Sunday Sermon: ‘Our Labor of Love’

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Early this morning the Lord laid upon my heart some scripture that has to do with serving in the body of Christ. Here’s what I learned. Each of us has a unique role to play within the body of Christ. Just like the human body has many unique and individualized parts, so does the body of Christ or the church as we often refer to ourselves. There are hands and feet, and eyes and ears. I read also that if the whole body was one big eye, how could it hear? or if it was one great big ear, how could it smell? I saw also that whatever God has chosen for us to do, we should with our very best effort. Scripture says – “If you are a teacher, teach well. If God has called you to give, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” I also read something else that is very important. “For the whole body of Christ is joined and held together as each part of the body does its own special work.” (Ephesians 4:16 author’s translation) We all have a role to play that is vitally important to our overall well-being.

Having said all of that, I turn your attention to a very special verse found in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

God takes note of everything we do for Him and He will reward us accordingly.

I. God Will Never Forget or Overlook Our Love For Him

We’re all familiar with how much the Bible speaks much about God’s love for us.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God loves us very deeply and that love has been proven by Christ’s death on the cross. But what about our love for God? Is it important that we love God? I think about a conversation Jesus had one day with Simon Peter. Though Peter had professed that he would rather die than deny the Lord, scripture teaches us that Peter denied Him not once, but three times.

After the resurrection Jesus met Peter and asked him this question – “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Peter answered Him. Again Jesus asked him this same question and yet another time. Three times Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love Me?” and each time Peter replied, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” We all know that Jesus asked the question three times and three times Peter responded with a yes. But what we often overlook is what Jesus said after each of Peter’s responses. “Feed my sheep.” Some suppose that Jesus was trying to back Peter into a corner and make him feel ashamed for his denial; yet the opposite seems to be true. Rather than rebuking Peter, Jesus commands him to get busy doing the work that Christ had called him to do. “Feed My sheep.”

The Bible teaches us that if we love God, we will serve Him. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) What has Christ commanded us to do? He has commanded us to care for His people. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34) We can’t say that we love God if we don’t love His people. We can’t say that we’re serving God if we’re not serving His people. Note again what we read from the book of Hebrews-

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Notice that our labor of love is to minister to God’s saints. That’s how we show our love for God – by loving and caring for His people.

II. God Will Never Forget or Overlook the Service We Have Given

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work…

I am convinced that God created our physical bodies to do something. We need a certain amount of physical activity in order to stay healthy. The same is true for us spiritually. Paul wrote – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV) When a person is born again by the Holy Spirit, the Lord recreates them for the purpose of serving Him. We are new creations in Christ. We are His workmanship, created unto good works which God has already prepared for us to do.

The word ‘works’ is an interesting word. It is part of the foundation from which we get the word – ‘energy.’ At salvation God places His energy in us for the purpose of doing His will. This word also speaks of our business or employment as a part of the body of Christ. The word we would use is ministry. God places His energy within us for the purpose of ministry.

Every Christian should have a ministry within the body of Christ. Every believer should search for ways that they can glorify God through their faithful service. Notice the reason for our service –

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name…

One translation (Jubilee translation) says – “ye have showed in his name.” We read from the book of Colossians – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV) Serve in the name of Jesus Christ.

Another translation (Holman Christian Standard Bible) speaks of the work we have done – “for His name.” We do what we do for the glory of Christ.

Another translation (New International Version) says – “you have shown him” indicating that when we serve others we are actually serving Christ. We do what we do in His power, for His glory, and out of our love for Him.

Whenever I think about serving in the body of Christ, I am reminded of a man named Stephanoas. Consider what Paul wrote about Stephanos.

1 Corinthians 16:15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. NIV

One translation says – “they are spending their lives in service to God’s people.” The King James says – “they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Literally the passage means that they have assigned to themselves the special task of caring for God’s people.

We should note also that it was not just Stephanos who got involved, but his entire family. Paul refers to the ‘household of Stephanos.’ Dad, mom and children were all a part of their service to the Lord. It is very important that we learn how to develop a ministry within the body of Christ and to pass this knowledge down to our children. It is a statistical fact that children who get involved somehow in the ministry of the church are more likely to stay attached to the church once they enter into adulthood. How do we develop a ministry?

Down through the years I have noticed that there are three basic ways people develop their ministry within the church. Each is important in their own way.

A. Diligent Servants

First there are those whom I might call the “Diligent Servants.” By that I mean that they are always like ‘Johnny on the Spot’ when it comes to getting involved. They find somewhere to serve in almost everything we do. They are involved in Kidzfest, VBS, the Sportsmen’s Banquet, or Awana. If there is a floor to be swept or a dish to be washed, they’re there doing it. Praise God for Diligent Servants who are always looking for what needs to be done and then do it.

B. Developing Servants

Secondly there are those whom I will call “Developing Servants.”

What is a Developing Servant? A Developing Servant is someone who begins somewhere in the ministry and over the years they develop in their abilities and thus take on more and more responsibility as time goes on. Timothy is a perfect example of this. When Paul first met Timothy, he was a very young man, perhaps only a teenager. Young Timothy traveled with Paul and Silas and helped them in their missionary journeys. But then as time went on, Paul gave to young Timothy more and more responsibility. Timothy was maturing both physically and spiritually and therefore Paul gave him more opportunities to serve in a more significant way. Finally, towards the end, Paul addressed Timothy as a pastor of a church. Many believe Timothy became the pastor of the church at Ephesus which was probably one of the more prominent churches of the early church era. But this didn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, Paul told Timothy to not put a person in a position of authority too quickly less he get the big head and wind up falling into the hands of the devil. In other words, let the man season so that he might be prepared for the tasks at hand.

I’ve always believed in the saying that says – “Let the office seek the man and not the man the office.” In other words, if a person is faithful in what he or she has been given and continues to grow and develop, God will open doors for them at the right place and the right time.

C. Dedicated Servants

But then there is a third group whom I call “Dedicated Servants”, whom in my opinion, are absolutely essential for the development of a strong, vibrant church. What is a Dedicated Servant? Perhaps I can best explain through an illustration.

Tammy and I have witnessed a lot of Dedicated Servants down through the years. One man who stands out in my mind is someone we knew in Ohip who led the church’s ministry to 5th and 6th graders. Now you might think that kind of ministry would be that important, but I can tell you that both of our daughters still talk about the things they learned while they were in the Junior Department. I don’t know how long this man and his wife served in this capacity, but I’m sure it was close to thirty years. During those two or three decades of consistent service they developed an outstanding ministry to children. Those who are a part of a school system is familiar with the term ‘Master Teacher.’ A Master Teacher is someone who through years of experience and education has developed skills that not only excel the average teacher, but also puts them in a position to help mentor those around them.

God loves servants and He has promised to reward them. Jesus said – “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11 NIV)

III. God Will Never Forget or Overlook the Sacrifices We Have Made

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love…

The word ‘work’ refers to our ministry in general. The word ‘labor’ refers to the effort we put into it. Actually this word speaks of intense effort that is often accompanied with trials and trouble. In other words, ministry isn’t always easy. It often requires hard work.

Many years ago I heard the statement – “The first ability God is looking for is our availability.” God is looking for dedicated people who will say what Isaiah said – “Here am I Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8), or, to put it in the words of Christ – “I’ve counted the cost and I’m ready to make the sacrifice that will be required for me to become one of Your disciples.”

Jesus will never forget or overlook those who have paid to price in order to serve Him. One of my favorite stories about sacrificially serving God involves an elderly missionary couple who had spent their entire adult as missionaries in Africa. After years of service, the couple finally retired and came back home to America. They were completely worn out physically and they had no pension awaiting them in their retirement. Shortly after boarding their ship that would bring them back to America, they discovered that another passenger aboard named Teddy Roosevelt who was returning after an African hunting expedition. As the ship near the docks in New York, crowds stood on the dock, cheering the President. But not a single person was waiting for the couple. For a moment the man was overwhelmed with discouragement and he cried out, “Oh God, surely someone could have been here to welcome us home.” But then his sweet wife softly said, “Honey, we are not home yet.”

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name…

Regardless of what you do at Twin Oaks, I want to thank you. Whether it is singing a solo, or changing a diaper in the nursery – I want to say thank you. Perhaps sometimes you think it’s not worth it and you feel like quitting, but just remember – you’re not home yet.

Conclusion –

Many of you have listened to this message today and I pray that you have felt either a sense of pride in your service, or a renewed energy. I hope you felt both. But perhaps there are some of you who heard this and feel a little bit of shame. You have been made aware of the fact that you have been burying your talents in the sand, rather than investing them in the kingdom of God. I’ve got good news for you. It’s never too late to start. Colonel Sanders didn’t open his first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant until he was over seventy years of age. If you want to be used by God, He will use you. So where to you begin?

1) Pray to God and ask Him for opportunities to serve

Like a priest who would bring a special offering to the Lord in the Temple, offer your life to God.

2) Expect God to open doors

If you are sincere about your desire to serve God, He will open doors for you. It may not be the doors you want at first, but He knows where you and I need to start. Be faithful in whatever it is that God gives you to do and over time, other doors will open.

3) Step out in faith and start serving

It has been my experience that the Lord often gives us opportunities to serve that takes a huge amount of faith. If we could do it without faith, we would think that we’re doing it on our own. But when we have to pray out to God continuously for His strength and guidance, we know that the power and ability comes from Him. And after all, that’s what it’s all about – bringing glory to our great God and Savior!

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