I was reflecting recently on the fact that it often seems as if much our work and many of our endeavors in this earthly life are utterly inconsequential, particularly in the grand scheme of things. Indeed, there are many days when it can feel as if God has called us to do work that is of no importance; work that will never bear fruit; work that has no purpose; work that will never amount to anything at all. In these times, it can be easy to grow weary and give up, although we are called to “…not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13; Galatians 6:9)
Of course, as human beings, it’s really only a matter of time before we become exhausted — physically, mentally, and spiritually. We are prone to become frustrated, agitated, and just plan ‘ole stressed-out. In modern ministry terminology, we often refer to it as “burn out.” I’ve seen it happen many times and I’m only 32-years-old. In fact, even now, I still see “burned out” individuals serving on a regular basis, happy and smiling every Sunday, totally unaware that they have fallen victim to this unhealthy phenomenon. But, for better or for worse, they continue to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14) despite the exhaustion; despite the burn out.
Whenever we wonder about the futility of our work — whether it be church ministry, family responsibilities, full-time careers, part-time jobs, or academics — we can be encouraged by remembering that nothing we do is in vain if we “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23-24) God has a history of using seemingly insignificant people and seemingly futile efforts to bring about the most spectacular results.
David was just a kid — the youngest in fact — who tended to his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11) and delivered food to his older brothers who were in the army. (1 Samuel 17:17-18) Not exactly a high-profile career. Although he was a hard worker, he was likely viewed as tiny, puny, unimportant, inconsequential, and altogether unnecessary from the perspective of most men. Perhaps you can relate. And yet, God would use him to not only defeat the giant Goliath and the entire Philistine army, but would also subsequently raise him up to be king of all Israel.
The nameless slave girl found in the story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5 used her kind words and compassion — even in the midst of her own captivity — to show love to her enemies, thereby initiating the circumstances that would lead to Naaman being healed of his leprosy. Elisha and Naaman are often cast as the heroes, but this seemingly insignificant slave girl is quite the heroine because she followed the command of God (and, later, Jesus) to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-48) She could have chosen to hate Naaman and his men. After all, they were responsible for her enslavement and captivity. Instead, her kindness set in motion one of the greatest miracles in the Old Testament and ignited a revolution, thereby proving once again that God can use anyone to accomplish His plans.
So, while it might be tempting to think of our efforts — and even ourselves — as trivial and insignificant, we can rest in the assurance that God has a unique plan and purpose for everything that we are doing, as long as we continue to do it as unto Him. We don’t have to be Esther or Deborah, or Moses or Elijah, or Peter or Paul, to have an eternal impact during our time here on Earth. We don’t have to compare ourselves to the most successful preachers, teachers, or churches of today’s culture.
Right now you may be having disputes with your boss; disagreements with your pastor; or devoting endless hours every week to tasks and jobs requirements that seem to go nowhere and amount to nothing of consequence; or you might be teaching a student ministry class at your church that descends into rampant chaos before any real scriptural point can be made; or perhaps you can’t find your niche in church ministry and have been left feeling utterly lost and confused about what God wants for your life.
Whatever the case may be, I urge you to plant your feet in the trenches and be encouraged. God still sees your efforts. And He still sees you. And as long as you serve Him and walk uprightly, He promises to withhold no good thing from your life, (Psalm 84:11) even in the midst of the trials, difficulties, anxieties, and frustrations.
I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.