Not In Vain

” . . . not in vain.”

“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.” (I Corinthians 15:58)


This past Saturday a team from our church went to Clendenin, WV to work on homes flooded last month.  The home we spent the day working on was under about eight feet of water during the flood.  The photo shows the thick mud deposited by the receding waters in the back yard of the house.  The mud now forms a pattern of bricks across the yard.  Our job at the house was to help strip away the floors and sub-floors leaving nothing but bare floor joists.  When finished, FEMA would send in a team to de-mud the crawl space underneath and apply chemicals to inhibit mold.

It was an absolutely exhausting day.  The temperature was 94˚ with a heat index of 101˚.  When I returned home I barely had the energy to dump my sweat-logged clothes in the washing machine, hit the shower, and deposit myself in a lounge chair.  Later in the evening I read an internet post that said FEMA had just released guidelines for rebuilding houses impacted by the floods.  If I understood it correctly, it seemed to be saying that houses either had to be raised two feet above the one hundred year flood mark, or demolished.  Suddenly it felt like I’d been kicked in the gut as I began to realize that if this was indeed to be the rule, there would be a good possibility that all the work we’d done that day would have been in vain.  The house we worked on would have to be raised about ten – twelve feet above the ground, a task that seems pretty impossible.

In a heartbeat my tired, depleted body found the energy to muster anger and righteous indignation.  I was not a happy camper for a few moments.  It felt like what little wind was left in my sails had just been depleted.  I read in the article the same anger from the residents with flooded homes who asked, “Why did FEMA wait this long to tell us this, after we’ve spent countless hours trying to recover homes that now might have to be demolished?”  This is an important question for them.

For me, in a few moments I felt that familiar tug of the Holy Spirit on my shirttail saying, “Wait a minute, now why did you go there today?  Was it just to fix houses, or was it also to take my love and share it?”  Then I remembered Paul’s words from Corinthians, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  This was not the first time in my life and ministry that I had invested hours and hours in some project or person, only to see less than the expected and hoped for results.  I have felt the disappointment before, but I’ve also seen the truth in Paul’s words.  I’ve seen how God’s love offered is never in vain.  The love of Christ shared with one another can never be diminished.  Somehow, somewhere, with someone God’s love shared makes a difference.  I realized once more that evening that God’s love shared between our work team and the family we helped that day had changed all of us forever.  All of us would go forth feeling a little better about life and God’s possibilities for healing, restoration, and hope.  All of us would go forth a little more trusting of others and a little less cynical and fearful about our differences.  Strangers had worked together in the name of the Lord, and left feeling strangely renewed in spite of their physical exhaustion.  Our labor in the Lord was not in vain.

I pray that God always keeps me busy working in his name.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My other book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”


~ by revgenelson on July 27, 2016.

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