Most children have the experience of planting a seed in a flower pot and watching it grow. Many cannot wait to see if the seed has sprouted so dig it up to check its progress. Most of the time, this ruins the seedling and presents a lesson about patience being a virtue.
Patience is also a virtue when it comes to serving God. Many times, God wants us to wait rather than do something. However, the idea of “Letting go and letting God” is often ridiculed as a pat answer to life’s problems, even an excuse to get out of responsibilities and not do anything. Yet I know myself and know the heart of most of us; we want to be involved in making things happen. Instead of waiting on the Lord for instruction or to see what He has planned, we will assume our will is perfect and if God doesn’t answer prayer and make it happen, we will go ahead and try to do something, anything, to make it happen.
Like a child, I’ve had to learn that obedience includes “be still” as well as “move on.” God’s plans are always perfect, but even if I know what they are, His timing is also perfect. If I get impatient and try to make things happen, I will not only ruin that perfection, but be disobedient.
Today’s Scripture reading has all sorts of interpretation. After a description of God working for six days of creation, then entering into rest, it talks about a rest for the people of God. Some think this means the eternal rest of heaven where we never work again. It could mean that, but it could also mean the rest that happens when I quit striving to make things happen and rest in the power of God to do what needs to be done.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8–11)
This rest also describes the rest of salvation — in that my own works cannot do it. Anyone who wants to know God must stop trying to earn their salvation and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. All who believe in Jesus Christ know this is true. We are saved by grace through faith, not by our own efforts.
There is also a rest after salvation. It is choosing to say to my fleshy efforts, “stop fretting, pushing, trying to make things happen” and trust God. He has a plan and I don’t need to “help” Him make it happen. For instance, before my husband became a Christian, I did all sorts of things to convince him that he needed to trust God. It was only after I let go of all my schemes that the Lord worked in his life. The Lord brought him to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ without me. So these verses can refer to that rest from self-effort, a rest in what God can do.
Other examples come to mind. I’ve seen problems in some of the churches we have attended. My prideful heart thought that I could fix them, or that my ideas were the solution. God showed me that He had other plans, not that my ideas were terrible, but His are always better. I needed to rest from my own works (in the sense of those works of the flesh) and let God do what He wanted to do. Otherwise, I was disobeying Him.
For me, the bottom line is that God offers rest. Some think that being a Christian involves lots of hard work and stress. It can, but that isn’t what God has in mind. He offers a sweet trust in Him that ceases striving because I know and trust that He is taking care of everything that concerns me.
Lord, these past few days have involved lots of physical rest. My heart rate is normal, and the fluid on my lungs is less today than yesterday. I am tired, but enjoying this rest and the time to think about Your will. Instead of my usual busyness, I’m rethinking what You want. While doing, doing, doing might seem as if I’m accomplishing more than what happens when I rest, Your ways are always contrary to mine. I’ve learned much in the past few weeks about walking by faith. Now You are teaching me what it means to cease all my labors (literally and fleshy) and find out more about resting in You.