“Let us therefore strive to enter [God’s] rest”Hebrews 4:11
“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)
“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)
In other words, don’t miss this.
That’s the urgent cry of the book of Hebrews as the author calls believers to continue believing the gospel. Persecution and hardship were leading some to consider turning away from following Christ. So the author wrote to remind them of the supremacy of Christ, what Christ accomplished through the cross, and the help and hope Christ gives us to persevere.
In verse 11 of chapter 3, he urged the Hebrews to “strive to enter [God’s] rest.” Earlier in verse 3 of the same chapter, he said, “those who believe” are the ones who enter God’s rest. So striving to enter God’s rest means striving to believe.
But how do we do that practically? How do we “strive” to believe? How do we cling to the gospel when hardship, sickness, poverty, or abuse try to steal away our faith?
Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, here are five helps for believers as you strive to continue believing the hope of the gospel day by day.
In Mark 9, a fatigued father brings before Jesus his son who had been ravaged by an unclean spirit most of his life. After Jesus’ disciples couldn’t help him, the man says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus responds by saying, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” The man’s heartfelt response is “I believe; help my unbelief!”
What a perfect reminder for those of us who believe yet are tempted toward unbelief. We can and should pray and ask for help believing. When it gets difficult to believe because of hard things in our life, we can pray knowing we have a God who hears and helps his children. In fact, none of the other four ways I mention below can be done on our own apart from the Spirit’s help. So praying is critical to each one.
Rest from your work
Striving to believe at it’s core involves striving to rest from own work at dealing with our sin and learning to trust Christ’s work instead. Even as believers we struggle with this. We each have tendencies as to how we try to deal with our sin and they try to creep back in every day.
Some try to “outweigh” their sin with good deeds. In other words, they believe the popular lie that God weighs out their good deeds against their bad deeds and only those whose scale dips to the good deeds will enter God’s eternal rest.
In contrast to those who puff themselves up with good deeds, some turn to tearing others down. They try to distract from their own sin by drawing attention to the sin of others. Whether it be gossip or emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, they think that if they can make other people’s faults more obvious, than their own standing before God will somehow increase by comparison. I’m ashamed to admit this is my tendency.
Many others deal with their sin by not dealing with it at all. Some go through life pretending they have no sin to deal with. Others try to cover the hurt of their sin by finding comfort apart from Christ. They use food, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, power, family, sports, hobbies or anything else to try and mask the problem of sin in their life.
There are many other ways we try to deal with our own sins beyond these three. The point is it’s critically important for each of us to recognize when we stray from the gospel and fall back into our own efforts of self-righteousness.
Trust Christ’s work
As we recognize our attempts at dealing with our own sin, we need to then repent and return to Christ’s work on our behalf instead. We repent of our own inadequate actions (or our own inaction) and turn to Christ’s perfect actions for us instead. Trusting Christ’s work is how he saves you and how he keeps you. Trusting in Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death on the cross, and powerful resurrection to deal with your sins is your only hope. Don’t let your temporary circumstances lead you astray from God’s eternal rest.
Trust God’s promises
But our minds and hearts can and often do lead us astray, even as believers. Our circumstances and our feelings lie to us. When tragedy strikes, a lie will pop up questioning where God is and how he could let it happen. That’s why Scripture calls us to “incline our hearts toward” and “set our minds on” what is true of God and what he has promised to do for us. (Joshua 24:23 and Romans 8:5-8) Therefore, along with knowing what God has already done for us through Christ’s work, we also need to know what he has promised to do for us. Search Scripture and begin to store up for yourself a rich collection of God’s promises that you can run to when the trouble starts and the lies follow. As I read the Bible, every time I come across a promise from God I highlight it blue so I can return to them easily later on. I also have my favorite promise (Isaiah 41:10) written and posted next to my desk at work. Find a way that works for you to keep God’s promises in the foreground of your mind.
Exhort one another
The problem with sin, lies, and falling into unbelief is that we often don’t recognize it in our own lives. This is why the author of Hebrews calls us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Exhort means to strongly encourage or urge someone to do something. We tend to recognize sin in other people much more than we do in ourselves. If this is done, with a hardened heart, it will lead to pain and hurt as we tear people down. But if this is done properly and prayerfully in humility with love for God’s glory, we will help one another continue believing the gospel and thereby grow in the likeness of Christ. So we desperately need other believers to remind us to believe.
So Don’t Stop Believing
Jesus is not only the author or founder of our faith, but he’s also the perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) So if you feel like your beginning to lose hope, strive to believe. As you do you can rejoice knowing that Christ is the one who will be doing the work in and through you to keep you to the end.