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
Friday, December 26, 2014
Many years ago, I happened to become acquainted a man who worked for a large church as a counseling pastor. He introduced me to the work of Bill Gothard and Robert McGee. I wasn’t going to him for counseling, but he told me, nonetheless, that I had a spirit of rebellion – making me sort of in league with the devil. I was not terribly surprised, nor offended.
Gothard essentially traces all our problems to a lack of submission to authority. I happened to be at dinner one evening with the counselor and a couple of college kids. One of the boys was an athlete who was attending a Bible college. His father wanted him to accept a football scholarship to attend a secular school. The counselor told him that he ought to do what his father said even if it conflicted with what he felt was his calling to ministry.
Now, in that case, I could, to some extent, accept at least the logic of what the counselor was saying, but the counselor insisted that even if a person’s parents were drug-addicted, devil-worshipping heathens, the person was still under their authority. Obviously, the person had been placed in that family situation by a sovereign God, so this fulfilled God’s purpose. Somehow. I called BS – politely, and that’s when I was informed that I was a rebel who did not understand that all authority is of the Lord (Romans 13:1). The counselor gave me a big red notebook with a syllabus from Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles. I studied it, but I never got much out of it. Probably because I’m a rebel.
This same counselor also gave me a copy of Robert McGee’s very popular Search for Significance. McGee’s thesis is that we fail to understand our true worth in the sight of God. Self-esteem was a big thing at the time – the late ‘80s. This was self-esteem from a Christian perspective. I was more comfortable with McGee than with Gothard, and there are probably people who have been helped by insights from both. I would have to go back and read McGee’s book, which I’m sure I still have stuffed somewhere, to see if there was really anything worthwhile in it. It’s been a long time since I looked at it, but my impression is that, while he was on the right track, it was too saccharine, diluted and secularized – for me but what do I know? It’s a book that has “helped millions of people”.
To get back to today’s verse, Paul is not writing to a pastors’ conference or the deacon board or a leadership conference. His words are intended for all believers, for you and me out here in the world with family commitments, responsibilities, duties, debts, and obligations. Performance matters. We have to get jobs done. People depend on us. What does it mean for us to be “abounding in the work of the Lord”?
Let’s go back to the Gospel of John, chapter 6 for a minute: Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (vv. 28-29)
The crowd was playing up to Jesus because He had multiplied the loaves and fish. He burst their bubble by saying it’s not a matter of simply doing this or that but of comprehending and believing who Jesus is. Believing in “him whom he has sent” means more than just acquiescence to a creed. If we understand who Jesus is, it completely alters our understanding of reality itself and of what is of importance and value. The world gets turned upside down.
Faith in Christ may indeed change what we do. If we are living immorally, we may stop doing evil and start doing well. Even more to the point for those of us who were not prostitutes, drug dealers, MSNBC hosts, and community organizers, we change how and why we do whatever it is that we do. Our perspective is changed so that we see a different meaning in our works, a different destiny for our lives. Even when our efforts seem to bear no fruit in this life, those efforts are not in vain. They will produce positive results in eternity. The kingdom is built by our “abounding in the work of the Lord”.
As I have said before, there are times when I want to say death and the end can’t come soon enough. Life, with enough failure, loss, pain, and heartache, can beat any of us down. We may become discouraged and hopeless and think that what we do or don’t do can’t possibly matter. We push and push on that boulder, and, right at the top, it rolls over us like we were Wile E. Coyote and bounds merrily back to the bottom. There’s nothing to do except get up and try it again. As ridiculous and pointless as it may seem at that moment, if nothing else, the mountain is being worn down.