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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 34 - 2 Thessalonians 3:13 - Patient Work for the Master Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Patient Work For The Master.


"But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing."-2 Thessalonians 3:13.


     "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."-1 Corinthians 15:58.



     In the first of these passages there is a calm earnestness of exhortation, which ought to pervade us with its zealous spirit, and quicken us to work and well doing. Whatever others may do or be, be you in earnest;-'but ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.' It is to 'well-doing' that we are called; and though our well-doing cannot come into the room of Christ's well-doings as procurer of pardon, not the less are we, as men who stand upon the footing of Christ's well-doings, to abound in well doings of our own.

     There is a quiet sadness, or perhaps rather a chastened joy, in the words of the second passage, which adds greatly to their power. There is no excitement, no bluster, no violence, no unnatural vehemence. They are the words of one who knows that he has a work, and who is calmly but resolutely bent on getting that work fully done, whatever be the hardships or perils. They are the words of a man compassed about with infirmities, who feels how easily he might be led aside, or made to slacken his efforts, or damped in his zeal, or made to grow weary. They are the words of a man who has a hope,-a good and glorious hope, and who feels in that hope a sustaining and quickening power. They are the words of a man who is leading on a host,-who is at the head of a great multitude, all in like circumstances, and needing encouragement like himself. They are the words of a man full of love to those with whom he is surrounded, and who speaks to them as 'beloved brethren.' Thus he cries aloud to his fainting fellow saints, 'Brethren, be not weary in well-doing.' They are some of the many fervent exhortations with which he winds up some profound or lofty doctrinal exposition; and the second of the above passages comes in at the close of one of the most solemn chapters to be found in his epistles,-concerning the resurrection of the saints. What he wrote for the Corinthians he writes for us. He speaks with authority, yet he speaks in love, as if pleading with us to make the right and true use of our resurrection hope. Let us note-(1) The exhortation; (2) The motive or reason enforcing it.

     I. The exhortation.-Putting the two passages together, this is threefold; each of its three parts bearing directly upon Christian light and character and work, yet also connected with the doctrine of the whole chapter. There is much for each one of us in this threefold exhortation. The last days need words like that quite as much as the first.

     (1.) Be steadfast.-The steadfastness here refers to the foundation on which they were to be grounded and settled.  Be like a temple with a deep and firm foundation; be like a house founded on a rock, which the winds cannot shake, and the floods cannot overflow or beat down. Look well to your foundations; and having got them, cleave fast to them. Be not changeable, either in doctrine or practice. Be not unstable, fickle, capricious. Or, taking another figure of the apostle, be well rooted in the fruitful soil which God has provided for the growth of His trees; 'be rooted and grounded in love;' 'rooted and built up in Him;' be not 'carried about with every wind of doctrine.' The special reference here is to the resurrection, which some were denying, and which the apostle had been proving. Be steadfast in this. Be not like Hymenaeus and Philetus who deny it, or say that it is past already, thus overthrowing their own faith and that of others. 'Be steadfast,'-'steadfast in the faith.'

     (2.) Be immoveable.-This word may be illustrated by the figure of a reed 'shaken with the wind;' a slender building that rocks too and fro, ever ready to fall clouds that are carried about of winds. Its meaning, as distinguished from steadfast, may be this: 'Suppose you still retain the foundation, beware of lesser shiftings; it is not enough to hold fast the head, you must beware of those continual changes of doctrine or of life which, though they may not be inconsistent with fundamentals, are very dangerous. Do not dread being called old fashioned, strait-laced, narrow-minded in these days; cleave to the cross, to the word, in all points, great and small. Be immoveable.'

     (a.) Always abound in the work of the Lord.-This may either stand by itself, as a separate and third exhortation, or it may be connected with the two previous words, thus: 'Abound in the Lord's work, steadfastly and immoveably; not working by fits and starts, but perseveringly, pressing forward in it, not turning aside, nor fainting, nor growing weary.' But let us take the words generally, and we shall find that we are called to-(1.) The work of the Lord.-The Lord here is Christ.  It is to His work that we are called; for He is our Lord and Master; and in His parables He refers to us as servants, and to our work during His absence. But 'the work of the Lord,' means also the work, or at least work like that, which He did while here; for while in His great work of sin-bearing He stands alone, in His daily works for His Father and for men He is our example. Let us read His life in all its details, and learn what His work was.

     (b.) Abound in the work of the Lord.-Our whole life is to be filled up with this, like a vessel filled to overflowing with water. Our lives are to be like trees all covered with leaves and fruit; like fields and hills all clothed with grass; like streams all filled with water. Such is to be our 'abounding.' Nothing scanty, or occasional, but full and cheerful; never idle, but always 'serving,' either in word or deed.

     (c.) Abound always.-It is not to be now a swollen torrent, and then a dried-up channel like the Kedron; but a perpetual flow like the Jordan. It is to be like sunshine, ever going forth; like fragrance of the garden, ever ascending. We are to persevere, and work without ceasing. 'Always abound.' 'Be not weary in well-doing.'

     II. The motive.-Our 'labour' (not work merely, but toil, however great) is not in vain. This we know. We are assured of this; and being thus assured, we labour. Vain labour is a hopeless thing; producing heartlessness and indifference. Labour that is sure of success and recompense, stimulates and cheers. That which makes our labour not in vain, is its connection with the Lord. That which makes' our reward so sure and blessed, is its connection with the Lord. Our whole life, service, suffering, toil, are connected with Him; and it is this that prevents them from being fruitless or useless; it is this which' ennobles them, and elevates them. Human labour is often fruitless, this never. Several things show that it is not in vain.

     (1.) Present fruit.-This labour bears true and real fruit,-'fruit that shall remain.'

     (2.) Present blessedness.-It is joyful work; the service is not hard; 'the joy of the Lord is our strength.'

     (3.) Present fellowship with Christ in work.-He works along with us; nay, it is his work more than ours.

     (4.) Future approval of the Master.-'Well done,' He will say, when He comes again.

     (5.) Future reward.-Glory, honour, and immortality. And this reward is waiting for us at the resurrection of the just. The past resurrection of the Lord is true and no fable; so is our future resurrection. And it is glorious beyond conception. The hope of it sustains and gladdens. We press forward with that hope in view. We toil or suffer with that hope in view. Keeping our eye upon that glory, we abound in the work of the Lord.

     Be not then weary in well-doing. Persevere; press on; endure hardness. Toil on, however rough and hard the work may be. First be a believer, and then a worker. Work diligently. Do thine own work, with thine own talents, and according to the measure of thine own gifts, whether these gifts be great or small.  Thine own work is the work of the Lord. It is not the work of the flesh, or of self, or of man, or of a sect. It is the Master's work; do it well and thoroughly; He will see to the success, and to the reward. Do it bravely and boldly. Do it independently of human help, or earthly applause, or the stimulus of 'public opinion.' Do it not as one of a multitude, not as part of a great and imposing organization; but as alone, with only the Master to lean upon, to guide, to cheer. Be not the hanger on of a party, or the slave of human rules, or the drudge of a committee, or the 'right-hand man' of a Diotrephes. Quit yourself like a man, like a Christian man, with a personality and responsibility all thine own.

     Follow the Lord. Let thine eye be single; thine arm unhampered; thine heart uncramped; all thine actions and words simple and bold and free. Be the servant of no man; but listen only to the voice which says to thee, 'Follow me;' 'always abound in the work of the Lord.' There is no master worthy of being followed but He who bought us with His blood.