I’ve read it a thousand times—Hebrews Chapter 4. I’ve chased its interpretation for more years than I care to count. Still today, verse 11 perplexes me: “Let us therefore labor to enter that rest…” It doesn’t make sense to labor at resting. Why not just lie down and rest? To top that, the word labor in this scripture actually means to “make haste.” So now I’m supposed to hurry at resting? I want to label this an oxymoron, but I know God doesn’t make mistakes.
Oh God, I need some rest! How I long for rest! I can only hope to find it someday!
I’m smack-dab in the middle of accounting season, near drowning in sheer circumstances. For an accountant, that means deadline upon deadline to meet with little recourse. Even a good night’s rest for the body is scarce. I told a friend the other day that it felt as if I were submerged in water and all that remained on the surface is one hand slowly sinking down through the bubbles from my last breath of air as I mumbled a final cry for help.
While it was intended to be funny, I wonder how many of us feel just like that about life. We’ve tried to keep afloat, made every effort to hold things together, did our best to swim against the current of never-ending demands on our lives, but somehow we feel that we might not make it. Does life grab you that way—hold you under until you’re not sure the next breath will come?
And what about our spiritual lives—ever felt that you’re just not getting the hang of it? You do all the right things, you work and give and help and support. You struggle with thoughts like, “Oh God, I’ve given and given and it never seems to work for me like Joel Osteen said it would!” And what about the strength we’ve been promised—you know from lofty verses like, “your strength shall be renewed, mounting up with wings like eagles?”1 Somehow that seems to have slip right past me. Yep, this eagle is merely hopping along on the ground trying to dodge the muck and mire of life.
If any of this sounds like you—I have good news. I’m not sure why its meaning has eluded me for so long, but Hebrews Chapter 4 is our answer. It is the very substance of what God knew we would need and what He provided for us in advance. Remember, God doesn’t make mistakes.
So what does it mean—this laboring to rest business? Newer translations say, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest.” It means: Let us hurry diligently at finding the rest provided by God and then enter into that rest. I suspect that we don’t hurry diligently because we do not know what that rest is or where it is. If we just knew what it was or where it was, we would!
While there are many clues to unfold in this chapter, let’s take a closer look at Verses 9 and 10: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His (God’s) rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”
Did you see that—ceased from his works? Let that soak in. Amy Carmichael said, “Perhaps what demands most will power is the resolution to cease from our own works, our own busyness, and to stay our minds upon our God.”
We know that earning salvation by good works is included here, for only the works of Christ at Calvary can save us. But don’t stop there. Look for more. Could this also be the key to living the Spirit-empowered life?
God has plan and a place for us to rest. God wants us to find and enter into it. Moses’ generation didn’t enter in because of unbelief. In other words, they heard about it, “but the word which they heard did not benefit them because it was not mixed with faith.”
We must first believe this rest of God is available to us. Once we believe it is there, we must hurry diligently to find it. Look up and look forward as we unpack the secrets to finding and entering that rest! ~ Janie Kellogg
1Isaiah 40:31; All other scriptures Hebrews Chapter 4.