One day, Philipp Melanchthon told his friend Martin Luther, “Martin, this day we will discuss the governance of the universe.” Luther answered, “This day, you and I will go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God.” What allowed Luther to respond in this way? His knowledge and belief that God could take care of things. As we move close to God, we realize that he will take care of things, and we can rest.
(Quote taken from http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/10497/heb07.html)
Actually, I read quite a lot of commentaries as for that specific issue and every time while reading another exposition, I bent my brows because I saw that almost everything that was written referred to eternal life AFTER death. Certainly, it is not wrong to say that the rest we will experience after this life full of trials, suffering, and pain will be of another and deeper kind than that rest we might experience right now, BUT…
Suddenly I found a short explanation of Hebrews 4:10 in The Geneva Study Bible that really hit home.
4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his.
(c) As God rested the seventh day, so must we rest from our works, that is, from those things that proceed from our corrupt nature.
Yay!! That was indeed what I was looking for! Not that I had not already guessed that my doing all day long has still been a mixture of listening to God’s leading and to those voices inside my head that still “urge” me to do this and that RIGHT NOW – and by no means later. 😛 However, despite having often been convinced that the Lord wanted me to rest from those works that sprang from my old you-must-do-it-now self, I simultaneously felt somehow “in bondage” of my old habits of thinking and doing. Although I was recently able to write about how important it is to feel God’s peace whenever we do something (cf. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/peace-be-unto-you/), I lost that peace time and again. And the worst of it all, I knew WHY!! 🙄
So, what to do when you know what is right, yet keep doing the wrong things because you think you ought to please others more than God and yourself who rests IN HIM? As an illustration I’ll give you now two examples which seem to be rather similar at first sight, yet one work was God’s doing in me and the other my old self that had listened to Satan.
Earlier this week I picked up my daughter Sarah in the city and we were heading home by foot. It was rather late and we were both hungry. Initially I had thought about buying some pizza so that we could eat earlier than we could have if I had cooked dinner that late. Alas, our Italian pizza baker who sells the best pizza in Fürth – as far as I know – had temporarily closed his shop because of some dusty demolition works from a large construction site nearby. Hmmm… disappointed….and hungry…
Suddenly, while we had been walking at a smart pace, a homeless man who looked rather sad stopped us and asked for a ridiculously small amount of money. At that very moment I only felt compassion and the inclination to weep. Actually, I felt free to give him any amount of money without regret (although I am neither rich nor wealthy), simply feeling deep thankfulness toward God that He had counted me worthy to do something for Him.
Well….not so some years ago.
I remember that it was a sunny summer day and I had gone on errands. Walking down the street while enjoying the presence of the Lord, I only had to buy a few things and there was not much money in my purse. Still in a good mood, I felt that an Indian or Pakistani woman (a fortune teller like many here) had been watching me and while doing so, she would approach me from the other side of the street. She was smiling, too, but I immediately felt that her smile was false.
Did I take heed of my first impression? Alas, no. 😦
Instead, as she stopped me and asked me in an undertone of aggressiveness and hatred – though still smiling – whether I would pay her for reading my aura, I answered, “No, I am a Christian and don’t believe that this is a good thing.” Her “smiling hatred” increased. Since I had not dared to leave her, she then began to take control of our rather one-sided conversation. The woman began to complain about how happy I had to be as a Christian who loved all people and who would be able to give to others what they needed. Yes, you can bet that at that very moment some Scriptures were running through my mind.
“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Mt 5:39-42 ESV)
Everything in me screamed, “Susanne – RUN!!!” But Susanne seemed to stand riveted to the spot and kept listening to that woman’s lamenting and whining about her poor life (so many children, no money…blah blah blah) that would be so much worse than mine, while her eyes appeared to kill me.
Do I need to tell you that I felt both “convicted” by her words and the Scriptures I had been reminded of? 🙄 Well, finally as she “asked” me to give her money even though I had refused to accept her service offered, she knew that she wanted to receive at least 10 Euros (11.35 $). However, Susanne felt forced to give her 20 because IT IS WRITTEN.
Actually, after I had eventually dared to leave her, I felt worn out, robbed, and had not enough money to buy everything I needed. I was so sad about not being able to do what God wanted me to do – in my opinion and according to the written Word (!) – that I simply felt like a failure. Of course, another Scripture that made me feel even more “convicted” came to mind,
“…and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Heb 10:34 ESV)
I think it’s not necessary to tell anyone which work was the one God had prepared beforehand for me (my new self) and which one was a work that had been imposed on me (my old self) through Satan’s deceitful tricks he had instilled into my mind.
So, not every work is a good work in the eyes of God. I believe it is necessary to get more and more accustomed to His still and small voice that is always there to tell us what to do and what to omit. It is His peace and the whole fruit of the Spirit that makes the difference, the difference of entering His rest through obedience toward His voice (cf. Heb 4:7) or losing His rest again by listening to Satan.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10 ESV)
God’s Holy Spirit does not give us rule books or principles we ought to act upon without asking Him before, instead, He challenges us to leave our old ways of thinking and doing and to first rest in Him, exclusively doing these works He planned for us so that we might never leave His rest again and enjoy Him in an ever increasing measure, day by day.