Pastors, Your Labor is Not in Vain
- Scott Slayton One Degree to Another
- 2016 20 Jul
My freshman year of college started with my giving attention to everything but studies and thought about anything serious. My only goals had to do with bourbon and girls and my entertainment consisted of Adam Sandler, Beavis and Butthead, Jim Carrey, and Chris Farley. When you consider my knot-headed trajectory, God placing serious and caring Christians in my path is a humorous providence. I wanted nothing to do with what they were talking about, but I could not help but be attracted by how genuine they were and how they treated other people.
One particular Christian always stuck out in my mind. We had several pointed conversations about Jesus and the Gospel, with him always approaching me with kindness and compassion. He offered to read the Bible with me, and treated me with respect even when I didn’t return the favor. In addition, I could tell by his life that this was not forced by outward compulsion for him. He seemed to embody a genuine joy, cared about obeying Jesus, and looked for opportunities to talk about him in ordinary conversations.
Providence took me to a different University the next year where I was born again and trusted in Christ as Lord. I always wanted to let this guy know what the Lord had done through him in my life, but had no idea how to get in contact with him. Thankfully Facebook came along ten years later and I decided to look him up. After he accepted my friend request I immediately sent him a direct message. I told him I didn’t know if he would remember me 12 years later, but he invested in and and cared about my soul. I wanted him to know that I had come to know Christ, was pastor at a church, and was grateful to him for the witness he had been to me.
His response testified to the ridiculous grace of God. He didn’t remember me at all, but was grateful to hear of my conversion and gave glory to God for any way the Lord may have used him in my life.
Knowing that one of the people I considered to be an instrument in my conversion didn’t even remember who I was continues to give me great encouragement. This man faithfully sowed Gospel seeds through both word and deed. God took the seeds he planted and reaped a harvest without him even knowing it happened.
We need to hear stories like this as pastors, because we often don’t see obvious fruit from our labors. We proclaim God’s word on Sunday morning, and don’t know what the Lord did in anyone’s heart through it. People come to us for counseling, so we listen and then show them the truth of God’s word, but we have no idea what kind of impact it may have on them. We love our neighbors and try to share a word about Jesus with them, but don’t see it making an evident impact on them. All of this sowing with no clue about whether or not a harvest will come wearies and discourages us.
The discouragement that comes from a lack of apparent fruit can often be exacerbated when we hear about the ministries of other men. At conferences we listen to a parade of men whose ministries appear to be successful. They tell us a fruitful church should see a constant stream of baptisms and bemoan the ninety percent of churches who are plateaued or declining. Then we hear of a stories like the one of a famous pastor who mocked a church that “only” had twenty-six baptisms one year, as if this was something to be ashamed of.
As I reflected on the brother who didn’t remember me, I thought of a passage of Scripture that should serve as an encouragement to those of us who labor in obscurity without knowing what harvest may come forth. In the last section of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul glories in the wonderful implications of Jesus’ resurrection. Because God raised Jesus from the dead he will raise us too, so we can confidently face death knowing it does not get the last word. In addition, God gives us victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. Convinced of this reality, Paul says, “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.”
Take heart pastor, nothing you do in the name of Jesus happens in vain. The Lord is at work through his word, even on those mornings when it seems like no one is listening. When you counsel with struggling couples, he is bringing grace to them in ways you may never know. When you share the Gospel, Christ makes the appeal through you to be reconciled to God. Though the person with whom you are sharing may appear to completely reject the word of God’s grace, it will not come back void and may be the beginning of the long process of the Lord opening their eyes.
Because God is at work in ways we don’t see or know about through our ministries, we also need to hear Paul’s admonition to the Galatians. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” The temptation to shift into neutral when ministry gets discouraging can be strong, but the words of Paul in Galatians 6:9 remind us that we can’t stop and coast in Jesus’ service. The Lord will reap a harvest, so we cannot give up and we cannot grow weary. The Lord works through our witness, our preaching, our prayer, our counseling, and our shepherding. Continue to do these things with in the strength that God supplies, because all faithful ministry brings glory to him and he is at work even when we cannot see it.
This article was originally published on ScottSlayton.net. Used with permission.
Scott Slayton serves as Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL and writes at his personal blog One Degree to Another: scottslayton.net. He and Beth have been married since 2003 and have four children. You can follow him on Twitter:@scottslayton.
Publication date: July 20, 2016