draw near to God” (Ps 73:28) . And also said: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps 117:8,9) . “You pushed me violently, that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly” (Ps 117:13,16).

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As man finds rest in the life of faith, he also finds rest in the life of hope...

The one who loses hope falls in depression and gets close to destruction or loss. As for the spiritual man, through hope, he sees a solution for each problem and a key or a number of keys for locked doors and for each fall, a rise that follows...

Problems have a pyramidical shape. They rise till they reach a peak then slope down to the other side. That is how the problems of Joseph the Upright were, rising up till he was in prison then sloping down to the kingdom. Likewise was the ordeal of Job: it rose till he lost everything then ended by the Lord giving him twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).

That is the comfort of the spiritual man in the life of submission, the life of faith and hope.

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Be confident that if you found rest within , you will also find rest without.

Make sure that your means of comfort are always spiritual means. Because there is one who, when faced by a problem, finds comfort in a lie that covers it or a trick that is all deceit, like David when he fell...! Or the one who turns to pain killers when he is tired. They do not solve his problem...

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Rest does not mean to stop work completely, but to avoid exhaustion.

If you get tired worrying about a specific matter, you cannot stop your mind from thinking completely, but you can change the train of thoughts and replace an idea with another, then you’ll find comfort.


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