On Failed Plans

On Failed Plans & Future Rest

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. – Hebrews 4:9
Tonight marks two weeks of missed meetings. The snow outside has reminded us all how fragile our plans are, with our carefully managed schedules and myriad of commitments. I imagine many are suffering from the heartsickness of canceled plans and unfulfilled hopes. Life’s fragility may leave your heart feeling frigid toward faith, hope and love. What good are those things when life is so unstable? It is easy for life to feel like the end of a game of Jenga– lots of work on the verge of collapse.

The BCLR Bible reading plan includes Hebrews 4 in today’s reading. The idea of rest is important in this chapter. It is not about a rest here on earth, but the rest that those who trust in Christ will share with him if we hold our confidence in him (3:14). This rest is part of the heavenly calling that the holy brothers and sisters have (3:1). And the rest that is part of the heavenly calling is itself part of what it means to be brought to glory by Christ (2:10). And the glory that Christ has to share with us is the glory that he won when he made purification for sins and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:3). The rest, then, that remains for God’s people is the rest that comes when all the saints are welcomed to rest with Jesus our great High Priest, all our suffering over (1:9-10) and all our sin paid for (2:17). The rest saints wait for is not in doubt; Christ is holding a place for all those who strive to enter it (4:11).

Plans fail. Roads get icy. Power goes out. In the end, our personal plans are only as stable and predictable as the weather. That’s not very stable or predictable. It’s easy to be disappointed by life when we hope for rest now apart from Christ rather than patiently waiting for the rest that comes once we’re in his presence.

There’s nothing wrong with being sad when hopes are dashed. The people that you miss when you can’t be with them are the people that you love. A certain kind of limited faith in plans is normal, and it’s normal to feel betrayed when what we believed in doesn’t hold up.

Perhaps this is why Hebrews 4:9 sticks out to me as I think of missing another Wednesday night. I had hoped to be with you. I miss being with the people I won’t see at church tonight. Arkansas’ trusty mild Februarys have betrayed me.

Nevertheless, as I sit in a house that’s chillier and darker than normal to conserve electricity, I discover a warmth in me at the thought that there remains a rest for all of God’s saints. The thought of the bright glow of Christ’s glory at the Father’s right hand reminds me that I have a hope that cannot be dashed. The memory of Christ’s suffering reminds me that no rest is complete away from his presence who loved us by tasting death for us. And the promise of entering that rest with him assures me that I will never be betrayed because Christ is faithful over all God’s house, and I am part of his house.

It’s true that life is like the end of a game of Jenga. All your plans may fall apart. And you may feel like you are too. But be encouraged: you are not working toward your own rest. You are working while you wait to join Christ in his (4:10; Rev. 14:13). No amount of lost work is wasted as long as it is motivated by obedience to Christ’s commands and not vain ambition.

The promised rest for God’s people is not subject to inclement weather. There is no fragility with God, only steadiness. God’s plan cannot be canceled, and hope in Christ will never go unfulfilled. It only remains for us to know God’s plans and match our hope with God’s plans and promises. If you find yourself feeling cold toward faith, hope and love this evening, imagine Christ in glory at the Father’s right hand, seated in glory because all his work is done, and one day ours will be too.
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