This past weekend was Labor Day weekend. Like many people, I had a vague idea of what Labor Day was for, but really couldn’t give anyone a concise definition. So I did some research and found out that it was a holiday pushed by labor unions to celebrate the contribution of all the laborers to our country…and also to add another holiday between the long stretch from July 4th to Thanksgiving.
Thinking about Labor Day, I began to consider the Apostle Paul and the many times he mentions labor. I actually was surprised when I began to research how much Paul writes about laboring.
Mr. Webster’s definition of labor is as follows: 1. Exertion of muscular strength, or bodily exertion which occasions weariness; 2. Intellectual exertion; application of the mind which occasions weariness;
These were just the first two definitions but notice the common theme: labor is not just work but it is work which “occasions weariness.” In other words it is hard work. Paul uses this word to describe how he works in the ministry in Colossians 1:29. “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
If you read the verses before this you will understand why he labors in such a fashion. In verse 25 he tells them that God has given him a ministry. This ministry is to “fulfill the word of God in you.” This means fully preaching or proclaiming God’s word to them. God had given him this ministry to the Gentiles (see here). He was to preach Christ among them (verse 28) and he had this desire to preach Christ to every man. To warn every man.
So it is toward this goal that Paul labors, and here is my take-away:
- Paul had a ministry that he wanted to fulfill. His is the same as ours and that is to preach the gospel to every creature. Paul knew it wasn’t his ministry, it was God’s, and as a steward of the ministry (this is what dispensation means in verse 25) he wanted to do his best. How about us, are we doing our best in our ministry?
- Paul knew that others depended on him. He mentions in verse 28 that he preached Christ to every man. Paul knew that every man needed to hear the gospel. Each man’s eternal destiny depended on receiving the gospel message. Do you feel the great need of your life and ministry? Do you see that people are depending on you to do your part in the Great Commission?
- Paul worked, but not according to his own power. Yes Paul worked. Yes you do have to work and do your part, but Paul did not work in his own strength. The ministry and the need is far greater than that! Paul worked depending on God, drawing his strength from God. There is no other way to explain his ministry. To go through what he went through, and to see him stand up and keep on going, there is not other explanation than God. Yet we have the same promises as Paul: Christ has told us that he would be with us. Labor will make you weary. Do you feel weary? Lean on Christ. Trust Christ. Draw from Christ life and strength, and watch him work mightily in you.