Your True Retirement Plan
We probably all have bank accounts with savings, and maybe investments and 401(k)s. Wisdom would suggest that while we trust God we also should be good stewards and save. You want to have in inheritance—at the end of the road of your work life, you want to have a nest egg. This doesn’t make you greedy, in most cases it means you were prudent. But all of this should make us ask, where is my real inheritance? What is the real price? Where, or better, in whom is my true retirement.
Our life is hidden in Christ and so all true rest is in Him. As Hebrews 4:9 says “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” There is a true rest, dare we say a real retirement, for those of us who are in Christ, if we remain steadfast until the end.
Heb. 3:14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
What does this mean? While they may at times backslide and we all struggle with sin, the genuine believer perseveres to the end. You don’t punch off the clock early, you don’t get an early retirement where you coast into eternal life. We continue to strive in the faith, to press on as Paul speaks of it in Phil 3:14.
How do I live right now in light of my coming retirement in Christ?
(1) Are you in some kind of trial? Do not lose heart. Do not doubt the goodness of the grace of God and His kindness towards you in Christ. You belong to Jesus. You have been adopted and are co-heirs with Christ. Your retirement plan is secure and the Holy Spirit is given to you as a down payment of this plan.
(2) Is your conscience convicting you? Confess your sins to the Lord. Hebrews reminds us we have the merciful and faithful high priest. 1 John tells us that we have an Advocate in heaven and He is absolutely faithful and just and will cleanse us. But don’t stand idly by and let your conscience convict you, flee to the cross.
(3) Are you discouraged? We all at points in our Christians life will get discouraged. Things aren’t working like we planned. Maybe you assumed, rightly or wrongly, that something in life would be different or would go more smoothly. Maybe in some situation you are banging your head against the wall saying to yourself, “why do I keep trying?” Do not lose heart. Do not stop persevering in godliness and in responding in ways that seek to honor the Lord.
(4) Are you tempted by apathy? Sometimes in our Christian life, we wonder why we even bother. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe we feel like it has been nothing but misery and hardship, what is the point of doing it the right way. We become apathetic, “I don’t want to push on for the prize.” Apathy is subtle. It is like in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the hare decides to just take a little break and rest. How many times have we seen Christians who just “take a little break” from church attendance or from reading their Bibles or from prayer and then months later they discover that they have no desire for God and the things of God?
When it comes to discouragement and apathy be wary of their subtlety. They can become like a wedge that opens the door to a much greater discontentment and even a denial of Christ. In Hebrews, it seems clear that the audience was facing some kind of struggle that was leading to temptation. It seems the audience was tempted to take the easy path, to do something that would be a denial of the Christian faith—perhaps rejecting the deity of Christ and even making compromise with their former Judaism. One could easily imagine a scenario where someone rationalized, “Well look, I can still call Jesus the Messiah, and even a really high exalted figure like an angel, and I can fellowship just fine with all my Jewish friends, I’ll just fudge of a little calling him truly God so I can fit in.” This sort of simple rationalization can be such a slippery slope to denying Christ and walking away. For some of us, those temptations to fudge aren’t on doctrine but on practice and daily living.
If we believe the parable of the sower, there are lots of people who have in the trials of life walked away from the faith. From the parable and from life experiences, we often see that those who walk away from the faith didn’t start with a big step and a fanfare “I am denying Christ” [although some do, indeed, do it this way]. It’s the subtle steps and compromises that are far more worrisome because in the deception of them we don’t see them coming. I think this is why Hebrews warns:
Heb. 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
You didn’t start with a root of bitterness but somewhere along the way it came up like a weed. You didn’t pull it out and maybe you even nursed it.
If you are discouraged, do not nurse it. Do not let it grow. Remember Christ and the Sabbath rest that remains for you in Him. Persevere in your faith and in doing the right thing in response to your trials and hardship. Equally, persevere in the good seasons. Remember, the hare decided to take his break when he was winning. Don’t coast in the Christian life when you are in the good seasons.
Remember that you have an inheritance that is coming. While it has been given to you by grace alone in Christ alone, remember that God is working in you both to will and to do those things that are in a response to His grace. You have a path to walk in this life, it is a path of trust and obedience. Your rest is coming. Your ultimate rest is not today, and it may not be tomorrow, or for another sixty years, if the Lord tarries. You may even now feel like crying out “How Long ‘O Lord?” But rest assured, your rest in Christ is secure. Trust Him. If you feel like you cannot hang out to Him, know that He is hanging on to you. His 401(k) plan for you, the resurrection of your body and the New Heavens and Earth, is right around the corner, and it will not fluctuate or collapse like the stock market or the investments of this life.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.