Hanging in there

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth at the end of chapter 15, he encourages the believers there to be “steadfast and immoveable” or, in a different translation, “strong and steady.” This comes after a long discussion of our eventual resurrection. I often wondered about why Paul places that exhortation at that point. What does being strong and steady have to do with the final resurrection? Well that’s not really the whole story. Here is the entire verse:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. {New Living Translation}

Here’s another translation of that verse:
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. {New International Version}

I think Paul’s point is really that nothing we do for the Lord is ever useless. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, that there is an end point to this life; that there is something more than just this world. It’s the promise of the resurrection that gives Christians a goal, a motivation for hanging tough and not giving in to the “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” mentality. It really speaks to us about perseverance. I don’t think of perseverance as simply a grit-your-teeth and get through attitude. That to me would be so unmotivating and so unsatisfying that I would just give up. I really think I would. Why just barely hang in there. Why suffer; why be a martyr, if there is nothing on the other side. I think one of the main things that make the Christian life bearable is knowing that there is more to come.

We live in an instant gratification culture. I know we’ve heard that forever, but it’s true. It is also true in the Christian world, at least the way I experience it in the US. We want our Christianity to yield instant results and make me or my life better – now. We are promised our reward now, here. And while I agree that there is much to benefit us in this life from following Christ, there is much more to come than we could ever imagine. We settle for the good “stuff” now and forget that there is better “stuff” yet to come.

So here’s the point. Because there is a coming resurrection of believers; because this life is not all there is; because there is more to look forward to, we need to re-orient our thinking. What I do now may not seem to get me anywhere or give me that instant good-feeling, but instead what I do now has eternal implications. What I do now has to be seen in the context of the Bigger Picture. Everything I do now, if I do it out of a sincere desire to please my Lord, will always have a positive impact. Nothing is ever wasted effort. I may not see immediate results but I know that someday that person I spoke to, was kind to, served, encouraged, loved, whatever -will be impacted for eternity. I can and should persevere, not because it feels good, but because it’s what God wants and because in the end the eternal reward will be much more satisfying than anything we could experience here.

So to the parent struggling to raise their kids right or the pastor tending to his flock or the student wondering where to go in life or the family trying to hold together, don’t give up. Stay connected to God. Put a frame around your life and look at the Big Picture. Ask yourself if what you are doing lines up with the Lord’s priorities, then do it enthusiastically knowing that it is not useless. It’s the small moments, the people, the conversations that may not seem important but that in the end really do matter. Be strong and steady – Eternity waits to celebrate your life.

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