It’s a universal experience.   We key in a critical document only to find out later that it did not get saved – don’t know why!

Wasted effort; striving in vain; pointless labor.  There are few things that frustrate me more.  

At times I have been tempted to pray, “Lord I don’t know what happened to that resume, but I need it.  Could you do a divine undo and restore it to the hard drive?”

So far, He has ignored that request, but I wonder if God ever redeems a wasted effort.

She has prayed that God would save her alcoholic of a husband – she feels like she is wasting her breath.   He prepares diligently each week to provide a good class for the junior highers at church.  They could care less.   She has to correct her children on the same things over and over.  She’s convinced that they will never get it.   


My wife and I were invited to participate in Gospel Sing hosted by a local church in southern Ohio.  We said yes but came to rue the decision.  The event took place on a bitter cold January night. 

We found the little country church perched high on an icy hill about a 30-yard climb.  We hauled a guitar, a 3-year-old and 4-month-old.  Oh fun!

We reached the peak after much slipping and sliding, entered the building and were surprised to find that it was a one room affair.  It was even serviced by an outhouse which was an icehouse that night.  This did not sit well with my wife.  (if you know what I mean)

KC was an infant that had to be continually jostled or he would wail.  So, while other groups were singing, I would jostle my son.   Just before our turn, I handed KC to a friend and gave him jostling lessons.  Someone needed to do it while we sang.  

Sharie and I began to perform our collection of original songs.  Soon after, KC began to scream.  My friend had failed his jostling exam.  The wailing reverberated off the walls of that small church building.  (and the congregation snickered.)

The boy’s howling was louder than our singing.  We needed to reduce the distraction so Sharie reclaimed him and resumed the proper jostling technique while she sang.  It gave her voice a new level of vibrato.  (And the congregation laughed.)

At this point our 3- year-old felt left out.  So, she climbed up the platform and began to cling to and circle us while we sang.  She passed through our legs and occasionally stopped to face her fans and pick her nose (and the congregation roared) 

We finished our set and sat – sure that had been the biggest wasted effort ever.  There were so many things that distracted from our musical message. 

However, months later, the pastor of that church found me and expressed his gratitude for our ministry.  On that icy night, we had taught the church a song that we had written based on Philippians 4:13. He told me that the church had sung that song nearly every Sunday since. 

Wow!  What we had regarded as a massive waste, turned out to be a meaningful investment in the Kingdom of God. 

The apostle Paul put it in perspective for us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”   NETBible ®

“Stick it out” he said.  “Keep praying and singing and teaching and parenting “knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”    God has an amazing ability to somehow take our waste and turn it to gold. 

I had a friend in high school who was studying Mandarin.  I was perplexed and asked him why.   He said he wanted to be a missionary to China.  At that time there were zero missionaries in China.  It was isolated and all westerners were unwelcome. 

“A wasted effort” I thought.  But several years later we met again at the very time he was leaving for China.   The nation had finally opened up to outsiders and he was already equipped with Mandarin.   Isn’t God’ amazing!

SO, “Be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 

A PRAYER: Lord help me stick it out when I’m tempted to sit it out.