On my wall hangs an art piece created by a time-tested technique by Vietnamese craftsmen.
It consists of crushed eggshells, painted and glued in place. Mine depicts an elaborate scene showing a dock stretching into a placid, calm river. Up the hill from the dock is a traditional hut on a restful location, and two villagers going about their daily work. But it also contains an encouraging message. More on that in a minute.
I purchased the art piece when visiting the country with several ministry partners a few years ago.
While in the country, I learned of the severe persecution that believers faced soon after the Vietnam war, specifically after the departure of American troops.
It was during this time that God was building his church – underground and oppressed. Disciple-making was difficult at best.
Few leaders had formal biblical training. Bibles and other biblical literature – banned. Churches constantly monitored, often shut down and pastors imprisoned.
One method of training disciples was for the mentor to ride his bicycle behind the one being discipled. This enabled the more mature believer to quote memorized scripture verses, give instruction and encouragement to the one riding in front. The bicycle rides sometimes took hours as the two would converse, pray, and work in secret riding through the countryside. If a government official was to drive by, the conversation could quickly change from spiritual discipleship to the weather or some other benign topic.
Growth in this context was difficult.
Yet the church pressed on and grew stronger.
The question is how do we who labor in the Kingdom find encouragement when so much seems to be against us?
The painting contains much more than a peaceful village scene. Also engraved in shells is a poignant verse from I Corinthians 15:58 -
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, 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.
Knowing the struggle of the church made this verse all the more meaningful. Four thoughts provide encouragement for the Christian worker.
Stand Firm – keep your commitments, be resolute to your cause and mission.
Let nothing move you - Many things try to push us away from our vision. Paul says to remain committed.
Give yourselves fully - How compelling is this instruction today to remain fervent in your responsibilities andduties. As we say at Elevation – “put in the reps.”
Finally, know that your work is not in vain.
Whatever our work today,
whatever ministry you’ve been given,
please know that it has value in the Kingdom.
The growth you desire for your cause, organization, or even your department may be happening “underground”. Not all growth is evident daily – in fact it rarely is.
Yet, we have this confidence, that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.
If you’re feeling tired, burn-out, or just not sure that “its worth it”, be encouraged. The work you’re doing matters – and matters for today and for eternity.