Gospel Labor is Never Futile

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  – Philippians 1:21, 22


If Paul is acquitted, so that his life here on earth is prolonged, this will mean fruit: souls won for eternity through his further ministry, the edification of believers, the establishment of churches, etc. The prospect is wonderful. Paul knows that, should he be acquitted and released, he will again avail himself of every opportunity to proclaim the gospel far and wide. What is more, he knows that this work will not be in vain. In the realm of the Spirit there is always fruit of labor. When one abounds in the work of the Lord, his labor is never futile (1Cor. 15:58). To be sure, not every seed germinates, nor does every plant bear fruit (Matt. 13:1-9). Many people there are who experience “so many things” in vain (Gal. 3:4). But it is equally true that by no means all the seeds that are scattered are wasted. He who goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, will come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him (Psa. 126:6). The word that proceeds from the mouth of Jehovah never returns to him empty (Isa. 55:11). Hence, blessed are those who sow beside all waters (Isa. 32:20, cf. also Isa. 32:17). And let no one think that if the seed does not at once appear above the ground and if the plant does not rush to maturity like Jonah’s gourd, the work of sowing has been in vain. Rather, at God’s own time the seeds scattered broadcast will ripen into a blessed harvest (Ecc. 11:1; cf. Mark 4:26-29). And in this fruit-bearing Christ will be glorified, the Christ who was Paul’s very life.

– William Hendriksen