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The Labor of Love
February 7, 2004
Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
The trouble with the Christian life is that itís so daily. Jesus calls us to die daily, take up our cross daily, lay down our lives for the brethren, and love one anotherÖdaily. The call works itself out in relationships, with God and with others. So what happens to those great expectations we have, the high sounding accolades, the pregnant promises of forever friendship and enduring commitment, and the momentary madness we call infatuation? What happens to those lofty emotions when the flower fades, the ice cream melts, and the last bite of chocolate lingers but a second? We begin so hopeful, so full of faith, but then, with Paul, we must speak the truth.
Love is a labor, whose reward comes only as we do not grow weary in well doing and as we learn obedience in the things which we suffer. The day the Holy Spirit sealed us with salvation, the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts through Him. All that love has come to dwell within us. All that love comes to empower our lives, desiring to burst through the veil of flesh rent as we come to the Father broken, contrite, humble before Him.
Paul got the message. In his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, he embraced the lordship of Christ. He was "apprehended" and understood allegiance. He asked, "Who are You, Lord?" and then, "What will You have me to do?" (Acts 9; Galatians 1.16)
Paul took up the cross and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ with a sense of passion and purpose, a sense of obligation as a steward of the mysteries of God. He calls this enthusiasm, this embracing of all God has for him in Jesus, this preaching continually, this passions for souls, a labor, a labor of love.
The word kopos or kopiao in Greek is used in the general sense of laboring or toiling in everyday work, as in laboring in the fields and harvesting or laboring in the kingdom of God. It denotes weariness, bearing a burden.
Paul describes his own manual labor (1 Corinthians 4.12; 1 Thessalonians 2.9) as he worked to remain financially independent of the churches. He describes his missionary activity as a labor, a heavy burden with blows at times (2 Corinthians 6.5; 11.23, 27), with the risk of his labors proving fruitless (Galatians 4.11). His goal was to present every person complete in Christ before God (Colossians 1.29; cf. 1 Timothy 4.10). He sought the joy of encouragement (1 Corinthians 15.10; Philippians 2.16) in his labors. Others labored with him (Romans 16.12; 1 Corinthians 16.16; 1 Thessalonians 5.12) in preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5.17) with the same goal. It was a labor of love. (1 Thessalonians 1.3)
Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul, together with Silvanus and Timothy, thank God for them, mentioning them in their prayers;
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith,
And labor of love, and patience of hope in our
Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our
Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election
To God. For our gospel came not unto you in word
Only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit,
And in much assurance; as you know what manner of
Men we were among you for your sake.
And you became followers of us, and of the Lord,
Having received the word in much affliction
With joy of the Holy Spirit: so that you were
Examples to all that believe in Macedonia and
Achaia. (1 Thess. 1.3-7)
What manner of man was Paul? How did he demonstrate the labor of love which he commends the Thessalonians for following so that they, too, would become examples to believers?
Paul says they were shamefully entreated at Philippi, but bold to speak the gospel with an exhortation not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, but as those entrusted with the gospel; not as pleasing men, but God, who tried their hearts. They didnít use flattering words or a cloak of covetousness, nor sought glory of anyone. They laid no burden upon them as apostles of Christ but were gentle, even as a nursing mother cherishes her children. They had such affection for them that they were willing to have imparted unto them not only the gospel, but also their own souls. These people were so dear to them. (1 Thessalonians 2.1-8)
Paul exhorts these believers to remember their labor and travail, their laboring night and day so as not to be chargeable unto any of them as they ministered. They behaved themselves holily and justly and unblamably, exhorting and comforting and charging every one of them "as a father does his children, that you would walk worthy of God, who has called you into His kingdom and glory." (1 Thess. 2.11, 12) He calls them his glory and joy.
And it wasnít only the Thessalonians that Paul loved with such labor. He carried the burden of all the churches. He endured hardship, encountered extreme danger, assaults, scourging, beatings, stoning so as to be left for dead. He sacrificed to this labor of love his own pleasures, his own ease and safety. He persisted in this allegiance to Christ that compelled him to labor in love into old age, unaltered by perverseness (Acts 28.17), ingratitude (Galatians 1.6; 4.14-20), prejudice (2 Cor. 12.15), and desertion (2 Tim. 4.10, 16). He couldnít be thrown off course or off balance by anxiety, want, labor, or persecution. He remained unwavering through the confinements of prison and the prospects of death. He gloried in his tribulations and bore the scars of spiritual battle like a soldier of war. He identified with Christ and shared in His sufferings. (Philippians 3.10)
Whether as "the slave of Christ" or as "the prisoner of the Lord," Paul lived for Christ. That love shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit controlled his activities and fueled his passion to preach the gospel. (1 Cor. 9.16; 2 Cor. 5.14) He reasoned, he exhorted, he took to the streets, he made the circuit, he wrote letters, he sent others, he demonstrated the Spirit with power. He breathed out his fervency with an earnest sincerity and affection, carrying within himself the affections of Christ.
Itís a labor, a labor of love. I donít care if you pastor a large church or lead a home group, visit the sick or imprisoned, bake cookies for the bake sale, write notes of encouragement, stuff envelopes, prepare bulletins, change diapers in the nursery or in the nursing home, or carry crayons and colored paper to the Sunday School room. Whatever youíre doing, itís a labor, a labor of love. And everything is to be done to the glory of God. Itís not easy. Itís not always glamorous. Itís tiring. It gets boring at times, mundane, and old. Most of the work of the kingdom of God goes unseen by anyone but God Himself. Thereís no applause, little recognition, and oftentimes criticism.
So what propels us? What compels us? Paul urges us to follow him, even as he lived and labored as a follower of Christ. (1 Cor. 11.1)
How do we follow Christ and the example of Paul to make our lives more than a testimony of the faith we profess? How do we make our lives the argument and apologetic, the answer for the hope within us?
For me, it is the desire to press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, to apprehend even as I have been apprehended. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, even when I know now it will mean the fellowship of His suffering and being made conformable unto His death. I want to attain unto the resurrection of the dead, following after that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3)
The question posed to Jesus and then to me when I first believed in Jesus, which also became my life verse, was: "The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" Only by grace; only by grace. For me, it helped knowing that it would be a labor and not come easy. It would mean a long haul without instant results and immediate gratification. It would mean long days and longer nights, laboring in the fields for harvest. But the scriptures, the stories, the Spirit sustain me.
What is it for you? What keeps you going in the ministry, in the work of the kingdom of God? Keep on keeping on.
Pastor Jim and I thank you for your faithfulness, your commitment to Jesus, and your gifts to Mary Craig Ministries. Your gifts of love enable us to continue ministering to those coming to Craighouse and to the recipients of the Barnabas Project. The end of February we will again distribute items to the migrant workers, and your designated money gifts and donations are greatly appreciated for school supplies, linens, and books and Bibles in Spanish.
We resume mission trips this year and are in the planning stages for a home visitation ministry, which will begin very soon. The anointing has never been stronger, and many coming are being born again and healed by the Lord. More are ministering, able to use their gifts and anointing to benefit each other in our meetings and worship times. We are growing, as more and more people are bringing people to the help and hope that are in Jesus, to the refuge that is Craighouse.
Laboring with His love and by His grace,
P.S. Check out www.marycraig.org for more on upcoming events, directions to Craighouse, updates on missions projects, the teaching catalog section, and the latest on Africa. Read what God has done in Madagascar and pray for what He will do in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Love suffers long, and is kind.
Love envies not.
Love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,
Does not behave itself unseemly,
Seeks not her own,
Is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
Bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13.4-8a)
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