by Steven Chan
Suffering, pain, anxieties and death are realities that all of us experienced (or will experience) in our lives on earth. Our Maker knows our concerns and He has spoken to us in His Word on how we are to face these challenges. Because He is our creator, He knows us better than anyone else. Notwithstanding that, Jesus Himself descended from heaven and also experienced the same challenges and He assures us that He can help us overcome these challenges: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”(Heb 2:18). “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33).
Inasmuch as Christ has overcome the world and also overcome death by His resurrection, He has demonstrated that He is able to help us overcome the same.
So, in discussing the truth concerning the resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote thus in 1 Cor 15:16-19:
”For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
In his defence before Governor Felix, the beloved apostle Paul spoke about his hope in the resurrection from the dead in Acts 24:15:
“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
Thus our hope is not in this life; according to Col 1:5, “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” Again in Phil 3:20-21, the Bible assures us: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”
Given that we have such a great hope in Christ, we are exhorted in1 Cor 15:58 to “always abound in the work of the Lord”:
“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. Dear brethren, the Bible tells us that we are required to “always abound in the work of the Lord”. Do we spend any time at all thinking about the work of the Lord, and having done so, to actually do His work? Or, are we busy with our own work in this life?
2. What “work of the Lord” did Paul do? He described his work in 1 Cor 9:19,22: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” This was what our Lord Jesus came to do: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Are we actively seeking to do the same work of the Lord?
3. The “work of the Lord” is not in seeking “political freedom” for all of mankind although God desires justice to be done. Otherwise, Jesus and Paul would have been actively engaged in fighting for the liberation of the Jews or the church from the Roman authorities. Yet Jesus declared to Pontius Pilate in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
4. The “work of the Lord” is not in seeking the eradication of poverty although God also desires that we help the poor. But neither Jesus not the apostles went about establishing global efforts to solve the problem of poverty. When Judas Iscariot said in John 12:5: “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” Jesus replied: “For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12:8) The problem of poverty will remain with us and we ought to help as we are able as stated in Gal 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Also in Rom 15:25-27.
5. In helping the poor among the early Christians, the apostles emphasized the priority of the spiritual over the physical when they said: “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables…but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”(Acts 6:2-3,4). The poor ought not to be neglected. But the primary focus of the “work of the Lord” was clearly stated by our Lord in Matt 28:18-20:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Notably, our Lord did not say, “Go ye into the world, and seek political freedom for all the oppressed and eradicate poverty among the poor nations”. Is God concerned about political freedom and poverty eradication? Yes He definitely is as stated in 1 Tim 2:1-4:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…”
”Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”(James 1:27). Eph 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
But those are not the primary focus of our Lord who gave us the marching order to go into the world and preach the gospel.
While Jesus was concerned about hunger and He fed the 5000 with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish (John 6), that was not His primary objective. To those who had been fed and sought to follow Him, Jesus said in John 6:26-27: “”Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…”
6. The “work of the Lord” in saving souls, is not in vain. Much of the work that is done in this world will not last. But the work of saving souls has everlasting benefit: “it will endure to everlasting life”.
7. Brethren, we are to remain “steadfast and immoveable” in always abounding in this work of the Lord. In other words, we should not be side-tracked or distracted by other things. It is noteworthy that whilst both Stephen and Philip were both appointed in Acts 6 to oversee the work of “serving tables” (i.e. distributing food to the poor among them), they did not make that activity their permanent work – for Stephen was stoned to death because “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”(Acts 6:10-11); and Philip preached in Samaria and also to the Ethiopian eunuch along the road to Gaza (Acts 8).
Similarly, Jesus warned against those who are distracted or pre-occupied with the things of this life:
”Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19)
Brethren, we should not lose sight of our hope:
”For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-15)
And we should keep on preaching the word and be warned not to be veered aside from the work of being an evangelist and into erroneous doctrines:
”I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:1-5)
Perhaps the warning given by Jesus to the religious leaders of His days is apropos:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matt 23:23).
We are to do all of the will of the Lord (Matt 7:21) as we will be judged by what we have done – whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10; Matt 25:31-46). Yes, obedience to the gospel is essential in view of the coming of the Lord:
“when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thess 1:7-10)
Let’s continue to do the work of the Lord with diligence as our hope in Christ is not in this world but reserved for us in heaven after we are raised from the dead:
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”(1 Cor 15:22-26)
Then, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4-5)