Obedience, Finitude and Rest

Hebrews 4:11-12 (emphasis mine):
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

I woke up this morning feeling heavy, and more than a little distracted.

For weeks now, my household has had sickness being passed around. Today, I have two family members in bed with fever, body aches, and other ailments. I am not counted among those who are ill in this latest wave, so I want to be quick to be grateful for my own health, which allows me to care for them, but I confess I woke up feeling weary. I’ve got an agenda a mile long…presents to wrap, laundry to do, plenty of work to accomplish.

Come on, people, let’s get healthy so we can get things done!

Restful StreamI found it interesting, then, that as I began reading my daily devotional in the early hours of my morning quiet time, my old friend Paul Tripp called me to find rest in Christ. These few sentences from December 8th’s devotional jumped out at me:

You don’t have to wonder if you’ll have what you need to face what will be on your plate today. You will never be left to the limited range of your own resources. You will never, ever be left alone.

And then, for deeper reading, Tripp points to Hebrews 4, where the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Strive to enter that rest…it initially sounds like an oxymoron to me. By striving, are we not doing the opposite of resting?

It doesn’t take long for me to find evidence in my own life, however, to understand why God’s word tells us we’ll need to work at finding rest. As I’ve confessed many times, I don’t do rest very well. I prefer to stay busy.

But it’s far more than that. The kind of rest that God offers is a soul-level peace, a resting of our hearts. Our bodies can be busy all day long, and yet our souls can be at rest. And it’s our souls that need the reminder to strive for that rest.

Our default mode – all of us, born into our fallen state – is to wander from God (Isaiah 53:6). We don’t have to put effort into ignoring what our Creator has called us to. It simply happens, like water running downhill.

In our default mode, though, wandering around on auto-pilot, we turn away from who we really are – children of the Living God – and all too quickly wander into the desert. “Away” from God, we have only ourselves to rely upon, and we quickly run out of provisions. We look at our day’s agenda – or at our tight finances, or at the impossible mess that an important relationship has become – and we clearly see that our current situation would take far more energy or wisdom than we know we have. Again, relying upon ourselves, the stress rises.

All too often, the dead-last thing we do when our day looks far bigger than we can tackle is look to God. We are such a forgetful people. Happily, though, we have a patient God; His Word continues to remind us what we really need.

It takes intentional effort not to follow the downhill flow of our hearts. We do need to work, to strive, to find our rest in Him because our hearts are so very inclined away from God. The very next verse in Hebrews tells us how we can do that: by spending time in His Word.

The Bible is not just another book. It is God’s very voice, powerful enough to pierce our very bones. God’s word is living and active, and when we exposes ourselves to it, its work is always accomplished (Isaiah 55:11). We need to constantly soak ourselves in His presence to combat our natural inclination to wander. We need to remember who we are.

We may be finite creatures, but we have an infinitely-wise, infinitely-powerful Creator, A God Who loves us so much He became man. God’s Word is truly such incredibly good news. We need to hear it every day. Perhaps especially on “sick days.”

In this season, everything around us militates against spending quiet time in God’s Word, remembering who we are. Staying busy and anxious and stressed – whether it’s from illness or holiday busy-ness or the myriad difficulties life can bring to us – is easy, just like water running downhill. This morning, I am thankful for the reminder that only by soaking in the living water that only God can provide, in “working” to remember who I am, will I find the stillness of soul that I long for.

God, you are so good to us, so patient. May we all be reminded this Christmas season to rest not in our own work, but in the finished work of your Son, a work which began in eternity past, long before I was born or had the wit to construct my very first “daily agenda.”

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