We live in the world with so much evil everywhere. How can we work in this world without losing a sense of hope? When we have a bad day at work, how can we remind ourselves that our work is not in vain?
For example a Christian lawyer may be disappointed to see so much injustice in the world even after long years of practicing the law. A Christian doctor may be disappointed to see the patients still die despite of giving the best care to save lives. A Christian politician may be disappointed to see so much racism in the society despite of hard efforts to bring reconciliations. So, as Christians, living day to day trying to bring God's kingdom into this world, how can we work without losing a sense of hope?
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes the glorious resurrection of our physical bodies which will happen when Jesus comes back to the world. Then, in the end of the chapter, Paul says in verse 58:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work [Ergo] of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor [Kopos] is not in vain.
Here, Paul says that our work in this world is not in vain, because of physical bodily resurrection of our bodies which also implies the renewal of creation (Rom 8:19-23). One important item to notice here is that the types of work that Paul describes in this verse are not just "spiritual" types of works. The Greek words used here for work and labor are "ergo" and "kopos." These two exact two Greek words appear in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 where they are used to describe Paul's work as a tent-maker in the Marketplace.
So, when Paul is saying here that our work and labor will not be in vain in light of our bodily resurrection and renewal of God's creation, Paul is saying, "Everything that we do in & for the Lord, whether it is related to spiritual or physical activities, is not in vain because God will use them to renew all things and bring His Kingdom to the world" (Rom. 8:19-23; Rev 21). So, our work in this world is not in vain. In light of our bodily resurrection and also in light of renewal of all things (Rom. 8:19-23; Rev. 21), our work in this world is being used by God to prepare for that final day of the Lord when Christ will return to renew all things in this creation.
We see little bit of this in play in David's life. Although David was a sinner, he had a heart for the Lord. When he became the king, he wanted to build the temple for the Lord. But, God told David that he will not build the temple, but his son Solomon will build the temple. This must have been a very heart breaking news for David. But, David instead of doing nothing still prepares for this temple project by laying the ground work for Solomon. David says in 1 Chronicles 29:2-4
So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold...the silver...the bronze...the iron...and wood...Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God: 3,000 talents of gold...7,000 talents of refined silver...
Even though David was told that he will not build the temple, David instead of losing hope still engaged in extensive activities to prepare for the temple project. Then, it was Solomon who worked on David's hard preparation to finish building the temple of the Lord.
I wonder our work in this world is kind of like David's work. As a Christian lawyer, we are called to bring justice that will reflect God's justice in the new heaven. As a Christian doctor, we are called to provide the best of care that will reflect God's healing in the new heaven. As a Christian engineer, we are called to bring well ordered-infrastructure to the society that will reflect God's sustaining work in the new heaven. All of these works are preparatory works upon which Christ will build His final kingdom in the new heaven to come.
So, even though King David did not get to see the completion of the temple project, he still prepared for the day of completion in hope and died in peace knowing that Solomon will finish the work. We too can work in this world with perseverance and without losing hope knowing that Christ will come one day to finish the good work.
The purpose of John the Baptist' ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord. Our work in this world is not in vain, as Paul says, because these are the exact works that God is doing in this world through us to prepare the coming of the Lord. So, we can work for the Lord with hope despite of many disappointments in the world, as our Lord says in Revelation 22:20:
"Surely I am coming soon!"