This statement, (labor to rest) sounds like a contradiction in terms. Actually I took a little liberty in using this statement because the bible says it like this… “let us labor therefore to enter into that rest,” which to my ear still sounds like a contradiction. But really, it is not. (Heb. 4:11)
This would be a contradiction… trying to do something that is already done. That would be a contradiction, or trying to get something that you already have. That too would be a contradiction. And in fact, it is these two contradictions that this scripture is addressing, (and trying to help us avoid).
Many Christians and many non-Christians try to do something that is already done and they try to get things that they already have. Allow me to explain by looking at my opening scripture. It is really not that complicated.
The scripture, "let us labor therefore to enter in that rest" is found in a chapter that addresses two specific issues.
The first issue addressed is that of our salvation and entrance into heaven. What it says is that what must be done to obtain our salvation and gain entrance into heaven has already been done for us. It was through the life and death of Jesus that accomplished this for us. There is nothing left for us to do except to “enter into that rest” by faith or maybe better said, to trust in Jesus to save us. There is no human effort, (besides our faith) that is needed to gain entrance into heaven. And as I will explain, any attempt to gain heaven in our own efforts is a contradiction and is futile… in essence trying to do something that is already done.
So again, what this portion of scripture is saying is that what needs to be done to gain entrance into heaven is already done for us by Jesus Christ. We need do nothing except to “rest” in his finished work by faith. AND once we do that, (having accepted Jesus as our savior) we are then called to trust in the fact that acceptance with God and a future eternal life in heaven is ours! Period, with no more to do! “That” is where the rest is for the people of God. And "that" is what we are to labor to enter into. It is a fight of faith, not trying!
Now, the reason that this scripture says to “labor” to enter into that rest is because it is simply hard to believe. It is hard to “let go and let God,” and to trust Jesus to save you. Because of our humanity we feel that there must be something we must do. But heaven is not gained by good works or good intentions or trying to live a good enough life. That just isn’t possible. God’s standard is perfection and Jesus is the only one who could live up to this standard. None of us can attain that because we are imperfect beings. Thus, it is only by faith in Christ and in what he did for us that can “save” us. Besides, we have ALL sinned, and it is only Jesus that died for those sins. Without him, we would have to pay an eternal price for sin ourselves. (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)
If we can come to grips with this scripture, (and all of chapter 4 of Hebrews) we can receive Christ as savior and rest in the fact that in Christ all we need to do to enter heaven is already done. This means that all struggle of “trying” to gain God’s favor and “trying” to be good enough to get to heaven plus all the worry and unrest and uncertainty of our eternal destination will cease. A new peace and a new rest will enter into our lives. Then, the importance of good works and a good lifestyle will take on a new meaning and be more rewarding. No longer will you feel pressured, driven and guilt-ridden trying to live up to a standard that you cannot attain. You will in essence be off the exhausting treadmill. You will be at rest.
So, if you have already accepted Jesus as savior, think of it this way. Trying to be good enough to be in right standing with God is counter-productive and brings a lack of peace. Trusting that you already are in right standing with him will bring rest! (“Labor therefore to enter into that rest”). But if you have not accepted Jesus as your savior; if you feel that what you do will be good enough to get you into heaven, it just won't be. Salvation cannot be earned. It can only be obtained by receiving Jesus as our savior, not by trusting in our own good works…
I will look at the second issue that Heb. 4:11 addresses in my next article. And that issue is about how Christians “try to get things that they’ve already been given.” Until then, enjoy your rest in Christ!
Submitted by John B. Agati
Author of : “Suffering (God’s Will?)”
More information about this and an upcoming book “Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, (And How to Fix the Whole Thing),” along with a short bio may be found at: www. jbagati.com