John reflects on the importance of keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and persevering in our work for the Lord.view transcript
Today, the word that I want to bring to you is from 1 Corinthians 15:58.
I believe that this verse is particularly appropriate for us, and so, let’s take a look at it.
After a beautiful section on the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of our own bodies someday, Paul climaxes this Resurrection message with a “therefore.”
“Therefore, my dear brothers be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Let’s take a look at that for a moment. He’s writing to people that he loves: “my dear brothers”—we can say sisters—writing from a distance to the Corinthian church. He wants ’em to know that the Resurrection is real. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact, and the promise of our own resurrection is a reality that gives us hope and causes us to press on and persevere in ministry.
And so, he says to them: “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” So, there is this call to persevere, to press on. The need for the gospel has never been greater—to take the loving message of Jesus in word and in action to our communities, to display the love of Jesus and proclaim the gospel of Jesus with our words. Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up, Paul says to the Galatian Church.
So, here to the Corinthians, he’s encouraging them to be steadfast, to be unmovable. I confess to you that there’s been times in this last year and a half that I’ve grown a bit discouraged, and I’ve been tempted to be moved away from my calling. But this word in the Greek, as I understand it, that’s calling us forward in perseverance is a word of stay the course, don’t get off track. You have a destination. You are heading somewhere. You are taking the gospel to your people. You are building your church with the love of Jesus. You are living out the life of Christ in your communities.
Stay the course; persevere. Temptations come to go pursue the world. Temptations come to get discouraged and give up. Temptations come to just do something that would make us feel better for a moment. Friends, stay the course—our eyes focused on Jesus, our passion for Him, our desire for His glory to be revealed through our lives.
My dear brothers and sisters, I say with the Apostle Paul, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. That’s the call to perseverance. Next in the verse, there is this promise that has given to us—there is the gift of a promise in this verse: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” This promise of what we do for the Lord is not vanity. It’s not worthless. No, there is this promise that what we do is honored by Him, is known by Him, is valued by Him, and will be rewarded by Him.
Your work in building the church, your work in advancing the name of Jesus, your work in proclaiming the gospel, your work in discipling those around you, your work in raising up the next generation to know the word of God and to own the church for themselves, your work to show love to the community around you, your work during COVID to help people in need—your work in the Lord is not in vain. It has value. It has significance. It has meaning, and it has eternal impact.
We don’t always get to see that with our eyes in this short term. We don’t always know how our ministry is being received or who we are impacting. But the Lord knows, and the Lord honors, and the Lord blesses our efforts. So, if there has been a temptation, a whisper from the enemy that has said: This doesn’t really matter. This is just feudal. This doesn’t amount to anything. Your work isn’t of any value. You might as well give up. My friend, would you rebuke and renounce that word in the name of Jesus? Would you resist that temptation to give up, resist that temptation to be discouraged, and instead know that someday the Lord will announce, “Well done, well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into my joy, enter into the joy of the Lord. For I gave you a couple of talents. I gave you some gifts, and you multiplied them. You didn’t just keep them for yourselves. You didn’t just hold them for your own happiness or comfort. No, you released what I gave you to others. I gave you my gospel message, the truth of my salvation, and you shared it, you distributed it. I gave you food for your table, and you didn’t just keep it for yourself, but you shared it with someone else. I gave you the opportunity to lead a church, and you didn’t lead that church just for your own prestige or your own influence, but you led that search in such a way that served other people, that blessed other people, that made their lives better because they came under the teaching of the gospel and the love of the body of Christ.”
Your labor, my friend, is not in vain in the Lord. It is known by Him. It will be rewarded by Him, and it’s making a difference right now in your community. Every community in the world is impoverished if it doesn’t have a gospel-preaching church, and every community that has a gospel-preaching, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving church is a better community than it would be without.
So, you’re being a blessing in your community. You’ve helped the hurting. You’ve fed the hungry. You’ve encouraged the weary. You’ve brought hope where there was hopelessness. You brought the message of Jesus, the good news of forgiveness where there was nothing but despair. Keep bringing that message that God so loved this world that He gave us His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost—Luke 19. I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me—John 14. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life abundantly—John 10.
So, my friend, you have a message, you have a calling, you’re living it out—persevere in it. There’s a promise for you if you do, as you do. And then lastly, in that verse there’s a subtle provision implied if we look closely. Let me give you the verse again. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
We’re not laboring in the flesh, in our own strength. We’re not laboring in our best abilities to do something good for God. We’re not laboring in our own energy, or at least I hope we’re not. But we have the privilege of laboring in the Lord, in His strength, in His provision, in His presence with His Spirit flowing through us.
For years, when I thought about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I would picture kind of a bucket going down into a well, and then I wanted to access that living water, that flow of the Spirit. I wanted the life of the Spirit, and I knew that I needed a continual filling on the Spirit. Ephesians 5 says: “Be continually filled with the Spirit.” And so, I had this bucket kind of picture. I don’t know where it came from, but I would mentally throw my bucket in the well and ask the Lord to fill me again.
One day I had a vision of sorts, and it only lasted for a moment. I didn’t see it with my eyes, only with my mind, but I saw again that bucket going to the well, and I was asking to be filled, and suddenly the bottom broke out of that bucket. The bottom gave way. So now I just had a bucket that had no base, nothing to catch the water, and I was so disappointed.
No, my bucket’s broken. I have no way to get the water. And then the picture changed, and my bucket turned sideways, and the living water started to flow through. I wasn’t supposed to have a bucket that I occasionally received another provision of water from. I was supposed to have a channel, a conduit, a pipe for the water to flow right on through. And this is the provision of the Spirit of God for us, that in the Lord, we walk in the Spirit. And Jesus said in John chapter seven, streams of living water can flow in and through us. So, there is a promise as we persevere, and there is provision for us to live out that persevering life. The provision is not you trying harder. The provision is us receiving continuously the gift of the Spirit for our lives.