September 12, 2017 • Life for Leaders
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.
Today I want to circle back to where we began in this brief series of devotions inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:58. As you may recall, we started this series on Labor Day, a holiday in the United States that falls on the first Monday of September. I was inspired by a portion of 1 Corinthians 15:58 that reads, “[Y]ou know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Even though, as Ecclesiastes bears witness, our work in this world can seem as if it is nothing but vanity, when we see our labor in the light of God’s future, we can be assured of the value of our work.
The last line of 1 Corinthians 15:58 reads in the NIV, “[Y]ou know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Other translations link “in the Lord” to “is not” rather than to “labor.” The Greek underlying this verse could be read either way, and both renderings are true. Our labor in the Lord is not in vain. When we do our work by the Lord’s strength and for his purposes, then it is not in vain. And our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Our labor, whatever it might be, is not meaningless or worthless because God gives it meaning and worth.
According to 1 Corinthians 15:58, we can have confidence in this truth, and this confidence inspires us to give ourselves fully to our work. We know that, in God’s future, the work we do will take on eternal significance. It will matter to God and will be well-used in God’s plans.
Yet, this does not mean we can always see the heavenly value of our work. In the midst of our daily grind, we can feel as if our work is in vain. It can seem like we are wasting our time and energy for no valid purpose. But, in fact, God will redeem our efforts for his purpose and glory. When it comes to our work, Romans 8:28 gives us reassurance: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In our work, God is at work, using our labor for good related to his eternal intentions.
So, when we feel as if our work is in vain, we can claim the promise that, in the Lord, it is not. When we feel discouraged about our work, we can trust that God is honored in our labor and will use it for his purpose. Even if, to us, our work seems in vain, we can nevertheless offer it to God as worship and open our lives to be formed by the Spirit through our work. When we experience work as worship and as a context for spiritual formation, then we are better able to give ourselves fully to our work, even as we are able to receive God’s grace through our work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What might it mean for you to work “in the Lord”?
How might you see your work differently if you were to view it “in the Lord”?
Do you believe that God will use your work for his eternal purpose? Why or why not?
Gracious God, thank you once again for making us in your image as workers. Thank you for enlisting us in your work in this world. Thank you for working in us as we work, empowering us and forming us to be like Christ.
Help us, dear Lord, to do our work “in you.” Teach us what this means. Help us to see all that we do as for you and by your strength.
As we go about our work today, Lord, may we be confident that it is not in vain because it is in you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Eagerly Awaiting Bodily Redemption for Ourselves and God’s Creation (Romans 8:18–30)
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.