We live in a world designed to rob us of inner peace, to drive us crazy with frustration, turmoil, and fear. What we need is the ability to rest. It just so happens that what we need is exactly what God wants us to have. And so He holds out to each of us the possibility of finding true rest, that inner peace and tranquility through which alone we will be able to become heroes in the fray.
The only "problem" with His offer is that we can take Him up on it only by faith. Every one of us will choose whether to accept or reject His rest. If we accept it, we will be equipped to move on to spiritual greatness. If we reject it, we will waste our lives in bitterness in the wilderness.
Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. (HEB 4:1)
The author of Hebrews is writing to warn the Jewish believers in Jerusalem that God's judgment is coming on the nation. He wants these people, who have turned away from the reality of fellowship with Jesus Christ to dead ritual, to have a healthy fear of one thing: failing to enter the faith-rest life. To teach this lesson, he points—beginning in Hebrews 3—to Moses and the Exodus generation.
One year after their exodus from Egypt, the Jews reached Kadesh-Barnea near the border of Canaan, the promised land. God had given His Word that in that land He would give them rest. He told Moses to send 12 men to spy out the land (Num 13). When the 12 came back, they brought a report of a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, yet a land with fortified cities and strong inhabitants. Two of the men—Joshua and Caleb—were all for going in and taking the land. They knew, because God had promised, that they could conquer it. But the other ten convinced the people that they were not able, that the enemies were too strong, that the land would devour them. Joshua and Caleb had faith-rest. The others did not.
So God took the Exodus generation on a circuit through the wilderness for 39 more years, and every test that came their way was a test of their ability to rest in faith. In 1Co 10, Paul describes what took place during those years. Every time God tested them, they failed. He pulled them miraculously out of one difficulty after another, testing them over and over again looking for a spark of faith. He never found one. And so every adult in that generation—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died in the wilderness.
The land of Canaan is not a picture of Heaven; it is a picture of the faith-rest life. In the promised land there were giants; there were enemies to fight. But the Jews were not expected to go in alone; with them was the God who had proved He is able to deliver. The younger generation went in and did what their parents could have done; they claimed the land by faith, by constantly obeying in faith-rest.
When the author of Hebrews says, "Let us fear" (HEB 4:1), he is urging his generation to learn the lesson from the Exodus generation. He is saying, "They failed; you can too. Their children succeeded; you can too. And this is one place where you ought to be terrified of failure."
None of us knows how many years of life on this earth God has allotted to us. Whatever our individual allotment, it is just enough for us to fulfill the destiny God has set before us. There is no time to waste. As believers we ought to be afraid of living out our lives in a wilderness experience—test-failure, test-failure, test-failure. We should not fear death; we should not fear our enemies; we should not even fear sin. But we ought to fear failing to take God at His Word, failing to enter the promised land.
God has the same kind of experience waiting for us, the same promise of blessing and victory and joy that he had for the people in the Exodus generation. The author does not want these people to "come short," from hustereo. The word means "to fall down on the track and fail to finish."
God planned for every believer to progress from salvation pictured in the Passover and the Exodus, through testing and spiritual growth pictured in the trek through the wilderness, to maturity pictured in the Canaan experience. And what is waiting in the land of spiritual maturity? Great blessings and giants.
What the Exodus generation had faced in the wilderness looked small compared to what they saw ahead in the promised land. So they let their fears stop them at the border. But their children did not. They said, "We can take it." And so at Jericho they faced their first big test. All God wanted to find out was how well they could take orders. He told them He did not want them to do a thing except march around this fortified city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Do those instructions sound at all strange?
If we want to enter the faith-rest life, we should study those instructions, because someday we will be given orders just as strange. When we—in our spiritual growth—come to the point of cracking the maturity barrier and entering the promised land, we will face a fortified city, and it will probably be one inside us. God will likely give us instructions that sound totally illogical. It is His way of asking, "Do you trust Me? How well can you do nothing? How well can you rest?" Jericho was a test of the Jews' ability to rest. Every one of us will face a Jericho somewhere in our lives.
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest. (HEB 4:2-3)
God made provision for the Exodus generation, but they failed because they did not believe. They had one of the greatest Bible teachers in all of history and yet all they could do was criticize. They knew all of Moses' faults. They could always find things that Moses did that he should not do and things he did not do that he should have done. But their problem was not the communicator. Their problem was that they never mingled the message with faith. Moses constantly challenged them to believe God and His promises. But they would not.
Now the first-century author of Hebrews is saying, "We have had the same message preached to us. Are we going to believe or doubt. If we believe, we will enter the promised land. If we fail, we will live in the wilderness."
Until we learn the principle of doing nothing in our faith, of standing still and simply believing that the battle is the Lord's, we will not see victory. God does not deliver through strength or power or speed; He delivers through His Spirit.
This is not to say we will not be afraid of the giants. In fact, it is our fears that should constantly drive us to fellowship, to occupation with the person of Jesus Christ. As we keep on believing, we enter a new realm of life, the realm of faith. The consistency of passing tests in fellowship will bring us to the place of rest.
This place of rest is not in the world; it is not outside us. The refuge God designed for us—the place where we can be refreshed and strengthened for the battles of life—is in our souls, and its door only opens to faith.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Chris Jesus. (PHI 4:6-7)
"Be anxious for nothing" is the verb merimnao, a present, active, imperative, with the negative medeis, "nothing." Merimnao means "to be anxious, troubled, fretful; to worry." The phrase literally means, "Stop worrying!" By using this particular construction, Paul is urging the Philippians to stop doing something they are habitually doing: "Stop being anxious."
"In everything" is simply the positive of "nothing." The "nothing" says, "Don't worry." The "everything" says, "Give thanks." They are two sides of the same coin.
Paul uses four different words for prayer to explain the alternative to anxiety. "Prayer" is proseuchomai, meaning "to approach face to face." This is a word used only of prayer to God. By praying to Him we admit that He is able to take care of our needs.
"Supplication," deesis, means "to ask for something, to make a petition." Deesis is used for prayer that recognizes great personal need. The giants in the promised land are there to make us realize that we cannot do anything on our own. We need God.
"Thanksgiving" is eucharistia. The root of this word is charis, "grace." When we give thanks, we acknowledge that everything comes to us from the grace of God. "Request" is from aiteo, a word used for petitions made to someone who is superior to the petitioner.
When we find ourselves tempted to be anxious, if we will simply go face-to-face to God, communicate our needs and desires, and give Him thanks for the situation and for the solutions He has already provided, then we will have peace.
This is not just any peace, but the peace of God. The definite article indicates that this is specifically God's peace, the peace that He has all the time. God is never ruffled, never upset, never anxious. The perfect peace of God reflects His control of all circumstances This peace is above and beyond all comprehension, above all human reason and beyond all human ability to grasp.
This is not a peace man can produce. It is the peace that only God has, but that we can share. Eirene is peace that results from reconciliation (ROM 5:1). It is the birthright of every believer. Jesus warned that in this world we will have tribulation (JOH 16:33). But with the warning, He gave a promise of His peace—the only power that can see us through the tribulation (JOH 14:27, JOH 16:33).
The peace Jesus Christ gives will guard our hearts and minds. The word "guard" is phoureo. It refers to a garrison, to the posting of warriors on guard. When the guard has been mounted, the city is safe. When the peace of God becomes the garrison of our souls, we have an absolutely secure place to rest and find refreshment even in the heat of battle.
Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions' den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you."
And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel.
Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him and his sleep fled from him.
Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den.
And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?"
Then Daniel spoke to the king, "0 king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, 0 King, I have committed no crime."
Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God."(DAN 6:16-23)
In this wonderful illustration of faith-rest at work we see a king pacing in a palace and Daniel resting in a pit. King Darius, who had been tricked into signing an injunction that would condemn this faithful commissioner to death, was deeply distressed at the prospect of feeding Daniel to the lions. But there was nothing he could do—except entrust Daniel to God.
Darius—surrounded by luxury and abundance—spent a miserable, sleepless night. Because he did not know how to rest, the king had to rush out in the morning to see if what he feared would happen had happened. The believer, by the way, who is waiting on God never has to hurry. God is never in a hurry and neither are those who rest in Him.
When the king heard from Daniel's lips that God had been able to deliver him, he was delighted. This is the life of those who live in the wilderness—up and down, up and down, their emotions always swinging wildly back and forth. They are very happy and then suddenly they are very miserable, and then just as suddenly they are very happy again.
But Daniel knew how to trust his God. He did not need anything changed. He was not living under his circumstances, and so no matter how hungry the lions looked, Daniel was able to relax. He got a good night's rest. Nothing puts the enemy to shame like faith-rest in the believer.