Isaiah 49:4 But I said, “I have labored to no purpose;
I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
Yet what is due to me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”
For any dedicated believer, when you start reading Isaiah 49 it’s hard to stop! God knows what we need to hear, and His heart is with us. Probably every Christian worker, whether “professional” or not, has needed this verse at times. That’s hardly surprising, since it’s obviously Messianic, which means it was on Jesus’ heart at least once! If Jesus felt this way, who are we to complain? We don’t know the results of our labors, and that’s really just as well. If we lived in a tit-for-tat world there would be no room for grace, and that is a description of hell, not heaven. We all feel this way at times, but Paul encourages us to “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:58) and Hebrews 10:35 says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Rewards are in a sense tricky business. If we are working for the reward, it becomes empty. If we are working out of love for our Lord, the rewards are indescribably wonderful. The same Jesus, who said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty,’” (Luke 17:10) also spoke the accolade that is the ultimate goal of every true servant of God: “’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21) We can’t even imagine what it is to truly share the happiness of Christ! We aren’t to work for the reward as such, but we are to know that our labors for the Lord aren’t wasted, whatever it might look like at the moment.
This is certainly a reminder I need from time to time! A couple of weeks ago we had a grand total of four in the Sunday morning worship service, counting my wife and me! At the same time, the reach of the messages on the church website, as well as my blog, continues to expand, and we get almost constant feedback from people who are touched by our daily lives, even though they don’t show up in church. I certainly can’t sort it all out and rate it for “effectiveness,” but God is aware of every detail. The effort involved in all the seasonal events around Christmas can be extreme, but God knows what is going on there as well. I am to rest, relax, and rejoice in Him, knowing that He is love itself and more than generous. I long to see people come into His family in droves, growing strong and mature in Him, and I haven’t seen that yet, but I am never to give up. I cannot know His timing, but I do know His character, and that should be enough.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for rescuing me from the “slough of despond” that I’ve been in recently. Help me indeed delight in all the events from now through the end of the year. I frankly can’t do it on my own, but You can enable me, just as You told Paul. (Philippians 4:13) May Your joy through me draw others to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!