September 2, 2019 • 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.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Today is Labor Day in the United States. This national holiday, according to the United States Department of Labor, “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Ironically, for most Americans, Labor Day is actually a break from labor. Often seen as the end of summer, Labor Day is a holiday in which millions of people flock to beaches, mountains, parks, and other places for rest and recreation. Labor Day, for many of us, is a pleasant “un-labor” day.
In this Life for Leaders devotion, I want to focus on labor, that is, on the work we do. As I was thinking about what to write for today, I was reminded of a verse in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “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” (15:58).
That last line struck my heart: “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Why did I react strongly to this line? Because I have known the fearful feeling that my labor has been in vain. I think of times when my work did not bring the results I had expected, or when those entrusted to my care did not respond to my leadership as I had hoped. I remember when efforts to shape the organization in which I worked seemed fruitless. And, when I’m exhausted by overwork, I can worry that I am simply not making a worthwhile difference through my labor.
Perhaps you can relate. Most workers can, in my experience. Even those who mostly love their work can go through seasons of doubt. Yet for all of us there is a promise we can rely on. According to Scripture, we can know that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain.” It might feel in vain. But it is not, in the Lord.
Tomorrow, most of us will return to work. Labor Day will be over, and our ordinary labor will resume. Yet I would like to stick with 1 Corinthians 15:58 for a while longer, working with you on what this verse means to us. How can we know that our labor is not in vain? How can we experience this reality in our daily work? How can we find hope if we’re struggling with hopelessness about our work?
Today, I’d like to encourage you to reflect on 1 Corinthians 15:58, especially the last line. As you prayerfully meditate upon the idea that “your labor in the Lord is not in vain,” you might wish to consider the following questions.
Something to Think About:
When you read “your labor in the Lord is not in vain,” how do you respond? What thoughts come to mind? What feelings?
Do you ever worry that your labor is in vain? If so, when? Why?
What would you like the Lord to teach you about your work through 1 Corinthians 15:58?
Gracious God, thank you for your Word, for speaking to us in ways that expand our minds and touch our hearts. Thank you for the promise of 1 Corinthians 15:58, that our labor in you is not in vain.
Help us, Lord, to discover what this means. If we are feeling that our work is in vain, teach us to see things differently, or help us to consider changes we need to make in our lives. May we learn how to labor “in you” in all that we do. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Our Work Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
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.