“Not In Vain”
October 5, 2016
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“Your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Many of you have seen the photo (or computer designed graphic) of a huge iceberg. It’s just like we always heard about icebergs. Only the tip is showing above the water representing the amount we learned when we were young that only 10% of the iceberg is visible above the surface with 90% unseen below the surface. Actually according to one physics site I read applying the laws of buoyancy 91.7% is below the surface. * (Just for the record, we didn’t take this photo!)
This has been used to illustrate a lot, both spiritual lessons and secular. It’s a good illustration of the love of God. Those of us in Christ know God’s love and realize it is so immense that it is beyond measure. As our faith grows we draw even closer to Him and we have an even greater sense of God’s love. However I suspect we really still just see the “tip of the iceberg” concerning His love! Even though there is so much about God’s love I see and may even think I understand; I really suspect that there is a whole, whole lot I fail to see or comprehend.
The “tip of the iceberg” also often illustrates how we know only in part, although nobody, not even the most brilliant, knows even of a fraction of all there is to know, let alone 10%.
But today let us consider that the “tip of the iceberg” just may represent the seen and known results of our service for the Lord. For those who faithfully serve God their labor is not in vain.
I met John Holt back in the late seventies when we served on a youth committee together. We were both young pastors just starting out in our ministries, although John is several years older than I am. On a walk Monday afternoon at the conference center I saw John and several other long-time ministry associates talking around a picnic table at an RV park and stopped by to visit. (We shared that photo yesterday.)
John pastored for many years on the northside of Pittsburgh, PA. About twenty-five years ago Brian Matangelo, a young man who had grown up in the church we served in northern Pennsylvania, attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. While living in that area Brian attended John’s church and I shared with John that Brian is now a pastor in California. John recalled Brian attending the church since he is an outstanding artist and did various artwork for the church.
Several years ago he was at a pastor’s conference when a younger man approached him and told him that he had attended John’s church many years earlier while in college. One Sunday John had preached a sermon and the younger man went back to his dorm and realized he was being called to ministry. But he didn’t tell John this until many years later when he just happened to see John at the conference. In fact we mused if he hadn’t have run across John at the conference he probably still wouldn’t know. I told John, “It sure would have been nice if had let you know that your sermon had this kind of impact.”
That got me thinking concerning how many times this may happen. I wonder who I may have made an impact on and they never let me know. Or quite honestly I consider those who made a difference in my life, large or small, but I never let them know.
Today many of you are involved in some type of ministry. Some of you are really seeing results and that’s great! But some of you seem to be butting your head up against a stump (as a college history professor would often express). Nothing seems to be happening and you’re hitting serious opposition. You may be discouraged, even very discouraged.
Today’s Scripture portion is a timeless truth for servants of God. “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Above all let us stay faithful to our call and leave the results to God, knowing indeed that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Today perhaps this message will prompt you to consider those who have impacted your own life who just may need encouraged. One of the blessings of social media and internet communications is that you can probably find them out there, certainly much easier than it would have been in previous generations.
And who knows, today you may meet or hear from someone like John did. I predict that would be very encouraging to you!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, like a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains we too wait for the yield of good fruit that will be produced by our labor in Christ. As we extend ourselves to others we not only seek to be a blessing to them but we also honor Your name. Sometimes the results of our labors can be lost in the long wait. When that happens we’re brought back to the Scriptural reality that nothing we do for Christ is in vain. It all counts and is credited to our account in the economy of God’s kingdom. We look not for the applause of others, but for the affirmation of the Holy Spirit whom we seek to please in all we do. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Yhang Sue, where are you?
For many years beginning in the early eighties Brooksyne participated in a ministry known as “Operation Sunrise”. She became a “penpal” to a young Chinese student who had signed up to communicate with someone outside of mainland China in an attempt to learn the English language and culture.
Her name is Yhang Sue. Due to religious restrictions imposed by her government and sensitivities Brooksyne had to be very careful as to what she shared, but in time was able to share her faith in Christ. This correspondence continued over 15 years. Yhang Sue eventually married and immigrated to Canada so we lost contact.
One Christmas when we lived in New England we had gone back to the Midwest to visit our families. Our mail service was temporarily discontinued, but upon our return there was a letter lying on a chair on our porch from Yhang Sue. She must have either been down from Canada hoping to meet us or she had someone drop it off (it did not come through the mail). However it had stormed and the envelope had gotten wet and the return address was illegible. We thus were unable to follow-up and we have not heard from her since. We are concerned that she might interpret Brooksyne’s failure to respond as disinterest.
This is an example of an incomplete story that took place in our lives. I’m sure all readers have them if you ponder a bit. A tract you passed out, a challenge to a fellow worker or neighbor to follow Christ, or some other means of extending yourself. One of these days we hope to hear from Yhang Sue again and get the rest of the story. Of course our foremost prayer is that we will hear that she has accepted Christ!
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