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1 Corinthians 15:58 – “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.”
2 Corinthians 9:8,10 – “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. … Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”
One of my projects in high school biology was to study a cross-section of a tree, count the rings, and relate them to events in history. The reason this worked is that a living tree grows every year. A cross-section of the trunk shows a growth ring every year, so you can tell the age of the tree by counting the rings.
But people are different. We grow till we reach a certain height, then we stop growing. In many other areas of life people also tend to reach a certain plateau and then they quit growing.
In serving the Lord new converts are often eager to learn and grow, interested and enthusiastic. But as time passes we may lose our enthusiasm or simply think we have achieved an acceptable level of service to God.
The theme of our studies is abounding in the work of the Lord. Our purpose is to provoke or stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We face problems and hardships that may hinder our service. We need to be challenged to continue to grow and abound in the work of the Lord despite the difficulties.
Like that tree, no matter how much we have accomplished, the Lord wants us to grow and accomplish more. Christians can never be satisfied with past achievements.
Let us examine several areas of service to God in which we need to increase, abound, grow, or improve in His service. Each of us should ask whether our growth has been stunted or are we really striving to grow and improve in these areas?
Faith is foundational to all our service to God. So growing and abounding in the work of the Lord must be based on growing in faith.
Jesus’ disciples asked Him to increase their faith. Is this your desire, or are you satisfied with what faith you have? Every true disciple needs to grow in faith.
Paul gave thanks their faith was growing exceedingly. If Paul wrote us a letter, would he say our faith was growing? Exceedingly?
Faith is trust in God that leads us to obey and serve in other areas. People who are weak in faith will not serve diligently. To grow in service, we must increase our faith.
Faith is the basic quality to which we add other necessary qualities. To avoid being barren and unfruitful, we must possess all these qualities and abound in them. In order to grow in these other areas, we must grow in faith.
In our illustration of the tree, faith is like the root system. For the tree to grow, the roots must grow enough to support and nourish it. So faith must grow if other qualities are to grow.
Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So for faith to grow, we must nourish it by the study of God’s word.
(2 Corinthians 10:15)
Like faith, love is foundational to all our service to God. In order for our service and good works to increase and abound, we must grow in love.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 – Paul expressed thanks that their love for one another abounded.
The Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another.
Can you honestly say love abounds in the congregation you attend? Is it increasing?
We are taught to love one another and abound more and more. Even when love abounds, it can increase more and more. Like that tree, there is always room for growth.
Do you love the brethren more today than you did one or two years ago? Are you more willing to bear others’ burdens, pray for others, and show genuine concern for their wellbeing?
Qualities we should add to our faith include brotherly kindness and love. These must be ours and abound if we are to avoid being barren and unfruitful.
Does love abound in our homes? Do husbands show love by using their authority for the good of the family? Do wives show love by respecting their husbands’ leadership, supporting their decisions, and encouraging them in their work? Is our love increasing?
Do parents show love by teaching their children God’s word diligently and setting good examples? Do children show love by respecting their parents’ instructions?
Is our love increasing and abounding more and more?
If so, it will show in our service and good works (1 John 5:3).
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Is this your desire? Do you really want to increase your knowledge of God’s will?
If so, what are you doing to accomplish it? Most Christians would like to have more knowledge, but are we willing to put forth the effort to obtain it? Or do we hope to get by with what we have?
To walk worthily and please the Lord, Christians should be filled with knowledge and increase. Would God say you are filled with the knowledge of His word? Even if you are, are you praying that you might increase?
How is it possible to be “filled” and yet “increase”? How can you increase if you are already full? Consider some illustrations.
Compare a milk bottle to a balloon. When a jug is full of milk, it cannot hold any more. But when a balloon is filled with air, if you put more air in, it just increases in size. Like the balloon, you can be filled with God’s word and still increase!
Compare it to physical exercise. In my younger days I would run for exercise. When I first started running, I soon reached my capacity. As I continued day by day, my capacity began to increase. I could go 1/2 mile, then 3/4 mile, then a mile, etc.
The same is true when we begin studying any subject: we soon reach our capacity to understand. When we studied arithmetic, we started with addition and subtraction, but fractions and decimals were beyond our capacity. But if we continued to study diligently, our capacity would increase. Eventually, we could understand what was at first beyond our ability. The same is true with Bible study.
Love should abound more and more in knowledge and discernment. Does your knowledge abound more and more? Are you really convinced that your knowledge ought to abound more and more, or are you satisfied with what you know? To be void of offense we must abound more and more.
What abounds most in your life: knowledge of the Bible or knowledge of sports, movies and TV shows, politics, cars, computers and electronics, gardening, health treatments, or pleasure reading? Years ago a TV commercial showed a boy who supposedly could name the year and make of car just by listening to it drive past.
Such knowledge may not be sinful, but what knowledge do you emphasize? Some people know all kinds of facts about some other subjects, but not nearly so much about the Bible.
Do we seek to abound in the knowledge of the Bible? How important is it to you to increase in knowing the Bible?
We should give more earnest heed to the things heard lest we drift away.
How do people quit serving God? Are they zealous and dedicated one day, then suddenly they quit? Not often. Usually, they gradually drift away (let things slip – KJV).
What causes drifting? Usually, we are not giving enough heed to God’s word. We study half-heartedly or not at all. Talk to almost anyone who is really struggling in their spiritual life, ask them if they are studying the Bible diligently. If they are honest, they usually say, “No.”
The solution is to give the more earnest heed. Strive to abound more and more in knowledge and discernment.
When people truly want to abound in knowledge, do they miss church meetings when they could possibly come? Do they stay at home because of minor excuses that would never keep them from work or other important activities?
When the church meets for Sunday or midweek assemblies, classes, or gospel meetings, our attitude toward attendance shows whether we want to just “get by” or whether we really seek to increase and abound in the work of the Lord.
In your growth, are you a milk bottle or a balloon? Let us “give the more earnest heed.”
(1 Peter 2:2; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Peter 1:5,8; Romans 15:14)
Christians should be filled with knowledge, able to admonish one another. Are you able to admonish others? Some do not admonish because they are not filled with knowledge. The knowledge must come first before we can effectively teach others.
Seek to abound (“excel” – NKJV) to the edifying of the church. Do you seek to abound and excel in teaching? Some simply continue as in the past with little improvements or growth.
Again, some folks abound in secular pursuits: sports, cooking, car repair, sales, computers, schoolwork, homemaking, etc. But do we also abound in teaching God’s word, or are we satisfied to continue as we have in the past?
Some are abundantly bold (ASV; “much more bold” – NKJV) to speak God’s word without fear.
How abundantly bold are we? Do we abound in inviting people to church meetings and gospel meetings, discussing the Bible with friends, setting up home Bible studies? How many people do you invite to our gospel meetings? How many have you offered to study the Bible with?
Why don’t we speak? Often we are just not bold enough. We are afraid people will think we are fanatics. Are we satisfied to just occasionally mention the truth to others, or are we “much more bold” to speak God’s word without fear?
The apostles filled Jerusalem with the teaching about Jesus. Have we filled this area with teaching about Jesus? If not, why not? Could it be that we are not seeking to abound in teaching?
We must cease being satisfied that a few people in the area know the truth. Let us give our best and seek to abound in spreading the gospel in this area.
Ephesians 4:15,16 – But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Is “every part” of the Lord’s body in this area doing its share to cause growth of the body? Do we seek to increase and abound in the good work of teaching God’s word?
(Ephesians 4:15,16; Acts 9:22; 2 Timothy 4:17; Romans 15:19)
Abounding in love and knowledge (verses 9,10) leads to being filled with the fruits of righteousness.
James 3:17 – The wisdom from above is full of good fruits. Is your life full of the good fruits of righteousness, or are you satisfied with just some fruit?
Acts 9:36 – Dorcas was full of good works and charitable deeds. Is that true of the ladies here? Are you satisfied to spend most of your time accumulating possessions, watching TV or other entertainments, or are you doing your best to spread the gospel and help people with their needs?
Those of us who have grown fruit trees know that every fall some trees are filled with fruit: an abundance of apples or pears. But others have just a little fruit here and there. Which are you in good works? Dorcas was full of good works.
But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also (referring to financial support of the church’s work).
We should abound in every good work and increase the fruits of righteousness. As in other areas, not only must we abound, but we must increase. This applies to every good work.
These Christians were pleasing God but should abound more and more. Just like that tree that grows every year, we must keep growing and keep improving.
Do you believe that God expects more and more from your service? Do you strive to increase and improve, or are you satisfied with where you are? Are you more effective and useful today than you were a year ago?
Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. It is not enough to do a few good works, nor even to abound in good works. We must always abound, being steadfast and unmovable.
Years ago Karen and I had a second-hand washing machine. Every month or two, I had to repair it, then it would work great … for a few weeks. But I knew when I worked on it, it was just going to quit again and I would have to work on it again. That’s the way some “Christians” are: every so often you have to “fix” them just to keep them going.
Service to God should not be up and down, hot and cold. We should not serve a while then slack off a while. Service should be always abounding, steadfast, unmovable.
Are you steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord?
Name any area of service to God that you can name, and God expects us to abound more and more in every good work.
(Matthew 5:20; Mark 4:8; John 15:2; 2 Peter 1:5-8; Romans 15:14; Colossians 4:12; Revelation 2:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:11)
What about you? Do you abound in all these good works, increasing in service, being steadfast? Or are you satisfied with where you are?
Philippians 3:13,14 – Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
You cannot earn eternal life by good works, but neither can you receive eternal life without good works. Good works are an essential condition in order for God to grant eternal life by His grace.
God expects every child of God to do his/her best in God’s service. No one expects new Christians and young people to have as much ability as those who are mature in Christ, but all are expected to do their best. And those who have been Christians for years are still expected to grow and improve.
The lesson for all of us is that we must never be satisfied with past accomplishments. Like that tree, we must be always striving to grow and improve. Only then are we truly pleasing to our Master and Savior.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2020; www.gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.