Don't Labor in Vain
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
I have been blessed with an amazing privilege. Week after week I get to stand in front of groups of people and teach. I have the opportunity to expound upon the Scriptures, helping to bring forth the nuggets of God's Word in an easily understood way. Through seminars, retreats, Sunday morning sermons and more, I can help unlock the mysteries of the Bible.
It goes beyond the face-to-face encounters, though. Through numerous books and scores of articles, the Lord has allowed me the chance to help bring countless people around the world into a more mature understanding in their faith. I feel very privileged in my calling.
I regularly pray that God will cause me to write and speak clearly and well. I work hard to craft together words that will have the utmost impact. Choosing just the right word can make the difference between someone understanding or not understanding. In live or video settings, using just the right voice inflection or facial expression at the correct moment can help people feel the emotion in what I'm saying, thereby having a greater impact. All of these are important tools, and I consciously try to use them as wisely and carefully as possible.
Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the teaching itself is what makes changes. It is easy to have the idea that my oratory abilities or writing skills are what cause people's lives to be profoundly affected. If I just do a good enough job -- say the correct words and say them well -- then the hearts and minds of the hearers or readers will be altered.
Yet when I read the psalmist's words, I am once again drawn up short. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). The truth is that all of my eloquent words fall on deaf ears unless God causes them to take root in the hearts and minds of the hearers or readers.
So, more than just speaking and writing clearly and well, I have a job that is even more important and comes before those things. It even comes before praying that the Lord will cause me to do the best I can. It is something that most of us recognize, yet seemingly few of us do well.
What is this all-important task? Praying for the people to whom I minister. Unless God works in their minds and hearts, all my efforts are in vain. Unless He implants those words, my carefully crafted words fall on unprepared soil.
So, what does all this have to do with you and the worship ministry of your church? I hope you made the connection by now, but just in case, let me make this clear. You can do a great job musically, perhaps even offering a flawless performance. You might have extraordinary gifts and abilities in artistic endeavors. Yet, even if your instrumental or vocal work this Sunday are beyond compare, still, unless the Lord causes people to connect with Him through it, unless His likeness becomes a bit more imprinted on their souls as a result, you have only made some nice music, nothing more.
I would challenge you to spend as much time (or more) praying for the people to whom you are ministering as you do actually ministering to them. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
1. What would it look like for you to humbly and honestly pray for the people you are helping to lead in worship?
2. What sort of difference do you think it might make if you and the entire team did that regularly and consistently?
3. Take time right now to pray for the people in your congregation. God may even prompt you to pray for one or two individuals all week long.