God's Rest

May 1, 2016   Hebrews 4    Enter into God’s Rest  


    A photographer was snapping pictures of first graders at an elementary school, making small talk to put his subjects at ease. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked one little girl.  “Tired,” she said.  Fatigue DisastersOur most notorious industrial accidents in recent years — Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 — all occurred in the middle of the night.  This may indicate that fatigue, more than anything, was a contributing factor.  When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus, killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high-tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain the jet was descending as if to attack, when the airliner actually was remaining on a normal flight path.  In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before. Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.

We ignore our need for rest at the peril of others and ourselves.  — Martin Moore-Ede, The Twenty-Four-Hour Society  

      Maria Brunner, of Poing, Germany, was willing to go to jail to get a break. Brunner’s husband is unemployed, so she supports their three young children by cleaning other people’s houses. Even without a job, her husband managed to run up $5,000 worth of unpaid parking tickets. The husband kept the tickets a secret, but as the owner of the vehicle, Maria was responsible.   She couldn’t pay the fine, and unless her husband could come up with the money, she would spend three months in jail.   She welcomed the thought. “I’ve had enough of scraping a living for the family,” she says.  “As long as I get food and a hot shower every day, I don’t mind being sent to jail.   I can finally get some rest and relaxation.” Police reported that Maria repeatedly thanked them for arresting her.  “Family of the Week,”

   I think one of the best things we can do is enter into God’s rest.   This passage says we have to walk by faith to enter into God’s rest.   God wants us to enter into His rest.    God wants you to enter into His rest.   We do not want God to ever say to us as He did to the Children of Israel that they would never enter into His rest.   Hebrews 4:3 so I declared on oath in my anger they shall never enter my rest.   Wow   The adult generation of the Children of Israel that Moses led out of Egypt never got to taste of the grapes and the milk and honey of the Promised Land because of unbelief and disobedience.   They would not believe and they did not obey God so they did not enter into God’s rest.    The things that have happened to us in the past can weigh us down so that we do not enter into God’s rest. 

   I think one thing that can cause a person to not enter into God’s rest is unforgiveness.  To the extent that you drag old pain into your life you will not enter into God’s rest.   The past can steal today.   The past can bring anger into today.   The past can rob you of God’s rest.   By allowing our mind to rest on old hurts and wounds will not allow us to rest today.   Verse 1 tells us that the promise of entering his rest still stands; let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.    The promise of entering His rest still stands.   Don’t fall short of God’s rest.    Don’t let the past wreck today.   Don’t let the past rob you of God’s rest today.   Give up the old baggage that pulls us down.   

   Ask the Lord that we will learn what we need to learn from the past and that those lessons will then become a source of blessing for the rest of our lives.  Where sin abounds grace does much more abound.   God will give you grace and can give you a spirit of thanksgiving for the tough times of the past.   We can heal and receive peace and joy with past painful events.    It is a process and it can take time but God can heal your heart.    Those tough times are never meant to bring us down but to strengthen us for the future.   As you love God and walk with Him all things are for your good.   All things are for your good.    God’s desire is that you have rest.   The promise of entering God’s rest still stands for us today.    You can enter His rest.  

        Verse 2 they heard God’s word but did not combine it with faith.   We can know what God’s desire is and know His word and continue to travel our own path and not enter God’s rest.    You can sow seeds but not be fruitful.   You can labor and not produce.   Without faith it is impossible to please God.   Without faith it is you working and not God working with you.   The children of Israel were in the right place at the right time.    They were at the place of opportunity.   They had just left the land of slavery and God had set them free.   Before them was the land flowing with milk and honey.    Before them were many opportunities.    Before them was everything that God had for them but they did not make it.  Before them was the place where God would give them rest.    They were in the right place at the right time and you can be in the right place at the right time but if you are not walking in faith and obedience to God it can be fruitless.  God’s will was to bless them and for them to enter the Promised Land but they refused.  It is not a wise decision to refuse God’s good will for your life.   There was something in front of them that made them turn back.  There was a mountain and it was giants.  There is always a challenge.  There always seems to be a mountain and that is good.  We walk by faith.   We will not rest unless we lay hold of His word.    God wants us to lay hold of God and his word.

          Lay hold of his word.   To lay hold of God’s word is to lay hold of Jesus and in so doing we will find rest.   Lay hold of God’s promises and God’s word and you will experience direction and blessing in your life.    What kind of a rest is God talking about in this passage?    Did the children of Israel think that as they looked into the Promised Land that taking it would be easy or restful?     What kind of rest was God offering them and offering to us today?     Verse 11 tells us let us make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.    The KJ version says labor.   Let us labor, strive, and struggle to enter into His rest.    Have you ever labored to rest?   How do you labor to enter into rest?    Is God talking about a physical rest?    I certainly believe that God is referring to a spiritual rest for our life on earth.  If we rest spiritually it will help us rest physically.    Those that are physically tired and spiritually at peace can certainly rest.   But I think even a greater rest is given in that we can rest in our work.   The woman at the well had to keep drawing physical water out day by day but the water that Jesus offered her was eternal.    The crowds that Jesus fed in John 6 had to work and earn their daily food day by day when they departed from Jesus.   Jesus told them do not work for the food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life. 

   In this passage in Hebrews 4 verse 9 tells us that there remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God.    God offered them a Sabbath rest.   But before them were giants in the land.   The land before them represented many battles.   Often there are spiritual battles for us to enter to receive the things that God has for us.  The bible often speaks of the trial of faith that tries us.   Paul in his writings often spoke of battles and difficulties and spiritual warfare.   Jesus spoke of forceful men laying hold of heaven.     Sometimes we look at the conflict and lose sight of God.  

       The Children of Israel had their eyes on the giants and battles and not on God.  That did not help them.  They looked at the mountain and forgot God.     They factored God out of the situation.   They did not walk in faith and therefore they were fearful and unbelieving.   They were not at rest or at peace.   God would go before them and prepare the way.   My Lord knows the way though the wilderness and God knows the way for your life also.    The next generation would march around the walls of Jericho and the walls would fall.   God would cause the walls to fall.   The reality is that only through God could they go in and take the land.   Of their own ability and power they never could have taken the land.   They would never be able to beat the giants in the land.  In fact after Moses told them they were not going they went up on their own and were severely beaten.  Moses told them the Lord is not with you and you will fail.   You and I have things in our lives that we cannot win on our own.   We just can’t do it.   God has a rest for us and day by we can enter into His rest.  

    The Promised Land did not represent salvation for them.   The Children of Israel were God’s people.   They had just left the land of slavery.   There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God.     That means those that are saved have a rest.    So the rest here is not a salvation rest.   It is a rest of trust and submission to God which is still available to you and me today.   Sometimes as Christians we labor and labor to bring about something but we are doing it in our own strength.   Sometimes we ask God to bless our plans and really have no idea on what God has in mind.  

     Verse 10 is interesting which says for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work as God did from His.   I am certainly not going to claim that I understand all that this verse means.  What does it mean to rest from your own work?   Certainly we do not work to get to heaven.  Jesus paid it all.    But I know one thing we can work like crazy and be far from God.   There can be lots of activity but no fruit.      I want to enter into His rest.   I think that one thing that this verse tells us is that self effort does not amount to too much.    Certainly that is true of eternal things.   Jesus said without me you can do nothing.   I believe also that the verse is not telling us that we do not have anything to do.   It is not saying you can take your ease and relax and do nothing.   In fact in the context here God tells us to labor to enter into his rest.   So it is not saying sleep your life away however I think a nap once in awhile may be a good idea.   We have much work to do.   Paul labored with the grace and strength of God.   Jesus labored and ministered.    Jesus came not to be ministered unto but to minister to others.   Ephesians tells us we were created for good works.   Titus says that we are to be His very own people eager to do what is good or the KJ a people zealous of good works.    I like that a special people who are working doing good things for God.      

     Jesus said come to him for rest.    He did not clarify physical, emotional or spiritual rest.    He said come to him if you are tired.       Jesus did not say go to church and you will find rest.  You can go to church and come to Jesus at the same time but you can also go to church and not come to Jesus.    Just because you are in church does not mean that you have come to Jesus.    You can be in church and be angry at Jesus and not speaking to Him.    You can be in sin and fighting God and still go to church.    He did not say go into the world and you will find rest.  Jesus didn’t say come to Buddha, Mohammad, or Hira Krishna, it really doesn’t matter who you come to, and that all roads lead to rest.    He did not say pray and you will find rest nor did He say read your bible and you will find rest.   You can read the bible and not come to Jesus.   You can pray and not come to Jesus.   We can pray with the attitude of Lord give me, give me, give me and if I don’t get everything I want I am going to mad.    That is not the path to rest.      Some read and pray just to be accepted by God.   How much do you have to read and pray to be accepted?    Jesus paid the price.  I am glad we are celebrating communion today.    It is important to read the bible and pray to connect with Jesus. 

   Jesus said take my yoke to find rest.  There is no rest in rules and religion, but only in a personal relationship with God based on the finished work of Jesus.   That is real rest for the soul.   Which yoke have you been under Jesus’ or man’s yoke?   Jesus yoke is better than the yoke of sin.   His yoke is better than the world’s yoke.    Everybody has a yoke.   For those that live a life of sin they are enslaved to sin.     Do you want rest?   Then take Jesus yoke.    Yokes are made for two, not one.   We were not meant to go through life living apart from God. His yoke fits well and is lighter than the one we’ve been pulling by ourselves. Be connected to Jesus!   Share the load with Him and give him the load.  

   We can labor and labor trying to please God.    It is very tiring and wearisome to labor and be heavy laden in your efforts to please God.  God wants our attention.  God wants your fellowship.    Jesus has said to the kind of people who were forever laboring to please God, come unto me, and when they come to Him, He has promised to give them rest.    God wants us to come to Him in faith and yes submission.   We rest in the relationship we have with him.   We enjoy Him and he enjoys us.   Are you enjoying the Lord?   Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.   He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.       

   Not long after moving to the Chicago area to serve as teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, John Ortberg called a friend to ask for spiritual direction. “I described the pace of life in my current ministry,” Ortberg writes. “The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?”  After a long pause, the friend said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  “OK, I’ve written that one down,” I told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one.   Now, what else is there?”   Ortberg had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.  There was another long pause.  “There is nothing else,” the friend said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  Ortberg eventually got it. “I have concluded that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day,” he said. “Hurry destroys souls.”

 — John Ortberg, “Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry,” Leadership Journal.