Entering God's rest


Hebrews 4:3: "For we who have believed enter that rest." God's rest is not what you may have thought it to be, and that is something we will look at in the next couple of posts. But there is no doubt it is the place you want to be. It is the place of being right in the middle of God's plan and God's will for your life. The word of God had come to previous generations, verse 2 has told us, but because it was not received with faith it did them no good. But for us it is different: we are to enter God's rest. The sin of the Israelites was their refusal to believe the unproven word of God. They were looking for physical evidence to back up what God was telling them to do, but God was requiring them to obey his Word without such evidence -- obey it, in fact, even if the evidence was to the contrary. But an attitude of faith obeys the Word of God even when it has not been outwardly verified by circumstances.

Why? Because the Word of God itself is the only evidence that faith requires. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The heroes of faith whose stories are unfolded in chapter 11 are men and women who defied everything in the natural world around them, all the evidence of their senses, and came to a place of simply believing what God had said to them and told them to do. That is why faith and obedience cannot be separated. Faith is an action. It is a lifestyle. You cannot truly believe God without doing what He tells you to do.

This becomes clear in this statement: “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?” (Heb. 3:18). The next sentence continues, “And so we see that they were unable to enter because of...” -- and here we expect the word “disobedience,” but instead we get the word “unbelief”. They were disobedient, but they could not enter because of unbelief. In other words, “disobedience” and “unbelief” are one and the same thing. Unbelief leads inevitably to disobedience as much as faith results unswervingly in obedience.

God's rest is presented here as something very desirable to take hold of.  It can be entered only one way: by faith. The verb "enter" in verse 3 is in the present tense. It is something in front of us right now. We know that what we have now is only a foretaste of our future inheritance in heaven. Yet this verse tells us we can enter God’s rest, and enter it right away.

Recently I went swimming in the freezing waters of the North Sea off the coast of north-eastern England. The friend I was with was braver than me. He just shouted to me, "Don't think about it - just run in." That's faith!  You know where you want to go and you know there's only way to get there.  You can't stand around rationalizing it or waiting until the circumstances improve.  If God has called you to something, just do it. Through God's grace, you faith will impel you to a place of obedience. You'll begin to do things you never thought you could do.

I did survive the freezing swim, even though I couldn't feel my toes for half an hour after. But I'd done it. And so can you.