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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11-13, ESV)
‘Hurry up and slow down,’ ‘Slower is faster,’ ‘Strive to rest.’ These are paradoxical statements, the last one coming from our letter to the Hebrews. The author has been urging on his readers, from Psalm 95, that they need to believe the good news and obey it if they want to enter God’s rest. If they depart from Christianity they will be leaving that rest just like the Israelites did in the wilderness. They must hear God’s voice, which is saying, “Today” don’t harden your heart. And though it seems contradictory, they need to strive, labor, work to enter God’s rest, His spiritual and Sabbath rest, which is the ceasing of our good works as a means of gaining His favor.
Going back to our former manner of life will always mean going back to some form of works salvation. The gospel is the end of works as a means of being rescued. It is giving up trying to swim to shore from a thousand miles out in the ocean. It is giving up treading water. It is allowing that I am drowning and can’t save myself and taking His life preserver when it is offered to us, Jesus Christ the Son, who took on flesh to rescue his brothers and sisters.
This is the message of Psalm 95 and as the word of God it is a living and active sword that is fine-edged enough to cut down to our hidden motives and expose our hardened hearts. It is telling us not to abandon our hope in Christ to a hope resting upon our fragile sense of self-reliance. If we “strive” to restore our confidence in the gospel that first saved us and brought us unspeakable joy, we will find rest at the end of that rainbow. If we don’t, there is a certainty of a day of accounting before His eyes that will penetrate our facades and show us how naked we really are.
“Striving” for you might look like rehearsing your initial excitement and certainty that the gospel really was your rescue. Or it might look like talking to those in the faith you respect and who have been producing fruit for many years to see how they have worked through the doubts about Christianity. Or it might mean fully dedicating yourself to understanding the Scriptures and their defense, that is, studying apologetics or the defense of the faith. It might mean going to a quiet place as frequently as needed to pour out your concerns to God and to really listen to Him in return. Whatever it looks like for you it will be striving, that is, an expense of energy for something that matters more than anything else. Is it still “today” and are you still hearing God call you to this striving?
Don’t be guilty of resisting a rest.