In the early 1900s, they advertised a trip to the Moon, and within a few days 8,000 people had responded requesting a reservation for a trip. Psychologists poured over the applications and discovered the primary motivation people had for wanting to go to the Moon was to escape the responsibilities and stress of everyday life. In fact, one woman wrote: “It would be heaven to get away from this busy Earth and just go somewhere that’s nice and peaceful, good, safe, and secure.”
Have you ever felt that way before, looking for that place that is free from stress, free from anxiety? The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company did a landmark study in which they discovered that two thirds of their respondents suffered from exhaustion, anger, and anxiety. Those are really the symptoms of our age, aren’t they? No wonder we all long for a place for rest.
When I use the term “rest,” what comes to your mind? Perhaps your idea of rest is being able to sleep in one morning without the annoying sound of the alarm clock. For others of you it might be a Saturday spent engaging in your favorite sport or hobby. For some people it’s a two-week trip to your favorite spot of relaxation. But whatever your idea of rest is, you can experience that freedom from stress, anger, and anxiety right now.
Hebrews 4:1 says, “Therefore let us fear lest while a promise remains of entering his rest anyone of you should have come short of that rest.” This is a passage that is written to Christians as a warning not to fail to enter into God’s rest. Failing to enter God’s rest is not failing to enter into heaven one day. It’s failing to enter God’s place of blessing right now in your life. The word “rest” comes from a Greek word that means to cease working, worrying, striving, and fearing. The writer of Hebrews refers to three different types of rest.
1. Future Rest
First of all, there is a future rest we have yet to experience. It’s the same rest that God told John about in Revelation 14:13. That word “rest” literally means “refreshment, rejuvenation.” There’s going to be great activity in the next life. We’re going to have work and responsibilities in the new heaven and the new Earth.
We’re not going to have the restraints of strained relationships, bodies that grow tired, or meaningless activity. We’re all going to be using the gifts God has given us and enjoy work as God intended for us originally to enjoy work. When he says we’re going to rest from our labor, He’s talking about rejuvenation. There’s not going to be the same encumbrances that we experience right now like sickness, sadness, and sin. All of that will be gone. That is the future rest we look forward to.
2. Past Rest
Secondly, there is a past rest that has already occurred. Hebrews 4:10 says, “For the one who has entered God’s rest has himself also rested from his works as God did from His.” If you’re going to experience that future rest in heaven, we need to quit working and rest in what God has already done for us just as He rested from all of His work.
God did all of His creation work in six days, but on the seventh day He rested. God doesn’t get exhausted. Exodus 31 says he was trying to teach us a lesson that as human beings there needs to be a time that we cease working; that we work and then we rest. We were not created to work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. God meant for us to rest and he set an example for us. So God rested on the seventh day, but then sin entered the perfect world that God had created. So God went to work again. He installed a rescue plan to deliver us from the ravages of sin, and that is by sending his son Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He did the work for us, and the culmination of that work was on the cross of Jesus Christ.
And because of God’s work in securing our redemption you and I no longer have to work. In fact, God refuses to allow us to work for our salvation. If we work for our salvation, then salvation is no longer of grace, it’s of works (Romans 5:4-5). If you’re going to experience God’s future rest in heaven, you have to be a part of his rest in the past. You have to trust that God’s work of redemption is completed. There is nothing you need to do except receive it as a gift.
3. Present Rest
There’s a third kind of rest, and that is our present rest that God wants us to enjoy right now. To experience God’s future rest we’ve got to quit working and accept God’s gift of grace. However, to experience the present rest we’ve got to be diligent.
What is it that is causing you tremendous stress in your life right now? What is it that causes you to keep on churning internally? Maybe it’s a relationship problem, a challenge you’re facing at work, a health concern, or a financial difficulty. The Bible says God wants you to experience rest right now. God’s present rest is the supernatural peace that comes from trusting God when tested and obeying God when ordered.
Here's the formula: God’s commands + Our faith = His supernatural rest. The place of our future rest is heaven. The place of our past rest was at the cross of Jesus Christ. The place for our present rest is right in the middle of our circumstances. Are you going to trust and obey God and experience that peace, or are you going to spend the rest of your life wrestling with stress, regret, and fear? God wants to give you that supernatural rest exactly where you are right now.