Steadfast – Your labour in the Lord is not in vain

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Transcript

Hi there thanks for being with us today, I’m so glad that you’re here! Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, make yourself at home. Whether you’re part of Festival Church or just checking things out, you are most welcome today. Please say hello in the chat, there’ll be plenty of people that would love to say hello back and get to know you. I’m looking forward to spending a few minutes with you now, looking at a few verses from the Bible together.

I can’t believe it’s the last Sunday of January already, we’re about to embark on a whole new month in 2021 and today we draw our current mini theme to a close. For January, we’ve been looking through the verses that we find at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 15. And yes, if you’ve been here for a couple of weeks, or if you’ve been tuning in regularly, you’ll probably know these off by heart by now.

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

We’ve called this mini theme our Steadfast theme and as we were planning it in the back end of last year, we just felt it was a really important theme to get our teeth into. So much around us is uncertain, and it seems even more uncertain at the moment – we’re living through a particularly difficult time of history. In this kind of Covid season, in other countries there seems to be political unrest, who knows what the implications of Covid are going to be. My guess is they’re going to be far reaching and challenging. So it just felt really right and actually kind of felt in our hearts that God would just want to remind us to be steadfast to stand firm in him. Which is why we started off the month, started off the year, with those great words “But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory”. If nothing else this year, if you don’t remember anything else, come back to these verses and start off with thanksgiving. Reminding yourself that there’s so much to be thankful for from God and actually because of Jesus, because of the resurrection, we can live a life that is hallmarked by his victory and that just touches everything we do. We carry this winning attitude because of the resurrection of Jesus. Whatever that is on your plate today or for the rest of this year, keep bringing everything to Him, keep giving Him thanks. Remembering that ultimately that you and I have the victory in Jesus.

Whatever that is on your plate today or for the rest of this year, keep bringing everything to Him, keep giving Him thanks. Remembering that ultimately that you and I have the victory in Jesus. Click To Tweet

There are some great words that we’ve been looking at, great phrases and sentences here. I spoke a couple of weeks back about standing firm in God. That’s that steadfastness. Kaz spoke brilliantly on “let nothing move you”, about being immovable. Last week, I delved into giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord and was in many ways surprised at how simple that is – Jesus said that “the work of God is to believe in the one that God sent”. I need to believe in Jesus and I hope you got something out of that. If you weren’t here last week, don’t worry you can catch up on these preaches by just going on the website. But as we draw this theme to a close, we’re just going to land on this last line:

Because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, that says that you can put everything in, you can give it 100%, you can go for this because doing the work of God is not in vain. It’s like Paul has put this in here to begin to encourage us to persevere, to be patient, to have faith, to have hope, to keep going for it, to keep taking a step at a time in following Jesus, to keep doing all we can to make the biggest difference we can for Jesus in this world, to keep growing in him. Paul is encouraging us to keep doing it, keep that work of the Lord going, keep believing in Jesus, it will pay off, it will be worth it. Every last drop of energy that you and I have and will expend in following Jesus, every last drop is worth it.

Paul says “you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. It won’t be wasted, it’s not futile. It can sometimes feel a bit like that. Belief in Jesus takes some effort. It’s the work of the Lord. It’s described here as labour – that sounds like hard work doesn’t it. But you can do it, we can do this, we can keep following Jesus, we can make a difference in the world. I’ve read this and straight away I thought of another famous verse in the Old Testament, I guess it’s the use of that word labour, that use of the word work as it were, and it’s in Psalm 127, let me read it to you:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2 NIVUK

Try and picture this, unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I think one of the secrets of doing well in following Jesus and doing the work of the Lord, understanding that our labour that effort is not in vain, is to understand that we are building with God. Unless the Lord builds the house, it says, we’re building in vain. Unless the Lord is watching over the city, we’re standing guard in vain. But with Him, it’s worthwhile. With him, it has credibility. With him, things happen. It’s this word ‘with’, to really comprehend and grasp hold of our labour not being in vain – it’s helpful to understand that we’re working with God. God is at work in the world today. I wonder if you’re aware of that. God is on mission. His mission is the church. God is working through his church, through his people, making a difference in His world. We are just stewards and we’re here with some responsibility, working alongside our amazing God. So to do well – to really grasp hold of this, it’s helpful to understand the word ‘with’. We are co-workers with God. We are co-builders with God. Everything we do, we should understand that we do it with Him. There’s no better way to live, than to live with God.

We are co-workers with God. We are co-builders with God. Everything we do, we should understand that we do it with Him. There's no better way to live, than to live with God. Click To Tweet

It’s so encouraging – it takes the weight off our shoulders and helps to see that God has got this. We can do this. We can grasp hold of the work of the Lord in our generation. We can make him known. “With God.”

I want to share with you three verses that really encourage us in terms of doing life with Him. There are so many, I’ve had to narrow it down and the first one I want to share is just Jesus’s words actually from Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 28. This is part of Matthew’s gospel that’s labelled the Great Commission. Jesus rounds it off, He’s commissioning. Let me read it to you:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20 NIVUK

What a promise that Jesus is always with us. We could stop there, that is enough to fill our encouragement levels up and to fill our hearts up. Jesus is always with you. You’re not called to live life on your own. We are made to live with God. You read that throughout Scripture. It’s almost like God’s intention for us was to live with Him and Jesus reaffirms that He’s always with you, always, always, always, whatever you’re going through – the highs and the lows. Whatever you’re up to – the good and the bad – He promised He will never leave you. God is with you. What does that do for your sense of well being? Makes me take a big sigh. What does it do for that sense of outlook on the future? What does it do for your sense of hope? What does it do for your plans? Just for me, it’s like the light gets switched on, everything comes into colour. I feel I can take on the world because Jesus is always with me. No matter what I go through, the hopes and fears of all the years are met – yes in Bethlehem, but because of Jesus in Bethlehem – they are met in him. You can take steps in confidence because He’s always with you. Don’t forget that.

Here’s another great famous ‘with’ verse and I’ve actually preached on this a few times. Its Psalm 18 verse 29. Here the psalmist, David, is in a really tricky situation, he’s been running from his enemies. They’re out to kill him but then he pauses and writes this amazing song, this Psalm, he says:

28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall. Psalm 28:28-29 NIVUK

There’s that word “with my God I can”. The other verse was very much Jesus saying he’s with us. This is the other way around this is us looking up and saying “with my God”, it’s like we’re with Him. Jesus has already affirmed that He’s with us, this is coming from us now, we’re looking at Him saying “My God, we are with Him”. I actually purposely put it on the screen like this “with my God I can”. There’s so much of life that tries to tell us we can’t. There’s so much of life that tries to pull us down, to subject us to other people’s expectations and limitations, but with God, I can. Whatever is in front of you, whether it’s a hurdle, whether it’s a wall, you can overcome it because you are with God. Yes, He’s with you, but you’re firmly putting your hand in His hand and you can say that He’s your God. With your God, you can overcome whatever comes your way. Now that’s quite a statement. If this verse is true, and it’s true, I believe it is, so again whatever you’re facing, whatever difficulty life is throwing at you currently – and it tends to throw things at us most days – whether it’s I don’t know relationships, finances, promotion, work, study. There’s a whole list of things that can often present themselves as a hurdle, as a wall. But with God you can overcome.

Sometimes it feels that I’ll work for God, living for him is hard work. Well, it is sometimes, but even that you can find ways of overcoming and generating a way of living well for Him because you’re with God. Your labour in the Lord is not in vain because today you are working with Him and whatever comes in the way is actually God’s problem – yes it’s yours too, or should I say it’s God’s too, it’s a joint problem that with God you can overcome. He can give you wisdom and He can give you the resources you need, He can change the circumstances, He can bring a healing, He can bring deliverance, He can bring change. Sometimes He can just help you walk over that thing, sometimes you have to go through it to grow in Him, but He’ll be with you in that moment. Just find out from Him the best way to approach what’s in your way in this season of life.

One more verse and this is another great statement, Matthew chapter 19. I didn’t mean to use this quote from Matthew’s gospel today but never mind. Matthew 19:26 this is a famous story about the rich and the Kingdom of God. It’s got the whole eye of the needle statement about camels going through it. I know it sounds bizarre, have a read for yourself. Then in Matthew 19, in the second half of this sentence, and Jesus says:

but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIVUK

The crowd are trying to get their heads around the example that he’s used about a camel going through the eye of a needle and Jesus looked at them and said

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIVUK

The thing is obviously he’s talking about a particular scenario, the context is the story that Jesus is telling him, but you know what the principle is true all the time. That nothing is impossible with God. But with God all things are possible. I heard someone talk about this and say “it doesn’t say but for God, all things are possible, it says but with God, all things are possible”. It puts you and me into the picture with God and basically you and I, with God, can experience possibilities where at face value and through just normal human outlook, things seem impossible – with God, all things are possible. Know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. Jesus says He’s with you always, you can say “with my God I can”. We can really lean into this scripture in Matthew 19 and again look at the future, look at problems that need solving, impossibilities that seem to lie before us and say “with God all things are possible”.

I speak that over your life today, I declare it about who I am and the things that I’m working through and facing, my plans for the future, our plans as a church as Festival, for whatever God has for us next over the course of this year. Yes, we’ll be steadfast in Him, but we’re always going to come at every obstacle and every challenge and say “with God all things are possible”. Let these verses fill you with hope today. Let your faith be built up, built strong. So yes, as we take February on, as we take 2021 on and the years to come, we’re going to be serving God with our whole heart. We’re going to be shouting out “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory”. We’re going to be making sure we’re standing firm, making sure that we’re immovable, that we’re giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord – believing in Jesus – knowing that our labour in the Lord is not in vain because with God all things are possible.

Know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. Jesus says He’s with you always, you can say “with my God I can”. Click To Tweet

So here we everyone, here are the verses again. I would encourage you to do some of your own studying and reading around these. I’ve basically just read it out to you, but let’s do it once more:

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

Keep taking steps in his direction, keep growing in your relationship with God and allow him to unfold before you a bright future. It’s been so good to share with you today. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of our service together with you. Stay connected everyone, I’m looking forward to all that God has got for us!

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