Most products have a limited shelf life. This is especially true for perishable items like food. Milk, canned vegetables, and even dry foods packed in boxes or plastic bags usually have that familiar message saying: "Best if used by..." Consumers like their food to taste fresh. They certainly do not want to eat that which is spoiled.
What is true for food is also true for Christians! There is time when they are fresh and able to be used. If too much time elapses without being used, they cease being valuable. The ultimate "expiration date" for Christians comes at death. If a member of the church has not been used in the Lord's service before his death, then the Lord will reject him. The Lord will spit out spoiled souls because they are putrid to Him (cf. Rev. 3:16). The great warning in the parable of the talents is that if a person does nothing for the Lord, then that unprofitable servant will be cast into the outer darkness (cf. Matt. 25:25ff).
Jesus set the example for mankind in His working for God. The Lord declared - "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). The "day" is an allusion to life in this world while "night" anticipated His coming death. What was true for Jesus is also true for us. Long ago Solomon penned these words - "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven" (Eccl. 3:1). Later, in that great literary composition, he recorded - "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Eccl. 9:10).
Friends, life will come to an end one day for each of us--and then comes judgment (cf. Heb. 9:27). Christians who have worked for their Lord will find that death is the doorway into one's eternal reward. Jesus taught that man ought to lay up treasures in heaven. The wise will do so in this life by their "good works" (Eph. 2:10). Paul told Timothy - "Command those who are rich in this present age...[to] do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (I Tim. 6:17-19). The book of Revelation contains these words of comfort - "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them'" (Rev. 14:13).
Ultimately, Christians are best if used by...their Lord!
II Corinthians 8:1-5 reads:
"Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God."
To the saints at Corinth Paul encouraged - "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58).
Have you been keeping your soul fresh by laboring for the Lord?