Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Steadfastness and the Rewards for Faithfulness

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

~1 Corinthians 15:58 (NRSV).

The greatest hope is what stands indelibly before us in our future. And keeping these thoughts firmly in mind powers our hope right through until that day—the end.

But we cannot get there without a battle. Beyond this we thank our Lord that we’re even capable of enduring the journey in all hope, in steadfastness—immovable in the joy that is known only via the true faith. True faith is good faith.

Bookended Steadfastness

If we go back to the start of chapter 15 of First Corinthians we find almost the same fervour in Paul’s message as that above: he says, if you believe truly, “hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you” (verse 2).

This is a moral word here that supports the teaching of Paul’s regarding resurrection—of Christ’s (15:1-11); of the dead (15:12-34); and, of the resurrection body (15:35-56)—as he prepares to close this quite theologically-divergent letter.

Excelling in the Work

The work stated here is the work of the Church, or more appropriately work for the Church and in it. Blessed are all faithful ministers, paid and unpaid, official and unofficial, esteemed and non-esteemed. It’s the work standing to be done and the faithfulness of the intent to do what needs to be done that’s blessed.

Work done for the raw sake of it is a simplistic virtue; it’s one that’s never quite more powerful in the sense of human holiness (if that’s not an oxymoron).

Our Work is Not in Vain

When we begin to realise that the work we do—without conscience for reward—is rewarded of its own by way of no presence of or recourse to discontentment, we quickly understand that the point of rewards is not the reward itself.

It was the peace known during the journey. We only see it as we look back. That faith-sown and faith-grown peace is a hindsight reality. That’s faith—the expression of trust in a good hope.

This is a paradigm shift for us as God provides the perfect distraction, and in that is peace.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003), pp. 746-48.

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