God’s kingdom is not like a vending machine. You can’t just put your labor in and expect a guaranteed and immediate return. In fact, lots of times the work we do for God will look like it is going unnoticed by everybody, including God Himself. We keep praying, we keep posting messages that encourage and exhort, we keep doing our ministries, and we keep living lives of faith to show those we encounter that Jesus is real and working in our lives. But sometimes no matter how hard we try and how much we work, nothing seems to change. Galatians 6:9 is there for a reason, and this week I was fighting that weary feeling. As often is the case, that was right when the Lord showed up with a picture of the whole scenario to put things into perspective. It was a scene from the series I have been watching on a streaming service called I Shouldn’t Be Alive, and it showed me clearly that my labor is not in vain in the Lord.
The Series: I Shouldn’t be Alive
My husband and I like to watch one show together while we eat dinner. We try to pick shows that won’t have bad language or storylines or the usual political agenda but will instead lead us to conversation. We started watching this one recently. It’s a show that reenacts scenarios in which people went through terrible ordeals but came out alive. There are plane crashes in the mountains, skydiving accidents, blizzards, shipwrecks, and people lost in the jungle or in the desert. The show switches between actors showing what happened and the actual survivors themselves explaining how they felt and what they thought about while it was happening.
As we watch, my husband and I like to talk about what the people could have or should have done in each situation and how to be prepared in the various scenarios. I also like to see how real people treat God in life-threatening situations. Some pray fervently. Some never mention God one time, and some curse God to His face. Sadly, the show itself never gives God credit for a single save. One time, a man said, “We prayed all night,” and the next words out of the narrator’s mouth were, “And as luck would have it, the next day a ship happened by.”
The Scenario in Question
The scenario that really spoke to me was on an episode from Season 4 called “Shipwrecked Family.” It was about a family of five that was sailing the South Pacific. Everything was great until their boat hit a rocky reef and started to sink. When the waves and wind started crashing against the ship that was now stuck on the reef, the mast cracked and fell directly on the father, pinning him by the leg. The mother and teenaged son pulled and pulled at that mast, but it weighed some two thousand pounds. No matter how much energy they expended, they just couldn’t move it. With the ship slowly submerging and all the lights going out, the son moved the mother and two younger sisters to a stable group of rocks nearby.
After a little time passed, however, the sixteen-year-old boy just couldn’t give up on his father. He and his mother walked back to the ship over the spiky, foot-slicing reef one more time to try to get the father out from under the mast and onto the floatation device. Again, the boy and his mother pulled and pulled, but this time a wave came by and lifted the mast enough so they could guide it away from the father’s leg. He then was able to go free. They pulled him onto the inflatable raft and over to the rocks where the two little girls were waiting with the homing beacon. That’s where the rescue boat found them not long after that.
My Labor for the Lord
The Lord has had me fasting for my church recently. He called it a “fasting ministry” and even gave me the schedule to follow and inspired my list of specific points to pray. Those points involve prayers for a spiritual breakthrough, guidance, salvation for lost loved ones, healing, and deliverance, among other things.
This past Wednesday night by the time I got to church, for that week alone I had already replaced seven meals with those prayers. That very day, in fact, I had prayed fervently three separate times. I had my whole heart in it and was doing all I knew to do to follow the Lord’s leading. I was looking forward to church especially to see if this was the week that God would remember my sacrifice and answer my prayers. (This is no credit to me whatsoever. It wasn’t my idea, and my new lifestyle has been a big adjustment. God has helped me with my attitude and moved me from grim obedience to wholehearted prayers, but He still has a work to do in me.)
That night as I watched in hope, the pastor looked out at the congregation, mentioned again the great needs of our church, and asked if the people of our church would please begin to pray.
My heart sank. After all my sacrifice, all my obedience, and all my prayers, the need was still there without even the EDGE knocked off. What was going on? I knew I was doing what God called me to do, and I was using all my heart and strength to do it. Was all my labor in vain?
My Labor is Not in Vain
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 15:58
Then I thought back to that shipwreck scenario. Lifting that 2,000-pound mast was impossible for that mother and son. They could pull until they physically hurt themselves, but it wouldn’t make a difference. That is until the wave came along. Then all they had to do was use their hands to guide the mast a little higher so the father could pull out his leg. But what if they had stayed on the rocks? What if the wave had rolled up when they weren’t there to guide the mast? The man could have stayed trapped and sunk under the waves.
Likewise, the work of the Lord is impossible apart from His hand. All our sacrifice and hard work mean nothing if it isn’t in God’s timing with God’s power. But that doesn’t mean that our labor is in vain. That just means that it’s up to us to get and stay in position and wait for the wave.
Occupy Until He Comes
God chooses to work through His people, and it’s a fact that He expects us to work. In the parable in Luke 19, Jesus tells the story of the ten servants who were each given ten pounds and told to occupy until their master returned. It’s a clear message that the people of God are responsible to Him for our time and resources on earth. We are to occupy, to work toward His goals and purposes, until He comes again or calls us home. But we can’t always judge the results of our labor by what we see. Sometimes the effects will be clear and immediate. Sometimes, we may not understand what God is doing at all. But the Bible tells us that our labor is not in vain. We just have to stay in His will, keep the faith, and watch and wait for God to move.
Enjoy object lessons? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try 3 Last Days Object Lessons from Shopping. Please subscribe in the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel. There, I read my blogs out loud and have a playlist of hymns from my church. Far from boring, they are fast, sassy, and anointed. I hope you will be blessed listening!