It has been a long decade since March, hasn’t it? It feels like we’ve been caught in a state of suspended animation, except the one thing that has no brakes: Decisions. Lots of them. Important, expensive, anger-instigating decisions! The hardest part is that we know they affect the people we most love.
And don’t even get me started on change. Goodness gracious, was the guy who said, constant change is here to stay pastoring in a pandemic? Changes to meetings, changes to ministry, changes to preaching, changes to family time, changes to small groups, changes to leadership strategies. None of us ever took a class on this stuff. But heck, if they had we would’ve cut that class anyway. So it’s all OJT right now. We’ve all been learning on the fly.
It’s in this vein of weariness; in your frustrating wonderings of “What can 2020 possibly deliver next!”, that I want to offer this word of encouragement from the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
To what is Paul connecting steadfastness, immovability, and excellence via the conjunction therefore? It’s Christ’s resurrection. Our blood-certified-resurrection and our victory over death–all assured for us compliments of the Gospel.
First, Paul explains the Gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (vs 3–4), then he says about his apostleship, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (v. 10). The rigor of his Gospel labor is linked specifically to the resurrection of Jesus.
Second, Paul reminds the Corinthians of his own struggles (fighting wild beasts, facing danger and death (v 30–32) connecting it to his own resurrection:
“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. Like the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; like the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Cor. 15)
In other words, Paul never loses sight of his own, bodily resurrection even in the midst of trials. What an encouragement! Consider your weary body and overworked mind: It’s all got a shelf-life; there’s a serious upgrade coming your way. Not just hanging out with God in heaven either, but living, loving and serving in the fully realized kingdom on the new earth. Let this be fuel for the journey of ministry to keep you steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work.
Finally, Paul reminds the Corinthians that death itself has already been defeated; it is been “swallowed up in victory”! No wonder Paul mocks death: “Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (v 54–55). My friends, one day we will blink and this will all be over. The tears and travails of ministry that now fill your horizon will be but a faint echo from a distant shore. Christ’s death secured it; His resurrection guarantees it.
Press on pastor. You’re not done yet and you’re not dead yet. More importantly, the gospel breathes hope into the suffocating pressures of this pandemic and sparks life by this reminder, “your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”