May 3, 2012

The Fruits of my Labor

Years ago, I read of a writer whose great ambition was to be published in Fortune magazine. Finally, the day came and his joy knew no bounds. However, a week later while walking down an avenue with that joy still in his heart, he noticed a garbage truck driving by, loaded with now-outdated copies of Fortune. His precious accomplishment was on its way to the dump!
I’m decluttering our home (we are moving, not far but to a smaller place). Last week, I went through the last box of my mother’s possessions. I kept a few cards and photos, but those items that were once hers had no value and few memories for me. Along with my emotions of missing her and my dad, I felt the pathos of realizing everything we have eventually winds up in the dump. 

As a writer and an artist, I’m dreading the culling of both realms of my life. I’ve more than a thousand tear sheets from published articles. They are on my computer and backed up. I don’t need to keep the printed versions, yet it feels as if I am tossing my life’s work. 

I’ve yet to go through the cupboard filled with paintings. This too represents the work of many years. Yet God tells me this work is not nearly as important as the work that He gives me to do. The results of my labor will eventually see destruction, but the results of labor done at His command have a much different destiny.
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)
No matter how good or beneficial the work that I have done, most of it is temporary. If it makes it beyond my lifetime, like my mother’s little box of old jewelry and keepsakes, still it will not last forever. There is sadness in that, but not a deep sadness. Instead, it puts my mind on things above, and God says this is a good thing.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1–3)
When my mind is occupied with things above, I’m not concerned over the stuff of this life or its destination. None of it belongs to me anyway. I’m but a steward or a manager of all that God allows in my possession. It is to be used for His glory, perhaps even for the temporal good of others, but I’m not to forget it cannot make it into eternity with me. 

On the other hand, the fruits of my labor can have eternal import. 1 Corinthians says labor for Christ is not in vain. It has value beyond the grave, beyond the garbage heap. Besides the glory that goes to God and the lasting good it might be to someone else, work done for and in Christ will be rewarded.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:35–36)
Today I must clean my house. Do I expect an eternal reward for that? No, but if I do it with the grace of God, instead of grumbling, and if there is worship in my heart instead of resentment, God may recognize those attitudes at the judgment seat of Christ. Even if not, He actually rewards them now — by lowering my blood pressure, giving me joy and encouraging me to be faithful in all that He has given me to do.

Lord, I’m not sure what You will do in eternity for those who keep their minds on You right now, except that You promise to keep us in perfect peace when we do it (Isaiah 26:3). I’m also not sure of the nature of those rewards and the reaping promised for those who press on in doing the will of God. However, I know enough about You to understand that hanging on to tangible treasures on earth means nothing compared to what awaits me as I lay up treasures in heaven. Thank You for Your amazing promises and for encouragement to not give up.

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