Posted by: forbygrace | December 11, 2008

Our labor is not in vain

Here is a great post from Reformed Baptist Fellowship’s site that I hope will encourage you, as it did me.

As it was with the building of the Old Covenant temple, so it is with the building of God’s New Covenant temple, the church. This is a work for more than one man or one generation. Spurgeon eloquently makes and elaborates on this point in a sermon from 1 Chronicles 22. David had gathered the materials for the temple while Solomon and those of his generation were assigned the task of building the house. Spurgeon points out that we see a similar thing with the church but the church involves many generations before it’s completed, not just two. It has been in the process of being built over the course of many centuries now and it’s not completed yet. Many generations have gone before us and they have passed the work to us.

David did his part in his generation, and it was a very important part. He fought all of those hard battles that established a peaceful context for the temple to be built. He was a man of war, slashing down Philistines, toppling giants, crushing the Jebusites, taking his sword to the enemies of God. His reign was a bloody reign but it prepared the way. There are men whose ministries are like that. They labor in difficult times when the Philistines are in the land; times when the Syrians are on the attack; times of conflict. These are tough men with foreheads of brass whom God uses to root out errors and to topple down heresies. These are men who reform churches and whose lives are often marked with conflict and controversy but their labors provide a more peaceful context for positive building work to be carried on by those who follow.
David also gathered the materials. And so it is that many a man’s work could be described as gathering materials. He gets a little group together. Perhaps he starts a small church; just a little flock of believers. He never lives to see it grow very much. He never sees many conversions in his time. He’s just used of God to gather the raw materials with which another man, or another generation, who comes behind him will build and expand.

David also found the site where the temple was to be located. He didn’t actually build it, but he purchased the spot where it would be built. He provided the ground, the soil, out of which the temple would grow. There are ministries that are like that. There are those who clear the land and make the paths straight and make way for a solid temple to be built upon that spot. John the Baptist tore down and prepared the way with his fiery preaching of judgment and repentance. Christ came along behind and began to build upon that foundation. Luther did a great work, Calvin especially did a great building work, but there were little known reformers who had gone before them to prepare the way. They didn’t have the same level of outward success. Men like John Wycliffe; men like John Huss who was burned at the stake. But their labors prepared the way for the great building work that the 16th century reformers were able to accomplish. That may be the role some of us will play. Our efforts for the cause of Christ may not seem to accomplish that much in our lifetime but others will follow after we’re finished and they’ll build where we left off. You may not personally reap, but there are reaping times for the church of Christ and they do not ordinarily come without the less noticeable and behind the scenes labors of the plowers and the sowers, or without the labors of those who gather the materials and prepare the way like David did.

I read recently about an elderly preacher who was rebuked by one of his deacons one Sunday morning before the service. “Pastor”, said the man, “something must be wrong with your preaching and your work. There’s been only one person added to the church in a whole year, and he’s just a boy.” The minister listened, his eyes moistening with tears and his hand trembling. “I feel it”, he replied, “but God knows I’ve tried to do my duty.” On that day this pastor’s heart was heavy as he stood before his flock. As he finished the message he felt a strong inclination to resign. However after everyone else had left, that one boy came to him and said, “Do you think if I worked hard for an education, I could become a preacher-perhaps a missionary?” Again the tears welled up in the pastor’s eyes. “Ah, this heals the ache I feel”, he said. “Robert, I see the Divine hand now. May God bless you, my boy. Yes, I think you will become a preacher”. Do you know who that boy Robert was? Do you know who he became? Well many years later an aged missionary returned to London from Africa. Nobles invited him to their homes. He had added many souls to the spiritual building of Christ’s church, reaching even some of Africa’s most savage chiefs. His name was Robert Moffat, the great missionary to Africa, the same Robert who many years before had spoken to that pastor that Sunday morning in the old Scottish kirk.

Dave Merck in his course for RBS on modern church history gives a very striking illustration of how one person’s work prepares for another, or for another generation, in the life of Arthur Pink. Many of us have heard of Arthur Pink. Many of us have been greatly blessed and helped by his books. His writings have been a major influence in the revival of the doctrines of grace that began in the 1950’s and continues today. But during his lifetime his labors appeared to be nothing but a failure. He was never very successful as a pastor. When he died in Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides, on July 15th, 1952, his passing was scarcely noticed save by a small circle of friends. The readership of his little monthly magazine, Studies in the Scriptures, barely maintained its existence over forty years. The number of readers was seldom above one thousand. Some of you are familiar with his book The Sovereignty of God; a book that has been mightily used of God in so many lives. In 1918 Pink approached a man who lived in Pennsylvania with the manuscript of that book desiring that he would print it for him. His name was I.C. Herendeen. Herendeen, an Arminian at the time, wrote back asking Pink what he meant by the sovereignty of God. Pink responded in a letter by referring to Jn. 6:44, underlining the words, “no man can come to me except the Father…draw him.” The Lord used this to begin to open the understanding of Herendeen and he began to study further the doctrines of grace. He also agreed to publish Pink’s book. 2,000 copies were printed but nobody wanted them. 95%, that is approximately 1,900 of them, went unsold. Later this same man, I.C. Herendeen would have an important role in bringing two brothers from Pennsylvania to an understanding of the doctrines of grace. One of them, Ernie Reisinger was later to become a key leader in the founding of the first Reformed Baptist Church of our day in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. But again when Pink died his ministry appeared to have had little success. But God’s ways are not man’s ways. Since his death hundreds and thousands of Pink’s writings have been sold and read by eager readers; books like the Attributes of God, the Sovereignty of God, the Satisfaction of Christ and many others. And remember the little periodical Pink put out that’s readership was seldom above one thousand. Think about that, that’s next to nothing in comparison with the world’s population; a readership seldom above one thousand. Yes, but guess who one of those readers was who was greatly benefited by Pink’s writings and who went on later to promote those writings? It was a man by the name of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and most of us know the great impact the ministry of Lloyd-Jones has had.

This is the romance of gospel work. Some plow, some sow, some water, but God gives the increase. Our concern is to do our duty. We are to do our part in this great work of building the temple of the Lord. Let us labor in hope knowing that no labor from a sincere heart for Christ’s cause will ever prove to be in vain. The day may come when your labors will prove to have been but the beginning of something much greater than you could have ever imagined. Ultimately God has called us to be faithful in our generation like David; to do our part in the building of this great temple, the church, until that day comes when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

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Responses

  1. Good thoughts. Do you have a reference for the information regarding Lloyd-Jones and how Pink’s work influenced him.

  2. I don’t have that reference but Jeff Smith from Reformed Baptist Fellowship wrote the article I posted. His email is: jsmith1@afo.net.


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