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028  Be Diligent to Rest

I've been talking about how God's judgment will be the solution to all the sorrows of the world. In the last Memo I explained why God does not solve all those sorrows right now. It's because He is waiting for us patiently, so that we will repent and will not perish with the rest in the judgment.

After hearing that perishing is a possibility, I expect that we can all use a little encouragement. So this time I want to focus on where we run when we're terrified because we fall short of God's standard.

It turns out that the only place to run is to God Himself--and once there, we discover that He is so committed to our success in pursuing righteousness that He is not going to let us fail, so long as we persist in pursuing Him. 

That's why I say that the first and most important rule of pursuing God is "Don't quit." If you're afraid that you're not measuring up, trust Him more. He'll make sure that you do measure up. And if you don't measure up tomorrow, trust Him again, and again, and keep on trusting Him until He has produced in you the thing He is after. He loves that sort of persistence.

The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament is full of warnings followed by encouragement, like I've just done. The writer keeps talking about ways that people can fall short, then declaring that he is sure that the readers will not fall short in that manner.

At the end of the first such warning, he writes this:

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Heb 4:14-16

Draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. He is not going to turn you away. He knows your weaknesses. He knows how to help you overcome them.

I remember a time when I used to read Hebrews 3 and 4 with fear. The warning seemed so stark, and so familiar: 

"I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’"
Heb 3:10-11

The error that the Hebrews committed repeatedly was the error of imagining that God was going to abandon them, or worse, that He was going to expect the impossible of them without giving them the tools to accomplish what He commanded, like making bricks without straw (see Exodus 5). They thought YHWH was like Pharaoh. "We're going to be slaughtered!" "We're going to die of thirst!" "We're going to die of hunger!" They were willing to return to the relative safety of slavery because they did not recognize Whom it was that was caring for them. They had an orphan mentality. They thought that they were Fatherless.

And meanwhile, He was fully able and willing to care for them, and demonstrated it over and over again.

God was trying to teach them that He loved them and would meet all their needs. He tried for a while, and then realized that they had been ruined; they were not going to learn, but would continue to imagine that they were dealing with a god who was like Pharaoh, or worse, a god who was not even there.

Their punishment was not some eternal hell. It was not even punishment, really. It was just that they would never escape the hardship of their existence. "They will never enter My rest." They lived in the wilderness, and then they died in the wilderness. They never got to experience a good land, flowing with milk and honey.

But the manna never stopped coming. He did provide for them. Only, they never recognized what that meant.

We all face a similar challenge. We lived for a while under the tyrannical rule of the demons, hating and being hated, fearing and being feared, sinning against others and being sinned against ourselves. Then we were rescued out of that existence into God's family. Only, we continued to experience a sort of wilderness in which we experienced hardships, unmet needs, challenges to our faith. We had to trust that God was caring for us even when it seemed as though He was not. We had to learn what sort of God He was.

You meet people all the time who are still living in the wilderness. "God is angry with me," they say. What they mean is, life is hard, and they interpret every hardship as an indication that God does not care for them. 

What is really happening is that God is giving them an opportunity to grow in trust. He is there waiting for them to turn to Him so that He can show them how able He is to meet their needs.

But they have to trust or they never learn the lesson. God does provide some things, but they don't see it as God's provision, and they continue to think of themselves as orphans.

There is a rest available for anybody who allows the difficulty of ordinary life to train them to know God's true character. For those who learn how to run to Him, life eventually becomes a constant joy in His presence, as they live in the confidence that He has provided for every need of theirs.

Those who never learn to trust cannot enter that rest. They live in the wilderness of orphanhood. Then they die, never having experienced the Presence that was available to them all along, and never rejoicing with Him in what He provides.

In the case of the Hebrews, two of them did enjoy the promises along with their children. Joshua, who replaced Moses as the leader of the Hebrews, and Caleb, who became the head of his clan, Judah, both survived and received great blessing from God. They also accomplished great things, empowered by His Spirit, because they learned the lesson of trust. The rest of their generation could have become like them. By trusting, they could have become vigorous, foresightful, courageous. Trusting God would have produced greatness in them, as it did in Joshua and Caleb.

Everybody needs to experience the sort of fear that I produced last time. One cannot find relief from the horror at one's own wretched state until one has recognized that that wretched state exists. To fail to recognize it is to fail to escape it. It does nobody any good to imagine that everything is fine; there is a judgment coming in which the wicked will perish.

And then, everybody needs to experience the hardship of the wilderness, in which we can learn--or not--that God will meet our needs.

Those who learn, eventually enter a rest in which they live in confidence of His ongoing provision. Those who don't, never experience that rest.

And the difference between those two types of people is, the former ran to God for their provision and received it. The latter continued to live as though they were on their own. They also received provision, but they imagined that nobody was caring for them.

So I say to you what the writer of Hebrews said to them in chapter 4: 

"Be diligent to enter that rest..." (v. 11) Don't give in to fear or despair, but continue to hope in Jesus, who "was tempted in every way we are, but did not sin." (v. 15) "Draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (v. 16) God knows what it's like to be you, and He knows how to make you right. Trust Him to do it, and He will certainly bring it to pass.

Enjoy God, and live in peace. I'll be back next time.

Phil Weingart


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