When the independence of our nation was hanging in the balance, Thomas Paine authored a series of patriotic tracts called, “The Crisis Papers.” The first one of these so stirred George Washington that he ordered it read to his troops when the American cause was faltering late in December, 1776. “These are the times that try men’s souls” was Paine’s opening statement. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from service of his country.” He was right. But Paine also understood what would happen if men and women did not back away from a life spent this way. He continued: “But he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Paine’s words proved crucial for Washington’s troops. Many soldiers whose terms of service would expire that January 1st were inspired to re-enlist. Late that same month the tide of the war turned when the Americans won at Trenton. Right now, there are many men and women in the marketplace who can truly identify with “times that try men’s souls.” However, I believe we can find great inspiration in Paul’s words, written to a group of a people in the city of Corinth who were facing their own set of challenges: “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.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
This is the last sentence in series of paragraphs explaining the victory Jesus Christ won through His death on the cross . . . don’t forget it was followed by His amazing resurrection and exaltation. This victory is the believer’s foundation for unwavering hope (not to be confused with hopeful expectations from the new bailout plan or a change in our circumstances). The hope Paul is talking about is based on a transaction that has already occurred (i.e. the hay is already in the barn). Based on that trustworthy truth, Paul was exhorting us to get busy and move forward “in the work of the Lord”.
HOLD ON A MINUTE—don’t disconnect from this idea! When we think of the work of the Lord, our minds immediately move toward ministry performed in a church or volunteerism in the community. Those kinds of acts are certainly included in the work of the Lord. But God’s work includes every task we do for His glory: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men.” (Colossians 3:23) Like the people at Colossae, we need a reminder not to focus on what we are doing, but how we are doing it and who we are doing it for.
The New Year is already underway. Ready or not the challenges stand before you. How will you proceed? I encourage you to “re-enlist” as a person of hope, faith and determination. As you work today—especially in the marketplace, since you spend so much time there—I challenge you to observe yourself doing the work of the Lord and for the Lord . Whether or not your current job fits in your ideal career plan, you have been given a great promise and hope. Any labor done “in the Lord” is not in vain.