But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 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. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Have you ever accidentally poured a glass of expired milk? Gross. Right? Should have read the expiration date on the container.
When we were born into this world we were set to expire. Our earthly existence is “perishable.” When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are reborn “imperishable.” Death is no longer an end, but a new beginning of life that has no end.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul marvels at God’s amazing gift of eternal life through Christ.
He says, “The sting of death is sin.” (v56) We are born into sin. By nature we are sinners. And the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
“The power of sin is the Law.” (v56b) Paul’s statement here takes on special meaning in light of the current political mindset in our country. We are a nation of laws. But a growing number of citizens believe only the laws they agree with should be enforced. Make no mistake, God has laws and enforces them whether we like it or not. Sin must be dealt with. Punishment must be given.
But God is also the God of compassion and does not desire that anyone perish. (2 Peter 3:9) As a result, you and I have cause for great thanksgiving. “… but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v57)
Paul follows with a “therefore” statement. Knowing you have been saved from the death penalty you deserve and granted the gift of eternal life via the shed blood of the Savior – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (v58)
Anyone who is sincere about serving Christ, who labors for the Gospel, and who seeks to live a godly life will at some point along the way ask, “Am I wasting my time? Am I doing this in vain?”
The Sunday School teacher with a nonparticipating class. The pastor with an unresponsive congregation. The missionary with no support. The evangelist with dwindling converts. The Christian faced with trial after trial. The Christian parent with a wayward child.
I know I have asked the question more than once. Paul saw that in the Christians of his day and probably felt it himself. He wants us to look at the big picture. We can become discouraged by looking at the results of our efforts, or lack thereof. Instead of looking at our work, we should look at the work of Christ which is what really matters. Then use that as our incentive to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” (v58)
The bottom line is not measured by the results of our labor, but by our faithfulness to the Lord. We give ourselves fully to His work, not because of our performance — but His performance.
For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Regain Your Zeal After Christian Service Burnout
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.