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Isaiah 12: 1-6
Isaiah 11: 1-16
Isaiah 10: 5-34
Isaiah 9: 8 - 10: 4
Steadfast & Abounding
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.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB)
Often times when we read or teach from this passage, the focus falls on the steadfastness and immovability of the faith of those for whom the resurrection is settled. We speak of living our convictions and holding to our hope. After all, the “therefore” at the beginning of the verse is saying that these things are accomplished by the overwhelming victory found in the resurrection of Jesus.
“This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.” This is the anthem of our hope, and all that the world can do to me can not unseat that settled hope as long as I remain firm in my conviction, right?
Steadfast & Immovable
While each carries a slightly different connotation they are expressing one unified thought. The word steadfast, meaning settled or seated upon a foundation, indicates that our conviction in and commitment to these things are not easily unseated. Immovable defines how steady these things really are. They do not change with time, whim, or circumstance. The one who is immovable does not yield to external forces, and because he is steady he does not change his mind.
The man of faith is not easily unseated when he keeps his faith strong, and yet those of Corinth seem to have been doubting the resurrection. But what had caused them to become so weak in these things?
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34 Become sober- minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
(1 Corinthians 15:33,34 NASB)
They had kept company with those who questioned without answers (vs35ff), and they did not know for themselves the word of God. I would humbly submit that it is for this reason that we lose so many to the world. Though they were taught the truth concerning the resurrection of Jesus, these things never became settled within them because their focus was never on their faith, but rather on growing according to the wisdom of the world.
We are taught at very young ages to validate the things we “know” through personal experience and observation, and yet we are not objective observers in our own world. Misplaced compassion, a desire to appear wise, and longing for acceptance by those who do not share our beliefs have led many into error.
Many were taught from youth to reassure their faith with things outside of scripture. So each passing “discovery” that “proves the Bible” is trumpeted as strengthening the foundation of faith. Brothers and sisters we need to be careful in this. For many, the act of bolstering our faith by external evidence has replaced biblical study.
Abounding in the work for the sake of our faith
There was a third instruction in 1 Corinthians 15:58, and of the three it is usually the least addressed, but maybe of the greatest importance to our own spiritual strength.
“always abounding in the work of the Lord”
For too many, Christianity is merely an intellectual pursuit or a personal passion. Where is the practical side of our faith? How does our certainty of not just Christ’s resurrection but our own manifest itself in daily life?
It is time for us to increase in those things that grow and grow out of our faith. Peter’s second epistle speaks of the promises that have been given to us for the purpose of reassuring our faith. He offers this reassurance as to the value of spiritual growth in the knowledge of the Lord:
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:8 NASB)
While many might read the passage from 1 Corinthians 15 and assume that it is faith that precedes the work of the Lord. If we are to understand Peter, it is our labor in the kingdom that sustains our faith, and not strictly the other way around. In fact, the two sustain each other. As our faith grows we become bolder in our labors, and as we abound in labor our conviction grows so that our toil is not in vain. Our faith is increased.
Strive for Spiritual Abundance
Lastly, we need to understand what spiritual increase looks like. Baptism alone cannot be a measure of spiritual success. It’s a wonderful thing when someone is baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and though they may be rich in zeal, their journey in Christ is just beginning. They are not yet the fertile ground bringing forth 30, 60, or 100 fold. (Matthew 13:8,9) Their faith, untested and untrained, can only be increased through diligent application of the Word.
If we are measuring our own fruit by those who are baptized, what does that say of Paul’s assertion in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9? If it is God who gives the increase, is the fruit I seek found only in the baptism of others or in the labor of teaching? Is my fruit, that is according to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the salvation of another, or in the growth that happened within me?
The other side of the coin is just as serious. We need to stop accepting our present efforts in the kingdom as “good enough.” The Kingdom labor I practiced yesterday is not abundance today. The expectations of tomorrow should always include spiritual growth. When they do not, how are we abounding? When we do not abound in our labor what does it say of our faith in the resurrection and our love for others?
If we are not abounding in the work of the Lord, what are we contributing to the kingdom?
Let us press on knowing that our toil is not in vain.