Jump Start # 2465
1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toils is not in vain in the Lord.”
Our verse today are the stirring words from the apostle that almost sounds like an army officer inspiring his troops before battle, or a coach firing up his team before the big game. Be stedfast. Be immovable. Always abounding. Hold your ground. Move forward. Keep going. But this was not a game, nor a military battle. This was about the kingdom, God’s kingdom. The work never ends. We must not lose ground. And, yes, there is an enemy, and it is Satan.
I want to focus upon how this verse ends. “Knowing that your toil, or labor, is not in vain in the Lord.” You are not wasting your time, when you are engaged in the work of the kingdom. This is not busy work. What you do is of value. It is not in vain.
I sure needed this verse a while back. It was a Sunday night. I worked hard on a lesson that I thought would be very practical and helpful. But it was a tough night. I didn’t preach it well. I wasn’t connecting with the audience. The crowd seemed tired. Preachers can tell that. The kids were fussy and noisy. Everyone seemed to be somewhere else but with me. I went home and sat in my chair and just thought. Maybe I spent too much time working that lesson up. Maybe I was expecting too much. I felt like I was wasting their time. After all these years of preaching, somehow I still wasn’t doing something right. The clouds of discouragement were gathering around me.
I had a tough time sleeping that night. Running through my mind was this expression, “your work is not in vain in the Lord.” I was arguing with that within myself. It sure seemed like a waste to me. I liked the sermon on paper. It was a great idea. But to me, it flopped. Was it me? Was it the audience? Was it the circumstances?
Your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Here are some things I learned:
First, the measure of success is not often seen. If we preachers are shooting for compliments, spiritual “high-fives” we will soon be tickling the ears of the audience. We’ll put ourselves before the message and before the Lord, and that is always dangerous. Must we have verbal communication to accredit whether we did well or not? What if no one says a thing? What if no one mentions the sermon? Does that mean it was a flop? Does that mean no one was helped? Had I learned anything? Had I been drawn closer to the Lord? Did I not do what the Lord wanted me to do? In the context of 2 Timothy, the young preacher was told that the congregation would not endure sound doctrine. Yet, he was told to preach the word. They may not want it, but he was to continue delivering it. Was this going to be a waste of time? Was this all to be in vain? No.
Second, like a meal we ate months ago, or the falling rain last spring, we may forget and not realize the good that has been done. Sometimes a person may be bothered by the sermon and that “bother” moves them to a better place with the Lord. That person may not leave the building with smiles and “great sermon,” but they may be thinking. And, over the course of the next few days, or even months, that seed that was planted in their hearts starts to spring up to a deeper faith in the Lord. You may never see that, but it’s happening.
Third, kind acts, words of encouragement, cards sent, texts and emails and phone calls made, do a world of good that we may never understand. It tells a person that someone was thinking about them. It tells a person that someone cared enough to reach out to them. Was it worth the effort? We send a card and sometimes we wonder, did it do any good? We visit the funeral home. Was it worth the effort? We drop by the hospital and spend a few minutes chit-chatting with someone. Those are all rays of sunshine that do make a difference. They touch hearts. They build people up. They connect with others. They make people realize that they are not forgotten. They are loved.
There are many things we do that we can wonder if it’s doing any good. We teach a Bible class to kids and we can wonder, is this doing any good? We invite a friend to services and we wonder is that just a waste of time? We send a card. We take a meal. We invite a family over. Hundreds and hundreds of things we do all the time. Is it a waste of time? Is it in vain? Does it do any good?
The answer is always “Yes.” Well, someone says, no one came when I invited them. That’s between them and God. Your job is to sow the seed. Your job is to invite. The measure of the good you do is not in the response but in doing your part. If not careful, we’d have to conclude that Noah was terrible at preaching and it was all a waste of time. No one outside of his family responded. But God didn’t see it that way. Noah warned. Noah preached. That’s what God wanted him to do. His work was not in vain. Success is not measured in numbers. If it were, then God would be a failure. Jesus said the broad way to destruction is wide and many are on that path. The way to God is narrow and only a few are on that. Was the Gospel a failure? Was it preached in vain because so few responded? No. Never.
The weary servant of God often wonders if he is doing any good. He is. He must remember that. Doing what God wants you to do is never a waste of time or effort.
Finally, when discouraged, pray more, pick up your bucket of seed and head back out to the fields to do some more sowing. God will give the increase, not you. God
Your labor is not in vain in the Lord…come on weary servant. There are more fields to be sown. There are more things to be done. The seeds you plant today may grow to be mighty leaders in the kingdom some day. You may never see the good you have done, but God will. Our labor is in the Lord and for the Lord.
Some sermons flop. It’s not the end of the world. Keep going. Keep preaching. Keep plowing ahead. What you do may make all the difference to someone. There is a story of a guy walking along the beach that was covered with star fish. He’d pick one up and toss it back into the water. This went on for a long time. Someone said, “You’ll never get all of these in the water. Do you really think you are making a difference?” The man bent over, picked up another star fish and tossed it into the water. He turned and said, “I did to that one.”