1 Corinthians 15:58
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Most often we work extra hard to please a particular person: me! I may not be the only one. A person can be driven by a desire to succeed, a fear of failure, a hope of recognition, a sense of accomplishment.
But if my hard work is for the Lord, it will never be in vain. No matter what the visible outcome; no matter what the earthly recognition or rewards, such work will never be in vain. He guarantees it! Maybe it will seem in vain to others, in the home church, in the family. Certainly it will seem in vain to the world, but not “in the Lord”!
Does this mean that results are unimportant? Of course not. Results are very important — that’s the end toward which we labor. It’s the motive for seeking success in our endeavors that can empty them of lasting value. But if we work hard to produce results that God desires, that glorify him, that fulfill his purposes, such work will be ever full of lasting significance. We want to prepare a royal inheritance for the King.
When do we look for the payoff for our hard work? Both to the Corinthians and to the Colossians Paul points to the final awards ceremony. “From the Lord you will receive the reward,” He assures the slaves of Colossae. And after exulting for the entire 15th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians in God’s final victory at the resurrection, he concludes: “Therefore”— in the light of God’s great final victory—”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)
One evening I was at a millennial-end party when the question was raised: “In heaven will there be difference in rank? Will we all be the same in our relationship with the Lord, the same level of godliness?” The general consensus of those who spoke was quite democratic — we will all be the same.
Yet how about Jesus’ story of one man receiving 10 cities, another 5 (Luke 19:12-27)? How about Paul’s repeated affirmation that each will receive according to works he has done? (e.g. 1 Corinthians:12 ff; 2 Corinthians 5:10)
You no doubt chose others — there are plenty! But on what will those rewards be based?
Last summer at Morrison Academy in Taiwan I was ministering to the annual gathering of missionaries but keeping up on my daily exercise. I’d started the running routine some years earlier. When I resigned my ministry to care for Muriel I thought, Now I won’t have to bother with those annual physical exams the Board forced me to take. But on second thought, Hey, McQuilkin, Muriel needs you to stay alive! That’s when I began to exercise seriously!
But it was so hot and muggy that early morning in Taiwan, why wasn’t I in bed asleep like those hundreds of my fellow missionaries? I ran three hot, sweaty laps around the soccer field at the Academy and then began to think, McQuilkin, why are you punishing yourself like this? Why not just peel off at the end of the lap and head for the shower and air-conditioned room? I decided so to do, when the thought came to me, Who are you doing this for anyway? With a surge of determination, I thrust my fist in the air and cried out, One more for Muriel!
Weary Christian, I invite you to look heavenward and shout, “One more lap for Jesus!” Your labor will not be in vain! Maybe today you’ve reached your limit. You’ve run so hard, but it all seems in vain. Every fiber of your being — body and soul — cries out, Enough! Maybe it’s time to reflect on whose you are and why you’re here at all and then look up and shout, One more lap for Jesus!