“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58
When I was in college, I was encouraged by a friend to take a class on Christianity. Being a public university, what was being taught in that class was anything but Christian. Eternal life was not understood to be our living forever in the presence of God. It was understood as preserving this present world. The aim of Christianity was described as not the forgiveness of sin, but the love of others. Salvation had nothing to do with our deliverance from sin, death, and the devil, but justice being brought to all mankind.
The professor was open enough that he allowed me to speak. I shared with him that, if this is all there is, man has no real motivation to love others. If the only hope we have is to fertilize the grass and feed the worms when we die, man will simply live for the day. He will do what he can to enjoy his short life before he dies and is forgotten.
You see, if there is no eternal life, then all of our efforts are in vain. Even if they are good and well-intentioned, they are meaningless. Ultimately, it makes no difference if we ever lived. It makes no difference if anyone ever lived. It makes no difference if we have a good life, or if we suffer. It makes no difference if people experience justice or injustice. It makes no difference if we destroy the earth in one hundred years, or if the earth continues on for a thousand. In that case, we all face the same destiny, which is nothingness.
This is the point Paul was making in the above verse. In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, he talks at length about the resurrection. And he tells us that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, our faith is futile and we’re still in our sins.
He goes on to describe our own resurrection. He talks about our resurrection bodies, and how they’ll be transformed. They’ll be changed from weak bodies that are subject to death and decay into bodies that are no longer subject to the consequences of sin.
This is our hope. This is our motivation. Because of the resurrection, we know that our labors in the Lord are not in vain.
Because our death doesn’t mark the end of our existence, we know that our labors for the Lord make a real difference. And they make a difference not only in this world, but in eternity. As we love and serve mankind, we’re seeking not only their blessing in the here and now. We’re seeking their eternal blessing. We’re seeking that they too will forever enjoy the blessings of God.
And not only is this true. Because death doesn’t mark the end of our existence, we can remain steadfast and immovable. We need not waver as we face the opposition of the world and even the enemy. We know that, whatever harm they may do to us in this life, they can’t take from us the life that has been granted us by God.