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.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:58
“It was advertised that the devil was going to put his tools up for sale. On the date of the sale the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. There were a treacherous lot of implements. Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Doubt, Lying, Pride, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the pile was a harmless- looking tool, well-worn and priced very high. “The name of the tool?” asked one of the purchasers. “Oh,” said the adversary, “that’s discouragement.” “Why have you priced it so high?” said the purchaser. “Because it’s more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one. And once I get inside, I can make him do what I choose. It’s a badly worn tool because I use it on almost everyone since few people know it belongs to me.” The devil’s price for discouragement was so high; he never sold it. It’s still his major tool; he still uses it on God’s people today.” [Excerpt from John Lawrence, Down to Earth.]
It is easy to get discouraged, isn’t it? Particularly in the work that God has called us to do in ministry. It can often be frustrating and discouraging when we labor hard but don’t see growth and change in the lives of those we are seeking to impact. Over 25 years ago, I did a bible study with SEARCH Ministries that helped me see two biblical principles I believe can help us in our expectations and in our ability to overcome discouragement today. Both principles come out of I Corinthians 3:5-7, which says, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Principle #1 – remember that evangelism, discipleship, change, and growth is a process. The work of ministry is like farming, which includes the phases of cultivating, sowing, and reaping. Sometimes we see reaping, but often it is hard to see on a day to day basis the invisible work God is doing in the hearts of men and women we are ministering to. But He is working and has us participating in the various phases along the way.
Principle #2 – remember that God is responsible for the results. There are many things we can do to fulfill our role as an ambassador for Christ. The one thing I know for sure we cannot do, however, is change the human heart. That is God’s job. He is ultimately responsible for the results in the lives of those we work with.
In light of these two principles, we need to remember that our three greatest enemies: the world, our selfish desires, and the evil one himself, do not want us to advance the gospel and see people grow in their walk with Jesus Christ. The world says it’s not worth it, our flesh grows weary in doing the work, and the evil one will tempt us to give up and become discouraged. Don’t give in!
- Where are you most easily discouraged in your life and ministry right now?
- What encouragement can you draw, and what specifically can you apply right now from 1 Corinthians 15:58? In this verse, the Apostle Paul states, “Therefore, my dear brothers, 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.”
Today’s devotional was prayed over and prepared by Trent Gladstone, Elder