51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 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.
Life is the ultimate long-term investment. Indeed, life outlasts everything else.
This is the message of imperishable, resurrection life. The resurrection changes everything, including our approach to our work. That’s why Paul closes this powerful chapter about the resurrection in exhortation: Know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. In other words, our labor (toil and effort) has meaning when we do it as an act of faith in the Lord.
Everything eventually dies unless the Lord of Life is in it. Everything. Products and proposals, profits and losses, jobs done or half-done—all things wither and are gone unless God sustains them. Work done as to the Lord, however, has life. Products built and delivered, services rendered, jobs done—all are full of eternal life when they are born of faith, when they are given as a free-will offering of confidence and hope in the resurrected Lord.
Here is a message of tremendous freedom: Death no longer holds power over us. At the end of the game there is no “score” based on money, market share, or trophies. No profit or loss statement stands as the final tally. No material success or failure can define us. Thankfully, life is not in those things—it is in the Lord alone. We need not fear temporary pressures to manipulate the score. We are free to make decisions based on faithful obedience—the ultimate long-term investment strategy—because all the struggles of daily competition have been swallowed up in victory. What remains is life-giving labor, working for God's sake.
This labor is not in vain. Nothing can drain the life from our faithful efforts to become the person God intended. On the job, at home, at leisure, with strangers, with friends—everything we do as “work in the Lord” has life in it.
Behold, I will tell you a mystery: you and I are built to last. We are made to be raised imperishable. This is the message of Easter in which we celebrate the amazing good news that death does not get the last word. Work has ultimate meaning when we invest for the long term. Life is the ultimate long-term investment, and Life gets the last word.
What a joy it is to know that our labor is not in vain!
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014