Determination perseveres in spite of the word “no.”
When Rosalie Ranquist realized that she was called to be a missionary, her rough background and lack of education led church leaders to discourage her from pursuing her goal. Even so, in 1967 she left for Papua New Guinea and her career was remarkable in every way — particularly in light of her seemingly inadequate preparation. Although she is, technically, “retired” now, she continues her involvement as an international literacy consultant on a limited basis, and she still shares her favorite Scripture verse with others:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,”
I Corinthians 15:58
Knowing that Rosalie is facing some health challenges, she and her verse have been on my mind lately, and since I’ve been reading in I Corinthians 15 for the past three weeks, this was the perfect time for me to visit Biblegateway.com for resources that deepen my insight into Rosalie’s verse.
Since there are thirteen Study Bibles to choose from, I was able to review the verse’s historical context, and also found this insight from John MacArthur:
“The hope of resurrection makes all the efforts and sacrifices in the Lord’s work worth it. No work done in His name is wasted in light of eternal glory and reward.”
Steadfast, immovable, and abounding are not words that most of us use in everyday speaking, so I was surprised to note how many of the newer translations have stuck with them. You can check for yourself by clicking on the I Corinthians 15:58 in all English translations link below the verse.
The NRSV and Amplified Bibles used the word excelling, and the New Living chose outstanding to speak of “abounding in the work of the Lord.”
The Good News Translation used firm and steady for steadfast and immovable, while the International Children’s Bible spoke of being steady and strong.
The Living Bible put some meat on the bones of Paul’s opening “therefore”:
“So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.”
This rendering of the verse anchors it deeply in the big picture of the chapter’s theme: Resurrection. A click on the four brown parallel lines beside the reference allowed me to view the entire chapter as needed, for I Corinthians 15 provides the most thorough teaching of any chapter in the Bible on resurrection and the Christian life.
Paul is not offering an empty or theoretical hope. His admonition toward a steadfast and immovable perseverance on the narrow path — even when it feels as if the narrow path may be squeezing the life out of you — is not just a happy thought to keep us company as we endure. It is a promise of future life that has been verified by the resurrection of God the Son. Jesus was the “first fruits” of that promise, and based on that, we know that God can deliver the goods.
Resurrection is the bass note that thrums underneath every word that Paul has written in this long and theologically rich chapter, for the truth of resurrection is the basis of a living, breathing, get-up-in-the-morning-and-obey-God-all-day kind of faith. It is only because God keeps showing up with power that I can war against sin — every day. He offers freedom from slavery to other people’s approval and from my stubborn need to be “right.” He brings life to this new creation so that I can find grace to hate the selfishness and small-living that would keep me at the center of my own universe.
Rosalie Ranquist and the truth of her favorite verse serve as a continual reminder to me that nothing is wasted in God’s economy: our suffering and our service are all infused with meaning because we live in a hope that is based on Truth.
Check out the resources at Biblegateway.com by using it to enhance your understanding of a passage that you are studying today!
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