October 23, 2019
"Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Each autumn, as the leaves start to change and fall, I wonder how long I can put off raking leaves. The task can be rewarding, since it gives me the satisfaction of actually seeing the tangible results of my labor. But doing the job too early is sure to rob me of that satisfaction. Why rake the leaves on the ground when there are plenty still in the trees waiting to fall? What's the point of putting in effort that will feel vain as soon as the wind blows heavily again?
Five hundred years before Jesus, some who lived in Judah felt that serving God was about as vain as raking leaves too early in the fall. According to the prophet Malachi, they said, "It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? Now we count the arrogant as happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test, they escape" (Malachi 3:14-15). Malachi promised in response that "The Lord took note and listened" and that one day they would "see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not" (vv.16-18). When the Day of the Lord came, Malachi prophesied, "the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings" on those who were obedient and faithful (4:2).
The Apostle Paul likewise wrote to a discouraged church about the hope that awaited them. After dealing with the myriad problems in the Corinthian church, Paul's letter reaches its apex as he describes our hope of resurrection. It's on the basis of that hope that Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is never in vain." We may not see the fruit of our labor in this lifetime, but the hope that one day we will be "raised in glory" gives meaning and purpose to all we do in the Lord's service (1 Cor 15:43). All our work in this life is temporary, perishable, yet we have been promised a day when "we will be raised imperishable" (1 Cor 15:52). Knowing that hope, may we continue to give ourselves to God's service, for "in the Lord your labor is never in vain."
Grace and Peace,