I arrived this week at the end of a passage I've been memorizing since January. At just two verses per week it's been a slow but steady crawl. But I can now recite it thoughtfully to the echoey walls of my new home beginning with:
"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…" (I Cor.15:19)
And concluding with the resoundingly familiar:
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
It's that last verse I'm stuck on, not because I can't say it, but because I wonder, is it true of me? here? now? And I've had to go back and be walked through the reality of what this "work of the Lord" is because I don't feel as though I am abounding in anything right now.
It sounds somehow more descriptive of saints who have gone before--great 'missionary statesmen', or even of friends we trained with who are still pouring out their life energies in poorest Africa.
What is 'the work of the Lord'? Is it synonymous with 'full-time Christian service' (interesting old expression...)? Or maybe my Grandmother would qualify; she was a cheerful servant to whomever she met. But me? I am just a 'stay at home Mom' in a place that does not yet feel like home and minus the kids that merited me the title. I do still qualify mostly for the 'stay at home' part! People ask if I will get a job. Maybe. New friends inquire what I've done with my life. No, I never worked. (HA!) I homeschooled my five kids. (That falls flat--an alien thought for most of my current social group). Well, so yes, I suppose I'm retired, sort of...
But just now as I was beginning to slip into morose self-pity I glanced to the wall beside my desk. There hangs a strategically placed photo--a precious reminder of why I am in this place:
Four eager faces grin back at me. I can’t help but smile and wipe away happy tears that I am here, at home, ready to welcome them in the door tomorrow, to have a special dessert ready, to go out for a nature hike, to play another game of Crazy Eights and stick some more decals on the front window...to get down the little wooden tractor and trailer my Dad made and let them zoom it across the floor... These kids are what I'm here for, at least in part. I am here so they can come to Grandmom's house, as I once went to my Grandma's house--just to be welcomed and loved and known, to belong.
To be here for them in this season of our lives is to abound in the work of the Lord.
How did I acquire so grand a calling anyway? I who could have, would have (but for Jim, but for God) been a single woman Bible Translator to some remote tribe, I who did not grow up playing with dolls or dreaming of a houseful of my own babies--preferring the company of the woods and a ramble with Shags and some time in the Good Book... How did I inherit this high calling--to have these little folk look up adoringly at my entrance into the room, or race eagerly now to my door: "Let's do something!"
And though I sit here alone for now, dreaming up baby quilts for the new one coming along next month, and wondering how to shake the echo from our new suite and make it feel like home... I am not alone. God's Word marches through my thoughts bringing truth to dispel the lies that threaten to swamp my boat, bringing LIFE in its timely reminders of who I am--God's own child, accepted in the Beloved, His workmanship created in Christ Jesus... I am not the sum of my earthly accomplishments.
I am the work of the Lord, and as I walk each day by faith in His power to transform the ordinary into the eternal…I showcase His glory.
These are some of the verses I've been reflecting on this week:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
...It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Jn.6:27-29,63
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph.2:10
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Eph.1:11,12
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I Cor.10:31
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
...and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places...Eph.1:19,20
…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil.2:13
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. I Cor.15:10
These good Words remind me that because of the Gospel, I am delivered from the need to DO in order to be acceptable in God's sight. Jesus did what was needed. He died. And conquered death. In Him I live and move and have my being.
By faith in Him I am declared righteous and enabled to please God.
By His Word, His truth, I am led in paths of righteousness---even as I sew baby blankets, make chocolate cake for the kiddies coming out tomorrow, and prepare hot lunches for my hubby...
By faith I can abound in the work of the Lord, in unseen homebody ways, giving thanks for His enabling, asking for His guidance, and walking in the works prepared for me from the foundation of the world...
By His grace I am what I am...and by His energy working in me I am sufficient in all things at all times to fulfill His calling in my life.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
When I get side-tracked into worrying about my productivity for the Kingdom I find I must go back to the basics of the Gospel. It’s not about what I’m able to do, but about what Christ has already done. My confidence in Him as I attend to His Words is what will bear fruit over time. And as I’ve been considering what passage next to memorize I’m drawn back to the beginning of I Corinthians 15, the verses I skipped over:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day…and that He appeared…” (I Cor.15:1-5)
I think I’ll begin there—at the heart of the Gospel. It’s my only hope of ever abounding in truly Good works. Jesus Christ is our hope, not only for this lifetime, but for an eternity to come when these perishable bodies have been transformed into His image. And all this is by faith.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith...Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Rom.9:30-33
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Cor.15:56,57
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Rom.10:4
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen! Heb.13:20,21