Morning Musing: Hebrews 4:10-11

“For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. Let us, then, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

My family is in a season of life when we’re tired just almost all the time. Nearly all of our time these days is occupied by school activities, sports or other extra-curricular activities, or church activities. I’d add work activities to that list, but one of us works at school and the other works at church, so I didn’t feel the need to repeat myself. There aren’t very many days when we just get to rest. We long for them, but that’s just not the season we are in. I wonder sometimes, though, if it’s really our season or merely the choices we make and the priorities we set. Either way, we yearn for rest. The author of Hebrews has been talking about rest, but it’s not the same kind of rest we want. It’s better. Let’s talk about it.

Today is the last day of school for my boys. As the classic Alice Cooper song declares, “School’s out for the summer!” That means a rest from homework (although two of them never really had any homework anyway), from school assignments and projects, from uniform days, and on it goes. For us, it means no more making lunches, driving back and forth to school activities, having to wake them up early, and on it goes. It’s a break. A rest. I wish we did a summer break from work too…

When we think of rest, that’s often the kind of rest we imagine – a pause on pursuing all the normal activities that otherwise occupy most of our time. Vacations are supposed to be restful, although that ideal is rarely matched by reality. It’s not necessarily that we want to do nothing to get rest. (Well, that’s not totally true; I rest best by doing nothing.) More accurately, we want to do different things. We want to do things we want to do rather than things we feel like we are forced to do. (The truth is that we only ever do the things we most want to do, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

At the end of the day, though, even after we manage to achieve this ideal of rest for a season, we’re still tired. Haven’t you experienced that? It’s the now-I-need-a-vacation-to-recover-from-my-vacation effect. It would seem that there is a need for rest in our souls that runs deeper than we imagine. As a matter of fact, there is.

The reason we sometimes feel like our whole lives are spent working even when we are resting is that for far too many folks, their entire lives are spent working even when they are resting. The reason for this doesn’t have anything to do with the things they are doing and everything to do with the condition of their hearts and to whom they belong. One of the great deceptions of sin is that we should belong to no one and nothing except ourselves. That was part of the temptation set before Adam and Eve. The serpent told them they could be like God. Well, if they were like God themselves, then they didn’t have to rely on God to be God for them any longer. They could belong to themselves.

This whole notion can be made to sound very exciting and romantic. You can set your own course through life. You can become whoever you want to be. You can wipe your hands at the end of a long day of work and smile with the satisfaction at all you have accomplished. No one made you do it. You are a law unto yourself. You choose your own path of virtue through this world. Listen to your heart and let that voice be your truest guide. It’s basically the subtext of pretty much every Disney movie ever made.

The trouble here, though, is that when we belong to ourselves, we are responsible for providing for ourselves all the things that God normally would. All of them. Meaning, purpose, an objective standard of right and wrong, a basic framework for why the world has meaning, a framework for making proper valuations of the people and things around us, and on and on this list goes. These aren’t things we normally give much thought to on a daily basis, but the truth is that collectively they function like a computer’s operating system for our lives. For the most part, you never really notice it on a day-to-day basis, yet it’s there all the time allowing all of those other functions to work like you expect them to work. If something goes wrong with a program, you can delete it and try another one. If something goes wrong with the operating system, nothing will work like it should. And without God providing our basic operating system, all of that pressure and expectation falls on our shoulders. That takes a lot of work. A lot of work. And so, even when we are getting rest from keeping our normal load of plates spinning in the air, we’re still tired. So tired. All the time.

It is this much bigger, more encompassing kind of rest that God offers us in Christ. This is the rest He announced at the end of creation. His work was finished. The operating system was built and coded to perfection, and He could rest and let it run. Now, this does not at all mean He simply became a passive observer as deism holds. But the basic framework of creation was completed, and He didn’t have to continue building it any longer. His offer to us is to run our lives on His operating system rather than trying to build our own. But before you try to claim that you’d rather try to build your own anyway, you should know the truth: You don’t have the skills or know-how to successfully build your own. You are not possessed of sufficient wisdom for that task. What’s more, you aren’t going to manage to close that gap at all at any point in your life. If you try to run your life on your own, you are going to give all your time, attention, and energy to building a platform that is full of bugs, doesn’t run smoothly, and is utterly disconnected from reality. You’ll do all of this and then someday your life will come to an end, God’s operating system will take over anyway, and you’ll have wasted your entire life chasing a fantasy that was never going to have a happy ending in the first place.

If you want to experience the kind of rest your soul needs, that rest is available in Christ and nowhere else. Besides, as the end of v. 10 notes, trying to live our lives outside of God’s rest will ultimately set us on a path of disobedience. That is, it will leave us pursuing a world that doesn’t exist, running away from the world that does. There’s no rest to be found there. Stop your striving, and come to find real rest and life in the only place they actually exist.

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