Is it about that time for a long-awaited family vacation? Reclining by the lake, road trips, bike rides, enjoying a campfire, family time, or weekend getaway? I just think of sun and splashes and smiles. Time to slow down and rest from months and months of just going.
The word for rest there in Hebrews 4:10-11 means to cease. Like a rest in music, where the musicians pause and stop playing (so crucial to beautiful music). Or a sabbath rest where God worked for 6 days and on the 7th day, He ceased the work He was doing.
Isn’t it a relief that rest is God’s idea? Let’s do a quick practice. Slow down…Inhale. Exhale. Nice.
The phrase “make every effort” is the translation of the Greek verb “spoudazo,” which means to be swift. The idea is that you are moving speedily to show full diligence; fully applying yourself to the best of your ability, with speedy commitment. Fervently working to accomplish the task given.
Sounds like the exact opposite of rest. God's funny like that.
Labor to Rest
When you think about it, though, it makes absolute sense. I can think of a few examples:
Ever go on a vacation and have to work feverishly to get ready? There is the packing to do, the passports to request, the itineraries to plan, the tickets to purchase, and the preparations to be made. However, if planned well, you can cease all that and just enjoy your time when you arrive. It’s all about that moment when you’re wearing the bathing suit you packed, holding the great book you purchased, at the hotel you booked, on the beach you selected, in the hammock you rented, with the cool beverage you ordered, and the people you invited.
It was a lot of effort - just so that you could rest.
2) The Sabbath
People who follow Judaism today still labor to enter the Sabbath rest. In order to stop all work sundown Friday to Saturday, they have to make extra food, clean up what can be cleaned (or I assume they have to stare at the mess for the next 24 hours), prepare a (double?) family dinner and have all necessary items purchased and prepared ahead of time.
It’s an effort. But I can imagine that when they’ve prepared well, they can truly cease working. They’re not worrying about things getting done. They’ve already done them, and now they get to enjoy the fruit of their labor, worship the Lord, and have some family time.
3) Old Testament Hebrews
The people of Israel had to labor to enter their ‘rest,’ which was the Promised land. They had to bust out of slavery in Egypt and walk through the desert. Then they had to fight giants and massive armies. After many years and many battles, they were finally able to settle into the land that was promised. Labor to rest.
Sadly, some of them never made it, though. They died in the dry desert instead of living in the lush green land God had picked for them. Why? They didn’t trust God and refused to follow His instructions. They grumbled and complained. I would never do that (at least not to His face, just privately in my heart, sometimes...).
Prepare (Labor) to Spend Time With God (Rest)
You might have to plan ahead and make some effort. Excuse me — every effort. Get up early or stop working early. Have the space clean or make yourself a room to pray. Put on worship music, and bring your Bible (buy a Bible?). Dim the lights and light a candle. Purchase a journal (or is it just me? You may have noticed that I love writing). Go on an alcohol fast. Or a sugar fast. Or an Instagram/Netflix fast? Or just snatch a few minutes between calls at work. Do whatever it takes.
Then stop, look [at God with the eyes of your heart], and listen [for His voice]. I’d love to hear how it goes.