Hard Work Worthy of God
David Bahn-Reflections Podcast
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 [ESV]
I know a little bit about hard work. I once spent a day carrying railroad ties across a field replete with uneven ground, gullies, rocks and incline. I’m trying to paint a picture here of a difficult-to-traverse course carrying ½ of a creosote-soaked railroad tie. It was almost more than I could physically accomplish. I have done some other significant physical labor: carrying bundles of shingles up a ladder to the roof of a two-story house I was helping build. I’ve shoveled gravel to level the ground before carrying wheelbarrows full of concrete to pour the slab of a cabin I helped build.
None of that stacks up against the 7 months I worked in a brick factory. During those 7 months I handled about 1.2 million bricks. And if you pass by the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis you can see some of those 1.2 million bricks in one of the large red brick buildings there. Even now, I marvel at the men who didn’t do that for only 7 months, but for years on end. Perhaps there are some women too. But I don’t know of any. I do, however, know about hard work.
Until I retired from serving as a full time pastor of a large and growing church, I didn’t realize that such non-physical labor can also be burdensome. But it can. I’ll admit I had it easy compared to Paul and his companions. I was never shipwrecked, stoned, thrown in prison, or whipped as he and they experienced. But it is sometimes difficult to carry a brother or sister in Christ – Neil Diamond (He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother) notwithstanding.
I think also of brothers and sisters in Christ who live and serve the cause of Christ’s kingdom in places like Kenya, Tanzania, China, and Russia. I’ve visited all those places and the living conditions and challenges of ministry there are formidable. It may not be politically correct to speak of those places as third world countries. But the term seems apropos. In the face of communist-dictated atheism, Islamic extremism, and corruption and temptations of every kind, ministry requires steadfast faith, courage, strength, and resolute commitment.
All this pales, however, in the face of Jesus’ hard labor for our salvation. I sense that reality expressed in Hebrews 5:7, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” He was heard, but he still suffered death. His work for our salvation was a lifetime of faithful service to God and man. He healed the woman with the issue of blood, dealt with the child’s father’s anxiety at that time, explained again and again to his followers (not his enemies, mind you!) that he came to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Such was his work in our behalf. He did that because of his great love for the Father and for us. His labor was truly a labor of love.
And Jesus is still at work in us. He even now offers supplications before the Father’s throne, and seeks our good. He works also through those who serve his kingdom’s goals, and sometimes in spite of us.
And his work is not in vain if we daily repent of our sin, and take up our cross and seek to “walk in a manner worthy of God.”