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Abounding in the Work of the Lord

If there is one way in which a new convert to Christ can teach experienced Christians, it is through his example of zeal for the Lord.  All Christians should take notice when they see a soul come out of the world and into Christ.  They should recognize that this person has decided to change his life completely because he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  They should be reminded of the zeal they had themselves when they first believed and obeyed the gospel.  They should also be refreshed to that same zeal which they had when they first knew the Lord.

In fact, whole churches sometimes need to be refreshed to their former zeal for the Lord.  Too many times, congregations become stagnant in their work and satisfied with their past accomplishments.  They may use the false measures of how many people attend their assemblies and how much money is contributed to give them a sense of satisfaction, believing that these numbers indicate success in the work of the Lord.  Their purpose has become to maintain those numbers, and they will work harder only if those numbers go down.  This is the attitude of a church that has grown stale in the faith and lost focus of the true purpose of the Lord’s church.

Let us consider two examples of churches that illustrate the difference between a church that is zealous for the work of the Lord and a church that has become stale.  The first example is that of the church at Thessalonica, which was praised as a zealous church that was embracing the work of the Lord.  When Paul wrote 1Thessalonians (approx. 51 A.D.), the church at Thessalonica had only been recently established.  Yet they had such zeal that Paul said, “You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1Thess. 1:7).  He went on to say, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (1Thess. 1:8).  Their newfound, fresh love of the Lord motivated them to sound forth the word of God to every place.

In contrast, consider the Lord’s message to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7.  This church had been established for perhaps forty years when John wrote Revelation, but they had become stagnant.  They were praised for their perseverance and their rejection of false apostles, but they were rebuked because they had left their first love.  The Lord said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first…”  Holding the status quo was not sufficient in the sight of the Lord.  They needed to regain their original zeal for the work of the Lord.  It was evident that they had left their first love because they had ceased to do the deeds they did at first.

In these two examples, we see characteristics of so many congregations today.  They begin with great zeal for the Lord’s work, understanding that their purpose is to spread the good news about salvation in Jesus Christ to as many souls as possible, to edify the members of the church, and to offer worship to God in spirit and in truth.  As they work, they grow in number and abilities.  However, after the passing of time, they become too concerned with finding ways to fill a building or to gather a collection of money.   Such churches must repent and do the deeds they did at first, realizing that their love of the Lord should be their true motivation and not a need to increase attendance and contribution.

All churches should heed the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1Cor. 15:58).  This demands that congregations and individuals are to be steady, constant, and unwavering in the work of the Lord.  When the attendance in a congregation is low, they should abound in the work of the Lord.  When the attendance in a congregation is high, they should still abound in the work of the Lord.  No matter what happens, they should always abound in the work of the Lord because they know that their work is not in vain.  Christ has already ensured their reward through His resurrection, so no effort made in the work of the Lord will be wasted.

Let us understand that a local congregation does not need to work just for the sake of growing.  It is not the church’s goal to increase membership just because many are better than few.  The church needs to work because souls need to be saved and added to the church.  As long as there are lost souls in the community where a congregation is established, that congregation needs to be busy reaching those souls through the gospel of Christ.  If the result of those efforts by the church is that the church grows in attendance, so be it, but nothing should ever deter the church from abounding in the work of the Lord.

Stacey E. Durham



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