Your Labor is NOT in Vain
Some of the definitions of "vain" are:
One of the enemies deceptions is to try and convince us that what we are doing for the Lord isn't worth the time. This of course, will most likely lead to "regret". It is like the children of Israel who were witnesses of one of the greatest acts of deliverance that ever occurred when Moses parted the Red Sea and they all went across on dry ground, and looking back they saw their enemies mightily defeated by walls of waters crashing down on them. But not too long after this, while in the wilderness and heading to the Promise Land, because of the evil condition of their hearts, they began to "regret" leaving Egypt to face the trials of the Wilderness prior to entering their Promise Land. They wanted the reward, but they didn't want to pay the price!
Regret is "unhappiness caused by the failure of one's own expectations". The children of Israel just witnessed a mighty and triumphant victory and thought that at any moment, in just a little while, they would just stroll right on into the Promise Land and sit down and start eating grapes underneath the shade tree. They didn't realize that they would have to go through a time of proving and preparation in the Wilderness and THEN have to fight against what seemed to them to be giants who occupied the Promise Land. I am sure they all felt that they had been through enough and suffered enough just by being in captivity, having been slaves in Egypt for so many years.
Many of us come into Christianity the same way, having been slaves to the bondage of the World and then we meet the Lord with a delightful honeymoon, and then after a season, after you've given up your petty sins of drinking alcohol, doing drugs, etc. God says, "Now I really want to begin to deal with the issues of your heart!" We thought that getting rid of those sins that were so obvious was a real cross to bear, but most of that really just cleaned the outside of the cup along with some surface issues inside our hearts and minds. Looking back we can see what God had brought us out of and how He openly made a spectacle of the Satanic World system we were enslaved to by mightily birthing us into His Kingdom, but then as we are still walking on with the Lord, we notice that this desert that we are in is not the Promise Land at all! Welcome to the real cross you must bear, brothers and sisters, the cross of preparation and proving in the Wilderness!
It is during this time that God has actually set us aside to teach us "His Ways". We saw His mighty hand deliver us as He stretched out His arm to welcome us into the Kingdom, but now it is time for a face to face encounter with the Lord Jehovah. Our expectations of walking right in and sitting under the shade tree with a bushel of grapes are now crushed. We find that we have to confront the enemy within before we can step into the Promise Land and fight the enemy without who is in possession of our turf, our destiny, our position of leadership, and our territorial position in the spirit realm.
It is in the Wilderness when we want to give up that the Lord keeps beckoning us to move on still! We are in the smoldering hot of the desert, but there is a cloud to comfort us. We are in the cold of the night, but the Lord is our fire to keep us from getting too cold. It is in the Wilderness where it is impossible to survive without God that we must learn to depend on Him more and more, and trust in His Goodness and His provision as our Heavenly Father. That is where I am RIGHT NOW in my life as I am writing this to you. Faced with seemingly impossible circumstances and in the natural there seems to be NO WAY OUT!
It is during this time that it seems like nothing you do works, your prayers seem to do little, and God is working out the solutions, but making you wait for the appointed time of fulfillment before speaking to you. It is during these dry times and these seasons of testing that Satan comes in to persuade you to quit, to get you to regret leaving Egypt by telling you that you never had it this hard when you were in the World and not serving God. It is during this time that the enemy tells you that you tithe, but where are the over pouring storehouses? It is during this time that the enemy tells you that you are doing the works of the ministry, teaching the Gospel to others, but are people really listening to the heart of what you are saying and are they really being changed by your message? It is during this time that the enemy points at your weaknesses and tells you that you will never be holy enough, you might as well give up now. It is during this time that you keep attacking the enemy, but he looks you straight in the eye and says, "Yeah, but I'm still here!"
If you will notice, when God lead Jesus into the Wilderness to be tested, Jesus confronted the Devil time and time again, but the Devil did not leave His presence immediately. This does not mean that Satan's defeat is unsure or undecided.
Whenever we go through financial struggles in our household, one of our children will ask my wife and I, "Are we are poor?" Our answer to them is always, "WE ARE RICH IN CHRIST!" Now when one of our children asks that question, my wife and I do not have to answer them any more. One of the other kids will pop up and say for us and for this Muse Family, "WE ARE RICH IN CHRIST!"
This is just another one of those strange paradoxes of learning God's ways. When He is quiet, often times He is saying the most. When He seems farthest away from us, He is closer to us than ever before. When it seems like we are not going to make it, our victory in Him is even more and more SURE! I heard one Prophetess preaching who said, in effect, "Satan may be heating up the fire seven times hotter that it normally is, but he is only perfecting the fire." I have always looked at our trials and tribulations as Satan trying to put out our fire with gasoline!
2 Cor 2:14
What the Apostle Paul is saying is that regardless of the circumstances or the trials we face, GOD IS ALWAYS LEADING US INTO TRIUMPH AND VICTORY IN CHRIST! In our labors for Him, regardless of our trials, He is spreading the Gospel and the fragrance of His knowledge through us, in every place. Where you are at right now may not be where God called you to be, but where you are, even if in the Wilderness, there is still an open door of opportunity to make known the fragrance of His knowledge to somebody somewhere! In the Wilderness, God is really not looking at our sins or our weaknesses and how He is going to deal with all that so much as He is looking at the condition of our hearts and whether or not we are going to quit. The question is not whether or not you are going to fall, but whether or not you are going to get back up again when you do? It's not so much whether or not you are going to sin, but after you sin, are you going to learn from your mistakes and use it as an opportunity to FALL FORWARD by learning from your mistakes and allow God to cause a change in your heart? When you do blow it, are you going to run to Him or away from Him?
What I'm saying to all of you, brothers and sisters, is that your ENDURANCE (staying power and lack of complaint) and PERSISTENCE (determination and resolution to win) are the real test. Even when you have almost no money, are you still going to give? Even when you are going through trials, are you going to stick to your commitments in the House of the Lord? When you are feeling down and out, are going to still try and lift somebody up with words of encouragement? When the Devil tells you that you have nothing, are you still going to reach from within and find something else to give of Christ to others? When it seems like you are losing in the natural, are you going to sheath your sword and surrender to the Devil, or are you going to keep hacking away at the enemy and not give up? When circumstances tell you it is IMPOSSIBLE, are you going to stare the Devil back in the eye and tell Him about HOW BIG MY GOD IS? When you get knocked down are you going to get right back up and tell the Devil, "I'm not knocked out"? When he knocks you back, are you going to give up or shove him right back?
I remember when I first got saved, I read something somewhere, and I don't know if it was from a Christian source or not, but it said,
"A QUITTER NEVER WINS, AND A WINNER NEVER QUITS!"
So I want to ask you today, what kind of Christian are you? Are you a quitter or a winner? Are you going to lay down and let the enemy walk all over you, or are you going to get up and fight? Are you going to let fear stop you, or are you going to keep on keeping on REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU FEEL. Being a man or woman of courage does not mean being a person without fears and stresses of everyday life. Being a man or woman of courage means you keep doing what the Lord is telling you to do in spite of your fears and concerns. Your actions have to be bigger than your fears and your faith has to be bigger than the emotions and circumstances that tell you you won't succeed. This is not something I read somewhere brothers and sisters, this is what I am going through right now AND I HAVE TO LIVE TO MAKE IT THROUGH.
There are no short cuts to the Promise Land and there are no detours. You can't go over it, under it, or around the Wilderness, your only choice to make it is to go THROUGH IT! No one can go through it for you either, you have to go through it for YOURSELF. Paying the price means there is an amount to be paid for the purchase of the thing you desire, and there will be a loss incurred in order to gain and accomplish your God given goals. If we are going to make it, we have to have realistic God inspired expectations otherwise our lives will be filled with unhappiness and regret.
The children of Israel made the mistake of not seeking God for His ways. They wanted to get to the Promise Land THEIR WAY and miss out on the revelation of who God is. It is during the Wilderness that He is revealing His ways to His children so that they can see the heart of who He really is. It is more than just loving God for what He does, it is learning to love God for who He is whether He does it or not and whether you have little or much. It is seeing Him in all His GOODNESS regardless of the circumstances we face. It is learning that He is our portion and our VICTORY, regardless of what happens to us in the natural.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the heart of
God and WORSHIPPED HIM FOR WHO HE WAS, regardless of what He did or
didn't do for them when they replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.
But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."
(Dan 3:17-18; NLT)
Jesus knew God and worshipped Him for who He was, regardless of what the Father did or didn't do for Him when He said, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine." (Luke 22:42; NLT)
We are never going to be successful and we are never going to be victorious until we all learn this lesson for ourselves. Jesus had to learn it by facing a torturous death on the cross. Paul had to learn it by being beaten to death or almost to death on several occasions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to learn it by being faced with and thrown into a fire that was seven times worse than what people were normally burned to death in at that time. Do you think there will be some easy way for us to learn it in this generation?
I am not saying these things to scare you, but to prepare you. You will not regret serving God by knowing what to expect and having Him strengthen you to endure whatever process He has chosen for you or whatever Wilderness He has called you to go through. You will only regret the process because of the despair created by the failure of your own false expectations and by not really wanting to know God.
There is nothing that you do for Him or endure for Him that will ever be in vain if you hold fast to these principles. Your life will never be filled with regret for anything you've ever done or anything you've ever endured, as long as you hold fast to these truths. How else do you think the Apostle Paul can say, " I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," if what I say is not true?
There were times in the past when going through the Wilderness and the Fire that I would accuse God of giving us a Gospel of suffering. That is when He revealed to me that my suffering was caused by my own unrealistic expectations of the Way of learning to worship and serve God for who He really is, and not just for the good things that He does. I was loving the deliverance more than the Deliverer! I was loving the provision more than the Provider! I was loving Him for His goodness when everything was good for me, instead of loving Him for His goodness regardless of what state I am in. This is all selfishness, deliver ME, prosper ME! That is like having children who every time they see you they ask you for some money and then run off instead of asking, "Hey Dad, want to do something together?" "Hey Dad, I want to spend time with YOU."
God is hungering to be an intimate part of our lives. He doesn't want to be your banker, your grocery store clerk or just some doctor. HE WANTS TO BE OUR FATHER! But He understands that most of us have not had a father to relate to, so we don't know how to relate to Him as our Father and just adore Him for who He is.
A lot of responsibility is placed on the father of a household, and who doesn't know when they go unappreciated? As fathers we have to teach our children how to relate to us by spending time with them. Right now I don't have a job, but I spent the day with my two youngest daughters flying a kite, playing basketball at the school, watching them play in the play ground. That's what our Father wants from us. He doesn't just want to be the one who makes the money, brings home the groceries, buys the toilet paper and all the other necessities. He doesn't just want to go to work so that His children can have a look at what's inside His wallet. He wants to be our Daddy. Right now, some of us are too selfish to see that. We are looking in the refrigerator wondering if our kids will have enough food. We are checking our bank accounts and wondering if we can pay all the bills. We are looking in our wallets and wondering if we can go to Jack in the Box one more night, but God is saying, " I am here! Spend time with Me because of who I am, not just for what I do."