“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

The book, “Cheaper by the Dozen” was required reading when I was in grade school. It just so happened that my father, through his work, knew one of the sons in this famous family. So it was that, along with my class, I wrote a letter to Mr. Jack Gilbreth and it was an exciting time in our little class when our teacher read his response letter aloud! Though I do not remember his words, the book, with its lessons of time-saving, has left a lasting impression on me.

It is frustrating that much of what we do seems like expending energy on that which really does not matter. Even things which must be done seem like an exercise in futility. How many times have you gone through your morning or evening routine and another day is passed from life? How many times have you retraced the same commute, mowed the same lawn, or shoveled the same walk? How many times have you paid your monthly bills and annual taxes? How many times have you washed the same dinner plate, window, or shirt?

Better yet, how many times have you prayed the same prayer, prayed over the same person, or confessed the same sin? How many times has God had to teach you the same lessons, or you have had to teach the same lesson to your kids? No one likes to think that his labor is in vain.

There are few labors in life which you do not have to repeat. There are some things that are accomplished in a single attempt. Saving a penny, graduating from high school, settling a will, and giving birth to a child are all one-time events, all demonstrably worth the effort. Trusting Christ, leading someone else to trust in the Lord of salvation, and every step of obedience long the pilgrim’s pathway are all labors, but they are all accomplishments. However, it seems much more of our energy is obligated to be expended on the temporary, the trivial, and the typical.

This is not a surprise to anyone acquainted with the first chapters of Genesis. Everything was right in the Garden of Eden. All work had real meaning. It was a gift from God. Adam and Eve had a divine commission they had to fulfill. It was honest work, worshipful work, and it was creative work. They had a purpose in their labor that reached beyond the temporary, trivial, and typical. God commissioned them to supervise, organize and beautify His creation!

Then along came Satan, sin, and separation from God. Adam and Eve willfully fell from their dispensational state of untested innocence, and the practical cost was high. Not only did spiritual death and total depravity enter into the human race, but serving God by faithful, fruitful, and fulfilling work, which was to be the highest blessing, became a distant, difficult, and often laborious obligation. Without deliberate planning and forethought, the “tyranny of the urgent” will always overwhelm the whispers of eternal values.

Our text is designed to wake us up from an earthbound automation common to mankind by exposing us to the freshening, heavenly breeze of reality. Based on the truth of the resurrection awaiting us, Paul encourages believers to remember that sanctified labor is not in vain. He tells us to be steadfast, be seated and settled rather than unseated and unsettled in life. He also tells us to be immovable, in other words, do not be moved from your thoughtful place and not merely set in motion without substance. The saint is to be abounding and overflowing in the business of the Lord! There is no work done in our Lord’s name that is hum-drum or wasted!

We know this because the Christian thoughtfully labors for eternal things making even the mundane gain its meaning from the eternal. Colossians 1:28f reads, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Such labor finds deep meaning because it is a labor of love. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 states, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.” And God promises to reward such labor, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). 2 Corinthians 5:9 presses home the application: “Therefore we make it our aim [ambition, labor], whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”

The beauty is that though labor has been made difficult, distant, and is often defied by those against us because of the fall, yet our labor for God is something He will remember. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). Your labors are known by Christ (Revelation 2:2) and even a cup of water given in His name will not go without reward (Matthew 10:42). Make each chore in your day worshipful, and find its meaning from eternal values. Then your labor, no matter what the task, will never be in vain in the Lord! Trust and obey.