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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Laboring in Vain

One of my favorite verses is from the 127th Psalm,

Unless the LORD builds the house,
__those who build it labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1

Part of this verse, often left out, says that God gives to his beloved sleep. Today I felt terrible, I’m not sure why, I thought it was sleep deprivation. I promised one of my students that I would go evangelizing with her at 3pm, I’m not sure why I made the promise, because since I’m working night-shift, 3pm is the equivalent of my 3am. I couldn’t break this promise, so I drug myself out of bed, felt terrible, but went anyways, I expected to merely be prayer support for my young evangelist friend, but found a sufficiency in the Holy Spirit once I reached the park and had great conversations both with me doing the talking and also simply watching my friend preach the gospel with boldness and authority.

It was extremely tempting to cancel this missions trip, especially when it became apparent that woefully few evangelists were coming. But I trust (often not as much as I should) that God is faithful; he has been faithful in the past, I expect he will be faithful to the end (Jeremiah 31:3). So, I went evangelizing expecting the Holy Spirit to do something amazing.

During our brief two hours at the park, we talked to at least twenty people, most were at least willing to listen, and some were greatly impacted by the gospel. My most favorite event happened when God answered a prayer I’ve had for a while. In the past year I have witnessed to a young woman, (N), four times, and other evangelists have also witnessed to her. This young woman has a façade of pure happiness, but you don’t have to work with middle/high schoolers long to be able to discern what is a true happiness and what is merely a performance. I’ve long felt that this girl’s veneer is hiding a deeper pain. My prayer was that I would get to talk to her in a smaller group than I normally talk to her, which is usually at least six people; today she was at the park with a boy. I approached her and asked how she was and then asked if she’d been reading her Bible and thinking about the things of God. She told me she has been praying a lot, and disclosed that her life is hard. We had a good conversation about prayer (1 Peter 5:7), and I was able to encourage her, and invite her to church, as well as suggesting two other good churches in the area. It was a wonderful opportunity to encourage this young lady and hopefully continue the work which will lead to her regeneration (Colossians 1:24,28-29).

I left this conversation praising God that he had organized that meeting even when I wanted to be home sleeping. The Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet, almost immediately four teenagers walked by and I recognized one of them as a girl I’ve witnessed to in the past. We quickly struck up a conversation, and I realized why the girl seemed so familiar, it is because the last time I talked to her, she ran off right after the bad news and didn’t want to hear the good news. As far as she knew, and probably told her friends, that someone in the park was telling people they were all going to Hell. Fortunately this time she was interested in hearing the whole message.

These students were impacted by the gospel, and had some excellent questions. They promised me they would go home and read their Bibles.

So how does all of this relate to the verse I began with? That unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain? It is because of several other verses, the one I really want to get to is the last one, but I want to build a firm foundation;
…I will build my church… - Jesus, Matthew 16:18
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 3:9-11

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

– 1 Corinthians 14:12

And my favorite verse, and the one that drove this whole blogpost and missions trip,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
God has been working since the beginning, indeed he is working still. He is in the process of making all things new, starting with the souls of men. Beloved, this is a ministry which we are privileged to partake in. If we do not rise up, then relief and deliverance will arise from somewhere else, for Christ will not lose a single of his saints, but you are robbing yourself of a blessing.

I have been on missions trips both far and near, the farthest to Hawaii, the nearest to cultists who showed up on my doorstep. I have preached to huge crowds, and I have witnessed to individuals; I have delivered the saving message of Jesus Christ to rapt audiences, and I have failed to gather a crowd; I have seen men cry for their sins, and I have heard them curse Heaven; I have preached with eloquence, and I have tripped over my words; I have been puffed up, and I have been humbled to my knees; I have had delight, and I have felt misery; I have been happy to witness, and I have felt it was a burden.

I have never had a routine witness encounter, I have never felt tedium in preaching the same message thousands of times, I have never felt my time could have been better spent.

Wednesday afternoon I went out with my feet dragging, but I came home with leaps of joy (Psalm 126:5-6); these are the words of eternal life which are being sown, they will not return void. The labor we do in Christ is not in vain, because the Lord is building the church. Are you participating in this endeavor? Are you building on the foundation of Jesus Christ? Are you partaking in the blessings of your Resurrected Saviour? Are you eager for manifestations of the Holy Spirit?

Beloved, strive to build up the church, strive to exalt your Saviour, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.

And finally let me pray for you, as Paul prayed for his friend in Colossae,
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

– Philemon 6

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