“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”
“To this end”
The word “end” refers to “maturity” in verse 28. Paul made one of his personal goals in life to develop mature believers.
“I also labor”
The word “labor” means to work to the point of exhaustion. Paul expended his strength to make believers mature in Christ. He knew something about how to work hard.
“striving according to His working”
Paul’s labors involved “striving” or struggling (Co 2:1; 4:12). This word means to agonize like an athlete in the heat of competition (1 Cor 9:25; 1 Tim. 6:12). He viewed ministry as an athletic contest that required great exertion. He strove like a marathon runner who sprints to the finish line with great agony. It means to compete with every ounce of energy we possess. Paul contended with many difficulties in his work.
“which works in me mightily”
God works in the apostle “mightily” to enable him to facilitate the maturity of believers. If we are to mature believers in ministry, it will require the power of God. God will have to provide the operating power. Paul did not use his own natural power in ministry. It was not his talent, gift, education (considerable though it may have been), or his methodology (he was a master strategist). His power lay in drawing upon God’s strength.
Note these passages where God works in people:
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10).
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20,21).
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20,21).
God expects us to work hard but not in our own strength.
We are not susceptible to burnout if we operate in God’s strength. God does not call upon us to use our own puny power. The robust words “labor” and “striving” require God’s “working” and that “mightily.” Paul gave himself to a ministry whereby he put his trust in God’s power. So many authors today would claim that Paul was a workaholic. Here is a man who did not spare himself. He never reached a point of burn out because he rested on the power of God. The more we labor for the Lord, the greater measure of help God gives us. We can expect it from him (Eph. 3:7).