A Work of Passion: Blood and Sweat
Part 1 of our “Impassioned” series at Resonate Church.
So many symbols of passion are of a liquid nature. We have expressions like, “I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into that.” What we are really saying is that we poured our lives, our passions into something. But I’m going to focus on two liquids: blood and sweat. And blood and sweat point to a Work of Passion.
Work is this constant thing that we can’t avoid, although some people might try. I’m going to take a look at Genesis, where work originated. What I notice in Genesis is that the kind of work that happens in the garden of Eden is very different from the kind of work that is done since the fall of Mankind.
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
The task God gave Adam was to “work” the ground. But I want you to realize that the Hebrew word for work was different from what we normally think of work. This kind of work was the word “avodah” and it is basically synonymous with being a servant or worshipper. So when God is commanding Adam to “work” the ground, he is inviting him into an occupation of a worshipper or servant of God.
Adam had a pretty good job description at that point. He got to name all the animals, so he got to engage his creative mind. He and Eve got to have dominion over all the land giving him a sense of ownership, and they got to enjoy the fruit of that worship/work.
Another great word that combines this idea of worship and work is the word “cultivate” we cultivate a garden and watch it grow. We cultivate our relationship with God and watch us grow ever closer to him. It denotes life giving rise to more life.
Only after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, did the word “sweat” enter into their vocabulary. And this particular Hebrew word used for sweat in Genesis was only used once in the whole Bible. Now Adam was entering into a whole new world of work, one by which he would experience constant struggle and sweat. He was going to have to deal with thorns and thistles. He was now going to have to deal with unfavorable seasons, beasts and pests devouring his food.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
Not many of us are in the farming business, but we still feel the effects of the curse, don’t we?
We experience missed deadlines, personality clashes, constant stress, pouring out our sweat for a few measly bucks, finding out that we still can barely make ends meet. So often our work and the toil we labor under feels very little like worship to us. It feels more like slavery, or false worship, if anything. All of us were born into a fallen world, so that’s all we know. But what if we were meant to live life a little differently.
Skip ahead several thousand years to the life of Jesus. Jesus was a man born to a human mother. He felt the effects of this fallen world, just like everybody else. But he had a radically different perspective on work. He spells out his philosophy for us in
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Don’t you see how he is restoring the original intention of work, the way God wanted us to do it before the fall? Substitute the word “worship” for the word “work” in that sentence. “My worship is to believe in the one he has sent.”
Either way, it makes perfect sense. Our work and our worship should be one in the same thing. Now we know there are many different expressions of worship, but in all our activities, we should be infused with passion, with a sense of purpose, knowing we are serving someone greater than ourselves.
Studies have shown that only about 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their workplaces. The rest of us are just trudging along, surviving rather than thriving. Even a lot of businesses are waking up to this idea that we are so much more proficient at our jobs if we are doing something we are created to do, if we feel some level of ownership in our jobs and if we feel compelled to do them. Of course, they don’t use the God terminology, but they are trying to tap into the God-given passions of the unique individual. Countless tests and tools have been created for you to figure out that God-passion inside of you.
This idea of drudgery, like you have to pay your dues of being miserable seeps into our ideas about God as well, into our churches, even into some pulpits. So many people who believe in Jesus feel as though duty is enough to keep them going. They try to be good and not break any rules, but deep inside their lives lack passion. Deep inside they are afraid to step out into the unknown.
Some of you may be like that. You are more driven by obligation than by passion. I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t last long trying to work for God like that. You will either burn out and turn away from God, or you will just feel perpetually frustrated like a caged bird. People like this are really good at obeying the “do not” rules, but when God says, “go!” they sit paralyzed.
I want to take you Luke’s account of that fateful passion week– to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night of his betrayal. I believe that in the Garden was Jesus’ real place of victory. After he had wrestled with all of his questions and came to the conclusion that he would submit to the Will of his Father at all costs, then he had only yet to play it out.
And it was in a garden. Interesting how we’re back in a garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. And we see that word again “sweat” this time in Greek instead of Hebrew, as the New Testament is written in Greek. It is the only time we see this Greek word for sweat in the whole bible.
In the NIV, the word sweat is only used 2 times, once in the passage I read in Genesis, and this one in Luke.
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
It says that he literally sweat drops of blood. I’m sure that there is fascinating science to explain how a man could possibly sweat drops of blood, (actually the name for this condition is rare but is called “hemotohidrosis”) but I’m not getting into that today.
Let’s catch the symbolism here. There is so much symbolism in the Bible that we can miss the beauty of it. The blood mixed with sweat foreshadowed the sacrifice of his blood shed on the cross to put an end to the curse of sweat (or meaningless toil) that was placed on mankind after the fall.
Jesus’ work was to put an end to striving and toil that was never ours to bear. It was not to put an end to all “work” but it was to put an end to the kind of work that makes us frustrated, the kind of work that is futile, the kind of work that is meaningless.
When Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he wasn’t saying, “sit on the couch and take it easy with a bag of potato chips in your hands.” Instead, he was saying, you don’t have to do this yourself. I’ve got the weight of all the responsibility on me. Just do and be what I created you to do, who I created you to be and I’ll do the rest.
It’s like the birds that soar in the sky. They make it look effortless, but all their flapping would be to no avail if there was no air, no invisible force underneath their wings to make them fly. I know it’s kinda cheesy to say he is the “wind beneath our wings” but it’s true. Flying is work to be sure, but without the wind, we are just flapping our wings, going nowhere.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that God really wants more for you than what you are currently experiencing. Sometimes good news is harder to believe than bad news, especially when we are so accustomed to bad news.
Jesus’ death and resurrection finalized that work that was done once and for all. Jesus was rejected by his closest friends, accused by the ones he came to save, and put to death on a cross. The most excruciating invention of torture known to man. He swallowed the bitter pill, or as he put it he “drank the cup” of suffering for you and I. Along with this cup he drank down the effects of the curse, which was the daily striving we experience in order that we might have peace.
Through faith, Jesus’ passionate DNA can be infused into us and we get to participate in the worship/work that God created us to do from the beginning of time. Yes, we may experience blood, sweat, and tears in the process, but it will be worth it. It won’t be as hard as it was trying to work out our own lives through self reliance.
Some may wonder how people can follow Jesus so hard core. When people are really following Jesus hard core, it is Jesus accomplishing it in them, not them mustering it up for themselves.
If you trust what I am telling you and ask Jesus to infuse you with his passion, you will find that your work is much easier and lighter than you imagined. You will be able to go through almost anything because he will fuel your passion all the way.
Ask yourself this question. Are you tired?
I don’t mean necessarily physically tired. But are you tired of keeping up appearances? Are you tired of pleasing others? Are you tired of working and seeming to have nothing to show for it? Are you tired of believing in only yourself? Are you tired of trying to fix your relationships? Are you tired of trusting in only yourself to provide for what you and your family need?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
But, you might say, “I thought being a Christian was about doing more, not getting rest!” Well, yes and no. Doing without passion is exhausting and life-sucking. The key here is passion. When believers are infused with the passion of Jesus they do more and accomplish more, but they barely realize they are doing it.
They know that they are not doing it alone. They will serve with blood, sweat, and tears because they know the One they serve and they have an inkling that he is really really wonderful and worth serving. Notice that he talks about rest, but then he talks about a yoke. Is a yoke made for rest or for work? It is made for work. So, he is saying in your work, which is really worship, I will give you rest or peace.
There is a kind of rest that Jesus bought for you on the cross. Remember, that line in “What about Bob?” The doc says to Bob, “Here’s a prescription. Take a vacation from your problems.” Jesus’ blood bought you a permanent vacation from your fears, from your failures, from your endless striving, from your worry and anxiety.
There is more life to live for you. Will you let Jesus infuse you with his DNA of passion today? Will you rest in his finished work on the cross today?