Jump Start # 2224
Galatians 4:11 “I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”
Our verse today comes from Paul wondering how useful he had been. The Galatians seemed to be moving backwards and not forwards. The influence of Jewish teachers had the Galatians reconsidering parts of the law of Moses. Some were reaching back for it and in so doing, they were abandoning what Paul had taught them. His work among them seemed to be in vain.
The word “vain” means useless or worthless. It’s a key word in Ecclesiastes. It’s also a key thought among us. We often measure the worth of what we do by the results. If the numbers are up, we feel satisfied and good about things. In terms of our efforts in a church, the measuring rod is often the Sunday attendance and the number of baptisms within a year. As long as both of those numbers are rising, the preacher feels confident that he is doing a good job and everyone is happy. Attendance numbers at worship and baptism rates are never mentioned among the seven churches in Revelation. Paul’s concern with the Galatians wasn’t about attendance or how many were being baptized. He was concerned about the spiritual growth and stability among the Galatian churches. The measuring rod of success was whether or not they were remaining true to the Gospel message.
Vain, a waste of time, we can feel that way when it’s not really true. Where I live, there is a massive woods behind me. I don’t own it, but I certainly enjoy it. Family and friends sit out on our back deck and admire the beauty. In the fall, especially this one, the trees were full of orange, yellow and reds. It was brilliant. We have all kinds of trees back there, and most of them are very large. When sitting out there with friends, we always talk about how beautiful it is. I remind our friends that every leaf that they see, comes down in the fall, and most times, it’s in my backyard. My yard was full of leaves the other day. I have a leaf blower that seems to have a jet engine on it. It can blow leaves to Iowa. I blow leaves then I get out my mower and mulch the rest. Last week I spent several hours working on the leaves. The yard was beautiful. I sat on the deck admiring how great it all looked. The next morning when I looked out, you couldn’t tell that I had even touched the yard. So many more leaves fell. A day later, I was back at it again, blowing leaves and mowing leaves. This will continue until they all finally come down. Now, are my efforts in vain? Is it a waste of time? Some neighbors never touch their yard. Leaves stack up everywhere.
This is the concept of questioning the good that is being done. Parents can feel this way. Over and over they teach the same lessons. They wonder if they are doing any good. A child gets in trouble at school and the disappointed parent wonders if all that they do is in vain. The preacher can feel this way. He works up lessons for classes and sermons and preaches his heart out. A month later someone asks him why he doesn’t preach on a specific topic. The preacher thinks, “I just did. You were there. Am I wasting my time?”
Wasting time. We understand this in our fast paced society. We hate sitting in traffic. The main reason, “it’s a waste of time.” We hate long lines in restaurants. When you give them your name and they hand you one of those electronic buzzers and say, “It’ll be about one hour,” we sigh and think about leaving for some other place. We hate waiting in the doctor’s office. We hate waiting in the check out line at stores. All of these come down to we feel it’s a waste of time. As a busy parent, when you ask your teen what’s he doing, and his answer is “nothing,” that drives you crazy. You’d love to have a few moments to do nothing. You are too busy to do nothing. There’s too much to be done. Nothing isn’t in your schedule. From the moment you are up until the moment you go to bed, you haven’t found nothing. There’s always something. There is always something to be done. And, the challenge before us is which something must be done. There’s too many to get done in one day.
We must remind ourselves that some of the best things spiritually cannot be measured by accomplishments. They are not in vain if they strengthen us, encourage us, and help us connect. For instance:
Having a meaningful conversation with someone is never a waste of time. Lowering the nets, talking seriously about life, choices, Jesus, hope are all great things. Sometimes these conversations take time. Some things move slowly. But refreshing a soul, building faith, reconnecting someone to the Lord, is never a waste of time.
Worship is never a waste of time. There may be days when others who are leading the worship are not having a great day. The songs may drag. The sermon may be shallow. The prayers may seen stale. However you are among the people of God and in the presence of the Lord. You get to let your heart praise the Lord. You put out of your mind, even for just a few moments, all the crazy things of this world and all the demands of your time. For a moment, it’s you and the Lord. Always good. Never a waste of time.
Spending time with your kids is never a waste of time, and that’s true no matter how old they are or you are. Heading into the holiday season, we think about buying gifts which is fun. However, what the little ones would like more than anything else, is for you to sit on the floor with them and play. They will forget about the toys within a month, but they will remember the times you played. And, when you have a parent that has passed on to the other side, you’d love just to have another day to sit and talk with them. What’s missing in our days is family time. Family games. Family meals. Family devotions. The big ones making time for the little ones. Never a waste of time, in fact, these are the very things that make precious memories. I find it more satisfying these days to help my little grandkids pick up acorns in my back yard than it is to hit a golf ball. Wasting time? Never.
Helping someone is never a waste of time. Now, this one is probably the hardest in our list. You help someone and there are some who never even pause to thank you. Remember the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed? Only one, the Samaritan, returned to thank the Lord. Jesus wondered about the others. I’m certain they were thankful. They got what they asked for, mercy from Jesus. However, they never said it to Jesus. The Lord, in His power, could have returned the leprosy upon the nine for not thanking Him. But He didn’t. He’s not like that. Jesus went about doing good. You help someone in the store. You help a co-worker. You give someone a few dollars. You chip in to buy a gift for someone. You take some food to someone. You stop by the hospital. You take time to go to the funeral. You do these things because this is right and you’d want folks to do it for you. Because they never thanked you, was it a waste of time? Never. Helping someone isn’t based upon what we receive from it. It’s a matter of the good that we can do.
Finally, it’s never a waste of time to talk to the Lord. The apostles in Acts 6 called upon the church to find seven men to serve the tables because they needed to devote their time to prayer and preaching. Praying. It’s good for us. It honors God. It’s never a waste of time.
What is a waste of time or vain or useless, is when we have wonderful opportunities before us and we don’t take advantage of them. Opportunities to grow, but we don’t. Opportunities to shine, but we don’t. Opportunities to connect, and we don’t. Now, that’s wasted time.
Am I wasting my time? Not if I’m doing good and godly things. Never!