FIRST-PERSON: 'Don't Labor in Vain Day'

NAPLES, Fla. (BP) -- Most of us have worked hard to get where we are today. If you're like my wife and me, you periodically reflect back over your years of laboring. In our case, we can hardly believe it's spanned 43 years.

Back in my second year of seminary in Scotland, we had just enough savings between us to squeak through. By the time we returned to the States, I had decided not to pursue ministry as a profession but was unclear about what to do as an alternative.

We borrowed money from my mother for the security deposit on an apartment and first month's rent. No furniture, no job, no prospects and practically no money -- our future was uncertain, but that didn't seem to matter. We sat on the floor of the apartment the day we took possession, looked around and couldn't have been happier. We were fueled by love, hope and faith. We knew we'd be fine.

I wonder, if we were faced with the same circumstances today, would we be as confident and hopeful? What might we be thinking, feeling and saying to each other?

Maybe I'd be ashamed that I'd put us in such a position of financial uncertainty. At age 67, perhaps I'd be fearful about how to navigate through it. We wouldn't want to impose on our children for help. Would the tenderness and partnership with my wife still be there -- enough to see us through? Or would we turn on each other, cast blame and make matters worse? I'd like to think that enough love, hope and faith are still there so we could face such circumstances and find our way through it with the Lord.

Thankfully, that's not our situation. However, this prompts some questions: Who has been building the "house" of our lives over the years? Were we? Was the Lord? Did we build it and invite Him in, or did He build it and invite us in?

These are tough questions. It's easy to rationalize that we were trusting Him for direction and outcomes -- diligently doing our part to bang the nails with the hammer He gave us.

The honest answer for me (my wife was and is better at this) is that there were times, even long stretches, when I "hammered" first and consulted later. There were other times, usually when I hit rough patches, when I asked my Builder-Foreman for assistance. The Lord was always quick to respond, performing for or with me what I couldn't accomplish on my own.

I suspect that, if you were to take a spiritual photo of the "house" of your life, it would be apparent who was building what at various points in the construction process. The better, more finished parts were the Lord's craftsmanship. The obvious do-it-yourself parts were your handiwork. Is it perfect? No. Could it have been better? Of course. If we all could retrace our steps and do it over again, knowing what we now know about His faithfulness and effectiveness, would we give Him more control over the building? You bet we would. In hindsight.

But here's the thing -- the house of our lives is still being built. What about the sagging ceiling in our marriages? The leaking basement in some of our family relationships? The cracked wall in certain friendships? The weakening support beams of health and finances? The broken seals in the windows of our earlier hopes and dreams? None of those are beyond repair or remodeling.

Labor Day commemorates the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. We take a day off from our labors to give tribute to those who have labored before us. I'd like to propose a new holiday. We can celebrate it on the same first Monday in September -- "Don't Labor in Vain Day." This is when we bring in the Inspector, take that spiritual photo, get the report and call the Contractor of Contractors to come in and take care of business. There's no telling what He'll be able to do that day. He works wonders.

You may be in a season of life where what you're facing has required you to recalibrate your game plan, make adjustments, change your expectations and realign your priorities. Whatever your circumstances, He who numbers every hair of your head is able to do exceedingly more with the rest of your life than what you've been able to do under your own labor up to this point. That's not an idle pipe dream. It's a promise — His promise. Let's remember that on this Don't Labor in Vain Day.


Steve Silver is a retired business executive, author of the book "New Man Journey" and related resources at www.newmanjourney.com. Silver also is the founder of Men's Golf Fellowship. This article first appeared in Mature Living, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.