“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58
Paul is summarizing his letter to the Corinthian church with these words. The Corinthian church was plagued with immorality and immaturity. Imagine the worst of church, where sexual immorality, jealousy, envy, divisions, marital problems, lawsuits, instability, worldliness and abuse of spiritual gifts are rampant and you’ve got the Corinthian church. Sounds eerily similar to many of our present day churches, does it not? Which is what makes Paul’s closing appeal that much more powerful and convicting. Paul is exhorting believers in Corinth to stand firm, to not be moved despite all appearances to the contrary that their efforts are futile.
Ever felt that way, friend?
Ever let difficult circumstances move you away from the Lord?
Or thought your labor in the Lord was in vain?
God knows I have. And apparently so did some of the believers in the church at Corinth. Imagine how discouraged they must have been in order for Paul to be led to pen those words to them.
Those words pack a punch straight to the gut, do they not?
Reminds me of Solomon’s lament throughout the book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity! Vanity! All is vanity!” The Greek word translated “in vain” is kenos, meaning empty, places or vessels containing nothing, devoid of truth, destitute of spiritual wealth, fruitless, without effect, empty handed, without a gift. I can think of a multitude of pursuits of both worldly and religious persuasions that will leave us in a kenos state - empty handed, devoid of truth – but certainly not our work in the Lord?
Are you feeling the weight of kenos yet?
How surprising that Paul had to remind the Corinthian believers that their labor in the Lord was not, in fact, kenos. Paul uses kenos several times in chapter 15 within the wider context of the gospel message he shares and his confirmation of Christ’s resurrection (that was contested by some in Corinth). Here’s what we can glean from Paul’s use of kenos in 1 Corinthians 15:
Hold firm to the gospel or you have believed in vain (15:2).
God’s grace to Paul was not in vain (15:10).
Without Christ’s resurrection, our preaching and our faith is in vain (15:14).
Our labor in the Lord is not in vain (15:58).
Did you catch the pattern, friend?
Believe in the gospel and God’s grace to you is not in vain.
Believe in the risen Christ and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Despite evidence to the contrary.
Despite how you feel.
Right belief is what guards us from vanity and kenos pursuits.
So friend, what in your life has you feeling empty or discouraged?
A worldly pursuit? A religious pursuit? Circumstances in your life, relationships, ministry, or church?
According to 1 Corinthians 15, the root of your emptiness is a wrong belief.
Beloved, no matter what you are facing, let’s reaffirm right beliefs to send any wrong kenos beliefs fleeing from our hearts, minds, and lives:
I take my stand in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
By the grace of God I am who I am and God’s grace to me is not in vain.
Because Christ is alive, I am alive in Him, and my faith is not in vain.
I stand firm in Christ’s truth and grace.
Nothing will move me.
I give myself fully to the work of the Lord.
I know that my labor in the Lord is not in vain.
The gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stand firm, beloved.
Let nothing move you.
“ I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it…” Revelation 3: 11-12a