Do You Need a Rest?by Dan Stolebarger Director of Koinonia Institute
Do we as Christians ever have the opportunity to retire? At what point can we take a break? Do we ever reach the top of the mountain, and if we do, can we rest? When can we let the Lord know that “we’re good” and we really don’t need anything else? Can you imagine God ever saying, “That’s good enough. Go ahead and take a break”?
In other words, when do we “arrive” at our destination? Is it only when we take our last breath and then see Him face to face? Or is there a “resting point” on this side of the grave? The Bible speaks of entering God’s rest, but what is this “rest” that Paul refers to in Chapter 4 of his epistle to the Hebrews?
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.”
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
First, let’s take a look at some dictionary definitions of the word rest: 1) To be free from worry; 2) To be settled; 3) To cease from action; 4) To be secure; 5) To have something to lean on. I really don’t think these are what God has in mind when referring to His rest, although I believe all of these things are a part of the whole. I somehow think that the rest of God is much deeper than these definitions and can only be experienced when a believer is completely “submitted” to Christ.
Our rest is contingent on what He has accomplished. Our enjoying this rest means that we have thrown up our hands in surrender to our King and are willing to submit everything in our lives to His rule. We get wasted when we strive against His teachings; we get wounded when we kick against the goads! We get flattened when we “do it our way”!
Practically speaking, how can we do “His way”? How can we keep from getting EXHAUSTED? I don’t know about you, but there are times I sure could use a rest! So how can we enter into what Paul is referring to here in Hebrews?
As an example of what not to do, let’s first take a look at Israel. Throughout the Scriptures we can see that Israel’s failure to enter the rest was always due to a lack of faith. When they failed to believe and when they “had a better idea,” then they were doomed! This rest is only available to the diligent who seek first the Kingdom of God and desire to be obedient to His ways! It is unthinkable to believe that one could simply stumble or coast into this rest of God! Nobody has ever matured in the Christian life by coasting or being careless or lazy. We must strive to enter His Rest! Diligence is a prerequisite for entering into this rest. Note Peter’s exhortation:
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love... For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-7; 9-11
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
To give diligence is the opposite of drifting. The question then becomes, what do we pay attention to; what do we need to be more diligent about? If God’s rest is somehow linked to our surrender and requires our submission to His ways, then where can we find the information needed to enlighten us to His ways?
I believe the most important aspect regarding the pathway which leads to the rest of God has to do with the Word of God! Our knowledge of God’s ways can best be found in the Word of God. It is interesting to read the verse which concludes this passage concerning God’s rest:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Alas, here is the key that opens the door to God’s resting place, because this verse provides the answer to every spiritual condition; if we allow the Word to judge us and to expose our hearts, then we will not fail to inherit His rest and His blessing. Israel rebelled at the Word and would not “hear His voice.” Too many believers fail to hear and heed God’s Word and thus rob themselves of blessing. It takes diligence to mature spiritually and so a believer needs to apply God’s Word faithfully. When we live the Word of God we can enter our spiritual Canaan and there we will find REST!
Have you noticed that the one thing that the devil is very particular about is to keep believers from becoming workman of the Word of God? Great sermons, super worship, small group relationships, hard-working ministries etc. … but whatever the cost, keep Christians from the Word of God! That way they are more prone to burnout, exhaustion and mindless wanderings!
Brethren, let us ENTER HIS REST! My prayer for you is that you would “fall in love” with the Word of God. Now for those of you who need an action step: enroll in Koinonia Institute. For more information, check out our website at www.studycenter.com.