I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain Galatians 4:11
In Vain – Jesus wept over the fruitlessness of his message to Jerusalem. Paul’s tears come in a different form but they are just as wrenching. We must also feel what brings these men to agony if we are to know God’s heart. We must feel the edge of ruin if we are to know God’s pain.
Do you fear that you might labor in vain? The Greek is eike. You will find it is Romans 13:4 and Galatians 3:4 with the same meaning: “to no purpose”. God, of course, never labors in vain. But we do. The natural resistance of the heart often means that our efforts to reveal the message of redemption and righteousness are repelled. In the end, only God can break a man’s vanity.
There is another view here; one that is far more chilling. Paul writes to the Galatian believers. This is not a message to those who stand apart from the good news, jeering at the crucified God. This is fear and trembling over those who know the Christ but, for reasons entirely sinister, are slipping back into the old ways. The grip of rules, the fear of circumstances, the guilt of disobedience is conspiring to pull them away from scandalous freedom and reckless forgiveness. Somewhere in the hearts of these believers the enemy is on the prowl. They have begun to distrust their Lord.
Paul’s pen might quake over me. Jesus might weep over me. There are times when I struggle to believe; times when the enemy seems so close I can smell the sulfur on his breath; times when he seems to know all of my defenses; every fissure in my soul. And it scares me. I fear that my salvation will be in vain. I fear that I am clawing against the grade, slipping, scrambling to stay out of the hell I once knew. “God, be merciful to me a sinner. Snatch me from this grasp. I need you, Lord.”
Jesus saves. Not me. Not the church. Not the Book. Lest I forget the great peril of my life, I need to taste the tears of eike. Can I truly know the heart of God without trembling? “Lord, let my faith not be in vain”.