Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Diligence of Faith

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
Be diligent to enter into rest. Sounds like a paradox. As verse 10 said, “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works a God did from His.” To enter the rest of God, we must cease from our own works just as God rested from His on the seventh day of creation. Still, there is a diligence to which we must attend. But what is it?

Earlier, the author of Hebrews used the illustration of the children of Israel, who wandered in the wilderness for forty years and did not enter the rest God had for them, the Promised Land. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). Nevertheless, the promise of rest remains, even though “those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:6). Put simply, the disobedience of Israel in the wilderness was their failure to believe the promise of God. They were not diligent to believe God; therefore, they did not enter His rest.

To see how this happened, go back to Numbers 13. The Lord said to Moses, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel” (v. 2). Notice the promise: God was giving the land of Canaan to Israel. Moses believed the word of God and sent out twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, on a reconnaissance mission.

Ten came back and reported, “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who dwell in the land are strong … There we saw the giants; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (vv. 27-28, 33).

The other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, having seen the exact same things the ten had, came back and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (v. 30). The ten answered, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (v. 31).

The children of Israel were persuaded by the report of the ten and, in their fear and unbelief, rose up against Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb exhorted them to be diligent in their faith and believe God.
If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them. (Numbers 14:8-9).
Israel persisted in fear and unbelief. Except for Joshua and Caleb, that entire generation never entered the Promised Land but died in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb, however, were privileged to lead the next generation into the land forty years later.

What made the difference? Diligence. Diligence in what? In believing the word of God. The same promise was given to all, but only a few believed. Joshua and Caleb were diligent in faith. The fact that God had promised them the land of Canaan settled the matter for them. Their focus was sustained on God. They saw the same giants the ten had seen but they did not let that, or anything else, distract them from what God had said. Their hearts were lined up with the promise, and when they spoke, their words overflowed from the abundance of their hearts and they spoke in accord with what God had spoken. They were diligent and focused in their faith to believe what God said, so they entered into the rest of God.

Faith is simply believing the Word of God. When we are diligent to believe what He says, we enter into His rest. When we move away from believing His Word, we get back into our own works, our own strength, and end up wandering in the wilderness of fear.