B.  Wearing out for Jesus.

 In 1 Corinthians 3:8 Paul used the Greek word topos that is translated “labor” in most translations: “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor [topos].” The Greek word topos that is used in this statement means “to wear out in work.”   According to Paul’s use of the Greek word topos, we are to be wearing ourselves out in the work of the Lord.

There is a reason why disciples of Jesus labor so hard for their Lord. The discipleship of the Thessalonians is a good example. Paul used the word topos when he called to remembrance the tremendous labor of some disciples in Thessalonica who had been Christians for less than a year. “We give thanks to God always for you all … remembering without ceasing your … labor [topos] of love …” (1 Th 1:2,3). The Thessalonian Christians wore themselves out in preaching the gospel, not only in their area, but also in missions to other areas.   The intensity of their labor of love was defined by Paul in the following statement:

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to speak anything (1 Th 1:8).

Paul was in Achaia when he wrote the preceding statement to the Thessalonians. Before he arrived in Achaia, after leaving Thessalonica, the faith of the Thessalonian disciples had already reached Achaia. “Labors of love” will cause such things to happen.

The point is that our obsession in our faith should be so radical that our labor of love should result in the gospel going into all the world. Our labor of love should be so profound today that two thousand years from now people should be reading about our zeal just as we read about the dedication of the Thessalonians. What will be the legacy of our labor of love?

Old preachers once told the story of one brother who continually complained that he was always tired from his labors. He was so worn out that he should have been exhorted with the statement, And let us not become weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up” (Gl 6:9). Nevertheless, the brother was persistent in his complaints.   So the preacher told him, “Keep on working, my brother, for when we die we will have our rest.” The brother despondently replied, “It would be my luck that when I die, the Lord will come the next day and I will have to get up again.”

Remember the parable that Jesus introduced with the statement, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard (Mt 20:1)?   We call it the “Parable of the Laborers” because it identifies those who would labor in kingdom business (See Mt 20:1-16). If any would be a part of this kingdom, labor is understood. Christianity is not a passive faith. It is not a retirement center. When one is created new in Christ, it is his objective that everyone around him be so created. At least, this is what the Thessalonian disciples concluded.

But there is a problem. There seems to be a number of people who would seek citizenship in the kingdom, but they show up only for the “worship service.”   Christianity, however, is not confined to “working” through some ceremony on Sunday. New creatures are identified by what they do, not by where they sit. There is no labor happening when we sit idly on a bench, pew, or stump listening to a sermon, or singing a few songs. Labor takes place in the field. Jesus reminded His disciples,

The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest so that He will send laborers into His harvest (Mt 9:37,38; see Lk 10:2).

When we discover where the harvest takes place, then we will discover where all the new creatures in Christ are to be located.

We have heard few prayers in our assemblies that are according to the above mandate of Jesus in reference to that for which we should pray. The reason the request is not made for more laborers is because there are too many “Sunday morning” Christians who believe that if they made the prayer, they might be the answer.

Kingdom business is about laboring strenuously for the Lord. The vision of John in Revelation 14:13 paints the literary picture of those who would dare be disciples of Jesus:

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”   “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow them.”

 No person can expect to receive any rest from Jesus when He comes again if he is doing no labor in the harvest fields.   If our Christianity has backslidden into an idle churchianity that is ceremonially performed in some assembly on Sunday morning, then we are in trouble according to what the Spirit just revealed through John. There will be rest in heaven only for the weary, not for the wimpy. If one has no works that will follow him, then he should not expect to be led into the rest of eternal glory. If one is not working hard enough in order to need rest, then heaven’s rest will pass him by.

We must keep in mind that we can lose our rest to come if we fall into the disobedience of laziness. “Therefore, let us labor to enter into that rest lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” (Hb 4:11; see 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8). If we remain steadfast in the Lord, then we know that our labors are “not in vain in the Lord” (1 Co 15:58; see Lk 10:7).

Regardless of their situation when the book of Revelation was written, at least the disciples in Ephesus labored for Jesus.   In the message of the angel to the church of Ephesus, they were commended, “And you have perseverance and patience. You have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary (Rv 2:3).   These disciples remembered what was written to the Hebrew disciples:

 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love that you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and still are ministering (Hb 6:10).

We continue to labor and suffer for Jesus because He only is the Savior of the world (See At 4:12). “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tm 4:10). When one considers the horribleness of hell, the length of eternity, and the glory of heaven, then he must be driven to the lost with the gospel of Jesus. If one is not, then he should give up the name Christian, for Christians are disciples of Jesus who are laboring in the harvest field.

If we are not laboring for the Lord, then we have signalled to others that the Lord is not in us. Paul wrote, “For this purpose I also labor, striving according to His working that powerfully works in me (Cl 1:29). Paul again revealed concerning his motives, “… but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Co 15:10). This is why he could say, “And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gl 2:20). People recognize that Christ is in the new creature because of the zeal by which one lives for Jesus every hour of every day.

The problem often arises that some are so lazy for Jesus that they must boast in another man’s labors. This is what happened in Corinth when some sought to take credit for the labors of Paul and others to minister to the Corinthians (See 2 Co 10:15). But if one would prove himself to be a servant of God, he must personally do so with his own labors. Remember these words? “But in all things approving ourselves as servants of God … in labors … (2 Co 6:4,5). We will not receive a reward because of the labors of others. Remember, each disciple “will receive his own reward according to his own labor (1 Co 3:8; compare Jn 4:38).

We must never forget the final call of Jesus when He comes to take His laborers home into their eternal rest:

Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).

We are not sure, but when Jesus comes again, He will probably not show up on Sunday morning, and for obvious reasons.

[Next lecture: July 16]


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