God is pleased when we find our rest in Him, while an unbelieving heart leads away from God’s rest.
Oral Roberts University has an amazing Outreach Department! At the end of the school year, before all the Missions teams head out to their destinations, all the teams spend one week at Ropes Training. My team and a second team were at the climbing wall. In rock climbing you have the “climber” and you have the “belayer”. The climber is, well the person who climbs. The belayer is the person on the ground responsible for ensuring the climber’s safety. They pull the slack from the rope and they keep the climber from falling to the ground. If you want to keep your body parts and brain function you keep company with a very trustworthy, very sober belayer. This particular wall was more technical than a climbing wall with a simple, vertical face. This wall had a jutting portion close to the top, requiring the climber to rely on their upper body strength. One climber was having a rough time at the top, as we all were, but she was particularly determined. Our facilitator told the climber to trust her belay team and let go of the wall. The belay team will hold her up, so she can sit in her harness and rest. So the climber did as the facilitator said and after a brief rest she became the only climber to ascend the wall.
The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “That is what faith looks like.” Faith says, “Let go of what you are holding to, what you keep trying to accomplish, and trust that God is able and willing to hold you up. Rest in Him!”
Hebrews 4:1-4 reads,
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘they shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”.
The author of Hebrews is writing about Moses’ generation in the wilderness. Because of Israel’s unbelief in God, they disobeyed God and were not allowed to enter the Promised Land (3:7&11, 4:6). The author warns his reader to “…therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (4:11).
From the surrounding context we know that though the author uses the term “rest”, he is talking about salvation. Those who believe in the message of the Gospel will enter God’s rest. Before time began, before God created the earth and the universe, it was already determined by God that Christ would come and die for our sins (Hebrews 4:3-4, 1 Peter 1:20). In eternity, the plan and work of salvation has already been completed, even before we existed! In eternity, God has rested from his work. By “in eternity” I am speaking of that mystery that we often call “already, but not yet”. In eternity all has been accomplished, but now we as created beings in this world are awaiting the full completion of our salvation, that is the resurrection of our bodies (Romans 8:18-25).
Verse 10 of the same chapter we read, “…for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” God has already completed His work in you before time (Romans 8:29). He has rested. Now we are to stop working and to enter His rest.
If God intended us to work for our salvation (not to be confused with working out our salvation in Philippians 2:12), we would have been commanded to continue until our job is done. Except the job already is done in Christ! And if you are in Christ, then you also have entered in to God’s rest! Religion works to please God, faith rests in God!
Just like the climber from the ropes course, when we put our trust in God, we let go of whatever it is we are striving for and we rest in His ability to hold us up.
God’s rest isn’t a perk or an option. It’s a command (Hebrews 4:11)! Failure to enter his rest is disobedience. We must be careful as the author of Hebrews warns us, to not allow an unbelieving heart to lead us away from God’s rest.
2 Chronicles 14-16 we find the story about Asa, the king of Judah. During the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the kingdom of Israel suffered a major church split. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the House of David, while the rest of Israel crowned another to be their king. We have two kingdoms, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Asa ascended to the throne after his father’s death and Judah enjoyed ten years of peace. For ten years, Judah had peace, just sipping Arnold Palmers on their Mediterranean porches. Then Zerah the Ethiopian decided to get rowdy and came against Judah with an army of a million men and 300 chariots. Judah had a little less than half the man power. Asa prayed to God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you…” (2 Chron. 14:11). God answered his prayer and they defeated the Ethiopians. Afterwards, all those who lived in Judah made a vow before God to seek him with their whole heart and “…the Lord gave them rest all around” (2 Chron. 14:15).
26 years later Baasha, the king of Israel, decided to flex his muscles and set a siege against Judah, so nobody could come in or go out. Asa decides to play dirty too and makes a deal with Israel’s ally. Asa agreed to pay the king of Syria gold and silver from the Lord’s treasury in the Temple, if Syria agreed to break his covenant with Israel. Needless to say, God was not exactly happy about this little arrangement. Not only did Asa deal treacherously but he took what was devoted to God, what belonged to God, in order to do it.
Verse 7 to verse 9 we read how Hanani a seer came to Asa, “Because you relied on the king of Syria and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand…you have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”
Asa was none too happy about what the Lord had to say and threw a hissy fit. He put Hanani in stocks in prison. Even in the final years of his life, suffering from a terrible disease in his feet, he still did not turn to God, but sought the help of physicians.
When we seek the Lord with our whole heart and put our faith in Him, we enter into what He has already accomplished, and we join in His rest. But when our hearts are turned from Him and we put our trust in man and self (political policy, medicine, money, human reasoning, human willpower etc.), we give sin an opportunity in our lives. Our distrust in God leads to compromising decisions. The result of that is a life full of disorder and fruitless struggle. We will only find peace and rest when we have surrendered ourselves to Him!