The term ‘ labour to rest’ sounds contradictory or counter productive if labour means to work hard and use great effort, while to rest is to cease from labour. What then did Paul mean by his statement or labouring to rest? Paul meant that we should give diligence or strive earnestly to be faithful to the things of God so that we may enter into his rest. Now there is a final resting place for the saints after the judgement which does not mean that we will be sitting around in heaven playing harps and sleeping on clouds. Some of this imagery relates to the fact that doing what we were created to do was never meant to be through painful toil or sorrow.
Hard labour was as a result of the fall of Adam and the curse which followed their disobedience. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). This also followed with having to work hard and only gaining food through pain and sweat. So what was God’s original design for mankind? God created us to have dominion, to be fruitful, multiply and subdue. Despite Adam’s sin and the fall, this was not the end of the story for mankind. God had a plan for redemption through his son Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:18). Justification is declaring or making right in the sight of God. By our salvation through Jesus Christ, we are made the righteousness of God and are able to partake of his rest. We see Joshua declaring rest for God’s people when they entered Canaan and took possession of the land that God had promised them. They obeyed God, obeyed his servant Joshua and entered into their earthly promise of rest.
For every believer, there is a promise of rest both here on earth and into eternity. There are things that God has promised to us when we walk in obedience and fulfil our God given assignment. Once we take possession of our promise and stay in the will of God, we are able to be at peace and rest. “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10).