“There remains, then, a Sabbath—rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” Heb 4:9-1O (NIV).
As I reflected on the past week and my preparation for my sermon Labor Day weekend, I could not help but reflect on our concept of Labor Day. We honor people who work and recognize their labor by rewarding them with a day off. We give them a day of rest for their hard work. To all who work and work hard, we certainly deserve it and need it! In fact, I am writing this article on my Labor Day off and greatly appreciate this day and the time it has afforded me to write this article. However, real rest from our labor is not truly found in a simple day off. Nor is it found in several days off. Like you, I love days off, especially several of them. I enjoy my vacations with family, my weekends and holidays. I also enjoy a good nap when possible, especially on Sunday afternoons. I also enjoy the opportunity to go to bed early. I do all these things in an attempt to keep up on my rest. Yet it seems for me, and for many of us as well, we remain a restless people. In fact, we appear to be living in restless times. We never seem to have enough time, and when we do, resting is not on the list. When given time, especially time off, we never seem to acquire the rest from it we need. Why? I suggest two things I have learned from the scriptures about this.
First, the concept of rest is not fully understood. From the verse above, we are assured that there is rest available. It is available from God and for God’s people. God provides the rest. It does not just come from time off, but from God himself. It comes from having a relationship with Him first and foremost. You see, if you are living a life apart from God, you will never find true rest, and certainly not a rest for your soul and life. You will always feel like you have to work, or labor, for God’s acceptance and for the acceptance of others. Your sense of identity will always be work related. Work harder, work more, do more, live better, only to be left more tired. Even in your times off, you never find rest. That’s because real rest begins with a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We do not work for acceptance; we simply accept the work that Jesus did on our behalf. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” KJV
Second, our understanding of rest is not sought because we are tired and need a break, but because we acknowledge what is needed has already been accomplished. Notice the end of verse 10 of Hebrews. The verse I gave as our original text above. It reads, we rest from our work, just as God did from His! What work is the writer talking about? Hebrews 4:3-4 reads, “And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work” (NIV). We see that the writer of Hebrews was using God’s work in creation as an example. He states, that on the seventh day, God rested. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Christians all over the world promote the seventh day as the day of rest. The writer of Hebrews calls it the “Sabbath” rest (Hebrews 4:9).
You see, rest is a “state” or “condition” of the heart, where we rest because of what has been completed or finished for us. Notice verse 3 says, God’s work was finished since the creation of the world! On other words, God did not rest on the seventh day because He was tired and needed a day of rest. He rested on the seventh day because the work was finished. Jesus confirmed this principle when He was hanging on the cross. He was about to breath His last breath, when He proclaimed, “It is finished.” For us who believe, we can rest because we accept the finished work of Christ. We can rest from worry, cares, doubts, financial burdens, because in Christ, He has provided for us all we need. It is finished. So, rest is about accepting and receiving what has been accomplished on our behalf, not something we do because we are tired of laboring. May you find encouragement in the words Jesus gave to his disciples when they needed rest. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” Matt 11:28-29 (KJV).
Pastor Craig Carter
North Kent Community Church
1480 Indian Lakes Rd., Sparta,
Church Phone #: 550-6398