Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Arthur Guinness moved to Dublin, Ireland at the age of 34; but he didn’t come to the city empty-handed. He brought with him a strain of yeast he had used while mastering the art of brewing beer in his hometown of Kildare.
It was that strain of yeast cells that Guinness would use to create an innovative style of beer called stout. But perhaps more mind-boggling than the global adoption of Guinness’s brew is this: According to Guinness’s biographer, today more than 250 years after Arthur founded his brewery, “the original strain of Arthur’s yeast is still at work” and used to produce Guinness beer in breweries all around the world. In this tangible way, Arthur’s work quite literally lives on, more than two centuries after his death.
Of course, at some point Arthur’s strain of yeast is bound to die out. No business—not even the mighty Guinness—will last forever. But while his yeast is sure to fade away, some of Arthur Guinness’s work—and some of our work—will last forever.
That is precisely the point Paul is making in today’s verse. After a long passage about death and future resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul turns his readers’ attention to the present, urging us to “give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Commenting on this verse, N.T. Wright, whom Newsweek has called “the world’s leading New Testament scholar,” says this about our work: “You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.”
Wright and Paul are saying that our work will last much longer than Arthur Guinness’s strain of yeast. Our work has the potential to last into God’s everlasting Kingdom. What kind of work will last? “The work of the Lord”—the work we do in our vocations that is aligned with His Word and agenda for the world.
How should that perspective shape our work today? How did it shape the perspective of Guinness whose life motto was “My hope is in God”? Those are the questions we will answer over the next few weeks.