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Laboring For Christ

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Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in September each year, is one of America’s great federal/national holidays.1 Labor Day has been a national holiday since 1877 and is celebrated in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. It is often accompanied with speeches or parades, and is observed by people as a time for travelling, picnics, family get-togethers, or just plain relaxing. Football fans are especially excited at this time of the year, for games are often featured on Labor Day weekend. The professional teams in the NFL have their season opening game on the first Thursday after Labor Day.2

Labor itself is often commended. Thus Thomas Dekker said, “Honest labor bears a lovely face,”3 while William Morris remarked, “The reward of labor is life.”4 In the following study we shall note three particular terms used for labor in the New Testament: mochthos--“exertion,” “hardship,” ponos --“pain,” “distress,” “affliction”, and kopos (a noun, together with its verbal complement kopiaȫ)--“work, “ labor,” “weariness.” As an overall summation of these three terms Trench points out, “‘labor,’ ‘toil’ (or perhaps ‘travail’), and ‘weariness’ are the three words which in English best reproduce the three Greek words.”5 This will be followed with a discussion of these terms as employed by the New Testament writers and a closing section suggesting some applications of their importance for Christian living.

Labor as physical toil

The first of our three Greek words, mochthos, is used by the Apostle Paul to emphasize to the Thessalonian believers his personal labors on their behalf. During the time in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:1-14), as he shared the gospel with them, he and his team also did physical labor so as to support himself. Thus he declares,

For you recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery: by working night and day so as not to impose a burden on any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. (1 Thess. 2:9)

As Morris points out, “From Acts 18:3 we learn that Paul’s particular trade was tentmaking. …What is plain is that Paul and his companions had worked, and had worked hard, to support themselves, and to see that no burden was placed on their converts.6 Similarly, in 2 Thessalonians 3:8 Paul says,

We did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.

Morris adds further,

He had shown them the way a Christian ought to support himself. Paul’s toil had been laborious, the conjunction of the two words he uses being emphatic. He had not shrunk from toiling long hours (‘night and day’). He had done it with the set purpose of refraining from imposing a burden on any other.7

By way of application Walvoord observes, “The Christian life should not be a question of doing as little as possible. Rather like Paul our lives should be poured out in service for the Lord.”8

Similarly, in recounting the many hardships that he had endured as a minister of Christ, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that among these were “hard work and toil” (2 Cor. 11:27). The emphasis here is a strong one, for in saying this Paul employs both kopos and mochthos. Indeed, “Both express the idea of wearisome toil and the consequent exhaustion and suffering.”9 Paul also mentions his hard work and sufferings to the Corinthians elsewhere (e.g., 1 Cor. 4:12). Yet he remarks that it was simply the case that:

I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder that all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1 Cor. 15:9-10)

As Baker explains, “Paul was not thinking so much of the grace of salvation as he was of the grace of his apostolic calling to share the Good News of salvation,”10 In passing, it is of interest to note that the word “grace” occurs three time in verse 10. Paul was truly saved by grace, called to be an apostle by God’s grace, and continued to minister solely though the grace that God afforded him. As the hymn writer said,

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured—
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

……

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!11

Paul was not alone in ministering while experiencing difficulties for the sake of the Lord and fellow believers. Thus while in prison in Rome Paul commends Epaphras to the Colossian believers saying,

Epaphras who is one of you and a slave of Christ, greets you. He is always struggling in prayer on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in the will of God. I can testify that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Col. 4:12-13; cf. Col. 1:7-8)

Paul’s emphasis here is on Epaphras’ great concern for his fellow believers in Colossae, a concern so huge that he spends much time in prayer for them. Nevertheless, we should note as well that Paul speaks of Epaphras’ hard work (Lit., “much pain”)12 for the nearby churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis.13 Certainly Paul does commend Epaphras’ prayer for the believers, but was it simply concerning Epaphras’ agonizing in prayer that Paul is speaking? Perhaps there is more. Todd Still point out that, “Though Paul does not describe in detail the nature of Epaphras’ sacrifice for the saints in Colossae, it appears that his commitment to the church came at some personal cost (cf. Phm. 23).”14 Indeed, in many ways Epaphras had fully become a fellow prisoner with Paul.

Despite his toilsome efforts, Paul was convinced that such was necessary in order to convey the gospel by holding on to the word of life wherever he could. So certain was he of this that he could encourage the Philippian Christians to, “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort” (Phil. 2:12-13). Moreover, they should make every effort to so live as to be satisfied before God, to live without complaining, and be good testimonies to the world around them (vv. 14-15). This they can do more successfully, “by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain” (v. 16). Indeed, by living their lives for God and adhering to his standards Paul will be able to rejoice, for his labors for Christ will not have been “in vain.”

Having said all of this, Paul goes on to express a noble thought—one that displays his complete dedication to God and his labors for Christ and his desire to see such blossom in the Philippians’ lives:

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with all of you. And in the same way, you also should be glad and rejoice together with me. (Phil. 2:17-18)

Paul is here building on the Old Testament sacrificial system. Thus in Leviticus the Mosaic Law prescribed three basic sweet savor offerings: The burnt offering (1:1-17; 6:8-13), together with the meal offering (2:1-16; 6:14-23), and the peace offering (3:1-17; 7:11-38). In order these sweet savor offerings symbolized such basic spiritual principles as complete dedication of life (the burnt offering), evidenced in a life of active service for God (the meal offering), and loving communion with God (the peace offering).15

In time, accompanying the burnt offering and peace offering, a drink offering was poured out (cf. Num. 15:1-12). In many ways the drink offering not only accompanied but capped the other sweet savor offerings. Thus according to Old Testament practice, the drink offering occupied the high point of spiritual expression. Made from wine, symbolizing the fruitfulness, which the Lord produces in the believer (cf. Gen. 49:22), the drink offering signified the full consecration of the believer whose life was poured out in willing, joyous service to God.

It is this imagery that Paul draws upon expressly in Philippians 2:17-18 as he underscores the necessity of the Philippians’ consecration and his own commitment to Christ’s will for his life. Were Paul to die in the Roman prison from which he is writing, his death would be merely a joyous drink offering to their dedicated service (cf. the burnt offering) and priestly service (cf. the meal offering), which the Philippians’ faith had evidenced. Accordingly, he could rejoice and he urges them to also rejoice. Theirs had been a sacrificial faith and loving service. What could be more appropriate than for Paul to crown their consecration with the drink offering of his life? As O’Brien concludes,

If one thing remains to make the Philippians’ sacrificial service perfectly acceptable to God, he is willing that his own life be sacrificed as a libation and credited to their account. There is thus every reason for mutual joy: he rejoices because God has been willing to use him for the sake of the Philippians in fulfillment of his apostolic struggle for the gospel, while their sacrificial service was something that they joyfully offered to the living God.16

Although Paul apparently was not executed on this occasion, he was to use this same figure later as he faced impending death in a Roman prison for a second time:

I am already being poured out as an offering and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge will award it time in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Apparently, this time there would be no reprieve, no escape. Already he was being poured out as a drink offering and the time of his departure for heaven was at hand. He has been consistently faithful to the course, which the Lord had laid out for him. Now that course has been run. He was ready to cap his dedicated labors and profitable ministry with the joyous drink offering of his very life.

Perhaps we should all learn a lesson from this word of strong devotion. May our churches, like that in Philippi, have the kind of committed believers for whom a Paul (or pastor) would gladly die, if called on to do so. May all of our lives be characterized by a faith that produces such a total dedication that it issues forth in faithful service for Christ—lives that are consciously poured out in joyous surrender to Christ, remembering that as prophesied, He “poured out his life unto death” (Isa. 53:12; NIV) for the sake of the sins of a needy mankind.

Of all believers, this should especially be true of our Christian leaders. In this regard the term “service” in Philippians 2:17 is very instructive. The Greek word (leitourgia) translated “service” in our text had a long history, but one that had seen a distinct change in emphasis by Paul’s day. Most commonly the word had dealt with doing a community service that benefited society as a whole. From this it developed a term for religious service. It therefore became a fitting term for the Greek translators of the Hebrew Old Testament of words from the Hebrew root šrt, “to serve,” “to minister.” Interestingly, the Hebrew word could also be used of both secular and religious duties, but it is the latter use that is of particular interest.17

It was often employed in this manner to depict the religious duties of the Levites and priests who served in the tabernacle and temple services; for example:

He (David) appointed some of the Levites to serve before the ark of the LORD, to offer prayers, songs of thanks, and hymns to the LORD God of Israel. (1 Chron. 16:4)

David left Asaph and his colleagues there before the ark of the LORD’s covenant to serve before the ark regularly and fulfill each day’s requirements. (1 Chron. 16:37)

Zadok the priest and his fellow priests served before the LORD’s tabernacle at the worship center in Gibeah, regularly offering burnt sacrifices to the LORD on the altar for burnt sacrifice, morning and evening according to what is prescribed in the law of the LORD which he charged Israel to observe. (1 Chron. 16:39; see also Exod. 28:35, 43).

As a noun (shārēt) became a technical term for one who does special or responsible service. For example, Joseph was a one who served as an administrator to Potiphar (Gen 39:4); Joshua was Moses’ special servant (Exod. 24:13; 33:11; Josh. 1:1); and Elisha served in a similar fashion for Elijah (1 Kings 19:21). In some cases this word is used for those whose service made them ministers to the king himself (2 Chron. 22:8; Esther 2:2).

Both its earlier Greek usage and the Hebrew Old Testament context are gathered up in the Greek New Testament, especially in the sense of priestly service. Thus the author of Hebrews employs it frequently to describe the work of Christ, the believers great High Priest. For example,

Now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. (Heb. 8:6; cf. 9:21-28)

So also believers are said to do spiritual service for God (cf. Acts 13:2) and comprise a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:6), for Christ himself, “has appointed us as a kingdom of priests serving his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). The Apostle Peter points out that, believers

are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you put of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9)

If, then, we believers are chosen ministers for the Lord, ours is a special privilege. We should fulfill our duties, especially in sharing the knowledge of Christ and the Word of God.

Moreover, the New Testament word and its Old Testament counterparts remind us that ours must be a perfect (i.e., wholesome, balanced, faithful and spiritually maturing walk before God (cf. Ps. 101:6). As the Lord charged Abram, “I am the sovereign God: walk before me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1) Later, as the children of Israel in the wilderness drew near the Promised Land they are admonished through Moses, “You must be blameless before the LORD your God” (Deut. 18:13) Similarly, the Lord Jesus told his disciples, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48; cf. 2 Cor. 13:11).

Our text in Philippians 2:17 is in agreement with the divine standard, for here Paul reminds us that for leaders and all believers their total life, both sacred and “secular”, must be one that is truly spiritual service for Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 9:10-15). Indeed, the various words and their uses remind us of the high calling, which each believer has. For in performing their spiritual service, in a way far greater than that of Joseph, each believer serves him who is not only the great High Priest, but our King and Lord (cf. Rev. 11:15; 19:16).

By way of practical application, one is reminded of an interesting story told by J. Sidlow Baxter concerning the eminent Scottish professor, Henry Drummond. When Henry was a lad scarcely ten years of age, his home village was preparing paper streamers in honor of the soon arrival of the queen. When the paper supply began to grow scarce, young Drummond was asked to go fetch some more. At first the lad refused, but soon he was seen running at top speed to get the requested supplies. What had changed his mind? Someone had reminded Henry that even this seemingly menial task was O.H.M.S.: “On Her Majesty’s service”!18 May we believers also be reminded that whatever the task, however humble, whatever we do in our service here on earth as servants of Christ is part of our ministry for him—it is O. H. M. S. “On His Majesty’s service.” As the hymn writer charges:

To the work! To the work! We are servants of God.
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.
Toiling on, toiling on, Toiling on, toiling on,
Let us hope, let us watch,
And labor till the Master comes.19

The key to doing basic Christian service may well lie in Paul’s familiar commendation to the Thessalonian believers:

We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers, because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:2-3).

Here it is declared that a full commitment to the three great spiritual marks of excellence: a dynamic, active faith, a deep and all-encompassing love, and a settled and confident hope (cf.1 Cor. 11:13) are necessary components in the believer’s service for Christ. Indeed, without them, work, labor and endurance may fall short of genuine godliness (cf. Rev. 2:2-4).

When one thinks of the first of these qualities: faith, he is reminded of one of the most basic texts in the Bible: Habakkuk 2:4b: “The just shall live by his faith” (KJV) or perhaps even more accurately, “The person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness” (NLT). The difference is well understood in light of the fact that the Hebrew word employed here bears the understanding of both faith and faithfulness. For Habakkuk the stress is that, in contrast to the unrighteous person, the consistent believer is one in whom God’s righteous character is reproduced by faith and therefore this person will act faithfully. Habakkuk’s words are utilized in the New Testament twice by Paul (Rom. 1:17; Gal 3:11) and once by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 10:38). As I have pointed out elsewhere, for Paul in Romans 1:17 the emphasis is that,

“It is through faith that a righteous person has life”—that is, in an ultimate sense, such a believer really lives. The apostle emphasizes that the person’s right standing before God is not based on works (Eph 2:8), not even those of the law, but only on genuine faith.20

The author of Hebrews renders Habakukk’s words with slight variations of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (The Septuagint) so as to read:

“My righteous ones will live by faith[fullness]”… [Thus] the author Hebrews applies the outworking of the believers’ faith to their living in the certain hope of Christ’s coming… Faith and faithfulness, therefore, are twin aspects of a living reality. Genuine faith will be lived out in faithfulness to God and his precepts (cf. Jas 2:17-24).21

Faithfulness can take many forms. The bottom line is that believers should evidence Christian faithfulness in all that they do whether in religious service or their daily routines. This should spring from a loving heart so dedicated to God that it supplies a burning desire throughout their lives.22

This thought leads to the second of qualities that Paul mentions -- the labor of love. Although there are several Greek words that communicate the idea of loving, the root used here is not purely emotional but involves the whole soul, intellect, emotions and will. This is true whether it appears as a noun or as a verb. This love is used of the relations in the godhead (e.g., John 14:31); in fact, it springs from the very nature of God. This root is also used of God’s love for mankind (e.g., John 3:16). Essentially,

Christian love reflects and acts in accordance with God’s own love. For a Christian’s whole soul attitude toward others is to love others and seek their highest good—no matter who or what –just as God does (Matt. 5:43-48). This word pair [love as a noun or verb] expresses the imperative of the Christian ethic—to love (Eph. 4:15). As Barclay observes, Agape [love] means treating men as God treats them.”23

Paul speaks of a “labor” of love. The point is that just as faith produces a faithfulness that works actively in the believer’s life, so a deep seated divinely imparted love inspires a genuine desire to serve the Lord and reflect God’s love in our relations with others (cf. 1 John 4:7-12). As with faith, so love is to be active--to utilize real effort--in all that we do. As Robert Thomas adds further, “However it shows itself, one thing is certain: a great spirit of self-sacrifice is present because such is inseparable from Christian love.”24

As a third necessary quality, Paul speaks of an assured and settled hope that undergirds and inspires the believer’s endurance in his active life for the Lord. Because of such a hope, the believer can stand fast in afflictions and trials (cf. 2 Cor. 6:4; 2 Thess. 1:4), all the while knowing that “suffering produces endurance” (Rom. 5:3). Indeed, it is true also that the various trials one encounters may well become a measure of satisfaction and joy, for the testing of one’s faith can yield Christian endurance (Jas. 1:2-3). “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). It also may produce God’s commendation (1 Pet. 2:19-20). Although Christian leaders should especially be characterized by godly endurance (1 Tim. 6:11; cf. 2 Tim. 2:8-10), all believers need spiritual endurance “in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised” (Heb. 10:36; cf. vv. 32-35, 37-39), and “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).

It is of particular interest to note that the Greek word rendered here as endurance is at times linked with the thought of patience, as recognized also by the NET (Col. 1:11). So much is this the case, that Trench points out that, the Greek word normally translated “patience” (makrothumia) “will be found to express patience in respect to persons,” while our word rendered “endurance” (hupomonē) is directed toward “respect of things.”25 One further note should be added. Although patience exists as an attribute only of God, nevertheless believers should strive to be patient toward all (1 Thess. 5:14), for such makes them all the more worthy of their high calling (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12).

Indeed, faith, love, and hope do constitute a dynamic set of virtues for the Christian life. They occur together quite frequently in the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 6:10-12; 10:22-25; 1 Pet. 1:3-8, 21-22), and especially in Paul’s letters. Thus he uses it again in 1 Thessalonians in chapter 5, where he speaks of the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of our hope for salvation (see NET text notes). Paul also uses these three in his discussion of the consequences of justification (Rom. 5:1-5), the believer’s new life in Christ (Gal. 5:5-6), and the anticipated reward for those who have received and believed the gospel message (Col. 1:4-5). Perhaps the most well-known example in Paul’s writings is in his message to the Corinthian church: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Returning to our text in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, we might summarize Paul’s teaching as stressing the effective work that genuine faith produces, the laboring toil that flows out naturally from divinely engrafted love in the believer, and the steadfast and patient endurance that an assured hope inspires. A vital faith, a virtuous love, and a victorious hope will inevitably produce a Christian servant who so labors that he will willingly and cheerfully expend himself totally in wearisome but joyful toil for Christ. This is vividly seen in Paul’s reminder and challenge to Timothy:

You… have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all. Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. (2 Tim. 3:10-12, 14)

In the midst of the goals of his high calling to Christian service Paul includes his familiar undergirding triad of virtues: faith, love, and endurance. Through them, together with God-given patience (makrothumia), he was able to find God’s sustenance in the midst of severe persecutions. As Kȫstenberger observes, Paul

considered the present sufferings “not worth comparing” with the glory to follow (Rom. 8:18), that he viewed himself as “fill[ing] up …what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24), and that in his sufferings he knew himself united with Christ and other believers.26

Paul goes on to remind Timothy to continue in his faith and training and to remember the availability of the Scriptures so that the dedicated believer, “may be capable and equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). Indeed, Paul also kept his eye on the everlasting goal and reward that lay ahead (cf. Phil. 3:12-14). Would that all believers would be similarly motivated! As Phelps pleaded,

Give me a faithful heart, likeness to Thee,
That each departing day, henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, some deed of kindness done,?
Some wand’rer sought and won, something for Thee.
All that I am and have—Thy gifts so free—
In joy, in grief, thro’ life, dear Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, my ransomed soul shall be,
Thro’ all eternity, something for Thee.27

Application

In light of all of the above information, let us not overlook the value of labor,

For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.
For labor, the common lot of man,
Is part of the kind Creator’s plan.28

Indeed, let us always strive to be those who conduct ourselves as, “Good stewards of the varied grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10). The Apostle Paul has left us a good example of one who followed his own godly advice:

Physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact, this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. (1 Tim. 4:8-10)

Our labor should not be sporadic or motivated by human feelings or desires, but based on God’s leading and the reality of his presence as our co-laborer. Indeed, elsewhere Paul reminds us that as those united to the resurrected and living Christ (Gal. 2:20), we have the assurance that our Lord is always present to guide, strengthen, and assist (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10) each believer (cf. Phil. 4:13). Each day should provide a fresh opportunity to serve the Lord even as God’s Son served his heavenly Father (cf. John 17:4). As Henry van Dyke expressed it:

Those who tread the path of labor,

Follow where Thy feet have trod;

They who work without complaining;

Do the holy will of God.

…….

Every task, however simple,

Sets the soul that does it free;

Every deed of love and kindness,

Done to man is done to Thee.

Jesus, thou divine Companion,

Help us all to work our best;

Bless us in our daily labor,

Lead us to our Sabbath rest.29

Paul does indeed serve as a great example of one who dedicated and committed his life to the Lord’s service in full reliance upon the Lord.

Thus he told the Colossian believers:

God wanted to make known to them [the saints] the glorious mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ. Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully woks in me. (Col. 1:27-29).

Paul was no idle teacher who called on his apostolic authority to induce others to labor for the Lord. Rather, he labored with all his being (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10) in serving the Lord and helping others to grow in Christian maturity (Col. 2:1-5). As Bruce comments, “He gladly acknowledges that the strength requisite for such unremitting labor is not his own; it is the strength powerfully wrought within him by his enabling Lord.”30

Elsewhere Paul assures believers of the reward of their labors for Christ. Based on their union with the risen Christ, theirs is the certain hope of an eternal life with God (1 Cor. 15:50-57). Therefore, he can admonish them, “Dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 58). However intense the struggle or trial, there is the sure anticipation of victory over death and an eternal reward.

This should serve as a ready reminder for all believers, but especially to those who are called into the Christian ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 3:8; Eph. 4:7-12). Hodge, therefore observes,

The rule of reward is not the talents or gifts, nor the success of ministers, but their labours. This brings the humblest on a level with the most exalted. … The faithful, laborious minister or missionary who labours in obscurity and without apparent fruit, will meet a reward far beyond that of those who, with less self-denial and effort, are made the instruments of great results.31

To be sure, where there is a faithful, hard laboring leader serving in the Lord’s work, there is not only a heavenly reward, but there should be proper recognition by believers. As Paul instructs Timothy, “Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Whether leaders or simple believers, whether on a foreign field or at home, may each of us so labor that we “live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). Perhaps, then, at the end of life’s journey with the Lord and our labor for him we may be able to repeat the words of Paul that we noted previously:

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

As true believers, may we live with committed faith, heartfelt love, and patient endurance, and labor diligently under the Lord’s guidance. And as we do, may we also encourage others to join us in the Lord’s work, eagerly awaiting our reward at the end of life’s journey.32 As the hymn writer admonishes,

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn to setting sun,
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.33


1 Others include: New Years Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday (or President’s Day), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

2 This year’s teams in the season opener features the champion New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

3 Thomas Dekker, “Patient Grissell,” (act 2, scene 1).

4 William Morris, “News from Nowhere.”

5 Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1933), 378.

6 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 81.

7 Morris, ibid., 253.

8 John F. Walvoord, The Thessalonian Epistles (Findlay, Ohio: Dunham Publishing Company, [n.d.]), 31.

9 Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [n.d.]), 274.

10 William Baker, “1 Corinthians,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009) 15:216.

11 Julia H. Johnston, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.”

12 It should be pointed out that the Greek word translated “pain” (ponos) occurs in connection with the predicted fifth bowl of wrath in Revelation 16:10-11. Physical pain, however, will no longer be a factor in the New Heavens and Earth (cf. Rev. 21:4).

13 See further, the interesting discussion in Peter H. Davids, “Colossians, Philemon,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008.) 16: 307.

14 Todd D. Still, “Colossians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006; rev. ed.) 12:354.

15 See further, Numbers 15:1-10; 28: 26-31; 29:30).

16 Peter T. O’Brien, Commentary on Philippians, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 301.

17 See Terence E. Fretheim. “שרת,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. ed. Willem A. VanGemeren, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) 4: 256-57.

18 J. Sidlow Baxter, Awake My Heart (Grand Rapids: Kregel, reprint ed., 1994), 224.

19 Fanny J. Crosby, “To the Work.”

20 Richard D. Patterson, “Habakkuk,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: 2008) 10: 416.

21 Ibid.

22 See Richard D. Patterson, “Faithful to the End,” Biblical Studies Press, 2012.

23 Richard D. Patterson, “God So Loved,” Biblical Studies Press, 2010, 2. The Barclay citation is from William Barclay, More New Testament Words (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), 18. For Barclay’s full treatment of this word pair, see pages 11-24.

24 Robert L. Thomas, “1 and 2 Thessalonians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, rev. ed., 2006 (cf. 1 John) 12:376.

25Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, 198.

26 Andreas Kȫstenberger, “1 and 2 Timothy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 12:590.

27 S., D. Phelps, “Something For Jesus.”

28 “Love’s Strength,” as cited in: James Dalton Morrison, Masterpieces of Religious Verse (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), 466.

29 Henry van Dyke, “Jesus, Thou Divine Companion.”

30 F. F. Bruce, “Colossians,” in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 88.

31 Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), 53.

32 It may be well to keep before our minds the familiar Christian saying:

“‘Tis only one life, ‘twill soon be past.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

33 James M. Black, “When The Roll Is Called up Yonder.”

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