Entering God’s Rest
Written by Wayne Staker
Our lives can be downright crazy at times, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe it’s work, home, marriage, kids, money, extended family, or even church! We can’t always pin it down to only one or two things, because life can just be crazy busy and often very challenging. But, have you ever wondered what God says about our crazy lives? You might be surprised to find out that God’s desire for you and me, regardless of what is going on in our lives, is to enter into His rest.
Rest has been important to God from the beginning of creation. He rested on the seventh day after He had created everything else in six days (Genesis 2)? He also instituted a day of rest, a Sabbath rest, for the nation of Israel in Leviticus 23:3. He even established a Sabbath rest for the land in Leviticus 25:3-4.
But God’s greatest desire has always been for His people to enter into His rest. Do you remember what happened when the nation of Israel was ready to enter into the Promised Land? One man from each of the tribes of Israel was sent into the land of Canaan to check out the land and the inhabitants, but only two of the twelve spies came back with a positive report. What happened to the other 10 spies? They doubted God. After watching Him do so much to get them to His place of rest, they lost hope in His promise, even though He had already told them that the land was their inheritance and He would give them rest in it. For you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you. When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security (Deuteronomy 12:9-10).
That doubt and unbelief resulted in the whole nation of Israel temporarily being kept from entering into God’s rest. The writer of Hebrews describes it from God’s point of view, THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST (Hebrews 3:10-11). Verses 18 and 19 of Hebrews chapter 3 are the perfect summary, And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
Unbelief not only kept the nation of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years, but it delayed their entering into God’s perfect rest. And that is where it becomes personal for us as well, because unbelief will keep anyone from entering into God’s rest. The writer of Hebrews again explains it well in chapter 4 verses 1-11, Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS“; and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience (unbelief), He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience (unbelief).
Do you catch what God is saying? When we enter into His rest by faith and belief in Jesus Christ, we rest from our own works and efforts. Jesus reiterates this truth in Matthew 11:28-29, Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
The word rest in verse 28 means to cease and to refresh. Jesus says, come to me all you who are working so hard and are burdened with all your own efforts, and just cease, rest. Stop working so hard, stop depending on your own efforts, stop trying to figure out life on your own, just rest in me and be refreshed.
Resting in Christ takes on two forms. As mentioned above, He gives us rest when we place our faith and belief in Him. Romans 10:9 says that if we confess with our mouths Jesus as Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. Believe and rest, be refreshed because you have a secure relationship with Me. Come to Me and rest, for eternity.
But salvation is just the beginning of Christ’s rest. Resting in Christ also means we can enjoy His refreshment in our relationship with fellow believers. The same Greek word translated rest in Matthew 11:28 is translated refresh in these passages:
- 1 Corinthians 16:17-18 – I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
- 2 Corinthians 7:13 – For this reason we have been comforted. And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
- Philemon 1:7 – For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
When we are an encouragement to each other, when we help each other. we refresh each other. And when we are refreshed, we rest in our relationship with each other, knowing the love we share as His children isn’t dependent on our actions, but on the common rest we have in Christ.
Jesus isn’t saying that we do nothing at all, but He is saying to stop doing in our own effort and our own power. As a matter of fact, the second time Jesus mentions the word rest, in verse 29 of Matthew 11, it carries the idea of an inward tranquility while ministering for the Lord, while doing His work in His power. We can rest, we can have that inner tranquility, knowing what Jesus has done, and will do, in and through us by His power. Jesus says, cease from all your own effort and rest in Me. Rest in the relationship you have with Me.
Canaan represented God’s best for the nations of Israel, His rest and His inheritance. Faith and belief in Jesus Christ is God’s best for the world, it is His rest and inheritance for those who believe. The challenge then is this, have you entered God’s rest through faith and belief in Jesus Christ? Have you found His rest for your soul? If not, trust Him today, enter into His eternal refreshment!
If you have found rest in Christ by faith and belief in Him, do you have that inward tranquility that comes from resting in His work in and through you? Do you find rest and refreshment in Him and His people? Are you content in the fact that you have entered into His eternal rest and refreshment? May the answer be “Yes and Amen” for all who have believed!