1 Corinthians 15:58 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.
Over the space of a brief nine verses I was touched again and again, thinking I could easily write on what I had just read. However, this last verse in the chapter resonates most strongly. I think every dedicated disciple of Christ has moments when they wonder if it’s all worth it. The world is a mess, and sometimes it feels like we’re just spinning our wheels. Even Paul experienced that, in a time of explosive growth in the Church. For that matter, John the Baptist famously wondered about it when he was imprisoned shortly before his martyrdom, sending disciples to Jesus to ask if He was really who John had proclaimed Him to be. (Matthew 11:2-3) None of us can see the future with any certainty, apart from specific revelations from God, and none of us knows all the ripple effects of what we say and do. The famous hypothetical example of such ripple effects is the one of a butterfly flapping its wings in South America, eventually leading to a hurricane in the North Atlantic. That one may border on the absurd, but we really don’t know what actions will happen down the line. The nursing school where I teach has a small poster on the bulletin board in the front of the classroom that states, very simply, 1.01365 = 37.8 0.99365 = 0.03. In other words, a difference of one percent in effort, applied daily for a full year, has an absolutely huge effect on the eventual outcome. Compound interest applies to more than money! The nursing profession is certainly one that calls for daily faithfulness, punctuated by both joys and tragedies, but the same thing may be said of the life of any disciple of Jesus Christ. We actually can’t evaluate ourselves very accurately, as even Paul noted, (1 Corinthians 4:3) so we need to leave it in God’s hands. Our task is simply to do what is at hand to the best of the ability God has given us. If we will do that, God will reward us more than we can imagine.
I have certainly experienced this! Japan has long been called “the graveyard of missionaries,” and for good reason. Statistically, it is without rivals as the country with the lowest “return on investment” in terms of evangelism, whether it be time, money, effort, or any other metric. It isn’t a dangerous place to serve, except for the danger of discouragement! My own father once prostrated himself on the floor and cried out, “Lord, if I’m what’s standing in the way of revival in Japan, then take me out of the way!” I identify completely! I occasionally think that as well-liked as I seem to be in this city, maybe my funeral would be the trigger to draw people to receive Jesus as Lord for themselves. I do pray that my funeral will have that effect, but it’s certainly not something I can schedule! I have, however, written out an evangelistic message to be read at my funeral, inviting the attendees to join me (eventually) in the bliss I will be enjoying at that point. Meanwhile, I am to be faithful, meeting the appointments God sets up for me and being active in my obedience. The results are in His hands.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the good things that have been happening in this church recently. Help me be so focused on You that circumstances don’t shake me, either dragging me down or creating false expectations. May I apply myself fully to the tasks You give me, knowing that Your results will always be good. Thank You. Praise God!