“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
Here one sees that this life is one of labor with ultimate rest on the other side. This term translated “labor” is from an original Greek word meaning “intense labor united with trouble, toil” (Thayer, p. 355). It carries with the idea of an effort that produces weariness or fatigue. Some might use the phrase “hard work” to convey the idea. Consider some examples of this kind of work that requires great energy.
Loving. Paul wrote, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thess. 1:3). It is written in the book of Hebrews, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10). The agape love of the Bible is not an easy path to follow. It is written that even after one has developed the quality of brotherly kindness, then he is to add love as the end of his character (cf. 2 Peter 1:7). Truly, love is “the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14). Anything done apart from love is of no true profit (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Leading. Paul wrote of his work as an apostle, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Phil. 2:16). Again, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:28-29). Paul was well known for his abundant labor (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:23). Paul wrote of those men who are leaders in the church, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17). Again, “And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Leading is a work that can easily wear on a person in every way.
Loyalty. Isaiah wrote concerning the faithful, “And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isa. 49:3-4). While it can be troubling to abide loyal to God in a world that turns its back on God in many places, one’s faithfulness to God will be recognized. Later, it was written, “They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isa. 65:23). Jesus exhorted, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27). If one seeks to build anything contrary to the will of the Lord, he is laboring in vain (cf. Ps. 127:1). However, when one is abounding in the work of the Lord, there is no effort on that part that is in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58). To enter into that heavenly rest is truly worth making it one’s diligent labor (cf. Heb. 4:11).
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
People often talk about “bucket lists” and things that need to get done before the end of life comes. Recently, a person said they could check off seeing a total solar eclipse from their “bucket list.” There are three things Paul mentioned about his life that are much more important. All three verbs are in the perfect tense denoting actions that started in time past but continued to have lingering effects throughout life. Consider what he said that he had done to prepare for his departure from this life.
Fought the Good Fight. This thought is previous stated by Paul with the exhortation to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). The good fight of faith is to be on everyone’s “bucket list” if it is not already. Jesus stated, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30). There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus Christ. There was a time when Paul fought against Jesus (cf. Acts 9:4). Paul committed himself to the Lord’s side (cf. 2 Tim. 1:12) and defended the truth through every kind of cost (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-28). All are servants to sin unto death or servants of obedience unto righteousness (cf. Rom. 6:16). Satan will oppose when people desire to obey the gospel to become Christians and will continue to oppose after a person starts standing with the Lord. Before this life is over, may it be said of all that one has personally stood like a Paul in fighting the good fight of faith.
Finished the Course. This is not the first time Paul used such wording (cf. Acts 20:24). Paul knew, like a runner, that the life of a child of God would be arduous and require discipline. He wrote previously to the Corinthians, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 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. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 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” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). One must finish what he started.
Faithfully Held on to the Faith. The concept of holding on to the faith was always important to Paul. Paul did not always see the faith as he did after he was converted. He wrote, “And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Gal. 1:22-23). Paul sadly refers to some he knew who had departed from the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19-20) and warned of some who would depart from the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1). There is only “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), which is the New Testament (cf. Gal. 3:22-25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Acts 13:7-12; 1 Tim. 6:3). Timothy, as well as all, would need to do the same (cf. 2 Tim. 1:13).
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).
There are sayings that go around for generations that become axioms of life. One might hear someone make a statement and then hear someone reply, “My father use to say that.” The statement made by Paul to Timothy is a great summary of the redemptive work of Christ Jesus that was and is to be repeated for all generations. Consider three things from this verse that show how important this faithful saying is.
The Person of History. There are many people who have come into this world since the time of Adam. However, there is no person more important in history than Christ Jesus. While some magazines may have their “Person of the Year” or “Person of the Decade” or even “Person of the Century,” Jesus is the person who impacts every human being in every generation. Christ Jesus came into the world in spite of those that there are skeptics and unbelievers. Paul wrote of God’s eternal plan, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (Eph. 3:10-11). Peter stated before the rulers and elders of the Jewish people, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Mankind may choose to ignore certain people in life and in history. No one can justifiably ignore Jesus.
The Purpose in History. This faithful saying also gave the purpose for Jesus coming into the world. He came to save sinners. He stated this as much. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). The Lord God told the devil long ago, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). The saying of God in both the Old and New Testaments is faithful and true from beginning to end.
The Personal Application in History. While the statement of Christ Jesus coming into the world to save sinners is a primary fact, it is of no value to the individual who will not apply it. Paul stated emphatically that one of those sinners Jesus came to save was indeed Paul himself. There was a time when Paul did not believe such. Notice what he wrote. “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Acts 26:9-10). Again, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Paul never lost sight of where he stood before the Christ. There comes a point in everyone’s history that personal application must take place. This faithful saying is “worthy of all acceptation” (1 Tim. 1:15).
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
The very spirit of Christianity is to do good. Jesus himself went about everywhere doing good (cf. Acts 10:38). However, it is clear from the teaching of the Bible that not everyone will take advantage of the moment to act on what he knows to do. Remember the priest and the Levite on the road to Jericho (cf. Luke 10:31-32). Opportunities abound to influence people for good. Consider three such opportunities.
Winning Souls. Solomon once wrote, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30). Jesus knew his purpose in life. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). That work was to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). There is not a single person in the world that does not need the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16). The privilege of sharing the gospel with others is the greatest of activities that a Christian can do for another. The early church knew it (cf. Acts 8:4).
Withstanding Evil. It is a good thing to stand up against evil. The child of God is a soldier (cf. 2 Tim. 2:3-4) as well as a servant (2 Tim. 2:24). Paul wrote to the Ephesian congregation, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13). There will be constant opportunities to show that one is on the Lord’s side. Peter exhorted, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
Working Together. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Philippi was one of those congregations from Macedonia that desired to be a part of the benevolent work of helping the needy (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-5). If one looks within any local congregation and even throughout the brotherhood, one will see opportunity after opportunity to help in the work alongside of others who are already working. Much is accomplished when people work together in the work of the Lord. Such was the case in the days of Nehemiah (cf. Neh. 4:6; 6:15). Such was the case in the days of the early church (cf. Col. 1:23). Unity of brethren in the work of the Lord is truly a good and pleasant thing (cf. Ps. 133:1). Therefore, seize every opportunity to do good.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
All the things that can be said of divine revelation in the Bible must include this statement written by James. It is written in Proverbs, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, let he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6). Consider three areas where the priority of purity is addressed.
Pure in Message. Peter warned concerning “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Perverting, twisting, corrupting the word of God is sternly condemned. The message of the Bible is to bring the lost to the condition of salvation through Christ according to God’s clear instruction. Any deviation from that message is a path toward self-righteousness and thus condemnation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:17). When truth is twisted into falsehood, no good can come from it. It was deception and corruption of what God said that Satan used to bring sin into the world (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3).
Pure in Morals. Purity is a vital aspect of the life of a Christian (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22). When man will buy into a corrupted message, it will not be long before he will buy into a corrupted manner of living. Paul described such a pattern in the first chapter of the book of Romans (cf. Romans 1:18-32). Paul warned the brethren at Corinth when certain ones were denying the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12), “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). The Lord demands that while keeping the message pure (cf. 1 Peter 1:12, 23, 25) one must also live holy (cf. 1 Peter 1:14-16). The prophets called people unto repentance (cf. Zech. 1:4) to follow only the word of the Lord (cf. Jer. 6:16), which would produce a righteous people (cf. Isa. 1:18-19, 27). The nation refused the Lord (cf. Jer. 2:13) and his word (cf. Hosea 4:6) and turned unto the immorality of idolatry (cf. Jer. 3:6-9; Hosea 4:12-14). Those who do not learn from history often repeat it.
Pure in Mission. The mission or purpose of life is to be single-minded in service to God. Being double-minded will not do (cf. James 1:8; 4:4, 8). Jesus knew what his time on earth was designed to finish (cf. John 4:34). While the Christian cannot do what Jesus was destined to do, he can model his life to “fear God, and keep his commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). The world is filled with things that distract and call one’s attention away from the purpose that God has for man. Look at how busy many people are with everything except what is spiritual. Even spiritually minded people can get distracted from what is needful (cf. Luke 10:41-42). Consider how important it was that the apostles fulfill their work and not go back to previous pursuits (cf. John 21:15-17). Paul knew his place in such work (cf. Acts 20:24). Staying on point and finishing what one began is a mark of true discipleship. The wisdom from above must truly first be pure before any other factor is explored.