March 20, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 4:14 (NRSV)
. . . we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.
Your labor is not in vain if you work for God’s purposes and glory. The work you do, whether at your office, your studio, your store, your warehouse, or your kitchen is not meaningless if it’s done for the Lord. Moreover, somehow, in the mystery of God’s providence, what you’re doing now will matter in God’s future. Of this you can have confidence because of the resurrection—the resurrection of Jesus and your own resurrection.
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
When Christians talk about “the resurrection,” we’re referring to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Indeed, from the earliest times Christians have affirmed “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The resurrection of Jesus, which we celebrate on Easter, is absolutely foundational to Christian faith.
But resurrection isn’t relevant only to Jesus. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have affirmed the resurrection of all people. In the Apostles’ Creed, for example, we confess our belief in “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” The Nicene Creed teaches us to “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
Though the doctrine of the resurrection is both ancient and essential, it’s often neither understood nor emphasized among Christians today. We tend to think more in terms of “going to Heaven when we die” than “being raised from the dead in the age to come.” I’m not denying that there is truth in saying we go to Heaven when we die, mind you. But if we want our faith to be fully biblical, we need to affirm and understand the doctrine of the resurrection of all people, not just Jesus.
One of the places in Scripture that is the clearest about our resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter begins with a rock-solid affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-9). Paul refers to this as something “of first importance” (15:3). But then he goes on to explain the “resurrection of the dead,” meaning all dead people, not just Jesus (15:12). In this explanation Paul writes, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (15:20-21). Christ as the “first fruits” is the beginning of the resurrection of all who will be made alive in Christ. We are the rest of the harvest.
The resurrection of Jesus supplies the foundation for Paul’s confidence that the gospel is true. The resurrection of all believers gives him hope for the future. It reassures him that, even though we are “clay jars,” we won’t be cast aside in God’s future. Rather, we will be raised. And when this happens, our clayness will be transformed: “When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Now, if this seems a bit hard to understand, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In fact, Paul refers to our resurrection as “a mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:51). We believe it as Christians even though we don’t fully understand it.
We may wonder what difference it makes that we believe in our own future resurrection. I’d like to mention three implications of this belief. First, the resurrection reminds us that our bodies have value. They matter to God and should matter to us. We do not believe our bodies are mere vessels to be discarded when our souls go to be with God. Rather, our bodies will be raised and transformed. This truth suggests, among other things, that we ought to take good care of our bodies in this life.
Second, the resurrection gives us hope when life is hard. If we believed that the pains of this life were all there is, it would be easy and understandable if we fell into deep despair. Now, it’s important to note that resurrection hope does not mean we ignore the suffering and injustice of this present age. We take seriously the brokenness of our world and long for the day when God will make all things new, including us.
Third, this longing actually empowers us to live for God’s glory, purpose, and justice in this age. After a lengthy affirmation and explanation of the resurrection of the dead, Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 15 in this way: “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” (15:58). Our belief in the resurrection encourages us to join God in the work of the kingdom. It reassures us that, in the end, what we do for the Lord in this age matters. Because of the resurrection, our “labor is not in vain.”
This means, my friend, that your labor is not in vain if you work for God’s purposes and glory. The work you do, whether at your office, your studio, your store, your warehouse, or your kitchen is not meaningless if it’s done for the Lord. Moreover, somehow, in the mystery of God’s providence, what you’re doing now will matter in God’s future. Of this you can have confidence because of the resurrection—the resurrection of Jesus and your own resurrection.
When you think of your future, does the resurrection figure into what you imagine? If so, why? If not, why not?
As you reflect on the resurrection of people, what do you think? How do you feel?
When you’re going through difficult times, do you ever think about your future resurrection? If so, why? If not, why not?
Talk with a wise friend or with your small group about the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. See what others think and what difference it makes in their life.
Gracious God, though we’re still in the season of Lent, today I reflect upon the resurrection of Jesus and my own resurrection. Thank you, God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Thank you for the victory we have through the resurrection, the ultimate defeat of Satan, sin, and death.
Thank you also, God, for the promise of our own resurrection. How amazing it is to think that one day we will be with Jesus, sharing with him in resurrection reality.
Help me, Lord, to think, feel, and live in light of the resurrection. May the promise of the future energize me in the present. May it help me to labor well, knowing that, in you, my labor is not in vain. Amen.
Banner image by Zachary Olson on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Our Work Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.