Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When You Wonder if You’re Making a Difference

Sometimes I feel like my efforts to serve the Lord are not accomplishing much.  I know in my mind this is not true because I believe God’s promises.  But my heart does not always feel the same thing that my mind knows.  How about you?

The purpose of this post is to help you (and me!) get God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 15:58 worked deep down into our hearts and minds:

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

So let’s think about this promise and study it.  As you think deeply on God’s promise, I pray that His Holy Spirit will apply it to your emotions as well as your intellect. So let’s break it down, mull it over, internalize it, and own it.

“your labor”

The Greek word translated “labor” is kopos.  It emphasizes the type of work which is difficult and exhausting.  Notice that God’s promise does not restrict this “labor” to a specific area.  Any work which is sometimes hard, difficult, or stressful counts.  Being a mother of young children is hard work.  Working to provide for your family is often difficult and tiring.  Serving in any of a hundred different roles in your local church in addition to your “day job” involves sacrifice.  In this world, work is often hard and difficult.  God promises that your hard work is not in vain!

“in the Lord”

God’s promise applies to many kinds of work, but it does not apply to all work.  The work must be “in the Lord”.  What does that mean?  It means that whatever you are doing must be done in a right relationship with Jesus.  It is hard work which is done for Jesus.  It means that we are truly trying to do what He wants us to do and to do it the way He wants us to. Lots of people work very hard to do things which God cares nothing about.  Their work often is rewarded by the world in temporary ways, but such work is truly “in vain” from an eternal perspective.

The phrase “in the Lord” also reminds us that this promise is applied with grace.  If our motives, actions, and efforts had to be perfect to be fruitful we would have no hope.  But because Christ is working in and through us, our admittedly weak and faltering efforts actually are used by God for His good and glorious purposes.

“is not in vain”

The promise is that our labor “is not in vain”.  This means that all your hard work for Jesus counts.  None of it is wasted. Based on God’s Word, we know this is true.  But then why do we often feel like it is not true?

Perhaps the biggest reason we often doubt God’s promise (at least in our emotions) is that we don’t see visible results. At least we don’t see the type of visible results or the amount of visible results we are looking for.

It’s not wrong to want to see large numbers of people coming to Christ, and to see dynamic, radical, glorious transformation in the life of each believer. Occasionally, we do see those things, or at least some believers get to.  But often we work hard for long periods of time without seeing much evidence of the fruit we long for.  Why is this?  Here are some possible reasons:

1.  God’s work is long term. It takes time for a tree to bear fruit.  Our “fast food”, instant everything lifestyle trains us to expect instant results.  But God is often working on a timetable of years and even generations. In fact, much of the fruit of our work will not be visible until we see the results in Heaven. Don’t give up, the harvest is coming (see Galatians 6:9)!

2.  God’s work is deep.  God works deep inside us and deep inside other people.  God uses us in this work, but we can’t directly see the changes in people’s hearts and minds which God sees.

3.  God’s work is high.  God is accomplishing things in the spiritual and heavenly realms that we cannot fathom.

4.  God’s work calls us to experience the cross before we experience glory.  We are called to follow Jesus.  This means suffering in this world and glory in the age to come.

God is not using our work in Christ to accomplish less than we want.  Through us, He is accomplishing far more than we can imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).

We often feel that our efforts are weak and feeble.  And so they are.  But God’s mighty power is at work when we are weak (see 2 Corinthians 12:10)!

Stand Firm

Believe God’s promises.  Don’t give in to the temptation to give up.  Don’t trade God’s eternal rewards for the temporary pleasures offered by the world.

Give Yourself Fully to the Work of the Lord

Keep going for it. Be all in.  Don’t hold back in serving Jesus.  All your hard work, all your frustrations and setbacks, all your tiring labor, is being used by God for His good purposes.  Give all you have to Jesus.  You’ll be glad you did!

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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