Andrew Fountain - Making an Effort to Rest

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Sermon notes - Making an Effort to Rest

A lot of us are under pressure at the moment, from the demands of life:

  • studies
  • work
  • family

Timothy asleep

Timothy asleep

  • You have something you need to do, but you don’t have the energy to do it.
    • It seems like it is just too hard.

1. The Problem

  • In Hebrews chapters 3 & 4 we are called to enter God’s rest:
    1. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience.
  • Can you see the problem? How can it be “rest” and making every “effort” at the same time?
  • If you suffer from insomnia, you know that the more effort you put into “resting” the more it slides away from you.
  • There are similar problems when we look at Jesus’ teaching

Matthew 7

  1. Enter through the narrow gate… the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life and there are few who find it.”
  • But Matthew 11…
  1. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  2. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me
    for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  3. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • Which is it? easy or difficult?

Labour is often spoken of highly:

  • I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase... 8Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. [1 Cor 3:6–8]
  • Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. [1 Cor 15:58]
  • Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29To this end I also labour, striving according to his working which works in me mightily. [Col 1:28–29]
  • v.28 the word is for hard physical labour, like digging in a field
  • and numerous other verses
  • Tell the story of the Promised Land pictured as “rest”
  • As we go through, see what stopped them entering the rest:
    • and the refusal of the Israelites to go into it as “failing to enter the rest”

Hebrews 3 & 4

  1. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
    “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!
  2. “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    in the day of testing in the wilderness.
  3. “There your fathers tested me and tried me,
    and they saw my works for forty years.
  4. “Therefore, I became provoked at that generation
    and said, ‘Their hearts are always wandering
    and they have not known my ways.’
  5. “So I made a promise in my anger, ‘They will never enter my rest!’”
  6. So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief.

Chapter 4

  1. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience.

based on NET Bible with some changes by amf


  • Then the writer explains that the Promised Land was only a picture of the rest we can enter, and begins to apply the promises to us:
  • They didn’t enter because of the giants in the land
    • They didn’t trust God or believe his promises
  • Later the writer of Hebrews introduces a second picture of rest: the Garden of Eden
    • Adam and Eve could have stayed in Eden, a place of perfect beauty and rest
    • yet failed to trust God and were thrown out
      • but once again there seems to be a contradiction, because there was work in Eden!

3. The Solution

  • It seems that the rest that we are to enter is not about lying around doing nothing
    • What is it then? —Cease from worry, anxiety, restlessness, being stressed-out
    • Surrender all our worries to God
  • I often need this message preached to me!
    • Story of vacation in Churchill. The train was late...

Vacation in Churchill

Vacation in Churchill

  • It is not about what we are doing, but how and why we are doing it
    • There is a saying “Let go and let God”
      • If wrongly understood, this leads to careless, passive laziness and fatalism
      • But that is not how it was originally meant to be understood
        • the “letting go” is not passive, but dynamic submission to God’s leading
  • The same task can be stressful or “resting” if we “let go” in this way

Lost in Marseilles

Lost in Marseilles

  • e.g. Lost in Marseilles
    • We were driving just as fast (faster), but stress was replaced by trust
  • Stop doing any labour intended to earn God’s favour
    • Our work is all because he loves us, not to make him love us

3. The Solution cont’d

  • It is all about our attitude See notes below
  • There are two ways we can fail to enter this rest:
  1. Not resting from our “own works” – “the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works” 4:10
  2. No effort to submit to Jesus – “Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest 4:11
  • Even the work we do is actually Jesus living in us:
  • Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
  • Eph 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
  • It is all about our attitude
    • My Grandfather used to make rugs, —as relaxation. Some people do it as work.
    • My brother-in-law was partner in his own printing company for many years
      • didn’t work out financially
      • now he does exactly the same job for another company
      • which do you think has less stress?
  • Therefore, it is not about what we do, but our attitude
    • Are we trying to reach some performance goal?
    • This is very dangerous—God has not set us one
    • He wants us to labour out of love

Three ways to respond

Three ways to respond

  • Two kinds of rest:
    • passive (flop on the floor)
    • active (step on escalator)

Answer is 2 parts: passive and active

  • Passively: we stop trying to secure our own future by schemes and self-effort
    • Content with the “Promised Land” Christ offers us
    • Believe that he will empower us
  • Actively: Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    • there is a yoke
  • Actively: we follow the command to “take up our cross” in the strength that Christ supplies
    • “except the seed fall into the ground and die”
  • Actively: follow this path of submissive obedience, because of love, not to earn anything
    • laying down our lives as Jesus did
    • trusting that God will raise us up as he did Jesus
  • at third point above: Examples of this kind of “resting trust”
    • Man with the withered hand
    • big project I have to work on (just take a step and God’s strength will begin to flow)
    • Elijah met a widowed woman who had just a drop of flour and oil left (1 Kings 17)
  • at last point above:

Underground “sump” in a cave

Underground "sump" in a cave

4. Applying this to our lives

see notes below for each point

  • Are you searching for an Eden, a safe resting place, a Promised Land”?
  • Are you anxious?
  • Or are you failing to enter Christ’s rest because you can’t be bothered?
  • Do you need to respond now?
  • Weakness is good
    • All you need is a decision
  • Are you searching for an Eden, a harbour, a safe resting place?
    • One of my best images from childhood was sitting in the back of the car with my brother & sister, setting off on a journey to our vacation. Nothing to worry about.
  • Are you anxious?
    • Are you performance driven?
    • Are you highly goal orientated?
    • Do you have stressed out days?
    • Ask yourself this question:
      • Is this thing I have to do something:
        • God has put on me?
        • or a burden I have laid on myself
      • If it is God, then you know he’ll supply the strength.
      • But if…
  • On the other hand, are you failing to enter Christ’s rest because you can’t be bothered?
    • You don’t see the need
    • Too much effort
    • life is ok
    • The writer warns us that these people perished in the desert, and so will we perish
    • But don’t respond with your own effort
  • Jesus provides the ultimate rest—from having to measure up to the standard of God’s law
    • He promises to life off our guilt and sin if we trust him
    • We don’t have to struggle to please God, but just rest in the joy of being accepted
    • But you do have to take the step of trusting him. (Illustration of casting the net on the other side.)
  • Do you need to respond now
    • confess your lack of trust in his ability
    • ask for his strength and his gift of faith

Updated on 2015-11-24 by Andrew Fountain