his disciples: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the
Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Whenever the work load is heavy and the workers are few, those few workers have to work more efficiently, with more effort, and put in longer hours. The Apostle Paul sent greetings to several people who are among those few workers in God’s harvest. Among them were Persis, Tryphena and Tryphosa who worked hard in the Lord.
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard* in the Lord. Greet my dear friend, Persis, another woman who has worked very hard* in the Lord. (Romans 16:12)No details are given as to the specific nature of the work except for the phrase “in the Lord” which implies they were in some way involved in evangelism. Other biblical examples of women involved in evangelism are the Samaritan woman (John 4:39-42), Priscilla with her husband (Romans 16:3-5), and the women from Galilee (Luke 8:1-3). They were doing so by putting in exhausting labor. Their women’s ministry wasn’t about retreats to pamper one another with expensive products. They would have followed Jesus’ instruction to his disciples:
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)Their women’s ministry wasn’t about retreats with other women doing spa-like activities with expensive products to pamper their bodies and emotions. Their ministry involved mental and physical effort in bringing hope through Jesus to people who are weary of toiling without hope in a world that offers none. (Matthew 11:28)
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor* and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (I Timothy 4:9-10)The Apostle Paul set an example by his labor: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor,* struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29) Those “who work hard in the Lord” do put out their own physical and mental effort, but God is the one who supplies the energy.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder* than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. (I Corinthians 15:9-11; see verses 1-8 for the gospel Paul preached.)We can be certain that these women who were involved in evangelism were supporting, teaching, or even preaching (proclaiming) the same gospel that Paul did. God’s grace--his strength and his gifts--provides the energy to continue working hard. We don’t have to depend solely on our own physical strength and abilities. But God does expect his workers to work. The harvest will not be reaped by careless and half-hearted effort.
Paul, also, greeted Mary “who worked very hard” for the Christians who made up the church in Rome. (Romans 16:6) Her work was directed towards those who had already accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. She put as much or more effort in helping her fellow Christians as Persis, Tryphena and Tryphosa had in taking the gospel to those who hadn’t yet heard it.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10)People who work hard do get tired. They take time to rest and to pray and even go on an occasional retreat to regain energy. Then they go back to work. They keep the end result in mind and stay motivated. They look to God for the strength and willingness to keep on working.
*The Greek translated here as “work hard” and “worked very hard” means “to grow weary, tired, exhausted with toil or burdens or grief and to labour with wearisome effort, bodily labour, toiling” (The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible copyright 2001 Thomas Nelson Publishers.) The same Greek word is translated “labor” in Colossians 1:29 and I Timothy 4:9.
For the Scripture References and
related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible
Study Guide: For This We Labor.