Labor to Enter the Rest

Hebrews 4:11 (KJV) 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

We have been looking at Hebrews 4:9-11 this week in the context of the rest of faith and the favor God wants to bring to his people in 2013. Specifically, we have been looking at “ceasing our own works” and taking up God’s works. In verse 9 the word translated rest means a “Sabbath keeping.”

The Sabbath was designed as a time when man would stop his normal work to concentrate on his relationship with the Lord. In our study this year we have found that Deuteronomy, a book that centers on relationship as opposed to law, has a recurring theme. Moses tells us that we must keep God’s commandments, obey his voice and walk in his ways. These are the works of God we must do while we rest from “our own” works.

We are very busy with many things in life. We face challenges that require our attention. We must work to provide for our needs. We have projects to do, families to raise and ministries to accomplish that require effort on our part. God is not saying that we should not work. However, when we do the things that relationship with him require, we will find that the other things we must do will flow in a different way and with much less stress than if we simply do them in our own strength. This is the rest of faith.

I quoted Hebrews 4:11from the King James Version today because it uses the word labor where the NKJV uses the phrase “be diligent.” “Be diligent” is a perfectly good translation but in this case I think using the word labor to describe what we must do is more descriptive. We must labor, or work, to enter the rest God has for us. This is made clearer when we understand that the word translated “rest” in this verse is not the same as the word in verse 9.

The word in verse 11 has a number of meanings but the ones I want to focus on are “calming a storm” and “an abode.” We are to labor so that we can calm the storms of life. Have you ever faced a storm? I know I have. The rest of faith calms the storms of life. That does not mean you do not have challenges. It does mean that the challenges will not “swamp your boat.”

This word also means an abode. I believe that we are to labor in order to build an abode of peace we can live in. Most of the time we come to crises and then we try to find a promise or a Word of the Lord that will calm our storm. The picture here is that we labor to build a place of rest where the storm cannot overwhelm us. We do not wait until the storm is upon us. I think Jesus had something to say about this idea.

Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV) 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

In this scripture the wise man labored by digging into the bedrock to build his house long before the storm hit it. He had peace in the storm. He had done his faith work and was able to rest in the storm. We are to labor so that we can be in a place of rest in our faith in God when the storms and challenges of life hit.

Another definition of the word translated rest here is that it is not a “rest of inactivity.” Some would say that Christianity requires no work on our part. They would say that we have been saved from works. This is not exactly true. We have been delivered from dead works. (Heb. 9:14) We have not been delivered from work. The problem I find in many Christians is they do not understand the point of their labor. They do not know what they are working to accomplish.

I hate busy work. That is work that is pointless. I worked for 5 years in a gun factory. There were times when we had no materials for my normal job. I still had to go to work and they still had to pay me. Often I would be given something to do that had no point but they were not going to pay me to sit around. This kind of work that has no point is tiresome, boring and distasteful. If you know what you are accomplishing work may not be pleasant but you are accomplishing something. There is satisfaction in the job well done.

Many Christians know that they must pray, study the Word, go to church and do good works. They often do them for the wrong reasons. Many think that this is how they will gain God’s love and acceptance. If that is why we do these things we are just doing busy wok. We already have God’s love and acceptance and there is nothing we can do or must do to earn them.

Sometimes people do these works out of religious obligation. Religion is pointless. Christianity is not, in its essence, a religion at all. It is a relationship with almighty God. Religion is our search for God and the structure that develops around our relationship. In Christianity our search is over. God found us! We will always have a structure that develops around relationship however, when the relationship is gone the structure is empty and any works we do to maintain it are also empty and dead by nature.

If we are going to be successful in our Christian walk there is work we must do. Study is a joy to me, but it is work as well. Sometimes I do not want to do it. God has instructed me to write this blog. It is an assignment I enjoy but it is also work. Sometimes I would rather not do it. Prayer is fellowship with the Lord and we should want to fellowship with him. Nevertheless, every Christian knows that there are types of and times of prayer that are work. We may not want to do it but we have to do it.

This can be said of anything we do in our Christian walk. Sometimes we want to go to church but there are days when we would like to do anything but go. Sometimes we want to praise or worship and sometimes we offer the sacrifice of praise. To say that there should be no work associated with our Christianity is naïve and wrong. When we do not understand the point of the work, we will never accomplish what God wants us to by our labor.

The point of our labor is to enter the rest. We pray, study, meditate and do works of service to calm the storms of life and build an abode where we rest in the knowledge that God is for us and no one can stand against us. (Romans 8:31) We do not labor to earn God’s acceptance. We labor to rest in his approval.

There is another word we must look at in relation to this. That word is trust. We must abandon ourselves to trusting God. We will look at this idea tomorrow.

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