Here’s a sign of the times: “nap boxes” so workers can sleep standing up at the office.
A company in Japan has created devices that resemble water heaters. They are designed to support occupants’ heads, knees, and bodies so they will not fall over. Their purpose is to give Japanese workers a way to take short power naps throughout the day to combat the problem of sleepiness that is epidemic in their vocational culture.
You might think this is a problem only in Japan, but you’d be mistaken. Studies show that US workers work 435 more hours per year than German workers, 400 more hours per year than UK workers, 365 more hours per year than French workers, and even 169 more hours per year than Japanese workers. At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week, but the US does not.
Part of the issue is cultural: while the Western worldview prioritizes the material and the self-reliant, the American ethos especially does so. We are a nation of self-reliant people, or so we like to think. We value the self-made hero who gets up earlier, stays up later, and works harder than everyone else.
I am as guilty here as anyone. I am as tempted to measure my self-worth by my productivity as anyone. My daily challenge is to “remember the source of your personal worth,” as my youth minister used to say, thus finding my value in God’s love for me rather than my work for him.
To this end, a phrase I read in my personal Bible study today has been resonating deeply with me.
A theology of the future
In Psalm 31, David says to God, “My times are in your hand” (v. 15).
“Times” translates the Hebrew for “occasion, opportunity, season.” He states that they “are” in God’s “hand,” his provision and providence. Not they “were” or “they will be,” but they “are,” right now.
I want to make plans for the future that assure my success. However, David’s testimony calls me to hold the future loosely and trust God’s providence with each day. To that end, a theology of the future is helpful:
One: Do not presume on the future.
Scripture teaches: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lᴏʀᴅ establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We are warned: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1).
Two: Plan for the future but seek God’s guidance each day.
Jesus asked, “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). Solomon taught us: “Commit your work to the Lᴏʀᴅ, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
Three: Trust him in hard times.
Paul assured us: “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). The apostle added: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Four: Know that our future is ultimately guaranteed by God’s grace.
The Bible teaches: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). In the meantime, “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
What are your “chariots” and “horses”?
Of course, our secular culture disagrees. As King David said, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses” (Psalm 20:7a). What are our “chariots” and “horses” today?
So many today put their trust in medical science, or technological advances, or political leaders and parties, or our capitalistic economy, or our superpower military status, or their own abilities and resources.
But if 2021 taught us anything, it should have been that these “chariots” and “horses” are not enough. I am deeply grateful for medical science, but the mortality rate is still 100 percent. I am thankful for technological advances, but they can be used for pornography, sex trafficking, and a myriad of other sins. I am grateful for those who serve in political office, but even the greatest leaders cannot solve the innate problem of sin that plagues the human condition.
I’m glad to live in the American economic system, but its inequities continue to widen and worsen. I’m deeply thankful for our military and their service, but they cannot protect us from ourselves. I’m grateful to God for my abilities and resources, such as they are, but “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
David knew that his chariots and horses were not enough. That’s why he continued, “But we trust in the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ our God” (Psalm 20:7b). You and I should do the same.
“Well done, good and faithful servant”
Let’s begin every day and repeat all through the day the prayer, “My times are in your hands.” Then let’s partner with God in redeeming our times for his greatest glory and our greatest good, knowing that as we work, God works.
As we do our utmost for his highest, we experience his power, peace, and purpose in our lives and days. Each day will then lead us to that day when we hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
And we are well, and we are home.