One of the challenges of the Christian life is to keep working when it seems to be in vain.
We share the gospel with someone for months and they don’t receive Christ. We try our best to bring up a child in the fear and instruction of the Lord and he rejects Christ as a teenager. A pastor faithfully preaches the gospel only to find his church doesn’t grow much. A small group leader encourages his fellow Christians week after week and they don’t seem to change.
We can ask “Is it worth it?” Paul says:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Christians are never finished. It’s not like building a house where you finish, step back, and see the work of your hands. God’s work in us is never done in this life. Fruit takes a long time. God often lets us experience the joy of reaping and lets us see the fruit of our labor, but it usually takes a long time. And sometimes we don’t see it at all.
Paul could have been tempted to feel like his labor was pointless. Near the end of his life he wrote Timothy:
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)
For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:10).
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (2 Timothy 4:14-16)
Deserted by many, abandoned by key leaders. No one comes to his defense. What’s the point?
Here’s the point: our labor in Jesus is not in vain. None of it. God promises our work for him will be rewarded in the end. He’ll use it somehow. He won’t waste a single bit of it.
It’s knowing this that stirs us to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
It’s knowing this, DESPITE appearances, that keeps us sharing the gospel, training our children, and serving God’s people.
So be steadfast. Immovable. Keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep loving. Someday you’ll hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”