Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
The turn of the calendar furnishes us another occasion to examine the past year and devote ourselves again in this new year to abounding in the work of the Lord.
However, when we look at ourselves, we might come to the conclusion that we cannot abound in the work of the Lord and that our fight against sin and the devil and our own sinful flesh is hopeless. We might be tempted to think that we cannot finish the race set before us, much less run a good race.
In the midst of these thoughts we need to remind ourselves of the words of the inspired apostle, “But, thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (). Not we ourselves are responsible to attain the victory; God gives us the victory over sin and death and the grave through Jesus Christ. In light of that glorious victory we are admonished to abound in the work of the Lord: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord….” Abounding in the work of the Lord is not about obtaining the victory for ourselves; rather, it is about manifesting our thankfulness for the great victory we already have in Jesus Christ. Thankfulness calls us to be steadfast and immovable.
What does it mean to be steadfast and immovable? “Steadfast” may be compared to a tree that is firmly rooted; “immovable” is comparable to that same tree withstanding the buffeting of great winds. To be steadfast is to have our faith firmly or solidly in place; immovable is that same faith as it stands up against the assaults of our spiritual enemies. Steadfast is being thoroughly convinced that God’s Word is true; immovable is continuing to stand in our faith toward God in the midst of the trials and circumstances of life. Steadfast is being convinced of the truth of God’s mercy to us in Jesus Christ; immovable is what happens when we continue to stand in the truth of God’s mercy despite being violently assaulted by doubts and fears and difficult circumstances.
Although He did not use these words, Jesus illustrated the idea of being steadfast and immovable in His parable of the wise and foolish men building their houses. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. When the rains came and the floods rose up and the winds blew, his house was destroyed; it was not steadfast and immovable. But, the wise man built his house upon the rock. When the rains fell and the floods came and the winds blew, his house was steadfast because it was founded upon the rock and, therefore, was immovable in the storm. We can only be steadfast and immovable if we are founded upon the Rock, which is none other than Jesus Christ.
When by God’s grace we are steadfast and immovable, we will persevere in the faith. When the devil, the world, and our flesh tempt us to forsake the faith and to pursue the riches and pleasures of the world, being steadfast and immovable we say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” When we are tempted to abandon the clear teaching of Scripture—say, for example, the truth regarding divorce and remarriage—being steadfast and immovable we say, “This is an hard saying; but this is the teaching of God’s Word.” When we are tempted to walk in disobedience—say, by sinning against our spouse—being steadfast and immovable we say, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” To be steadfast and immovable implies that we know the Word of God and are committed to doing it. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” ().
Steadfast and immovable go hand in hand with abounding in the work of the Lord.
The work of the Lord certainly includes the official work of the church done in the service of Christ’s kingdom. But, we may also take it more broadly to include all work that in some way promotes the cause of Christ’s kingdom. In other words, the work of the Lord is not merely the work of ministers, professors, missionaries, elders, and deacons. The work of the Lord also takes place when husbands and wives build one another up spiritually, when fathers lead the family in daily devotions, when mothers are keepers at home, when the elderly pray for and encourage their children and grandchildren, when families open their homes for fellowship, when children study their catechism lessons, and when members give their offering to various causes of the kingdom. In short, doing the work of the Lord is doing all the work that Christ our Master gives us to do, thus promoting His glory and advancing His kingdom.
If God has abounded toward us in grace, thankfulness calls us not only to do the work of the Lord, but to abound in the work of the Lord.
There is a difference between merely doing and abounding. Merely doing the work is the rich man giving an offering from his abundance. Abounding is the poor widow giving all she had when she put her two mites into the offering box. Evidently, abounding is not an absolute thing such that only those with greater resources are able to abound while those with few resources need not even apply themselves. Abounding depends on our use of the opportunities and resources God gives us (cf. the parable of the talents). Abounding is using the few and seemingly insignificant gifts God has given us to the best of our ability.
Abounding is not only a matter of doing one or two great works—not simply attending worship twice on Sunday. Abounding applies 24/7/365. Whether eating or drinking, or whatever we are doing, we are called to go beyond and excel in the work of the Lord at all times. If we abound in the work of the Lord, our lives will be centered upon Christ and His kingdom. Then we will be asking ourselves, how can I support this cause? How can I encourage that saint in her needs? How can I serve the body in love?
What a lofty calling!
Indeed, it is an impossible calling because, by nature, we would never even want to do the work of the Lord, much less abound in it. Abounding is impossible in our own strength. Jesus says, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
The only possibility of abounding in the work of the Lord must be the work that the Lord Himself has done and is doing. Fundamentally, Christ’s work is the work of pursuing His kingdom to the glory of the Father. In that work He was steadfast and immovable. He was fully committed to doing the will of God and standing against the assaults of the devil in order to seek His kingdom. As He abounded in God’s work, He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (). In that great work Christ poured out His precious blood on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day. His work of satisfying God’s justice and bringing us into favor with God is His work for us.
But, in the second place, the possibility of abounding in the work of the Lord is Christ’s work in us. Not one of us would ever desire to do the work of the Lord unless the Lord Himself had graciously regenerated us by His Holy Spirit. But His work doesn’t stop there. Christ also works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (). Fundamentally, our abounding in the work of the Lord is due to the Lord Jesus abounding in His grace toward us.
Of course, that does not deny our diligent and thoughtful involvement in the work of the Lord. But, when the Lord’s work abounds in us, then we will abound in the work of the Lord. That ought to humble us. When we abound in the work of the Lord and see fruits upon our labors, we are tempted to take credit for ourselves. The rich man may not boast that he has abounded in the work of the Lord more than the widow who offered her two mites. Those with more gifts may not boast that they have abounded more than those with fewer gifts or different gifts. “Who maketh thee to differ?” Knowing this should make us fall upon our knees before the Lord, asking for His grace to strengthen us and to encourage us in the work set before us.
We might be discouraged when we see the greatness of the work and the severity of opposition we are up against. We might be discouraged by our own weakness and sinfulness. We might imagine our puny efforts can never amount to anything. The Corinthian church addressed in our text certainly had their share of problems. Humanly speaking, they had every reason to be discouraged. Nevertheless, the inspired apostle gives a great incentive for abounding in the work of the Lord: “forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Psalm 127 expresses the same truth: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Psalm 127 expresses the truth that apart from the Lord, all our labor is in vain. In, the same truth is expressed in the opposite way: in the Lord, our labor is not in vain.
There is a labor that is not done in the Lord. The world labors for its own purposes and in its own strength. It labors for a great earthly kingdom. Their labor is in vain because it is not in the Lord. But, when the Lord works in us so that we do His work, He is certain to bless even our feeble efforts. That’s because He never allows His own work to be in vain. He always accomplishes what He sets out to accomplish.
We can be certain, therefore, that whatever we do for the sake of Christ’s kingdom will not be in vain. We might labor and toil and see what appears to be little fruit. We might be tempted to be discouraged and give up. But God will not allow His work to be in vain. When the Word of God goes out, it never returns void. When even a glass of cold water is given in Christ’s name, it is not given in vain. The smallest labor of love will not be in vain. “Your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Why? Because God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
May the Lord cause us to abound in His work this coming year and into the future.