Laboring for the Lord.
Romans Chapter 16.
In this chapter, we see Paul concluding the long book of Romans, commending the brothers and sisters in the Lord for helping him in the ministry; Paul commends them of their diligent labor in the Lord. He mentions their name and each one have become so precious to him in the ministry. Some of them have risked their lives for the ministry. Here we see a hardworking church for the Lord. The early New Testament church was not a rich church with mega buildings and all kinds of musical instruments to attract the carnal appetite. But they were poor and met in homes. It is very sad to see that the church today has fallen from its purity. The church has become a worldly organization and money has become the motive of the preachers. We need to see the who are the true laborers in Christ in the light of the Bible.
The word labor in Greek is kopiaw kopiao kop-ee-ah'-o It means to 1) to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief) 2) to labour with wearisome effort, to toil.
Labor for the Lord needs strength of desire. People in general who live under the light of the gospel, are not atheists, they to go to heaven rather than to hell. Jesus said, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Lu ) Most people who attend church are not striving to enter the narrow road, they are not concerned about it, and they are more concern of their security here in earth rather than the security in heaven. They live a careless life. The Greek word for strive is agwnizomai. It means to struggle, agonize, with difficulties and dangers, to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something, labor fervently, to contend with adversaries.
There should be a desire not after worldly things, but desire of the Lord. There are many who desire the good things of life, the material things, desire how to live a comfortable life, desire to retire and live comfortably, desire to buy a home, desire to earn more money. Their mind is set here then only on Sundays their mind is set toward heaven. As a result, there is no real labor in the Lord. But true Christianity is the desire of the Lord the Psalmist said,
Ps 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
There are many Christians who will say, I will seek God as long as I live then later they realize they are not doing it and they have deceived themselves. Their mouth confessed the desire but the problem is their hearts were not there. It was only an emotional confession. How can we seek this desire to labor for God? The first thing is you need to seek for mercy. Realize who you are in the sight of God, a miserable poor wretched sinner who deserve nothing but hell, but now made a saint in Christ Jesus. They see the importance of serving God now, take every opportunity that comes their way, and realize they are weak but depend on Gods strength. The persevere and steadfast and hold fast in their heart, strive daily to enter the narrow gate. They seek daily with much pain and agony, as their hearts are set toward heaven and all the earthly desire have become dim in the glory of God.
There are many who spend hundreds of dollars for their health. They take care of their body, as it is utmost important to them. They work hard in the gym, doing exercises, jogging daily. They spend much money on vitamins, buy the kind of creams that will make their face looks younger, spend money on clothes that make them look good. Even when they get together in fellowship, they speak of these things as their hearts and desire are of themselves. They have a strong carnal appetite. But how they have neglected the most important things in laboring for God. The life of a Christian is not a comfortable life, and then go to church on Sunday and pay your dues, that are not what Jesus said, instead he said, Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many on that day, will say Lord, Lord, but he will tell, I never knew you.
Lu 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
The Lord is going to shut the door and, but they will keep on knocking on the door, but the Lord will tell them I do not know you. What door is he speaking here? A door of distinction. Let me explain this to you, in the church there is the outer court and the inner court, the holy place. Majority of the people are worshipping in the outer court, where the carnal teachers and the carnal people are satisfied in their duty as it pleases their flesh, while a minority of true servants of the Lord are worshipping in the inner sanctuary, within the veil. When the Master of the house comes, the door will be shut between them, those who are in the outer court will be kept out, this is the door of separation. The door was open, this was the door of mercy and grace but many will not come, as it is very agonizing to enter through that door, instead they hoped to get to heaven by their own merits.
Think of it there are many who are confident today of their salvation, and they think they are saved because they are in a big popular church, but in that day the door will be shut, and they will knock on the door and say, Lord, Lord open to us, we are too Christians. They were so confident, why? In verse 26.
Then shall ye begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. (Lu 13:26)
They have heard of the Word of God, they truly believed that they were Christians and had full confidence in going to heaven. But their confidence failed. The Lord said,
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. (Lu 13:27)
What was their downfall? They had a form of godliness; it was only an outward Christianity. They went to Church, sang spiritual songs, read the word of God, went to prayer meetings, and also sometimes enlightened in witnessing, went to all the potlucks. But it was not real in the heart. They were carnal; they were still worldly and sinful. There was no true separation. Their convictions are weak as there was no true repentance. They worshipped and served God in the outer court. They did the devils drudgery in Christs livery. It means the devil used them very as hard workers in the name of Christianity.
They may stand at the door and knock, and cry, Lord, Lord, open to us, in vain; God will have no mercy on them. His fearful vengeance will seize them, the devils will lay hold of them, and all evil come upon them, and there will be none to pity or help. These are the comfortable Christians who did not want to suffer for the kingdom of God but now they will suffer for eternity, as they will be tormented in hell forever.
Daily we see that we are all in a race. We are all busy trying to get to work, so we will be paid at the end of the week. We strive hard to get that paycheck from work, so we can pay our bills and for many churchgoers if they have more they will spend it for carnal pleasure. They forget the crown from heaven; rather they desire the crowns from earth. The true Christian have an earnest desire is to gain the crown from the Lord not desiring after the wealth of this world. There is a lot of hard labor involved as a Christian. Apostle Paul said,
1Co 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Jesus said, that we need to deny ourselves pick up the cross and follow him. This is not an easy task. We need to count the cost. What are they? There is trouble and danger in following Christ. A true disciple of Christ is one that follows him. He will walk in the same way that his master walked, and will walk not in duty. First thing you have to do is to deny yourself. This is self-denial. Self-denial is a hard thing to do. But this is a fundamental law of you being admitted to the school of Christ. This is the straight gate and the narrow road. This is against our flesh. We must deny ourselves absolutely. We must not admire our own self, and not to gratify our own humor, nor seek our own things. We must deny ourselves for Christ. We must deny our appetites of this body for the benefit of the soul.
The cross is a symbol of suffering. Every disciple should carry the cross. . Are you willing to suffer for Christ? Are you willing to take the narrow road? Are you willing to give up yourself? There is much difficulties, many barriers and obstacles that come your way, there will be all kinds of temptations will come your way, but need to keep this flesh under control or else it will go wild.
But most Christians will strive to enter the narrow gate, but when they come across the pain and the agony of entering, the hardship, trials, persecution, giving up this comfortable earthly life, then they will say, Why am I suffering just for nothing, I am not gaining anything, I am a loser. They will give up, they will not press forward as they realize it is tough on the flesh and does not make any profit on this earth, they go back to their old comfortable Christian life, but they will perish with the unbelievers
Mr 8:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Rejoice in serving the Lord.
Also we see this strenuous, diligent labor for the Lord that will provide much dangers, hardship and difficulties should not make your face down cast. There are some Christians who will work diligently but they look very depressed. God does not want this kind of an attitude in serving him; he wants you to rejoice in your hardship and sufferings. Let us see some scriptures the attitude we should have in serving the Lord.
Ps 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Col 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, rejoice.
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
The early Christians during the time of Caesar and Nero went through heavy-duty persecutions in serving the Lord. They were burned alive, crucified, given to the wild beasts to be eaten alive; the church went through extreme painful trials. This is what happened when you truly serve God. It is hard, painful taking the narrow road but we need to rejoice in the Lord, as at the end there is an infinite reward. The only way we can rejoice in hardship of serving the Lord is when you are in the spirit, that means walking by faith in his word and prayer and not by feelings.
Ro 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
The word fervent is boiling with zeal and enthusiasm.
This desire in laboring for the Lord is going to be much painful. But it is the greatest thing one can do. We are willing to seek earthly things, which will eventually pass away; many are seeking with great diligence, and through much difficulty. But how much more earnestly we should seek infinitely greater things which is worth far beyond and will never pass away.
The children of Israel did not have to stay in the wilderness for forty years, only if their minds were steadfast and stable in the Lord. Instead, during hard and difficult times they murmured and grumbled as their minds and hearts went back to Egypt, Egypt was a type of the world. In reality, they were not going forward but backwards to the world. The same lesson still continues to the church, strive to enter the narrow gate, there will be much difficulties and hardship but do not despair, endeavor hardship, run the race, seek his pardoning grace and must submit to strict discipline in our salvation.