I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labor in vain.
I. AN APOSTLE MAY BESTOW LABOUR IN VAIN. If St. Paul might thus fail, we are not to be surprised when we do not meet with success. We are not responsible for the results of our work, but only for the faithfulness of our efforts.
II. A TRUE WORKMAN WILL BE ANXIOUS NOT TO BESTOW LABOUR IN VAIN. Christian work is not mere treadmill drudgery. It is labour of interest, of sympathy, of love. The servant of Christ will be anxious, not only that he may be saved, though, perhaps, "so as by fire," but that his work may be preserved
(1) for the honour of Christ;
(2) for the welfare of men;
(3) for the personal interest occasioned by self-sacrificing toil.
If we care nothing for the results of our work, this is a manifest proof that our heart is not in it, and therefore that the work will be ill done. We must earnestly desire a good harvest if ever we are to be rewarded with the sight of the ripe golden ears.
III. THE PROSPECT OF FAILURE IN WORK WILL LEAD AN EARNEST MAN TO DO ALL HE CAN TO PREVENT IT. It was the dread of such failure that called forth the whole Epistle to the Galatians from St. Paul.
1. Failure, though in prospect, may often be obviated by improved methods, for we may be ourselves to blame for the want of success that we attribute to the stubbornness of the soil. It is a mistake to be wedded to any one method. The slavery of routine is fatal to success. New emergencies demand new plans. Beware of sacrificing the work to the machinery.
2. Failure may be avoided by more earnest efforts. St. Paul expostulates with the Galatians. He exhibits something of the long-suffering of God. It is foolish and weak and wrong to despair at the first lack of success. God despairs of no soul. If we were more hopeful and more patient we should be more fruitful.
IV. IT IS LAMENTABLE TO BE IN THE CONDITION OF THOSE UPON WHOM LABOUR HAS BEEN BESTOWED IN VAIN. They who thus fail are without excuse. All that has been done for them will rise up in judgment against them. How terrible to have been privileged with the ministry of an apostle, of a St. Paul, and, in spite of all his eloquence, his zeal, his self-sacrificing devotion, his inspiration, to make shipwreck at last! We who have the New Testament in our hands have that ministry for our benefit. If after enjoying the privileges of living in a Christian country and receiving Christian teaching we fail of entering into the Christian life, all the labour spent in vain upon us will condemn us. The responsibility rests on each individual soul. It is a delusion to throw the blame on the preachers. The highest influences, even up to the preaching of a St. Paul, will fail, unless we yield our own hearts in obedience to the truth. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.