Monday, June 14, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Steven J. Pettit at Derwood Bible Church in Derwood.

Roy Foster was 17 when his father was about to enter glory. His dad, knowing his time on earth was at hand, asked to meet with him alone to share with his son the most important thing in his life.

He said, “Roy, I want you to make me a promise. I want you to never make anything in life more important than the most important thing. Son, the most important thing in life is to grow in God’s wisdom. … Son, the Lord will provide for you and guide you all the days of your life if you don’t stop short. Roy, I have made two provisions for you that I know will bless you forever.” He fumbled to open a box with a Bible in it.

“I am asking you to read this Bible that I purchased for you over the next four years. It will give you just what you need to successfully make it through this important stage in your life. After you graduate, you can read any Bible you want. Son, will you promise me you will read this Bible and will you read it as I have asked you?” Roy promised his dad that he would read it and that he would read one book a week and one chapter of Proverbs a day.

His dad then gave him enough money for one year of school and told his son that God would provide the rest. Roy’s father passed away one week later. Roy began reading the Bible that his father gave to him, but soon put it down because of the busyness of his life. He read to Chapter 20 of Proverbs and even read three books of the Bible.

But college life demanded more of him than he would realize and he loved the social life as well. Roy finished his first year with pretty good grades, but realized that he didn’t have enough money to pay for the next year.

He got a student loan and worked a part-time job and struggled to get through his four years. On one hand he felt proud that he did it all himself, on the other hand he felt a bit confused how his dad said the Lord would provide for his needs.

Roy soon forgot about God altogether. He began a small business that expanded, got married and had three children. Life was good for the most part. … Before long his business fell on hard times, his marriage began to crumble and Roy felt worn out. … One late night when he couldn’t fall asleep, he pulled out the Bible that his dad had given him years before. He picked up where he had left off and began reading Proverbs [Chapter] 20, only this time he couldn’t put the Word down. He came to Chapter 30 and there he read a note that his father inscribed. “Dear Son, I am pleased that you are going on and reading the Word of your heavenly Father. I have left with your Uncle Stan an endowment that will more than pay for your college education and will give you a great start on your choice of career. It’s yours for the asking. That’s all I have to give you, but your heavenly Father will never let you down. … Stay true to the Word. Don’t stop short. Love always, Dad.”

Rest eluded Roy because he stopped short. He not only neglected his earthly father’s counsel, Ray neglected his heavenly Father’s counsel as well. …

[In] Hebrews 4:1-11, nine times in 11 verses we see the word “rest,” a biblical rest that is far better and enduring than a good vacation. …

“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1).

God promises us that we will experience rest as long as we don’t stop short of it. The “therefore” is there for a reminder that what was true of Chapter 3 is true of Chapter 4. The Israelites had failed to enter their rest, a land flowing with milk and honey called the land of Canaan. … But because they feared men more than God, they rebelled and disobeyed their heavenly Father’s commands. Their hearts grew hard and they stopped listening to His Word and refused to mix faith with what they knew to be true.

They chose a path of least resistance, a wide road that led to a wilderness wandering and they ended up rotting in a dry, crusty desert. They stopped short of God’s promised rest.

Thousands of years later, the writer of Hebrews says to all believers: Don’t stop short of God’s rest.

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