Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

Sleep to the beloved


One of my favorite verses is Psalm 127:1. I put it on my email signature for school, and I used it for the toast when my brother-in-law got married. I can’t even remember the first time I saw it, but when I did I thought that it was obscure enough most people wouldn’t know it, but the message was powerful enough that they would want to remember it after they had heard it. I felt like the champion of Psalm 127:1.

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.

I mean, that’s a simple, yet poignant Scripture, isn’t it?

At least 4 years later (how long I’ve been working at Indiana Wesleyan), and I never thought to look at Psalm 127:2. For me, that is a WAY more convicting verse.

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 almost sounds like crazy talk coming from the Bible. For all the Scriptures that say things like laziness is bad and if you don’t work, you shouldn’t get to eat, and even that lazy people sleep all day, here’s a verse that says that it’s okay to sleep.

I used to work on our VBS programs at our old church. I would come home from work, go through our nightly routine with the kid and my wife, and I would start working on VBS from just before midnight until I either passed out at the computer or Erika chased me off to bed. I would manage 3 or 4 hours of sleep, get up the next day, and when I got home I would usually crash in the bed.

Does that look like a God-honoring life of victory through Jesus to you?

There just never seemed to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. There always seemed like there was pressure to complete VBS and get it out of the way, and while I enjoyed the creative process behind this ministry, it became the object of my attention and devotion. It became, “Look what I’m doing!” I felt like I was using a unique talent to further God’s kingdom, but I was determined to use it at the expense of everything else.

And that was the good side of it.

I couldn’t give God my full attention. I was writing plot summaries and outlines for pirate battles and superhero fights during church sermons. I didn’t have time to listen to the pastor, and besides, most of what he was saying seemed irrelevant to me and was for people who didn’t have much of a relationship with God anyway.

I was already so close to God that I didn’t need to spend time in His Word or pray regularly. I was studying the intricacies of stories about Jonah and Elijah and Daniel so I could adapt them for my audience.

What did my me-centered life bring me?


Lack of personal discipline.

Lack of focus on God.

Lack of attention at my job.

Wasting my time on the internet.

Marital struggles.

Anger issues.

How could a one of the biggest blessings I’d ever received turn into such a big curse?

I think that the Bible is clear that there is nothing wrong with hard work, because it honors God.

On the other hand, refusing to trust God for your needs and hoping that your work will give you what you desire is out-of-balance. Your family, your health, and your relationship with God all suffer. My time of rest should be in reflection that I’ve worked as hard as we can for God and if not, maybe that is something I need to work on. If I have worked plenty, then I need to rest and trust God to take care of the needs of myself and my family.

I’m writing this because I’m beginning to notice that I’m sliding back into those habits again, and I hope that publishing them electronically will hold me in check.

Are you a workaholic or have tendencies to be a workaholic?


4 thoughts on “Sleep to the beloved

  1. I’m not a workaholic.

    I do let myself get pulled in too many directions though.

  2. Yes and no. Some weeks like this week was a bad one. Others I do a good job of pulling away. I don’t do a good job of managing my schedule.

  3. I’m not a workaholic, but some tendencies are definitely there. Thank you for this post – what a great encouragement and reminder!

  4. That’s the great thing about God, he forgives us as long as we realize we’ve erred in the first place!

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