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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Long View

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. ESV

I love the therefore in this verse. It just could have been placed in Scripture especially for caregivers. Why do I say that? It is so relevant to our callings. How rare is the moment that, while we are seeing to the most basic needs of our charges, we don’t feel like our labor, our thankless, repetitive, menial work is in vain. Who thanks the one who changes a bandage? Gives a shot? Cleans up a smelly mess?

And yet, the passage says our works—yes even these tasks—will not be for nothing. That means they are for something. All of them. (Double negatives in the English language become positives—one of the few grammar lessons I still remember from grade-school English!)

Why do we know that? Back to therefore. What comes before this passage is one of Paul’s (and Scripture’s) most beautiful descriptions of the believer’s prospects in the long view—what we have to look forward to experiencing one day in the real, if seemingly distant, future. And that future provides the why and wherefore of the therefore.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Exactly what is imperishable? Or as other translations (and great lyrics in Handel’s Messiah) put it, incorruptible? According to Spiros Zodhiates’ book The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, it means “exempt from the wear, waste, and final perishing which characterize the present body of man.” We caregivers get an up-close view of that perishing every day—and it tears our hearts out. In fact, it is a huge part of what has us feeling like our work is so futile.

But look at what Paul says our beloved Christ has in store for us and for every one of our caregiving charges who has trusted Christ:

For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54

There’s that rich word again: incorruptible, this time paired with immortal. For the believer who is a caregiver trying in vain to ward off the sting of the wear and waste and perishing that come with our loved ones’ aging processes, this pairing gives us the assurance that not only is the perishing going to be conquered in our new bodies, but the exchange is eternal—forever! It’s not like the decay is slowed down or turned back for a time (think of the healings Jesus gave to many in the crowds during His earthly ministry). No, this time, the exchange is for absolute perfection and is utterly permanent.

My pastor preached on this passage this morning, giving a stirring reminder of what’s in store for the believer. A body and soul reunited in heavenly perfection. The joy of being rewarded in that day with not only a “glorified” luminous body so like our Lord’s, but also of being crowned with priceless jewels as a result of our steadfast, immovable work in His name done in this life, with our own perishing bodies and redeemed spirits.

No wonder Paul leads into the therefore with this amazing line:
 
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57

Now, there’s a long view that ought to breathe fresh air into your lungs. I know it’s doing just that for me as I continue to dig on my own for riches in this passage.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re interested in hearing Colin Smith’s message on this passage (with a deep examination of verse 56: about the sting of death being sin and the power of sin being the law), visit this link on Tuesday of this week (or later) and it’ll all be there. Especially if you can’t get out to your own church, this is a great place to get your spiritual tank refilled every week. This one, dated January 29, 2012, will be titled “The Resurrection.” http://theorchardefc.org/arlington-heights/worship-and-sermons/listen-to-campus-sermons/. If you go there today, you will be able to access the previous three messages in the series.



Blessings and prayers,

Julie


© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com