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Work Hard at Resting
A mind-bender from the Bible
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:9-11, ESV).
Have you ever read something in the Bible that you just can’t seem to wrap your mind around? This passage from Hebrews is one of those. God has provided a Sabbath rest for his people. That this is a spiritual rest, and not simply a day off work, is clear from the context of Hebrews.
Whoever enters this spiritual rest provided by God will rest from their works, just as God rested from the work of creating on Day 7 (see Gen 2:1-3). Presumably, the work we are resting from is a spiritual work since the rest we are to enter into is a spiritual rest. My ESV Study Bible has this footnote:
“The promise of entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one’s final destiny; it means enjoyment of being established in the presence of God, to share in the everlasting joy that God entered when he rested on the seventh day.”
So, God has provided a spiritual rest for his people, and when we enter that Sabbath, we also rest from the spiritual work of trying to justify our own existence and be good enough to get to Heaven. In Christ, we rest from all of that. So far, so good. But then comes verse 11, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (emphasis added). In other words, work hard to rest.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes that’s what my life feels like. I don’t rest well. I am a workaholic (that’s not a good character trait, by the way), not only with my job but also with my faith. I resonate with the passages of Scripture that call us to action, obedience, and active faith. I struggle with the verses that tell us to enter God’s rest. My experience is that I have to work hard at resting.
In the September 20 entry of my favorite devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly.”
God’s still small voice speaks to my heart. Stop trying to be godly. Enter into my rest. I will live my life in you, and I will work my works through you. You rest in me. I’ll work in you. The outcome will be better than all your strivings.