In vain, not in vain. Episode three. Welcome to Welling for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. In vain or not in vain, that is our focus. The use of our life in earthly effort for eternal effect so that at the end of the life that we have been given, we can actually say, we lived a life not in vain.
The apostle Paul gives us the secret to it at the end of his resurrection passage. He says, “therefore my brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” That’s the kind of life I want to live and I invite you to live.
That short verse divides into two. In sophisticated grammar, they call it a couple of predicate adjectives and a couple of attributive participles. But let me make it much more memorable through a couple of idioms. Idioms are basically informal language where the meaning comes from usage. And they’re reasonably clear.
The first one in this episode I’m borrowing from a card game, the card game of poker. The not in vain life comes from the idiom of being all in, being all in. It says be steadfast, immovable. Now I’ve not played poker. It’s a worldwide pastime. They say that there comes a time when a player has to commit his entire hand to the play. That mean’s you’re all in. To be all in means you’re staking your life, your game, your victory, fully without hesitation without any reservation into that play. Not halfway.
Be all in, my beloved brothers and sisters without reservation about the resurrection. Because that’s the Lord’s work for you. Be steadfast. I want you to be firm in your conviction with all the possible objections to it. There should not be internal vacillation about it. And then the second word, immovable, almost synonymous in terms of external opposition internally and externally. We can be confident about the resurrection because we have the only historically self resurrection verifiable through eyewitness experience of the empty tomb. That’s one.
This is a brute physical fact. There’s eyewitness testimony to the empty tomb, the immediate testimony of the women who went and saw the empty tomb when their testimony would not be credible in court. That’s what the gospel writers use. If they were making it up, that would be the last thing they would do. And the ultimate testimony of martyrdom itself because people are dying for what they believed to be true. Eye witnesses. Eye witness transformation as well by the empty tomb, where the writer themselves, the family of Jesus, that of James, the half brother of Jesus.
The Corinthian’s were transformed, the apostle Paul who was transformed, you, myself, we were all transformed of the life of the living God. One of my best evangelism openers is when people talk about their gods, their prophets, their gurus, I simply ask, is your guru alive? Is your prophet alive? Is your god alive? And they often say, no. And I simply leave them with, why would I follow a prophet who’s not alive? Why would I believe in a god who is not alive? Why would I pray to a guru that is not alive?
Be immovable. Externally there are lots of opposition against this only reality, which defines the nature of the afterlife, but not only defines the afterlife, it makes it certain. Otherwise, everything will be poof. It’ll be in vain. Once you’re all in, committed to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, you’ll be firm about your own resurrection, and others’ resurrection. You won’t be fickle or capricious regardless of persecution, and departure, and harassment, whether by philosophy, or theology, or natural disaster, or oppression of any sort.
The Corinthians felt that, but they were all in. And Paul says, be all in. Be steadfast. Be immovable. I’ve often said in public engagements with nonbelievers, I would say something that’ll shock them. I say, if it wasn’t for the resurrection of Jesus, I would be, let’s say, a Buddhist. Because all religions have some ethical value. But the only redemptive salvific offer comes from the resurrected one.
Some time ago, we brought all the then present pastors in Syria across the border to Lebanon, a couple of dozen of them. Most had moved in a five million exodus from that horrifically sad nation of civil war, which has gone on for about a decade at this time. Oh, they came, they felt protected with their spouses, and their families. They were so thankful they didn’t have to hear the bombs in the air even as they slept.
They could have left Syria. But they sensed that they needed to stay there. They said, we had to visit with our own family. And they decided, we will be in this together. We will stay this together. We will die together if that is needed because we are confident that we will rise together. That was internal fortitude generated by an eternal certitude. Be all in. My beloved brothers and sisters, nobody can take it away. And you will live a life that is not in vain.