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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am service, 2006-09-24

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:58

Life on earth is full of disappointments. How many times have you looked forward with great expectation to something that had seemed to be so inviting and so promising, only to be let down when your hopes failed to materialise?

There was one well-known event in Church history which took place 162 years ago and which became known as 'the Great Disappointment.' It started with a Baptist preacher by the name of William Miller who lived in the Northeastern part of the United States. In August 1831 Miller was fully convinced, after studying the Bible intensely for 7 years, that he had discovered the exact time when Jesus Christ would return from Heaven - 21st March 1844. This preacher sincerely believed with all his heart that God had called him to go forth to proclaim this as earnestly and as widely as possible. For 12 years Miller and his associates laboured hard to warn as many people as they could that Christ would return and judge all the world on the 21st of March 1844. They stirred up such great excitement as they preached to large audiences, that a growing movement of over 50,000 followers was soon born. 

But the predicted date came and went and nothing happened. William Miller and his followers were disappointed. But one of his associates by the name of Samuel Snow went through Miller's calculations and realized that there was a mistake - the actual date of Christ's return was seven months later, on 22nd October 1844. Both men claimed that there was no possibility of a mistake this time. Anyone who rejects their message would most definitely be lost. The movement grew again, this time sweeping over the land with the velocity of a tornado, and many Millerites believed that God was the power behind this mighty movement. The signs of Christ's coming were just too plain to be doubted. Magazines were printed, heralding the return of Christ. Newspapers printed regular reports of Millerite meetings.

1,500 Millerites traveled across the U.S. going from town to town, and proclaiming with great fervour that the End is near! When the 22nd of October came, the Millerites watched and prayed. They had quit their jobs. They had given all their possessions away as a testimony to their faith. Putting on white ascension robes, many of them stood upon their rooftops, waiting for that blessed moment when the trumpet would sound from heaven, when the Lord would descend and they would be gloriously taken up to meet Him in the air. As the hour drew nearer and nearer, their excitement grew more and more intense - and then - nothing happened! They were not caught up to meet Jesus in the air. What a let down, what a huge disappointment that was for those 50,000 expectant hearts. All the time and labour they had spent had come to nothing. They had believed a fallible preacher's prediction in vain. They had earnestly preached and warned people in vain. One by one, they retreated from their house tops to pick up the pieces of their disappointed life.

Dearly beloved, you and I who are saved have put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from sin and eternal death and to give us a heavenly home. We have committed ourselves to follow our Saviour and to do whatever He wants us to do. Many of us have by ow already invested much time, much energy and painstaking efforts for Christ. Will we one day be shocked like the Millerites, to discover that we had done all that in vain, that all our labour had really been for nothing, and that we had given so much for a lost cause? What an awful prospect that would be - a most awful prospect indeed! 

How then can you know that such a thing this will certainly not happen to you? Only by ensuring that your faith rests firmly on what God has said in His Word clearly, and not on anyone's contrived misinterpretation or misapplication of God's Word. Please beware of anyone who tells you that after a diligent study of the Scriptures and he has now discovered a new doctrine that no one has ever known before. Do not commit yourself to what he says and labour for it, or else you may find yourself standing on very shakey grounds, and you may be disappointed later on to realize that your labour has been in vain. This brings us to the first of three main points for this morning's message: You must always

I. Ensure that there are Immovable Grounds for Your Labour

Dearly beloved, if what you want is to have a faith that is steadfast and sure for all your labours, then you must stand upon immovable grounds for it - grounds that are solid, firm and stable, and that can easily bear the weight of your confidence and trust.

And the Christian does have such solid grounds for everything that he believes in and that he does - That grounds is our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord we serve is not dead but alive and well. He is a resurrected Lord! We observe this truth in the context of 1 Corinthians 15:58. This verse is at the end of chapter 15, a chapter which provides the clearest and most profound teaching in the Bible about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and how this relates to our future resurrection from the dead as followers of Christ. In order to fully appreciate the thrust of our passage, 1 Cor 15:58, we must go into this chapter in some detail.

The apostle Paul was constrained to write this chapter, because some members of the church at Corinth had actually been questioning the resurrection, even to the extent of denying it altogether. The ancient Greeks believed that the soul is good and the body is evil. To them, the body was the source of man's weakness and sin. Death was therefore the welcome means by which the soul was liberated from the body. And so in their thinking, resurrecting the body would only imprison the soul once again. In Acts 17, when Paul was at Mars Hill in Athens, he had no difficulty in preaching the Gospel to a crowd of learned Greeks until he mentioned Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead. Then he was immediately mocked and dismissed abruptly by the crowd. This helps us to understand the background of our scripture passage.

Because of their Greek upbringing, many people in Corinth may have found it especially difficult to believe that the dead can really return back to life. This caused some of them to doubt, and even to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ! Paul addressed this problem by first stating that the resurrection of Christ is a very essential part of the Gospel which he preached to them (vv.1-11). It cannot be ignored, forgotten or diminished. If there is no resurrection, they would have believed the Gospel in vain (v.2)! It has rightly been said that the resurrection of Christ is the central tenet of Christianity. Everything we do and believe as Christians stands or falls with it!

Then, in vv.12-29, Paul shows that it is the resurrection of Christ that guarantees the future resurrection of believers who had died. Without this, the Gospel would be a blatant lie, the Christian faith would be an empty faith, and Christians would be the most miserable and the most hopeless people on the face of this earth! Salvation from sin would be impossible without Christ's resurrection. After this, in vv.30-34, Paul reveals how much persecution and trials he had suffered because he believed most firmly in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. 

In the next section, vv.35-50, Paul elaborates on the nature of the glorious body we will have after our resurrection from the dead - it will be a body that is unique supernatural, just like the body that Jesus had after His resurrection. In vv.51-57, Paul concludes this whole discourse by describing the resurrection as our victory over death. We we are saved can now confidently exult in this victory as Paul did in v.55, saying, 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'

And now, right at the end of all that comes verse 58 (the verse we are studying now) which forms the capstone crowning the whole chapter. Notice that it begins with the word 'therefore.' That word points back to everything that has been said in the chapter. Here Paul draws together all the threads of his arguments on the resurrection, and applies it with poweful impact to his readers. Far from being a doubtful teaching and a subject of mocking and ridicule, the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the most solid grounds that we Christians can ever stand upon to be steadfast, unmoveable and always abounding in the work of the Lord!

Dearly beloved, please consider what a wonderful truth this should be to us: the Saviour that you are I love and serve today is a resurrected Saviour. This fact assures us of His awesome power to overcome death for us - a power which now gives us victory over death and the grave. This fact also speaks to us of the abundant life that Christ has within Himself - He is the living Saviour who supplies us with an endless stream of life! Can there ever be any grounds for our faith and labour that is better and stronger than this? No, not at all! Will anyone who chooses to rest completely on the resurrected Lord ever be disappointed? Never! 

Therefore if there is anyone here who has not done this yet, I would strongly urge you now not to delay. Make Jesus Christ your Saviour today! Trust in His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead to save you from your sins and from eternal death! I say this to all our unsaved friends who are here this morning: 

Why do you still wait to be saved when there is every reason for you to come to Him now? Turn to Him, dear friends; turn to Him right now. After all, you have God's Word to guarantee that you will not be disappointed. But I assure you you that if you do NOT turn to Him for salvation, then you will have every reason to fear that you will be disappointed, because you have rejected the only immovable grounds there is for all your faith and labour. You have chosen to stand on shakey grounds and you will definitely fall! And then you can only regret that you had lived and done everything in your life in vain.

The wise King Solomon testified that life without God is a life that is lived in vain - there is really no hope and no meaning in it. This was the theme of what he wrote in Ecclesiastes: 1:2 'Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.' 2:11 'I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.' The words 'vanity' and 'vain' mean empty, without any use or purpose. 

In contrast to that, our text in 1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us that 'your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' Now, what is it that makes the difference between this and what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes? The difference is found in the last three words, 'in the Lord'? It is only in the Lord that your labour is not in vain. This brings us to the next point in our message: You can

II. Anticipate Invaluable Crowns for Your Labour

Whatever labour that you do for the Lord is not in vain. It is not futile effort or wasted effort. It is useful, purposeful and meaningful, for at least two reasons: Firstly God is able to use your labour to accomplish His divine purposes on earth. Take for example, your efforts to bring a certain person to Christ. Perhaps you know that many others have already tried to share Christ with him before, without any success. You may think that it is futile for you to witness to him. But you should not let this stop you from making an effort to give him the gospel. 

Sometimes a person may have to hear the gospel 10 or even 20 times before he responds to it, asking the Lord to come into his heart. And your witness may just happen to be that final decisive time when he will be saved. Salvation is brought about by God's unseen mysterious work in the hearts of men.

Therefore success in evangelism should not be measured by the number of souls you win to Christ, but by how well you have used your opportunities to share the gospel with people around you. Listen to what God's Word says in Psalm 126:6 'He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.' Keep on sowing the gospel seed in every place you go. Your labour is not in vain! 

The same thing applies to your efforts to read the Bible daily, to study it and memorise it. Some of you may wonder if the time you spend in doing all these things is really well-spent, since it does not seem to produce immediate results. Let me say this - every moment that you spend reading, studying and memorising the Scriptures is a worthwhile long-term investment. God will use it to build you up spiritually and to change you little by little into the image of Christ! (2 Timothy 3:16-17 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.') 

You know, I am glad that a good number of us here in Life Church are coming early before the worship service to take part in the Scripture memory session, where the worship chairman leads us in memorising a verse or two from the Scriptures. Perhaps some of us do not join in, because you think that it is futile to participate in this, as you will soon forget what you have memorised. Let me assure you that it is not futile. Every effort you make to memorise God's Word will help you to build up a treasure store of Bible verses hidden deep in the recesses of your mind that the Holy Spirit can use in your life at some opportune time. It may be at a time of great crisis that you suddenly recall a verse you have memorised years ago, which now becomes most precious and appropriate to you, or to someone else! Your labour is definitely not in vain! 

This also applies to our Beulah Project - Those who are involved may sometimes wonder if it is really worth all the time and effort put into poring over the plans, attending meetings and discussing little details. One day when it is built and used, you will see that your labour has not been in vain! 

We have just seen three examples of how God is able to use your labour to accomplish His purposes, and this is the first reason why we should not regard our labour to be in vain. We want to look now at the other reason why your labour is not in vain, and that is: God will greatly reward your labour. Think of all the great and wonderful rewards that you will receive from the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ. Think especially of the incorruptible resurrection body and the supreme glory of dwelling with Him forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' What a glorious future there is in store for us! Surely this is worth everything we do for the Lord. Dearly beloved, your labour is not in vain! 

Now we proceed on to the final point of our message. Since you know that the grounds on which you stand are solid and immovable, and since you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord, you must now

III. Be willing to go to Infinite Bounds in Your Labour

Our Scripture text says: 'always abounding in the work of the Lord.' In other words, we should not place any limits on our service to God. We should not regard any task in whatever area of ministry God has given to us, as being too much for us to undertake for Him. 

One of the outreach ministries of Life Church are the four student care centres in primary schools in Yishun and Bukit View. These centres are run by dedicated Christian guardians who work long hours and who need plenty of patience to handle the students under their care. Their labour has not only met a pressing social need - that of dual income families, single parents and latch-key kids, but also more importantly, the spiritual need of these precious souls. Many of the 270 students under their care would probably have very little or no opportunity to come under the influence of spirit-filled Christians if not for the time they spend at the Student Care Centre. But it takes much effort for the guardians to persevere. The temptation to become discouraged and throw in the towel is very strong at times, because they can earn much more in other kinds of jobs. 

At the end of last month, when I was asked to give a word of encouragement to the guardians of our Student Care Centres at their thanksgiving dinner, this is what I said to them: 'I have never been a guardian in a student care centre before, and so I may not fully understand the difficulties that you face each day. But even though you may find your work at the Student care centres most difficult and even trying at times, let this thought keep you going 'your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' Please have faith to believe this promise at all times and keep telling yourself, 'My labour is not in vain in the Lord.' Cling to this promise even when you see no immediate or visible results. For there are things being accomplished by your labour that you cannot see. This thought will not only to keep you going, but 1 Corinthians 15:58 also says that it can motivate you to always abound in the work of the Lord.'

I believe that God has used this exhortation to encourage the guardians to abound in the work of the Lord. And I believe that God will use it also this morning, to encourage you in the work you are doing for the Lord. Perhaps you have been serving the Lord for some time in an area of ministry and you are facing some discouragement. Perhaps you have already have been serving for a long time in the choir, in the PA crew, in the music ministry, the Sunday School or Children's ministry, in the NBC, in the fellowship groups, in the Kota Tinggi ministry, or even in the Church session. But now you feel weary and discouraged. 

No one seems to be willing to help, and no one even seems to notice the work you have been doing faithfully. You do not see the results you had hoped for. You wonder if you should continue or not. If you are facing this situation, let your heart be strengthened by these words of v.58 'Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' These words ought to convince you that even though no one may take any notice of your work of the Lord, God does. And He wants you to be steadfast in that work. He wants you to remain unmoved by the difficulties and problems. He wants you to abound in it.

The word 'abounding' here literally means 'overflowing.' It implies that we should give more than what is required of us. We need to go the extra mile in our service and in obeying God's commands. And we need to do this consistently because the word 'always' is added on to the word 'abounding.' We should be diligent and persevering, and going on towards the goal of perfection. We should be continually making advances in true piety, and always be ready for every good work. The most cheerful duty, the greatest diligence, the most constant perseverance, should characterize those who have such glorious hopes. Can we ever do too much in the Lord's work, when we are assured of such abundant rewards in our future life? Let us not limit ourselves as to our spiritual growth and service, but be always abounding in the work of the Lord.

And if you are not doing any work for the Lord yet, I pray that God will use this message to speak to your heart today. Every Lifer really ought to be actively doing the work of the Lord. One way that you can begin is to participate actively in the WARM programme of our church that was just launched last week - Use the namecards that are in the pews and get to know other members of the church. And don't stop at just knowing them and having more acquaintances, but go on to minister to them in whatever way you can. It may be that God will use this to lead you eventually into some area of service that is meant especially for you within the body of Christ. 

May the Lord help us all to always abound in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25