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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Proving Ground | Not in Vain

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58



‘Why am I doing this?’

It’s a question most of us ask ourselves at one time or another.

It’s not just asked by people in boring, repetitive jobs, or students wondering why they ever signed up for their course. I know well-paid people in prestigious jobs who have sometimes questioned the worth of their work, too.

The book of Ecclesiastes paints a picture of someone with great possessions who, after a successful career, sadly concludes, ‘when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

So, what meaning does my work have in the context of eternity? The equipment I repair, the reports I write, the structures I build, the meetings I attend, the dishes I wash? What value does it have in God’s eyes? Are we destined to look back on our lives and feel we have missed God’s plan, or conclude that it was in vain?

When Paul wrote that the work of the Lord is not in vain, was he referring to overtly ‘Christian work’ – doing evangelism, discipling others, and growing churches? Some would say, ‘yes’. In the context of the whole letter that might seem an obvious conclusion (see 1 Corinthians 3:1, 9:1, and 16:10).

But, if that were the whole story, then those of us who have day jobs in the ‘secular’ world are left asking, what is the value of the work we do? Is it just a means of supporting ourselves, a necessary evil? In terms of value, is it all a second-best use of time for the Christian or, worse still, something ultimately meaningless?

The Bible’s answer to those questions is a resounding ‘no’! Paul says ‘Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord…’ Always! He wrote, ‘Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Colossians 3:17), and ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ (3:23).

Note the all-inclusiveness of these instructions: ‘whatever you do’. That surely includes all of life, not just the obviously religious bits.

What is the takeaway for us? I believe this is a really encouraging message of good news. Our work, whatever it is, done in the name of Jesus and for him, is never in vain.

Graham Hooper
Graham is a Company Director and former Senior Executive with a global infrastructure company. His latest book Proving Ground – 40 Reflections on Growing Faith at Work is published by Christian Focus. 

In practical terms, what does it mean in your work situation to ‘work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord’?


  1. So timely as I work in our city “am I wasting my time? Is anyone listening? ” – would love to share more

    By Peter Lawrence  -  30 Jan 2023
  2. I was introduced to Martin Luther’s Theology of Vocation several years ago, mostly through a book, God at Work, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. The word “vocation” is the root from which we get “calling” or “vocal..”

    I was especially struck by Luther’s example of a milkmaid. Today she is just a milkmaid. this evening she gets saved. Tomorrow when she goes to work she is God’s milkmaid and works for His glory. Same job, different focus.

    Each of us is a tiny speck of God’s yeast in the world, a small gleam of light. Whatever our professions, we serve God and show Him to the world through our actions. Remember that “love” and “compassion” in Scripture are action verbs. Jesus was “moved” by compassion. Just “feeling sorry” for someone is useless unless it causes us to do something about it. God has “called” all of us to show Him to the world.

    By Frederic A Parker  -  30 Jan 2023

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