Here I am, preaching to the choir. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Here you are, attending on a Wednesday night, when most others are not. You are demonstrating steadfastness in the Word by your attendance here. Good for you. This is a gift of God, as is your immovability. The devil, the world, and your flesh have tried to sway you away from this Word, but you have not been moved.
Instead, you have busied yourselves with various works in the Lord. He sees to it that there is no lack of labor for His saints. Some works you are aware of, others not. Let me encourage you to continue applying yourselves to the hard work of being God’s people in this world.
But then comes a more insidious temptation. This is one particularly for the mature in faith, and pastors may be attacked by it. The question may suddenly occur to you: “Is my labor in vain?” As we sweat with the exertion of our various Christian tasks, we may notice that some of them seem to go unnoticed and unappreciated. “That’s okay,” we tell ourselves. “We are not in this for glory.” But worse than that, some of our works do not seem to accomplish anything. Some seem, upon reflection, to have been a fruitless waste of time.
A Christian may witness a thousand times and see no converts. A pastor may preach for years and see no sign that anyone is listening. Parents may give all they have for their children with wisdom and love, only to have their children turn away to all kinds of foolishness.
What is the point? Why bother? Is God running us into the ground with endless, futile slavery?
No, of course not. That is not our God. He is the loving Father, and Christ our brother, and the Comforter. He is wise, and His purposes are sometimes hidden from our feeble eyes. So we may not see the purpose although, rest assured, our labor is not in vain in the Lord. He has promised through Saint Paul’s pen tonight.
Here I might give examples of reasons why, even though situations may seem like we have wasted our time, really we have not. But I will not do that because that is not the point. The point is for us to trust, not to search out and investigate and discover God’s purpose. It is not to figure out why our seemingly wasted efforts are not wasted. Instead, trust that your work is not in vain, even when you cannot see the reason why. Trust that God is not jerking your chain, although all evidence seems to point to that.
The reason why we can rest assured that our work is not in vain is found in the word, “Therefore,” at the beginning of verse 58. It points to what went before, namely, the resurrection of Christ our dear Lord from the dead by which we have the victory, and death’s sting is removed.
Therefore, we are not downcast losers in this life. We cannot be. Christ is risen, and we are victors in Him. Our lives cannot be in vain. Our labors are never useless.
So we can stand fast in the faith. We can remain brave and strong even though our cowardly old Adam tries to drag us into weakness. We can put him to death, because he is the loser. He is dead, but we are alive forever in Christ.
Our lives can abound in love because the living Christ has made us alive. Our lives are active in the works He has prepared in advance for us. The Lord is the Preparer, who is never foolish, and whose works and purposes for us are never futile.
Therefore trust in Him, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. His name is Faithful, and He will never fail you.
In His Name and to His glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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