Let us view the heavenly state under the ideas of a rest from labour and a reward for it. The term labour does not convey the idea of simple exercise; for we shall never cease from that, but rather increase it. The inhabitants of heaven are more active than ever they were upon earth. They are represented as “serving God day and night in his temple;” yea, and as though all our services in this world were unworthy of the name it is said, “There his servants shall serve him.” Nor is the rest here spoken of to be understood of a mere cessation from exercise in the grave; for that would afford no blessedness. The term labour conveys the idea of painful exercise, weariness, or fatigue. The same word is used in 2 Cor. 11:27, where the apostle speaks of being in weariness and painfulness.
A great part of the Christian life consists in an opposition. He that would gain the heavenly prize must oppose “the course of this world,”—must strive against the stream of false principles and wicked practices, against the evil customs and manners of the age and place in which he lives. It has been observed that mankind go through the world in a body; that they draw one another on, in their principles and manners: that, like the drops of water which compose a tide, they acquire strength and influence by their numbers; and that whatever general direction they take, that is, for the time being, “the course of this world.” Like the tide, it is ever rolling, though not in the same direction. In former ages, it was a course of pagan idolatry; in later ages, of popish superstition and cruelty; and, in the present age, it is a course of infidelity and profaneness. To oppose this current is labour.
It was no small matter for the glorious tribes of martyrs, in every age, to hold fast the faith of the gospel. They had not only to encounter their adversaries, but their own natural feelings. They were men, and men of like passions with ourselves. They had wives, and children, and friends, and the various endearing ties of human nature; each of which would cry in their ears, Spare thyself! Think, brethren, what labour it must have been for them to encounter the hardships and cruelties to which a faithful adherence to God exposed them! Nor is it any small matter to set ourselves against the temptations of the world. There is a fashion in every thing, even in religion; and it requires fortitude of mind to withstand its influence, and to adhere to the dictates of Scripture, let them be stigmatized as they may. Nor does it require less fortitude to withstand the current of evil customs, by which we may be certain, in many cases, to expose ourselves to scorn and contempt. These things, I say, are labour; labour from which those who die in the Lord are at rest. The course of this world has no longer any influence on them; they are arrived in the desired haven, where neither tide nor tempest can affect them.
Again, Our services for God, in the present state, may very properly be called labour, on account of the natural infirmities and afflictions which here attend us, especially in the last stages of life. The most active Christian, whose delight in his Lord’s work has been such as to render it its own reward, will soon find the years draw nigh in which he shall say, I have no pleasure in them. It is then that the strength is labour and sorrow. It is then that the spirit is often willing when the flesh is weak. Our dear deceased friend experienced much of this, during the last few years of life. Reading and prayer, and every other religious duty, was a labour; but the tabernacle in which he groaned is now dissolved—he is now at rest from his labours.
Once more, The greatest and most grievous struggle of all is owing to our own native depravity. It is this that forms the most dangerous stream against which we have to strive. We may withdraw ourselves from the world, but not from this; this will accompany us in all our retirements, and in all our efforts. He that is contented to serve the Lord with mere bodily exercise may feel no manner of difficulty from this quarter; but he that would worship God in spirit and in truth, that would meditate, pray, praise, preach, or hear, as he ought, will find it the great burden of his life. A mind prone to forget God, and wander in forbidden paths; a heart unaffected with the great things of God, flying off from him, and fixing upon things that do not profit; these are matters which made an apostle exclaim, “O wretched man that I am!” It is these which render our life a labour. To be at rest from these, is heaven indeed!
Excerpt from: “The Blessedness of the Dead Who Died in the Lord,” a sermon delivered at Kettering at the funeral of Mr. Beeby Wallis, April 1972.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 153–154). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.