Unless the Lord Builds the House... (Phil Johnson)

Psalm 127:1-2   |   Sunday, April 7, 2013   |   Code: 2013-04-07-PJ

     This morning we're going to look at just the first two verses of Psalm 127. I think you'll recognize the words of this psalm. Charles Spurgeon called this psalm "A Psalm for Builders." Look at the inscription, just before the beginning of the Psalm. It's called "A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon." And that's an important clue to the context of this psalm.

      This a distinctly Solomonic Psalm. Its style is more like the Proverbs than most of the Psalms. It's made of pithy statements that would work equally well as Proverbs. Each sentence stands perfectly well as a maxim. This is in the same style as Solomon's writing.

      In fact, the words "Of Solomon" seem to suggest that this psalm was written by Solomon himself. That's entirely possible. 1 Kings 4:32, which is part of the biblical record of Solomon's legacy, says "[Solomon] spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005." So Solomon was known for writing psalms, and this could be one of them.

      But the actual significance of the inscription is ambiguous. You could translate it "for Solomon." If I'm not mistaken, that's how it is in the King James Version. That could be the case, because David was well aware of Solomon's calling, and he knew that Solomon was inheriting the duty of building the Temple, which represented the house of God.

      If you are familiar with Old Testament history, you know that Solomon was the one who built the first permanent Temple in Jerusalem. Up to that point, Israel's place of worship was the Tabernacle, which was basically an elaborate tent. It was a portable dwelling-place that dated back to the time of Moses. It was designed so that it could easily be packed up and moved with the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness. But after Israel settled in the land of Canaan, the Tabernacle frankly had the feel of something temporary and transient about it. David himself lived in a Palace. But Israel's place of worship was still basically a big tent. So according to 2 Samuel 7, David wanted to build a permanent place to be the temple of God.

      But God forbid him to do it. In 2 Samuel 7:4, we read,

the word of the LORD came to Nathan,

5  "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in?

6  I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.

7  In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"'

In other words, God had not commanded David to build a temple. After all, God didn't need a Temple to dwell in. That wasn't the point at all. Acts 7:46-50 rehearses the history of Israel and the building of the Temple. And that passage reminds us that "the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'" So the Lord didn't need a house.

      But it was nevertheless appropriate for the people of Israel to have a permanent place of worship, so the Lord through Nathan the prophet told David that it would fall to his son Solomon to build a house for the Lord—a permanent temple. 2 Samuel 7:11:

the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

12  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

13  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

14  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

      So it became Solomon's first and most important duty to build the Temple of the Lord, and that Temple ultimately became the centerpiece and the focus of the glory of Solomon's kingdom.

      Scripture records that before David died, he expressly commissioned Solomon to build the Temple. Listen to 1 Chronicles 22:7-11:

David said to Solomon, "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God.

8  But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.

9  Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.

10  He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.'

11  "Now, my son, the LORD be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning you.

      So Solomon became the builder of the first Temple, and this psalm, whether Solomon wrote it himself or received it from his father, starts with a series of lessons about building. Actually, these are lessons that apply to every endeavor in life. Whether you are a builder or an accountant, a watchman or an administrator, the principles in this psalm apply to every arena in which you work, and you can learn something from these principles that ought to frame your whole philosophy of life and labor. So the lessons in these first two verses of this psalm are vitally important for all of us.

      Follow with me as I read the first two verses of Psalm 127:

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.

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.

That passage speaks of the futility of self-reliance and the folly of self-sufficiency. It exposes the arrogance of people who think they can accomplish anything truly lasting or meaningful in their own power, apart from God's help and enablement. You might have the human energy and the expertise to build a house, or you might have the skill and alertness to guard a city, but if you think you can do those things apart from God's power and blessing, you are destined for ultimate disappointment and failure—vanity.

      Notice that three times in these two verses, the psalmist speaks of vanity: it is vain to build a house unless the Lord is in it; it is vain to guard a city unless the Lord is that city's keeper; and (verse 2) it is vain to spend all your energies working and worrying unless you are utterly dependent on the Lord for ultimate success.

      And I see three important lessons in this text that I want to highlight for you. One is a lesson about divine sovereignty. That's the most obvious and most important point of this passage. It is a psalm about the absolute sovereignty of God over all the affairs of men. But there's also an important lesson here about human responsibility. And finally, verse 2 is a lesson about mortal anxiety. And I want to examine these lessons one at a time with you.

      So, if you want to take notes, lesson one is—


1. A lesson About Divine Sovereignty

      Again, this is the main point and the most obvious lesson this passage aims to teach: God is sovereign, and therefore, unless he is in the building of a house, the builders are laboring in vain. Unless He is keeping the city, the watchmen are staying awake in vain.

      In other words, if you attempt any work without God, you can expect failure. Even if you achieve a measure of apparent earthly success, that success will be a pointless accomplishment, devoid of God's blessing and therefore devoid of any real satisfaction for your soul.

      Now, obviously, the world is filled with architects and builders who build magnificent structures and attain an amazing degree of earthly success and prosperity without ever once acknowledging God. At least their work has the appearance of success. But this passage is saying that without God, it is still a worthless, empty accomplishment—vanity, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:14: "I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind." In fact, listen to Solomon's own testimony from Ecclesiastes 2:4-11:

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.

5  I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.

6  I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.

7  I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.

8  I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man.

9  So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.

10  And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

11  Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

What good is earthly fame and earthly wealth to a condemned and dying man? Moth and rust corrupt everything we build and everything we accumulate in this life, and at the end of life, if God is not your portion, you will be left with nothing. You can amass gold and wealth and be worth millions in this life, but the split-second after you die, you are worth nothing if you are without God. It is all vanity and utter futility, unless the Lord is in it.

       Now, the lesson about God's sovereignty in this passage goes even deeper than that. "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." The psalmist is saying that you couldn't build the house in the first place unless God sovereignly and graciously enabled you to do so. Even the most godless builder is utterly and completely dependent on God for the strength and the knowledge to build a house—even if he doesn't acknowledge God in his work. Apart from God's sovereign enablement, he could do nothing.

      That's the same principle as 1 Corinthians 4:7: "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?"

      God is sovereign, and therefore you can have no degree of success or achievement unless God allows it in the first place. Deuteronomy 8:18: "Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth." Jeremiah 10:23: "I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps." Proverbs 21:31: "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD." God is sovereign over all the affairs of men, and it is the supreme folly not to acknowledge His sovereignty.

      Listen again to the wisdom of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 9:11: "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all." When Solomon speaks of "chance" there, he is not talking about some impersonal force like "luck" or "fate" that determines the outcome of things. But he is pointing out that strength, and skill, and human wisdom are no guarantee of success. Good things and bad things happen to us all the time without our cooperation or planning. From our human perspective, timing and happenstance have a lot to do with whether we fail or succeed at anything. Ultimately, the outcome of our labors is always subject to and determined by things that lie beyond our control. Our destiny is not really in our own hands. We are not the masters of our souls or the captains of our fate, and it is only a sinful arrogance that makes some men think otherwise.

      So, are those matters of "time and chance" simply random and meaningless events, or are those things determined by the providence of God? Scripture answers that question with absolute clarity. Proverbs 16:33: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." Nothing happens haphazardly or arbitrarily. God sovereignly governs His universe with a loving providence. He "works all things after the counsel of His will," according to Ephesians 1:11. God is absolutely and completely sovereign over the even smallest details of His creation. Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-30: "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." If something as insignificant to the universe as the falling of a sparrow or something as trivial as the number of hairs on your head is determined by God's sovereign providence, it is folly to imagine that you can accomplish anything apart from Him. If you are laboring to do something and God is not in it, your labor is vain.

      God is sovereign. That's a truth I stress all the time, and yet I know it is one of those biblical doctrines many people struggle with, and resist, and try to explain away. Some people—including some who profess to recognize the Lordship of Christ—literally hate the idea that God is sovereign. But the truth of God's sovereignty is clearly taught throughout Scripture, and it is explicitly taught in the passage we are considering this morning. No amount of human willpower could ever overturn the sovereign plan of God. That is the very meaning of this verse: "Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain."

      It's a truth that ought to keep us utterly dependent on God. Don't ever imagine that you can achieve anything lasting or significant apart from His power. Everything you try to do in your own strength alone and apart from a spirit of dependence on God and a recognition of His sovereignty is totally and completely futile—sheer vanity. And if God in His goodness has prospered you or given you any degree of success while you have failed to acknowledge His sovereign lordship over your life, then that very goodness of God is something that ought to lead you to repentance. Romans 2:4: "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"

      In other words, it is a sin not to recognize the sovereignty of God. That is the very point James makes in James 4:13-16:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

14  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15  Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

16  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

God is sovereign, and it is not only foolish, but positively sinful, to ignore or deny the truth of God's sovereignty. That's lesson number one.


      Now I want to call your attention to a second lesson we can glean from this passage. This lesson is a vital balance and a perfect twin to the first lesson. That was a lesson about divine sovereignty. This one is—


2. A lesson About Human Responsibility

      Here I want you to notice that although the focus of this passage is on the utter and absolute sovereignty of God, it does not eliminate human responsibility. It does not suggest that God will build a house without a human builder, or that the Lord will guard a city apart from the agency of watchmen on the walls. Rather, it assumes that if a house is going to be built, there will be human laborers who build it. It presupposes that in the ordinary course of things, if a city is to be protected, there will be human watchmen who stay awake and keep guard. God uses means. He employs instruments. And in matters like the building of a house or the guarding of a city, He employs human instruments. That is the ordinary way God works.

      Now we know (don't we?) that God could build a house or guard a city without human instrumentality, of course. That is, He has the power to do so. After all, God created the whole universe merely by His word; he could surely build a house without an earthly builder. According to Christ in Matthew 26:53, God could have sent twelve legions of angels to defend Christ on the night of His arrest; He certainly has the ability to defend a city without human watchmen.

      But He doesn't do that. Our passage recognizes the normal means by which God works in human affairs: He often uses human instruments. In the building of a house, He uses human builders; and in the guarding of a city, He employs human watchmen. God's sovereignty does not eliminate human responsibility. In the work He has given us to do, He accomplishes His sovereign will through our labor.

      This is an important point. It is a natural tendency of the sinful human heart to think that divine sovereignty eliminates human responsibility. Scripture clearly teaches otherwise. In fact, God's sovereignty is what establishes our responsibility. We are accountable to God precisely because He is the sovereign creator and ruler of the universe. And His sovereignty does not relieve us from the duty of the labor He has called us to do.

      Scripture says (Ecclesiastes 9:10), "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Second Thessalonians 3:10: "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." Laziness is incompatible with faith. Idleness is a sin. When God gives us work to do, we are expected to use all available means, and He blesses the use of those means. On the other hand, He will not bless sloth or inactivity when He has given us work to do.

      Proverbs 10:4: "Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich." Proverbs 13:4: "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat." Laziness and idleness are sins. By the way, you may have thought that the only sin for which God judged Sodom was the sin of their sexual perversions. But listen to Ezekiel 16:49: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease[—idleness], but she did not help the poor and needy." Sloth and idleness were the seed-bed in which all the other gross perversions of Sodom were cultivated. Indolence is itself one of the grossest kinds of sin.

      If you are not diligent, you cannot expect to prosper. If you want learning, you can't get it merely by praying for it; you have to apply yourself to study. If it's healing you seek, you should avail yourself of the means. Trusting God doesn't mean being idle. "Faith without works is dead."

      Listen to what Spurgeon said:

in the ordinary affairs of life, my dear brethren, do not go and put your feet on the fender, and sit still, and say, "The Lord will provide," because if you act so foolishly, very likely he will provide you with a place in the [poor house]. If you go up and down the town with no profession, with your hands in your empty pockets, and say that you are trusting in God, God will give you the wages that you earn, namely poverty; he will clothe you with rags if you clothe yourself with idleness. If you will not serve him, you shall find the reward that comes to the man who wastes his Master's talents by wrapping them in a napkin.

And listen to 1 Corinthians 3:8-9: "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God." That is the very lesson of our passage. "We are labourers together with God."

      So don't misread this text, and don't misunderstand the doctrine of God's sovereignty as though it meant that we're always supposed to do nothing, and just leave everything to God. That is a misapplication and a perversion of the truth of God's sovereignty. God's sovereignty does not eliminate our responsibility. Rather, we are responsible to God precisely because He is sovereign.

      God uses ordinary means, and He often uses human instrumentality, to accomplish His will. And any notion of God's sovereignty that diminishes that truth is a perversion of what the Bible teaches.

      In fact, it is a wonderful privilege afforded to us only by the grace of God that He uses us as His instruments, and we ought to rejoice in that privilege and labor diligently to be suitable instruments by which God can work. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." So the glory still goes to God, even when He uses us as His instruments.

      Remember, the truth on the face of this passage is that our labor would be in vain if God were not in it. And here's a glorious promise we can reasonably infer: God's grace guarantees that the labor of those who trust Him and depend on Him is never in vain. Therefore we ought to labor all the more diligently, because He promises the reward of our labors. Paul adds this: "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." The glory is still God's, but that does not in any degree diminish our responsibility.

      So we have here a lesson about divine sovereignty; a lesson about human responsibility; and third—


3. A lesson About Mortal Anxiety

      Now follow this: God is sovereign; His sovereignty doesn't eliminate our responsibility; but God's sovereignty does eliminate every reason for worry, disquiet, fretting, and fear. Look at verse 2 again: "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." (If you're reading the New American Standard Bible, it says, "He gives to His beloved even in his sleep"—but notice that the words "even in his"are italicized, signifying that they have been added by the translators. But the verse makes better sense if you read it without the insertion, and I think this is the correct sense: "he gives to his beloved sleep.")

      God's sovereignty doesn't eradicate human responsibility, but it does liberate the believer from the slavery of worldly care and consternation. "he gives to his beloved sleep." Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And if you understand the proper relationship of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, you will have no reason for mortal anxiety.

      God's sovereignty doesn't release us from responsibility, but it does free us from worry. It does free us from any work that God has not given us to do, and His burden is light. Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." First Peter 5:7: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."

      Remember I said it is a serious sin not to recognize God's sovereignty. I want to stress that. Arminianism isn't just a trivial doctrinal error; it is positively sinful. All worry stems from the sin of forgetting that God rules all things, and that He promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. All worry is the fruit of Arminian thinking—whether you are conscientiously a doctrinal Arminian, or, like most of us, just an occasional practical Arminian who forgets about God's sovereignty in the heat of battle and the trials of life. Don't let the affairs of this life force you into a kind slavery where you are agitated and brooding and hyperactive all the time. Don't take on the burden of work God never gave you to do in the first place.

      Notice what our verse is saying: overwork is a sin. "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil." God has promised rest. "he gives to his beloved sleep." And if you are one of those who simply cannot rest in the Lord and enjoy your liberty in Christ, you are missing the best of the Christian life. And that is a sin. It's not just a trivial character flaw. It is positively and monstrously wicked. And all your overwork is vain, because it is labor without God.


      Now, let's apply all of this in practical terms. All these lessons are true in the ordinary course of life. All your labor is vain if God is not in it. But labor itself is vital. It is the instrument God uses to bless us. And yet, when our labor becomes a slavery, that's a sign God is no longer in it. When we take on burdens God has not given us, that is unrighteous. We're not supposed to be like Martha, "cumbered about much serving," missing out on the good part of worship and rest in the Lord.

      All of this argues for balance. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There's an equilibrium in true spirituality, and it's only our sinfulness that makes us unbalanced in one direction or the other. We have to fight to keep our balance. In the words of Hebrews 4:11, we have to labor to enter into rest.

      But there's also a crucial spiritual application of all these lessons, and it goes to the very heart of the gospel. In Hebrews 4:11, where Scripture says, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest," it is speaking of the rest we find in salvation.

      All of these principles are directly applicable to our salvation. Salvation is completely the work of God. It was completely His work to provide a sufficient atonement for our sins. It is completely His work to regenerate sinners. It is His work to convert. Even faith is His gift. Ephesians 2:8-10: "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship."

      God is sovereign in the work of salvation, and you can work as hard as you want to make yourself better, or earn God's favor, but it is all vanity apart from the work of God. You cannot make yourself righteous. In fact, Paul says in Romans 10:3 that the reason so many in Israel were lost is that they were "going about to establish their own righteousness, [and did not submit] themselves unto the righteousness of God." The starting point of the gospel is right there. You are hopelessly in bondage to sin. No amount of work on your part can change that fact or atone for your guilt. You cannot possibly work hard enough to provide a righteousness of your own. Salvation is the exclusive work of God, lest any man should boast. Jonah 2:9: "Salvation is of the LORD," from the first to the last. Your spiritual labor is all vain unless God is in it.

      And yet, that does not utterly remove human responsibility in the matter of salvation. No man is saved apart from believing in the Lord Jesus. In the words of Spurgeon again,

Faith is God's gift, but it is man's act. The Holy Spirit does not believe for us: what should He believe? No man is saved apart from repentance. Now, repentance is a work of the Spirit of God; but the Spirit of God does not repent: what has He to repent of? It is the man himself who must repent and believe. "If ye believe not . . . ye shall die in your sins." "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Do not, therefore, any of you, sit still and dream of the predestination of God. Divine predestination is most blessedly true, it is the joy of my spirit; but do not turn it into a pillow for your idle head, and fancy that blessing will come to you [apart from your own faith and repentance.]

Spurgeon was right about that, as He usually was. Scripture repeatedly calls us to turn from our sin and believe. We cannot obey that command apart from the divine enablement of God's grace. And yet, faith and repentance remain our solemn duty before God. Neither the doctrine of God's sovereignty nor the truth of our own sinful inability remove the responsibility we have to hear and obey the command to repent. In fact, those commands are the very means God employs to prompt our hearts to obey. Hebrews 3:15: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

      Do not fall into the error of thinking that because God is sovereign in salvation, He will save sinners automatically and without any means. The gospel calls for a response. God is calling, and urging, and even pleading with sinners to be reconciled to Him, and it is the duty of every sinner to obey. Those who refuse to obey will be condemned for their refusal. The fact of God's sovereignty does not erase that duty or eliminate the sinner's responsibility for sin and unbelief.

      And if you are a Christian, it is your duty to proclaim the gospel in those terms. Second Corinthians 5:20: "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you [we beg you; we plead with you] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Don't be afraid to urge sinners to repent and believe in Christ. That is the gospel message. But, you say, they are totally depraved and incapable of believing in their own power. That's right. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. And yet, as 1 Peter 2:5 says, God is building with "living stones[. They] are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." He uses human instruments to plant, and water, and then He is the one who gives the increase. He lays on every hearer a duty to respond. He employs means in the process. And the means He has chosen is the gospel message, with all its urgency and pleading. (Romans 1:16: "[The gospel] is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; 1 Corinthians 1:21: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe"; Romans 10:17: "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.")

      The gospel given to us in Scripture includes an urgent command to repent and believe and be reconciled to God through faith in Christ. Blessed are those who proclaim the message faithfully. And blessed are those who hear the Word of God, and keep it. God is sovereign; and you are still responsible for what you do with the message.

      A final, brief word: this third lesson about anxiety also has an application to the matter of our salvation. Don't be so introspective and self-analytical that you miss the very essence of salvation, which is resting in and leaning on Christ and His atoning work. I know Christians who seem unable to find peace or assurance, because they are constantly worrying about whether they have done enough, or responded in the right way. Remember that salvation doesn't ultimately depend on what you do; it all hinges on what Christ has done for you. Don't try to do work that God has not given you to do. Your salvation isn't about the quality or the circumstances of anything you have done; it's all about the merit of Christ's work on your behalf. Some people are constantly fretting about whether they are humble enough, or pure enough, or faithful enough, or strong enough—or whatever. Let me answer that question for you: you are not good enough to be saved. If you examine yourself by the perfect standard of Christ's righteousness, you will fall short. So all your introspection and worry is vain. But Christ "is able . . . to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him," so the only important question is whether you truly trust Him alone for your salvation. If you do, He promises rest. "He gives to his beloved sleep."

      So rest in that promise, be diligent in all He has commanded you to do, and remember above all that He is sovereign. If you depend on His strength and rest in His grace, your labor will not be in vain.