Therefore, my beloved brethren,
be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding
in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know
that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
I Corinthians 15:58
It was about thirty years ago. Over a period of several weeks, I had become aware of different individuals who were struggling in their walk with Christ. Some of them had been in Bible study groups and had met in our home. Others were those with whom I had met individually for a period of time. There were others that we had met with for a period of time, encouraging them in discipleship, but they had since moved away and we had lost contact with them. The more I thought about the above situations the more discouraged I became. One morning I related to my wife as I went to work that perhaps the investment spiritually in the lives of others makes less difference than I thought it did. A gloom seemed to settle upon me that morning as I parked my car and entered the hospital. After taking only a few steps inside the hospital, I was met by a gastroenterologist who worked at the Wichita Clinic, a man whom I had not seen for several years. The first words out of his mouth were “Remember the Bible study we did several years ago at the hospital? (Studies in Christian Living) I just wanted you to know that I have been doing that series of studies with my children and it is having a profound influence on our family.” I visited with him briefly and then moved into the lounge where I met a pediatrician from the Wichita Clinic who said “I thought you would like to know that I have been sharing the principles we looked at a few years ago with the elders at our church. It is making a significant impact on their lives.” He was, again, a man that I had not seen for several months. This conversation lasted a few minutes and I walked down the hall to begin my daily visitation of the people in the hospital. As I met my Resident in training that month for hospital rounds, he stated “I sat beside a friend of yours at dinner last night and he asked me to give you his card.” As I looked at the card, it carried the name of a good friend and fellow laborer for Christ who was a surgeon in Chanute, Kansas. On the card there was his name and the address of his office with no inscription other than a hand written notation in the corner which read “I Corinthians 15:58.” On returning home that evening, my wife, Beverly, gave me a marvelous note of encouragement which she had written for me. As I considered the events of the day it was evident that the Lord had spoken unmistakably to me these four times, convincing me beyond a shadow of a doubt that, truly, our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Since that day, I have never doubted the truth of this verse.
I Corinthians 15:58 directs us to the work of the Lord with the use of three words; stedfast, unmoveable, and abounding. The first of these words is stedfast. This is defined as being firmly established, unchanging, fixed in direction and firm in purpose or resolution. This word refers to a determination that arises from our inner being which results in an outward expression.
The second word, unmoveable, carries with it the connotation that we cannot let our stedfastness be altered by outside forces. They must not be permitted to deter our resolution. These outside forces may be obvious as stated in Mark 4:19. “But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word making it unfruitful.” It may be more subtle, as we look at circumstances (as in my illustration above) and find discouragement in what we see. It may also be that others in the Christian community, including churches, and Christian organizations do not recognize, support or encourage the work that the Lord has called us to do. At times, we may be verbally discouraged by others. I recall one man telling me years ago that “you are not accomplishing anything meeting with that person.” Despite criticism, neglect, or lack of encouragement, we must remain unmoveable in our work for the Lord.
The last word that is used in this verse to describe our labor in the Lord is “abounding.” This is defined as “to be in great plenty, quantity, or number.” This word emphasizes not the minimum standard of a disciple of Christ but the the maximum. It asks “What more may I do? With whom else may I share the gospel or my life? Who needs more help in their walk with Christ?” It echoes the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 6. “Here am I, send me.” As G. Campbell Morgan describes Isaiah, he was characterized by “abandonment” (here am I), and “readiness” (send me).
Many efforts in the world to build companies, partnerships, and empires are in vain. As you watch them over the years, empires crumble, partnerships are dissolved, and companies disappear. They remind me of children playing in the sand by the seashore, building elaborate castles protected by, to their minds, a huge wall of sand. All goes well for a while, until eventually a large wave breaks through and the sand castle is no more. Their labor was in vain.
Leroy Eims was a marine in WWII and served in the South Pacific. His unit traveled to number of islands during the war. On one particular island he and a number of his friends were involved in a severe battle. Some lost their lives and Leroy himself was wounded in the conflict. The battle for that island stood out in his mind for years. Some twenty years later he was in the home of a friend who was a student of WW II history in the South Pacific. Leroy looked through his books until he found the one that described the battle for that island. As he read the accounts, he began to vividly recall the sacrifice involved including his own wounds. As he read the last paragraph concerning the history of that battle, a sudden chill came over him and he sat down to read these final words of the historian. “The taking of this island was unnecessary to the war effort in the South Pacific. It should have been bypassed. The battle was in vain.” Leroy related that as he read these words, he was immediately thankful for I Corinthians 15:58, that our battle in not in vain in the Lord.
Our battle, our conflict, our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Every prayer offered, every word spoken, every cup of water given, every minute of every day we spend in labor for the Lord can be offered to Him with the assurance that it is not in vain. Since this is true, let us be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.