And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
Paul is looking forward to the great day when time will be rolled up as the dawn and cast aside, and all the fruit of Christian labor will be made visible-when all the gold, silver and precious stones that result from Christ at work in us will be gathered up and displayed. All of the wood, hay and stubble that results from our self-effort for him will be burned. Christ’s steadfast continuing work in you is your holding fast to the word of life, and this is what will result in praise and rejoicing in that day. Regardless of the circumstances or the praise of men or whether there are immediate results, continue, hold fast-don’t give up! Then Paul says when I see the results of your faith my heart will swell with pride because I’ll know I’ve not helped you in vain.
Looking on to his impending death Paul says, even if I am being poured like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith. Even if that should occur, if I should know that you are holding fast to the indwelling Christ, I will die with gladness and joy in my heart. If you hear I have died that way, you too can rejoice and be glad. This is the ground of Christian rejoicing — a refreshing, fruitful life, pouring out rivers of living water to others, conditioned upon unrelenting reliance upon the indwelling Lord Jesus.
We read in Hebrews 12:2 of our Lord, who For the joy set before him … endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. What was the joy that was set before him? It was his glorious expectation that into the lives of men and women who were being blasted and ruined, torn apart and disintegrated by sin, and rebellion, his healing life would enter. He would integrate all of life and bring focus and perspective, and call men back to all the expected fruitfulness of the Christian life. Anticipating what his life would accomplish, and knowing he would be reunited with his father, he endured the cross. He poured out his blood as a drink offering upon our faith, and is now seated victorious on the throne on high.
When we come to the Lord’s table, we celebrate this drink offering poured out for us. He emptied himself that we might have him in us, the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control-the fruit of his Spirit. This is the underlying principle of Christian living, the self-giving love poured out on behalf of another. How beautifully it is exemplified in the life of Paul. It is only possible as we reckon on Christ’s life within both to will and to do of his good purpose.
Lord Jesus, you have poured out your life for me. Help me to endure whatever you have in store for me, knowing that your purpose is to display your very life to me, and thereby to those around me.
What is our highest goal and our greatest joy in this earth’s pilgrimage? Do we need to reaffirm the privilege of a life poured-out in joyful obedience to the One who alone can produce the fruit of His Spirit?