Ah, sweet rest! I hear a lot of people talk about retirement and opportunity to rest and do what they want and I think, “Interesting concept!” But most days I hear people grumble about how busy, tired, exhausted, and overworked they are and would appreciate time to rest. It seems today in our society we are continually looking forward to the next time we can rest, get a long weekend away, or plan the next vacation. Most of the time we come back from our weekends or vacations exclaiming we are exhausted from our time away and we need a vacation from our vacation. We get back to our routines and now there is double the work because we have to do all the things which piled up while we were “resting”. Wouldn’t it be great to experience rest while we work? Or at least rest “after” we work?
Snow White sang the song “Whistle While You Work!” in the famous Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The words are fun and true and perhaps if we can whistle while we work we can also learn how to rest while we work. (Were you humming or singing the song in your head just now?)
God gives us a promise of entering His rest. Hebrews 4:1-5 “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 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. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
Most people might read this section of Scripture and conclude God is speaking only of our rest in heaven when we will eternally cease striving. However God’s Word is alive, energized, and powerful and is not limited to “sometime” in the future but gives us revelation for our lives today! We live victoriously when we view God’s Word as applicable to our current life situations. Far too many Christians live “under” their circumstances instead of above. Relegating this “rest” to future tense leaves us living under our circumstances. Learning how to ingest God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and keep us healthy as well as soak into our spirits, changes us from the inside out. In this manner, we embrace His rest today.
This description in Hebrews of “His rest” does indeed speak of our eternal resting place in heaven but is not limited to that time and place. In fact, the very definition of eternal is “without beginning or end” therefore since eternity has already begun we should enter His rest “Today”! John 17:3 states “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life means knowing God here on earth now and in heaven forever. It begins NOW!
When it says “They shall not enter My rest” God is speaking of the Israelites as they journeyed to the Promised Land. We are told because of their disobedience and complaining they would not enter His rest to the land flowing with milk and honey, a place free from enemy attack. We look forward and are on our journey to the ultimate Promised Land, our resting place, heaven! But this does not mean all we will do in heaven is “rest”. It means in heaven everything we do is in a “state of rest”. No more striving or anxiety. We will still be active and productive in heaven but we will do it without the pressure and tension exerted on earth. However, why not begin to tap into this wonderful rest today and allow His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
We can and should enter His rest here on earth which will truly bring respite to our souls. What will it take? We need to learn from the Israelites, stop complaining and disobeying, and mix the Gospel message with faith so it profits us here on earth. All the busyness of American life without rest in the Lord is the beginning of our end. If we do not slow down and enter His rest now, we are risking far more than overall poor health, heart issues, stress related diseases, divorce, broken families, and the like. We risk our victorious life in Christ here on earth.
Why we would ever choose not to enter His rest is perplexing. There is so much encouragement given to those who mix faith with this promise of rest. In His rest we enjoy clear consciences on earth. His rest sets us free from the yoke and bondage to the law, allowing us to enjoy peace with God in His commands. In His rest we enjoy freedom from the dominion of sin, Satan, and our own flesh – HERE – on earth as it is in heaven. His rest is that place of perfect union with Christ and communion with Holy Spirit where there is joy, peace, and love. We have the privilege of partaking in all good things in Christ here on earth as we wait and prepare to live forever in heaven. Now THAT my friends – is REST!!!!!
In order to experience this kind of rest, we MUST make Jesus our priority in life. Our relationship with Him must take precedence over all else. We must know the Word of God, know this amazing truth we can enter His rest today, and then mix this knowledge and truth with faith that what He has promised He is able to perform. (Romans 4:21) In this Romans passage we see Abraham’s faith mixed with the word of God, profited him in that he became the father of many nations because he did not waver in unbelief. In contrast, the Israelites did not profit because they did not mix faith with the word God spoke to them. We have the same choice. No matter how busy we are, we can learn how to rest in Him in the midst of our activity. And it would be to our advantage here and now to learn it quickly. All it takes is actively exercising the faith He has given to us, mix it with the Word through obedience, and trust Him. That does not sound too difficult does it?
In this Hebrews Scripture we are also given a reminder of the days of creation and how God rested on the seventh day. He speaks of creation as His example and pattern to follow in our lives today. We simply need to do what He did – Work and then rest. He will give believers the ability to finish their work and enjoy their rest. Even today, the Sabbath must be observed in the revelation of our Redeemer and our need to praise and honor Him on His day. The Israelites did not enter His rest, nor will we if we walk in disobedience. I saw a sign while antique shopping recently “How much can I get away with and still get to heaven?” Sometimes this is how we live our lives knowingly or unknowingly. How much complaining and unbelief can I exercise and still get to heaven? How much can I fit into my busy lifestyle and still get to heaven? How much can I fulfill the sinful desires of my flesh and still get to heaven? How much can I “put off” this relationship with Jesus and still get to heaven? We have the extreme privilege of ceasing from disobedience, complaining, and our own works of righteousness to resting in Him and being obedient to His call. What a blessed warning we are given in His Word.
Then there are those who will not enter His spiritual rest either in reception of grace here on earth or in His everlasting glory if they do not believe in Him. As surely as God entered His rest, it is assured that unbelievers, including complaining, disobedient people without faith will be excluded from His rest. This should pierce our hearts and motivate us to both enter His rest and share this gospel message to all. The unbelieving Jews remained in the wilderness and did not enter the Promised Land. Unbelievers will NOT experience salvation here or in heaven. I wonder if the Israelites had thought about future generations (that would be us) if they would have acted differently? I wonder if we think of future generations more often, perhaps we will be motivated to honor Him with obedience for their sake as much as our own.
This brings us back to our busy lifestyles. We must determine the cost of our busyness. Are we preparing for eternity TODAY, or are we preparing for success here on earth knowing someday we will be in heaven? There is no way we can be involved in everything the world would have us be involved in and at the same time enter His rest. People might say they can have both, but the truth is we would only be “trying” really hard to rest. Just as the Israelites needed to make choices about what came out of their mouths and the direction they took, we need to make choices today. Because of their disobedience no one in that generation entered His rest, and we are no different. If we think because we live in the twenty-first century God has changed and does not have the same expectations of us as He had with them, we are only fooling ourselves. God still has expectations of us, and it is to our advantage to listen to His voice and enter His rest. Only believe that as He has promised, He is able to perform His work in and through us! I pray today you will whistle AND rest in your work! And THEN, whistle and rest after your work! It is a great day to be alive! Rejoice and be glad in it!
Father God, thank You for rest! Thank You for the promise of rest both here on earth with You and in heaven with You. Thank You for sweet communion with Your Holy Spirit as we enter Your rest today. Thank You for Your encouragement and the freedom You provide when we enter Your rest. Thank You for providing us the model of work and rest. Forgive us when we choose only work! Teach us how to choose work and rest! Teach us how to activate our faith today and believe You to set us free from yokes, bondages, unhealthy stress, guilt, and shame. We receive revelation now concerning the rest You have prepared for those who love you. We commit to obedience to You and Your Word. We commit to stop complaining about our lives, our exhaustion, and our weariness, and we choose to learn how to enter Your rest today, so that no matter what is happening around us, we find ourselves with You, above our circumstances. In Jesus’ Name! Amen!