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“Therefore, my dear brothers, 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.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
As I type these words, I am sitting in the airport with the Peru mission team, preparing to spend a week of our lives ministering with Compassion International in Barranca, Peru. This trip was made possible by the generous financial contributions, prayer support, and tangible support of our church family, biological families, and friends, so from our whole team, thank you very much for your love and generosity. As we get ready to board, I wanted to share a reflection on one of my favorite verses, a passage that motivates me daily, 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Taken out of context, the passage above is a stirring charge from Paul to the believer to spend your time living and working for the Lord. Paul’s words are an inspiring challenge, a reminder that while there are many ways we can waste our time in this world, when we serve the Lord, it all matters.
But when you put the verse back in its context, the meaning becomes even more profound. 1 Corinthians 15 is the most important chapter in the Bible when it comes to explaining the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. This is the chapter where Paul writes the famous lines “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Paul goes on for 58 verses in this chapter to talk about how because Jesus rose from the dead, we have confidence that we who believe in Him will also rise again to be with Him, and that it is because of this reality that our lives have significance here on earth. Paul correctly points out that if there were no resurrection, then our lives are meaningless – we are here today and dust tomorrow. And if Jesus never rose from the dead, then we have spent the short lives we have sacrificing it all for a lie, which would be tragic and pitiable.
This grand chapter ends with verse 58. The verse begins with a “therefore,” which grounds it in the previous verses on the resurrection. Paul is saying that because of the reality of the resurrection, we can be encouraged that everything we do in the name of the Lord matters eternally. In some mysterious way that we will only understand on the other side of eternity, we are storing up treasure in heaven with every small deed done out of love for God and obedience to His Word. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:42: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Every day you have numerous choices on how to spend your time, money, and energy. Will you use your money to buy things that in the end will wear out, or to support God’s work and bless those who are in need? Will you spend your time on things that only benefit you, or will you use that time to point others to Jesus or serve your brother or sister in His name? Will you spend your energy on things that will not last, or give yourself to serving others in the name of the Lord? I may not be able to fully understand the mystery of what Jesus and Paul mean in these words, but I trust that in some incredible way, everything we do for the Lord this side of heaven will somehow be a part of our eternal experience.
Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.
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