Fruitful Labor

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A powerful post offering simple but profound insights into Philippians 1, the purpose of life, and the source of fulfillment for Christians: fruitful labor. (Philippians 1:21-22a)

“I like being lazy,” her social media profile boasted. No disclaimers or qualifiers. None of the usual information about hobbies, preferences, career, or relationships. Just that one sentence.


I wondered why in the world someone would define themselves in such a narrow and negative way.

But then I started thinking about the past few summer months…

and I think I may have criticized this lazy girl too harshly.

I started the summer with good intentions. But I’m too embarrassed to tell you how many of my summer bucket list items we actually completed.

(Although in the interest of the brutal honesty I demand of myself here, I’ll let you know that it was a miserable five.)

There are some valid reasons. I won’t bore you by listing them here, because they’re not the real reason anyway.

Here’s the real reason: I like being lazy.

I’m thankful for more moments and more days of life, and for second chances and reclaimed opportunities.

But most of all, I’m thankful for God’s Word that gives guidance about everything. Even about being lazy and why to stop.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

Philippians 1:21-22a

My children and I happened across this passage recently during one of our morning Bible sessions over breakfast.

(Lest that sound lofty, “morning Bible sessions” consist of me reading anywhere from a single verse to a whole chapter of God’s Word aloud, and briefly discussing its meaning as my children shovel cereal into their little mouths…if I’m lucky. Usually they just interrupt with questions about snack time and what they dreamed about last night.)

To say we “happened upon it” sounds rather like a chance occurrence, though, and I’m convinced our finding it was far from coincidental.

You see, I had been praying for wisdom about teaching my children why we would be backing off our “screen time” in favor of more productive activities.

That can be a tough sell for kids these days.

(The whole proverbial apple not falling far from the tree comes to mind…)

And I could’ve just put my foot down. I think “because I said so”-proclaiming-parents are within their rights.

But I’m absolutely certain that God’s words hold infinitely more weight than my very best words on my very best days.

And let’s be honest, those don’t come very often.

Needless to say, I was delighted when we came to this passage one warm, sunny morning, God casting His warm light to our table and to my understanding.

Life is for fruitful labor.

I’ve never paid much attention to that phrase before. I’ve tended to focus so much on the intriguing paradox that living is Christ and dying is gain, that I completely missed that little nugget that falls fast on its heels.

The one that tells us why Paul hadn’t yet given up on his life that was so far beyond the hard things we endure.

And what we’ve discovered as a family since then is that fruitful labor is far from the drudgery some might suppose. It brings a sense of purpose to everyone, from the oldest to the youngest among us. It brings fulfillment. It brings joy. It brings unity.

And I’m not sure, but I think fruitful labor is also a key aspect of letting “my manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (verse 27) that Paul talks about later.

Because the Christian life isn’t just about being saved from my sins. It’s not just about avoiding wickedness.

It’s about fruitful labor.

You might be wondering what fruitful labor looks like.

You’ll need to talk with God about what it should look like for you.

Because the term “fruitful labor” is, after all, simply casting another spin on that important topic of stewardship. Fruitful labor means stewarding my time and effort and energy well. Doing what He wants me to do. When He wants me to do it. How He wants me to do it.

And that changes from hour to hour, and certainly from day to day, season to season. So faithful stewardship is impossible without constant communication with the Master.

For my children, a significant aspect of fruitful labor is applying themselves to their schoolwork. It’s valid to explain to kids how important education is to their future. But it’s a whole new level of motivation when kids begin to understand that their studies are God-given fruitful labor for them at this time in their lives.

The same can be said for chores. For serving others in our home. For leaving our home to serve. To minister at church. To reach out into our community. Good and healthy things for kids to do? Sure! God-assigned fruitful labor? Absolutely.

Fruitful labor motivates and validates my own efforts, too. No, I don’t earn a six-figure income, but God doesn’t care about my paycheck. He cares about stewardship. And I’ve come to realize that, by His grace, I have a lot of opportunities for fruitful labor. Teaching. Caring. Managing. Cooking. Correcting. Training. Writing. Serving. Praying. Exercising. Ministering. Cleaning.

All fruitful labor, in their proper perspective.

When the unexpected imposes on my schedule, I can keep proper focus by remembering that as my Master and the Owner of my time, God can change my fruitful labor whenever He wants to. Just because it’s not covered on my to-do list doesn’t mean it’s not fruitful labor, fully deserving of my devotion and my enthusiasm.

Your fruitful labor probably looks a lot different than mine. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Because as we each steward the gifts, abilities, time, and energy God grants, He is honored when His children are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1:27).

Different gifts.

Different labor.

One mind.

One spirit.

And one goal: the faith of the gospel.

Friends, there’s no time to waste. There’s work to be done. Not in a never-get-enough-rest-and-no-time-for-stillness kind of way. But in an intentionally-kingdom-focused-and-taking-care-of-business kind of way.

Because when I fall for the lie that says a happy life is found on easy street and that satisfied accompanies comfortable, my own joy and fulfillment are the first but smallest price I pay.

The far greater price is missing out on joining God where He’s working. Remember Mordecai’s admonition to Esther?

“For if you keep silent at this time,

relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place…” (4:14)

God’s work will get done.

The question is, will you join Him there?

A powerful post offering simple but profound insights into Philippians 1, the purpose of life, and the source of fulfillment for Christians: fruitful labor. (Philippians 1:21-22a)

Written by Jennifer Clarke


Want more encouragement in your Christian walk?

My 30-day devotional, Drawing Near: 30 Days Toward Intimacy With God, is now available on Amazon! Drawing Near 3D cover
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