Your labor is not in vain!

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
  • Have you ever had someone desert you when you were trying to get some work done?
  • Someone who came to help you, but took off before the task was accomplished?
  • It’s a sinking feeling. I’ve had it many times. It’s a pretty lonely feeling. From Christians, its even worse because there’s spiritual implications as well. (Helping cat people move)
  • Not just on a task, in the ministry, specifically this church, we’ve had many people abandon the work over the past 20 years. More than I can count. More have abandoned than stayed
  • Some reasons, some excuses, some I don’t know- They just left. Bless God- Many of you have stayed with the work through many years and seasons- you have not fainted or gave up. 
  • As I’ve walked through the ministry- many have asked me how we were successful- Most of it- we just kept showing up and didn’t give up. Wasn’t as much skill as it was heart. 
  • But there were moments when it felt like it was all in vain. First year of church had a youth retreat- one kid went haywire- parents accused us- their kid was off- “why am I doing this?”
  • Vain- Emptiness- meaningless- without purpose or reason. No point. Why continue?
  • Front yard in Texas with water- tried to bail, eventually just opened up the back door- vain
  • As Christians, we must “work unto the Lord” because what we do is NOT in vain
  • Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
  • This is a reminder we all need when serving the Lord because sometimes it feels fruitless
  • Like taking a hill in viet nam to just be taken over by the enemy again- why even fight?
  • Barnes- Always abounding in the work of the Lord – Always engaged in doing the will of God; in promoting his glory, and advancing his kingdom. The phrase means not only to be engaged in this, but to be engaged diligently, laboriously; excelling in this. The “work of the Lord” here means that which the Lord requires; all the appropriate duties of Christians. Paul exhorts them to practice every Christian virtue, and to do all that they could do to further the gospel among people.
  • As Christians, our labor is not in vain at all- It’s just not. It becomes that, when we do it for the wrong reasons- with the wrong motives- with the wrong intentions. 
  • Here’s something I had to come to terms with many years ago- Who we are as a church and our numeric growth, its more than likely never going to be recognized by anyone other than Jesus
  • And that has to be enough. It has too. If you’re waiting for anything else- you will be waiting LONG time. Our Labor is not in vain because it’s to the Lord. 
  1. People who Stop the work
  • I talk about this a lot because a commitment to finish a work is a commitment to Jesus
  • There’s only been a handful of people who I’ve wanted to leave, most of them I didn’t. 
  • For me- Crystal and I are committed to the work. Always have been. Doesn’t mean we haven’t thought about quitting. We have- many times, but it was never because God wanted us to- it was because we were emotionally overwhelmed, tired, sad, frustrated etc. Never God
  • I don’t know of a scripture where God said because something was hard it was ok to quit. 
  • Church is an image of society. Marriages, friendships, jobs, houses, clubs etc. Easy to quit. 
  • The truth is- It changes relationships with people who lose heart and don’t continue the work
  • Who’s ever heard of Demas?
  • Demas was a guy who according to scripture, had a close relationship with Paul and was well regarded by Paul. 
  • Colossians 4:14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.
  • He was included with Luke in the greeting- Pretty high status to be named with Luke
  • Also in Philemon- 23-24 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.
  • Paul loved people. He loved the Church- He regarded the things of God as the most important things- to him “to live is Christ and to die is gain” there was nothing he would do for the Gospel
  • Near the end of Paul’s life-sitting alone in a roman prison- He writes a letter to a young pastor named Timothy to encourage him in his faith and the work of the Lord for the Church
  • He tells him to “stir up his gifts” and encourages his genuine faith
  • He tells him to continue in the things he learned and to be watchful, endure afflictions, and “do the work of an evangelist” 
  • Paul is encouraging Timothy because he knows what hardships and persecutions away Timothy as he’s continuing in the ministry- The ministry is hard! (He’s writing from a prison) 
  • Paul had a list of sufferings in 2 cor 11:23-29 V 23 I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
  • He knew what it meant to work and he knew what it meant to suffer- 
  • So in the midst of this letter encouraging young Timothy to continue the work, while in prison,  he adds the last biblical reference to Demas- 2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica
  • Now its clear that Paul wasn’t afraid to speak up about what he thought about people specifically- He wrote about them in his letters- and in this one- at his lowest moment, he wants Timothy to know- Demas cannot be trusted- he’s left me for World. 
  • And that’s the reality- Some people just quit because they love the world- Now Demas eventual spiritual end and salvation is not expressed in the bible- but this moment this sentiment is clear
  • Demas did not continue. Demas was not steadfast immovable and abounding in the work of the Lord- Demas probably thought whatever work he was doing was in vain. 
  • The world pulled him away. The Bible is silent- but I can guess because I know people
  • I’m guessing Demas saw the suffering of Paul and the idea of being in a bustling cosmopolitan city of Thessalonica seemed better than suffering like Paul. Before, during and After prison. 
  • Its understandable! “having loved this present world” – the world looks better than suffering
  • This was par for the course for Paul! Many turned away- 2 Timothy 1:15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 
  • All of those in Asia. How many? All. No one stuck with the work Paul was doing. (phil church sup)
  • For whatever reason they didn’t continue in the work that Paul Had set out to do for the LORD
  • It happens- In Acts 13:13 we hear about John-Mark who left the work. 
  • Acts 13:13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
  • It doesn’t really say why- just said he quit the work in that verse- What we do know, based on the biblical record is that it changed the way Paul viewed John Mark because he was a quitter
  • This contention caused a rift with Paul and Barnabas. It changed their relationship. Splintered. 
  • Lets read Acts 15:37-40
  • Can you hear the frustration? 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
  • I don’t know what Paul said here but I’m guessing- “that dudes a quitter” “he left me in a pinch” 
  • It not only affected Paul and Mark it affected Paul and Barnabas relationship
  • I don’t know what happened- but Somehow Mark made amends- he must have- As Paul is writing to Timothy in Prison- right after complaining about Demas he says- 
  • 2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.
  • Something must have changed in their relationship that Paul changed how he viewed him. 
  • Praise God there was a Change. Praise God John Mark decided to continue the work
  • So it begs the question- Are we going to be Demas or a Mark?
  • Will the end of our story be “he left for the love of the world” or “he is useful to me”
  • Paul knew the human heart! He knew how hard it was! He knew people gave up
  • Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
  • Its normal to want to give up. Its normal to want to quit. Its even harder when you are doing it in a culture that hates you, that doesn’t agree with you- that wants you to stop. 
  • They want nothing more than for you to STOP in your work for the Lord. To be a DEMAS. 
  1. Your labor is not in vain
  • Pastor Jeremy touched on this- as Dr Baird as well- It begs repeating because I think that if we don’t keep it central to our mind- we can easily lose heart and give up on the work of the Lord. 
  • Isaiah 40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
  • We have to admit that even the best of us grow tired and weary and think its all in vain
  • Ecc 1:2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
  • If what the ancients say is true- and King Solomon wrote this at the end of his life- he was worth over 2 trillion dollars- Had everything, did everything, didn’t deny himself anything 
  • And this is what he says- “what’s it all worth?”- Why did I show restraint? Wait etc
  • I’m sure you’ve asked it- That’s why The bible repeatedly tells you to stay the course
  • Paul says “remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”
    The Bible tells us that great rewards await us if we continue working unto the Lord
  • Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 
  • James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
  • Ephesians 6:8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
  • Those are some great rewards that await us in heaven! Its great to think about- 
  • And, there’s some earthly rewards that await you as well- if you walk righteously. 
  • But you can’t “lose heart” 2 cor 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.- You lose heart when you think what you do is in vain
  • Why does the Bible repeatedly encourage us to not give up if it wasn’t natural to want to give up and not continue in the Lord? It wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t possible and common
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
  • You don’t want to lose heart- you don’t want to give up! Demas’s lose heart- they go to the world- John Marks heart might give up for a season, but come to their senses
  • The world promises the easy road, the lust of the flesh, the entanglements of money, the satisfaction of indulging your sinful nature and living for yourself with no restraints
  • It’s easy. Today Paul might write “Demas has left me for Las Vegas” lots to get into there. 
  • Bless God the Bible gives us repeated encouragement and direction on how to labor and endure
  • Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
  • When you feel like giving up- Think of Jesus. Think of what he went through in comparison to what you’re going through. The sacrifices that he made v you and what you’re going through
  • Much of the complaining of Christians is directly connected to their disobedience to the clear directive of scriptures, the indulgence of their flesh, the inconsistencies in their disciplines, their refusal to die to self, the desire for the things of this world, Boredom of the things of God, inability or refusal to go before God to renew your mind and heart, self centered theology and desire to gain the whole world and lose your soul. 
  • The upward mobility and ability to indulge your flesh seems like a modern invention, but apparently travel and indulgence was possible back in Bible times as well. 
  • So what to do? How do we work not in vain?
  • Just do good- Be good. Do things that line up in the Bible- Serve, love, give, listen, endure
  • 1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—
  • James 5:7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. 
  • Our ever changing culture that puts out a 1200 phone every 6 months that still just makes phone calls, texts, games and takes pictures makes you feel like if everything else in my life has a short wear out date, the things of God probably do as well. But that’s not true
  •  I will tell you- the best things of the Lord are reaped over the long haul, not the short term
  • Salvation is quick, but sanctification of growing closer to the Lord and deepening in the word just gets better over time. – You need to hear- The work you and we do in NOT IN VAIN
  • Friend- there is a reward waiting- there is something for you now and in the future- endure
  • Don’t give up in this season- (Dr Baird talked about covenant last night)
  • The Bible says- 1 Pe 3:17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 4:19 says to commit their souls to Him in doing good,
  • So make that commitment- I’m going to endure. I’m going to just keep showing up. 
  • Probably told this before- Freshman to soph wrestling- never would have tasted victory if I had given up in my defeats- Would have been a much different story- 
  • Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
  • Lets see what God does this year and the next- Lets remain steadfast, immovable, abounding

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