Abundant Life

Striving to Rest: Unpacking Another Paradox of Faith

Ah, rest…feet up, lounging beside still waters…

The Good Shepherd promises rest for His Beloved, and what a blessing that refreshment is! Ceasing from self, from striving—there is victorious redemption when we surrender, kneeling before the Cross where our Savior cried out “it is finished.”

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:11 ESV

Wait, what?

If your peace-filled bubble just popped, don’t set aside your sweet tea and run for the hills just yet! This is glorious striving for a rest beyond compare…

Hebrews 3:12-14 says,

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

It was unbelief that prevented the Israelites from entering God’s rest. It is unbelief that still leads us astray today. We are saved by grace, through faith. And what is faith? The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Read more about faith HERE.)

Assurance. Conviction. Two words, dare I say, foundational to active, engaged living. Assurance births endurance. Conviction incites steadfastness. When the writer of Hebrews tells us to strive to enter God’s rest, the root word is spoudazo, and means to hasten, labor, and give diligence to.

We don’t come to Jesus, find salvation, then sit back and slumber by the beach till called home to glory. Sin is deceitful; it steals, kills, and destroys. We are overcomers because of Christ, by faith, and Paul tells us to fight the good fight of faith. It is a fight! Yuck! I wonder if that’s why Jesus’s parable of the sower mentions some seeds falling on rocky ground, growing no root, and eventually withering from offense at the Word (Matthew 13:20-21).

We love pleasure. We love luxury. We love a promise of exponential favor minus expense. Grace whets our appetites, and to an extent, rightly so, for none are righteous on our own accord. We all fall short of salvation. But, though the gift is free, it comes with new expenditure—a maintenance charge, perhaps. Indeed, we are told to count the cost.

So, what is the cost? Forsaking the old and embracing the new. Our sin, our very existence, dies on the cross and we are raised to new life by the Spirit (Galatians 2:20).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:11-13 ESV

Renouncing. Forsaking. Effort is required, and that’s where the fight gets downright dirty! It’s messy, it’s hard.

  • Emotions take us captive, desiring to be recognized as truth apart from the Absolute truth.
  • Worldly mindsets entice and ensnare with the belief that we can be more and have more right here and now.

Yet, the call remains: strive to enter rest. There’s a completeness to this paradoxical concept. The rest being spoken of is the fulfillment of God’s promise of an eternal resting place. It’s a calming, a settling, of the winds of sorrow, strife, and sin. This side of heaven we get glimpses of this rest by the Holy Spirit. The promise nourishes the hearts of saints willing to strive by faith for faith—via the cross into the throne room of heaven—to find all they need (Hebrews 4:16).

Consider Hebrews 4:1, which tells us to fear, lest any seem to have failed to reach God’s rest. Fear! Yes!

Philippians 2:12 declares, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

God’s rest is a promise worth fighting for, worth contending for. It’s a blessed hope to fear over, lest we miss it.

2 Corinthians 7:1 says, since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

We are cleansed by the Word, by an agreement with and willingness to walk according to God’s word. Godly fear, founded in faith, is the beginning of wisdom.

  • Wisdom directs in truth.
  • Truth points to obedience.
  • Obedience requires effort.
  • Effort promises rest.

Our fight is blessed. Our strength to endure is glorified. Our promised rest is assured.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
– Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV

Jesus promises rest, and that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This is the key: the striving is not in self-sufficiency. It’s Spirit-led, it’s Spirit-enabled, which means there’s no room for self-exertion. There’s no strain when operating beyond the realm of the physical. If your striving is exhausting, you are striving in vain.

Coming to Jesus, weary and heavy-laden, we are promised a refreshing outpouring of rest by grace through surrender. Striving for the fulfillment of God’s rest is the faith-filled exertion to deny our flesh, take up our cross, and follow Jesus in truth. Though the wording sounds oppositional, it’s intricately woven in truth and therefore crowned as a glorious pursuit.

Strive, from humility. Strive, in faith. Surely abundant provision awaits such pilgrimages! Blessed assurance is yours and mine. He who promised is faithful.

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