In Vain or Not in Vain, Episode Two. Welcome to Welling for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. Our series is called In Vain or Not in Vain. It’s not a soliloquy like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hanging between life and death, deciding to be or not to be. It is actually something of earthly importance and eternal effect.
How your earthly effort translates into eternal effect. Because I want to be sure that I’m not living my life in vain. You don’t know how much you should put in and for how long. I don’t know for sure that there is a future life at all. And more importantly, how can we both know that we are not living our life in vain?
That’s why I want to point you to this incredible verse, found in First Corinthians chapter 15. Our theme verse 58. “Therefore my beloved brothers, be strong, steadfast, immovable, unshakable, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is”– what?– not in vain.”
So does my life have future value, in view of how I spend it in the present? Does my life have present value, in terms of impact that I will only see in the future? Present value is a predictive tool that are used in business, except in life there are no predictions. Everything can change, as we’ve experienced even most recently. Everything can come to a crash.
They use it in terms of money to predict what the future returns from a potential investment are worth in today’s money. But we need a better model. What would be the yield of my life, your life? The return on investment of your life as it were. This net present value seems rather minimal. Though the present effort is extraordinary, even heroic, can the investment of your life at present cost much more than its potential value?
High cost of preparation of serving the Lord. The high cost of following the Lord seems to diminish your present value, doesn’t it? Yes it’s a risk, it’s a cost. It’s an effort. But I’ve got good news for you. On that side of the spread of the value, it’s going to be an amazing set of returns.
You can predict that not from a computer model, the apostle Paul gives us a much firmer model, which generates beyond the image. The apostle Paul gives us a much further model, which generates beyond the imagination kind of returns. So life here won’t be lived in vain. It will be a not in vain life.
The Lord will give us a sufficiently large return to be worth pursuing in this life and the next. And the apostle Paul will yet still yell at the top of his voice, not in vain. Not in vain. But how does it come to that conclusion? How can you know?
This is where a theological model rather than a computer model helps. As I said the last time, this is the longest chapter that Paul writes, and the longest chapter in the New Testament. It actually contains the whole final plan of God.
Christ’s victory over death. God’s victory over all enemies. And God’s victory is your victory and my victory over a life spent otherwise in vanity, fear, and waste. This verse actually follows a fabulous climax, when after his argument about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and our Resurrection with Him, Paul states, “Thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”– the full title.
On the basis of that, he uses a family sibling word in order to transit to a new thought. A deep phrase of endearment and Christian affection, he says, “my beloved brothers”. I can easily use the same phrase for each one of you today, and all of you who are listening and watching.
My brothers– that’s the highest title known in scripture. Not Doctor, not Professor nor Bishop or Pastor. Those by the way, are not first names, may be second names. Reverend is not a first name, or not a right Reverend or just a plain Reverend. People in my church in Delhi did not call me Reverend, they call me Neverend. But brothers? That’s a family truth. Sisters? That’s a family truth about us.
We are brothers and sisters. Not uterine brothers and sisters, but family. How? By belief in the Gospel of primary importance that he already described in the first part of this chapter. And then he calls them my beloved brothers.
Now the Corinthian’s were not an easy group. There were a troublesome church to pull, an immoral church in itself, error prone in every possible way, doctrinally, morally, and yet the apostle does not lose his pastoral care and love for them. What a pastor.
I feel the same about you today. Many of you are watching feel the same about us today, and what a joy that is. Our beloved brothers. In the next part of the series I’m going to give you some idioms on which you can anchor your life. But those two anchors are based on another anchor.
The not in vain life is anchored in Christ’s Resurrection work for you, and it abounds in your resourceful work for Him. Let me say it again. The not in vain life is anchored in Christ’s Resurrection work for us and abounds in our resourceful work for him. This NIV life, the not in vain life, is put into motion by Jesus’ Resurrection, and put into action by your work and the work of the Lord.
We shall see you next time.