What exactly is rest? For the life of a Christ follower it is to have faith, trusting in the work of our Heavenly Father. To stop our own efforts, cease from our own labors and allow Christ to really move in and through our lives.
Our Thursday Ladies group has been studying the book of Hebrews this Summer and the resounding theme for me keeps coming back to entering God’s rest and what that truly means in the lives of believers today. It is so easy to talk of God’s rest, and is especially inviting when you are enjoying a sunny day in a beautiful park among friends But to truly enter God’s promised rest and live it is another issue all together. I am discovering that it is as vital to us to be applied just as it was when this letter of Hebrews was written.
God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest.
So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:
“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”
Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. (Hebrews 4: 1-3a, 6--10)
As a young woman in my 20's and 30's, I like most of the women around me, got busy with the business of life. I was a married woman trying to keep up with all the hustle and bustle of raising children and what was best for our family. Even being involved heavily in church activities kept our lives active….not to mention every club, sport, band and other commitments that heavily marked our family’s weekly calendar. All good things and most really great activities, but I found myself tremendously busy and certainly not rested. I worked hard and tried harder. I slept less, aimed higher, and failed more. I found myself much of the time not really going anywhere but continually asked to do more. Be more. Be better. But in all my trying, I could not feel I was growing as a woman. I just felt tired.
I know that I am not alone in this. Most of us feel that we are failing in some areas of our lives, maybe even the most important areas. And aware of our deep failings, we pour contempt on our own hearts for wanting more. We desperately long for the rest God has promised to us in Hebrews. Somewhere deep within our souls we know that the countless appointments, deadlines and meetings of this busy life is not all there is for a woman with a heart that longs for a life in God. I believe that for many of us, we get so caught up in the expectations of our culture and then double up on our Christian duties to balance it out (as if that works) to ease our consciences that we are doing the right thing. And sadly, we miss out greatly on God’s promise of rest that He has promised for every believer.
So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. (Hebrews 4:11)
This promised rest that God offers comes through obedience and faith of ceasing from our own labors. We are to look to the Lord Jesus, receiving Him and resting on that fact by faith, that we are to stop our own efforts, ceasing from our own works and rest fully on Him. Paul says in Colossians, as therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in Him (Col. 2:6) In the same way: as you have received Him, so live in dependence upon Him to do all things through you. Step out upon that verse and what is the result? Rest! Wonderful rest! Relief, release, no longer worrying, fretting, straining, for you are resting upon the One who is wholly adequate to do through you everything that needs to be done.
I am learning to enter into His rest more and more each day. I believe that is what this life of rest God promised is all about: trusting the Lord Jesus who has come to indwell our hearts to do through us all that we do. God desires for His people to be active and productive, but for everything we do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of (by the authority and ability of) Jesus. It is the principle upon which He expects everything to be done: within our families, our workplaces, our churches, our schooling, our studies, our play, and ultimately, every responsibility wherever we may be. Paul states boldly in Phiippians, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (New American Standard Bible) All are to be fulfilled out of dependence of our obedience and faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has promised this rest for all who believe.
Come and rest at His throne!