Time was that when you asked someone in greeting, “How are you?” the stock response was “Fine.” Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more of this answer, “Tired.” This is merely anecdotal and doesn’t prove a thing, but this observation made me turn to the Word to see what God told us about weariness. (I sometimes suspect I get this answer a lot more often because I’m a pastor and when people see me, they’re concerned I’m going to ask them a favor. So out of self-defense, they want me to know they’re unavailable by virtue of being tired.) What I found was instructive and I want to share it with you now. Actually, I’ll share the first half today and the next half this week. I believe that weariness is so endemic to our culture that it deserves full consideration.
Doing good is wearying, but don’t quit!
(Please read Galatians 6:7-10)
To avoid proof-texting, we need to first unpack the context.
- New Testament: the New Covenant, the new agreement between God and man, mediated by Jesus Christ.
- Galatians: the truth of the New Covenant threatened by people telling new converts they have to be Jews first.
- Galatians 6:1-10: One part of truly being a Christian is doing good to others.
- Galatians 6:9-10: Doing good can wear us out, but we can’t quit!
What makes us weary?
Doing evil (acts and attitudes that are morally wrong). In the short term especially, doing evil is sometimes easier and quicker. However, as Galatians 6:7-8 warns us, the Law of Sowing and Reaping (the spiritual version of the physical law of “Cause and Effect”) is always at work, and doing evil is ultimately more difficult and harder on us.
Hangovers, flashbacks, and STDs are all examples of the way that sinful choices work against us in the body. We’ve all known folks who are characterized by doing wrong and their body betrays them; they look older than they are and have directly-related health problems.
Doing OK (morally neutral actions and attitudes). This is more common; people overload their lives doing too much. Too much work, too much play, too many activities, too full a schedule. Each of their activities aren’t right or wrong, they’re just too numerous.
We do harm to ourselves in every way when we don’t schedule enough “down” time; time to rest and reflect. We all need time when we take a break from DOING.
Doing good (attitudes and actions that are morally right). Now we come to our passage. Paul is writing here about people who are doing God’s will and finding it difficult; they find it wearying.
In the original language, verse 9 is a play on words; “Let us not ‘go to seed’ during the time of harvest.” The reward for our labors, the fruit of our ministry is right around the corner; this is no time to give up!
In response to the problem of weariness that discouragement that comes from doing good, Paul offers a promise: AT THE PROPER TIME WE WILL REAP A HARVEST IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP. Let’s unpack three truths from this sentence:
- AT THE PROPER TIME refers to God’s timing. God’s time is always the PROPER TIME; our timing may not be. Just as the weather and the seasons are not ours to command, the periods of sowing & reaping are ours to determine. What’s up to us is to be obedient at all times.
- REAP A HARVEST introduces Paul’s explanation of how the Law of Sowing & Reaping benefits those who do good. The HARVEST will come, in part, on Judgment Day when eternal rewards are sorted out and it will come, in another part, at any point in this life that God chooses. We can trust that He will reward us and leave the timing to Him.
- IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP. There are days. We have them in this life. But God’s promises are to the OVERCOMER, to the one who finishes in the faith, to the one who does not give up! Surely this is what inspired the Apostle to write ONLY LET US LIVE UP 2 WHAT WE’VE ALREADY ATTAINED (Philippians 3:16). There will be days when the best progress we can make is to not go backward. That’s OK. It’s just human nature and divine testing. God is no less in control and our salvation is closer, not further away. DON’T GIVE UP!
Paul also offers a method: AS WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY, LET US DO GOOD TO ALL PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF BELIEVERS. Again, we have three truths to unpack:
- AS WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY is the corelary to AT THE PROPER TIME: the emphasis is on God’s sovereignty. Sometimes we beat ourselves up because we’re not more assertive or aggressive or proactive; we’re not out there creating opportunities. What seems to be more important to God is that we act when HE presents us with an opportunity. We must drop what we’re doing & follow Him.
Opportunities will hardly ever be convenient; it will frequently not make sense and it will almost always require us to get out of our comfort zone. On the other hand, it will always be the right thing to do, it will always be operating within our giftedness, and it will always result in a blessing (HARVEST) for ourselves and others.
This is not about legalism or planning or any other kind of activity that is related to our own strengths. It is simply about obedience. God tells you what to do. Will you do it or not?
- LET US DO GOOD TO ALL PEOPLE is like “Who is my neighbor? We’re told all the time that we live in a more global world, that technology is making global connections. Well… maybe. But what’s true here is that Christians have always had a global concern for people. We define “neighbor” not by geography or ethnicity, but by need. All who need are “neighbor” to us!
- ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF BELIEVERS. While we are to love globally, there is still a priority given to our brothers and sisters in the faith. We’re to care for one another first and foremost. This is not an exclusive kind of caring, but a prioritizing. We must seize every OPPORTUNITY to love and serve one another.