jQuery Slider

You are here

How to Find Rest For Our Souls: Hebrews 4:1-11

How to Find Rest For Our Souls: Hebrews 4:1-11

By Ted Schroder,
October 2, 2016

The fourth commandment, to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, is based on the rhythm of creation: "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:11) This is the completion of God's work of creation. There is a rhythm of work and rest built into the nature of the universe. The Sabbath, the seventh day, was set aside to observe this rhythm.

Genesis chapter two begins with these momentous words: "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done."

God did not rest in order to recover from his work. God rested in order to enjoy what he had created. "God saw what he had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) The Sabbath was instituted to remind us that all of life is a gift from God, that it is good and to be enjoyed. One day a week was set aside to remember this in worship. Each day we need to set aside times for worship, prayer and the study of God's Word. If you want to experience rest in your souls you will acknowledge that all of life is a gift from God. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17).

For the Christian, the Sabbath is observed on the Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10). This day celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, who by his death and rising again gave us eternal life (life in all its fullness and completion), to be enjoyed. When Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father, he signified that his work of redemption was finished. His message to us is to enter into and enjoy his salvation rest: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). If we want to experience rest for our souls we will come to Jesus with all our burdens. We will learn from him and he will lighten our burdens.

This is easier said than done. Restlessness is a disease of our age. Andrew Sullivan writes that "the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction." We are distracted by the bombardment of our senses through smartphones, tablets, internet, countless television channels, streaming audio and videos, social media, podcasts and blogs. We have instant communication, and constant updates of the news. Many are frightened of being alone and out of touch with others. Millennials want instant messaging so that they are neither forgotten nor ignored.

We have to keep busy to avoid being bored. We have to keep busy to feel that we are being useful. We have to keep busy to escape being thought of as lazy or idle. We have to keep busy to justify our existence. We have to keep busy to be productive. We have to keep busy to prevent ourselves from thinking about God, and the meaning and purpose of life. We have to keep busy to drown out our anxieties and fears. Tim Hansel addressed this syndrome in his book, "When I Relax I Feel Guilty." The title described me. I have had to read it many times.

I was raised by parents, who, every time they saw me sitting down, gave me another job to do. They took over my grandparents' business in the Depression, and worked seven days a week to pay the bills, and to retire comfortably at age sixty. Neither my father nor my mother could sit still for very long. They were always busy. Sports, golf, rugby football, and horse racing were their only relaxation. I thank them for the work ethic they instilled in me, but I also inherited their restlessness.

It is hard to enjoy life, to be restful, when you are programmed to think of the next thing you need to do. It is difficult to receive life as a gift when you feel you have to earn the right to exist. Life can be a constant treadmill of duties to be fulfilled, which never end, until we end. That is why tombstones often have inscribed on them, "Rest in peace." Revelation 14:13 reminds us that it is true that rest will only be completely realized in heaven. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on." "Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor."

What is your experience of rest? Jesus promises rest for your soul. This promise includes rest of your mind, rest of your conscience, peace that passes all understanding in this life as well as in the life to come.

In Hebrews 4:1-11we are promised entering into our rest using the analogy of entering into the Promised Land. The Israelites did not believe the promise of their inheritance and spent the next forty years wandering in the wilderness because of their unbelief. "The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith" (Hebrews 4:2). They did not act with faith. They heard but did not believe. Jesus calls us to come to him, learn from him, trust in him and what he has done for us in the Cross and resurrection, so that we will enter into rest for our souls. The promise is to each of us: "Now we who have believed enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:3). Not to believe the promise of rest is to be disobedient. St. Augustine prayed: "You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." Are your hearts restless? Why are they restless? How can you find that rest in your soul?

"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." (Hebrews 4:9,10) To enter God's rest, means for the believer to cease from one's own efforts, just as God ceased from his. In order to enjoy the promise of rest we have to learn to cease from our work of self-justification, and to rest securely on what Christ has done for us. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)

This is easier said than done, for it goes against the grain to accept that God has given to us what we could not do for ourselves. It is hard for us to accept that all life: physical and eternal, is a gift from God, which we do not deserve, and to which we have not contributed. That is why we are told to "make every effort to enter that rest," and that "since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it." (Hebrews 4:1) Rest for your soul depends upon the grace of God. You can tell whether a person has entered God's rest -- is she a person who has experienced the grace of God -- life and salvation as a gift?

How can you show by your daily life that you rest in Christ? Come to Jesus with your burdens and he will give you rest. What is preventing you from entering into God's rest? Is it because you have not believed? Come to the Lord just as you are, with all your sickness, weakness, family trouble or distractions and find rest for your soul. You may say, "I wish I had the rest you speak of but I cannot find it." Humble yourself. Come to the foot of the Cross and confess your need. Surrender to the Savior. Believe that he is the Revelation of God, the Messenger of Grace who has completed the new creation and finished his work for your salvation. This faith in Christ will bring with it rest. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top