Living by faith is hard. Living out your faith is hard. Sometimes the busyness of life clamors for our attention and we don’t have time to have a quiet time with God. The more days that slip by without it, we risk becoming apathetic about serving God…especially when we are not seeing results. As a result we become discouraged and often give up.
I first started serving in churches when I was only in middle school (only back then we called it junior high school). My dad was a pastor and he served mostly in small churches. I taught a group of younger children on Sunday evenings. I’ve pretty much served in churches or a religious ministry in some capacity since then. Most of my working career has been in religious organizations. I know how discouraging it can be when we serve God day after day and yet it seems as if there are no results to the work we are doing. Pastors are not the only ones to experience this. Sunday school (or Small Group Leaders), Vacation Bible School volunteers, the volunteers at the homeless shelter, teachers, therapists or any other person who serves in a “helping vocation or capacity” can experience discouragement when they give all they have to give (and even more) and it appears to yield no results.
No matter how God has called you to serve, let me encourage you through the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58. Paul writes, “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.” – (ESV) Paul gives us four thoughts in this verse:
- Be steadfast. To be steadfast means to be resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering. Applied here, we need to be firm and unwavering in the faith of the gospel of Christ. That gospel includes his miraculous birth, his sinless life, his death on the cross in payment for our sins, and his glorious resurrection from the dead. Don’t let discouragement turn you away from the faith and service you have been called to do. Stand firm and know that God is at work as you serve Him. Keep being obedient and trust God to do the work. You may never know in this life the impact you are making…but one day in your eternal life you will see the rewards of your service. Be steadfast!
- Be immovable. To be immovable means to not yield to argument or pressure. It means we should be fixed and unchangeable. The opposite of immovable would be to be fickle or changing as the wind blows. Ephesians 4:14 instructs that we are not to be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” James 1:8 says “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The way to be immovable is through studying the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit teach you. It isn’t enough to sit in church on Sunday and listen to the preacher…no matter how good he is. How would you ever know if he preached something that was against the teaching of the Bible if you are not a student of the Bible yourself? We need to be in God’s Word every day…growing in spiritual maturity so that when the storms of life come or when some incorrect doctrine is taught we will know it. It’s like a tree, planted near a water source with a deep root system. When storms come that tree will still be standing. However a tree that has a shallow root system will topple over with a good wind. The more we know about God, the better equipped we are to serve God as we serve others. It is how we grow spiritually and how we develop a deep root system. You cannot be immovable if you are not planted deeply in the Word of God. You need a deep root system to be immovable.
- Be abounding in the work of the Lord. The work of the Lord can be found in the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The work of the Lord is to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone. Acts 1:8 tells us that we are to be witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. However, we are not just to be about the work of the Lord, we are to abound in it. The Greek word is perisseuo and means to “be in excess or to cause to superabound or excel” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 1980). In other words we are to spread the Gospel of Jesus beyond measure…everywhere we go, to every person we meet. So be abounding in the work of the Lord.
- We can know that the work we do for God will not go in vain. You can rest assured that what you do for Christ will reap results, even if you don’t know about them. When you reach Heaven there will be those who are there because of a Sunday school lesson you taught or because of a meal you served to a homeless person. Maybe you served kids cookies or snacks at Vacation Bible School but you served with the love and kindness of Christ to a child who may have only experienced harsh words or violence at home. You never know what heart you will touch and in what way. But you can know that God will take each act of service you do for him and it will reap rewards.
One day, Jesus was teaching the crowds of people and told a story or a parable, which is a story with a meaning or teaching to it. In Matthew 13:1-8 we find the Parable of the Sower.
On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore. Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown.
The sower in the parable is much like us as we serve God. Some of our efforts fall along the path and they are swooped up before they can take root. Some might fall along rocky ground where there is a little dirt. It springs quickly, but there isn’t a deep root system to sustain it. Some might fall among thorns and get all the life choked out. But then there will be the efforts that fall on fertile ground and produces an abundance of crops…30, 60, and even 100 times what was sown!
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. If you feel as if your efforts are not making a difference just remember that there are some who plant the seed, some who water it and help it grow, but it is God that does the actual work. Whatever the call is for your life…however you are serving God…it makes a difference and when you get to Heaven you are going to be amazed at how many people are there because of the work you do for Christ! Don’t get discouraged. Be steadfast. Be immovable. Be abounding in the word of the Lord. Know that nothing you do for Christ is in vain.