The Labor

“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you, but I could wish to be with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” Galatians 4:19-20

Paul’s relationship with these Galatian Christians was intense and intimate. He was not a distant, spiritual guru sending them pleasant platitudes fit for an embroidered throw pillow or a bumper sticker. He was a fully engaged father who was willing to risk all he had invested in them by getting in their faces and correcting them. Separated from them, he interceded for them.

Paul was not interested in being a pen pal to his children. They were his responsibility, and though he was penned up in prison, the tone of his letter roared with disapproval over their behavior. He did not turn a blind eye to it. He reminded them that they were adopted sons of God. In one sense of the word Paul said they were birthed by him, a product of his labor.

As Dana and I were driving to the hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, anticipating the birth of our first child, she made a profound statement. Thirty-five years later, I remember it like it was yesterday. She said, “I have come to a point, where I finally realize I am in the middle something that I can’t back out of.”

I didn’t try to correct Dana about ending a sentence with a preposition. It just didn’t seem wise at the time. My wife just looks little. She had a lot on her mind. But I digress.

What took place after we arrived at St. Francis hospital gave a whole new meaning to the concept of “pulling an all-nighter.” Giving birth to a child is a labor of love that only a mother can understand. Those who stand beside a woman in the Labor Room, know it is aptly named.  To be sure, giving birth is a labor of love, but make no mistake about it. It is hard work.

Paul had invested a great deal in the birth of the Galatian Church. His labor of love did not end at their birth. It was the beginning of a life long labor of prayer for him, and a life long learning process for them. “I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4:19

The labor of giving birth pales in comparison to the amount of time, treasure, angst, energy, trauma and drama that parents invest in raising children. Contemporary culture does not value true parenting, so it is plagued by a multitude of “baby daddies.” Making a baby and raising a child are two different things.

In the same vein, planting a church is hard work, but developing healthy Christians takes a lifetime.  Paul was up for the task. Those who bring children into the world or start new churches soon find out that the hardest work of their lives takes place after the Labor Room, not in it.

Note to self: Pray for healthy churches, not just for more of them.

Contemporary culture elevates a player to rock start status. Making babies without having any responsibility for raising them is not punished, but rewarded. Paul never yielded his parental rights. He reinforced them. His communication with his children was marked by relentless intercession for them. He was not a player. He was a pray-er. Real men always are.

Those who think prayer is women’s work need to man up, by praying for and with their children. Prayer gives a man a whole new appreciation for hard work. Women do it well. Men need to do it better. Read Paul’s testimony about praying for his children and take it to heart.  He played no favorites. He prayed for them all.

“I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16

“…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Colossians 1:9

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,..” Philippians 1:9

“…we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling…” 2 Thessalonians 1:11

“I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:27-28

“Praying until…” is the mark of an intercessor. Prayer warriors do not look at the clock to determine if they are finished praying. They look at the face of Jesus, and pray for others until they see His resemblance in them.  TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!