Summary: God has promised us a Sabbath Rest, but we must give effort in order to enter that rest.
Enter into His Rest
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 4:9-13
The word that keeps popping up in Hebrews 4 is the word “rest.” That word means a lot more to me now than it did when I was a teen-ager. Back then, I could stay up all night and not think a thing about it. But now I notice myself beginning to fade before 10 p.m. --- and I’m definitely a “gonner” by midnight. So now days when I hear the word REST, my ears perk up.
By the way, the subject of rest reminds me about this story I heard about a father who was playing cops and robbers with his 3 active sons in the back yard after dinner.
One of the boys "shot" his dad and yelled, "Bang! You’re dead!"
The dad fell dramatically to the ground. But then, he just lay there without moving. A watching neighbor ran over to see if he had been hurt in the fall.
When the neighbor bent over him, the overworked father opened one eye and said, "Shhh. Don’t give me away. This is the only chance I’ve had to rest all day."
If REST sounds good to you, listen to this PROMISE in Hebrews 4:1.
1. The Promise
1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. Hebrews 4:1
This is a specific kind of rest. It is his rest. So what exactly IS God’s rest? Hebrews calls it a SABBATH REST. The Bible says that God created the world and then he “rested” on the 7th day. But Sabbath REST does NOT mean God never did anything again. What it DOES mean is that God took the time to enjoy the creative work He had completed.
There is something satisfying about completing a project. Part of the satisfaction is to stand there (or even better, to sit there) and admire the finished product. That is how God rested on the first Sabbath day.
Hebrews also describes a Sabbath Rest when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. When the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, they enjoyed REST. But that does not mean they sat around eating bon-bons. They had battles to fight. They had land to develop and settle. Entering God’s REST meant they could WIN their battles and ENJOY their new home.
Today God invites YOU to enter his rest. If you enter God’s rest, you need to know that you will still have battles to fight. The difference is that now you can WIN those battles. And now you can ENJOY your safe new home in Christ.
When Jesus died on the cross he cried out: IT IS FINISHED. The price for your salvation was paid in full. Because of Jesus, we do not have to WORK to try to be good enough for salvation. God’s redemptive work is completely FINISHED. We can REST in the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ.
But some of us continue to carry the heavy burden of tying to be “good enough.” I heard a modern Parable that illustrates this. In the Parable, the driver of a wagon was on his way to market when he overtook an old man carrying a heavy load. Taking compassion on him, the driver invited the old man to ride in the wagon. Gratefully the old man accepted. After a few minutes, the driver turned to see how the man was doing. To his surprise, he found him still straining under the heavy weight. He had not taken the burden off his shoulders. The old man explained, “I knew you would carry me, but I did not know you would also carry my burden.”
Too many Christians continue to carry the heavy burden of trying to be “good enough” to please God. We work feverishly to gain God’s approval by doing religious stuff. We don’t understand that Jesus’ finished work on the cross gave us permission to REST.
So how can we actually experience that wonderful REST? Hebrews 4:11 gives some surprising advice:
2. The Plan
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest … Hebrews 4:11
How can effort lead to rest? Can you imagine trying to get to sleep at night by exerting great effort? When you go to bed tonight, try scrunching your eyes tightly shut. Tense up all your muscles. Grit your teeth and chant: sleep sleep sleep. See how that works out. (I always wonder why people say, “Sleep tight.” I figure, if anything, I want to sleep loose. That sounds more like “rest” to me!)
Giving effort does NOT mean we need to try harder and harder and get busier and busier doing more and more so we can somehow EARN our REST. God’s REST comes by simple FAITH in the FINISHED work of Christ. So what about that word effort? How can we make every effort to enter that rest? The answer is found in the next verse.