I met a young couple from New Zealand in the Hong Kong airport years ago. We were waiting for our next flight and got to talking. I asked them about their experience in my home country, the USA.
They had worked in the US for a few years and shared a simple observation about Americans and rest. Generally, they realized we don't seem to know how to take time to rest, even when we're sick.
Think about it. Immense amounts of sick leave and vacation time go unused each year by Americans. When we do take vacations, they're often expensive and so activity-filled, we need a rest after our vacation! This carries over to our faith.
God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.
For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest.
As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. [vss 1-3]
We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”
So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” [vss 1-7]
(Hebrews 4:1-7 NLT) [Context– Hebrews 4]
Key phrase—For only we who believe can enter his rest
[bctt tweet="For only we who believe can enter God's rest" username="tkbeyond"]
Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions
What promise of God remains available to us, even Christian believers?
What was the reason those who heard the good news did not enter God's rest?
What gets in the way of experiencing this rest? How can we enter this rest spoken of here?
What do we need to guard against? Why?
Believers hear about and talk about God's grace, yet it's one of the most difficult things for people to accept. As a pastor, I've seen this over and over with many people for many years. This is tied to our problem with rest.
What about the weekends, or at least Sunday? Again, the average family has too many things going on and we're too busy to enjoy rest from our usual labors. Even when we do, we probably feel guilty about it, as if we should be doing something more important.
The lesson from this text directly applies to you and me. We may know God intends for us to rest from our own efforts at pleasing God, overcoming sin, serving Him in some way, or being burdened by other obligations or debts, real or imagined.
But knowing the truth and living it out are two different things. What's our problem? Unbelief. Not doubt, but an unwillingness to believe and accept the capacity and completeness of God's grace.
This was an important reason for God establishing a sabbath rest. We just have a hard time letting go of our own efforts to "fix" ourselves or the people and world around us.
Surely God doesn't just give us His kindness and goodness without doing something for it!
He does. He will. If only, we trust Him for this rest daily.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions
Why do you think entering the promised land is an illustration for entering the rest of God?
What was required of the people that they failed to do?
Is it hard for you to accept that God wants you to stop trying to make yourself better?
What stands in the way of you trusting God and receiving His gracious rest?
Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews