Laboring for Rest

James Smith

"Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest lest any man fail after the same example of unbelief." Hebrews 4:11

Sin is restless, and the sinner cannot enjoy true repose. Even many true believers do not enjoy the rest which God has provided for us under the gospel dispensation. Here the Apostle exhorts us to labor to enter into that rest.

He refers to the first Sabbath to illustrate his subject; this was God's rest; and the day was set apart for man's benefit. Creation was finished, and God had demonstrated and displayed His glorious perfections. Jehovah appeared a satisfied God, filled with delight; having pronounced His work to be good, very good. All creation acquiesced in God's will and man's happiness; all was lovely, obedient, and happy. Here was a beautiful garden, well furnished with all man could need, or really desire; and it was given to Adam for possession; here he was to keep Sabbath, and enjoy rest.

The rest of the Christian is in the finished work of Christ, as a Redeemer; in which He displayed and harmonized all the perfections of Jehovah, in the everlasting salvation of every believer. Here God appears delighted, filled with satisfaction, rejoicing again in the works of His hands; rejoicing over His people with joy, and keeping a Sabbath in His love.

Here, on the cross of Jesus we see written, "God is love;" we behold sin put away; and by it all things are now arranged and directed, so that they shall work together for good, to all who love God, and are called according to His purpose.

In the gospel, paradise is restored; for all that the sinner can want, the believer enjoy, or the most enlightened saint desire is provided, presented, and made over to us. So that if we understand the gospel, it presents us with salvation and bids us keep Sabbath; it provides for us, that we may rest from fear, bondage, and apprehensions of danger, and rejoice in the Lord our God. The true gospel state, is a state of rest. . .
not from service but from slavery;
not from duty but from drudgery;
not in indolence but in sweet activity.
Rest in Jesus. Rest with God. Rest through faith.

The Apostle also refers to the rest of Canaan, which was promised to and set before Israel; in which they were to find everything prepared and provided for them; and enjoy . . .
, from the slavery of Egypt;
, from the toils of the desert;
, after conflict and victory over their foes;
and plenty, for feasting, sacrifice, and daily food.

So the gospel sets before us the rest of God, just as Canaan was set before Israel, and bids us to enter into it and possess it here is . . .
from the slavery of sin, Satan, and the world;
from legal toil and slavish fear;
, with God, with conscience, and with men;
and plenty, for food, atonement, and triumph
so that we may rest, rejoice, and praise.

But how few enter into and enjoy this rest, "Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest." Let us labor to ascertain our title, by making our calling and election sure; let us labor to improve our knowledge for possession and enjoyment. Let us labor by prayer, which is wrestling; by searching the Scriptures, which are a mine of wealth, which is therefore mining; and by believing, which is running, fighting, working, and following hard after God. There will be difficulties such as tests and trials but the rest is attainable.

Paul would awaken jealousy, that he may stir us up to activity. "Therefore," he says, alluding to the Israelites who fell in the wilderness, "lest any man fail after the same example of unbelief." Professors have fallen:
unbelief is the root,
disobedience the blossom,
and apostasy the fruit!

Professors may fall, for none are safe but those who are in Christ, and enjoy the rest of our gospel Canaan, who keep Sabbath in the Redeemer's finished work.

Beware of discrediting or neglecting any part of God's Word, which is your preservative and guide; beware of presuming you are safe without a good foundation; beware of departing from God either in heart or action.

Look at the context, and you will see that the Apostle connects the Word of truth, the eye of God, the great and good High Priest of our profession, the throne of grace, the solemn caution, and the fervent exhortation together to preserve and keep us from falling. Let us therefore use and improve all for this solemn purpose!