October 20, 2014

Back to Basics

Whenever I visit my homeland of Jamaica, the many unfinished buildings that mar the otherwise beautiful landscape disturb me. Perhaps the owners gave up, not because they intended to, but because they began construction before counting the unexpected, increasing demands of time, and having the resources necessary to complete their projects (Luke 14:28).

We are building a spiritual house (Heb. 3:6), made up of people who are drawn by the good news. Sometimes we don’t count the cost or see results as quickly as we had hoped. We may be tempted to quit.

Here’s some good advice from the apostle Paul: “Let us not become weary in doing good [or as it is written in the original language, let us not give in to evil while doing good], for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up [relax or get exhausted as a result of giving in to evil]. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:9, 10).

Isn’t it amazing how easily we get exhausted in doing good and “give in to evil,” or the things we hate? Even the apostle Paul struggled with this weakness, according to Romans 7:14-25.

Christians grow weary doing good for a variety of reasons. One is that we become discouraged when we don’t see immediate or continuing results in the godly things we do. Another is we fear what we have done was in vain, a common sentiment shared with Paul (Gal. 4:11). We also get overwhelmed from doing too many good things in our family, work, ministry, school etc., during which we burn out and give up on people and projects.

To those I say: Don’t think that Sabbath is a time that people are sanctified as a result of a few praise songs and a sermon. To our company of committed disciples or congregation I say: The acceptance of salvation and sanctification by grace through faith does not always happen in one day as a result of our various ministries, no matter how effective they are.

Be prepared for a lifetime of ministry during which we struggle with sins and shortcomings. Be prepared to labor at great lengths with long-suffering. Be prepared to nurture others and nourish ourselves with the Word and still not reap the results of seeing Christ sanctifying His people as soon as we pray and hope.

We mustn’t evaluate ministry on the basis of immediate results. But that’s hard to do in North America, where many want to taste the fruits of their labors the day they plant the seed. As in the natural world, so in the spiritual: most produce takes time to grow, ripen, and bear fruit. Likewise, it takes years before ministers reap the rewards of their investment in others. I myself, after decades of preaching, teaching, and reaching hundreds of young people, am still praying and waiting for someone to reach my own son.

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters,” wrote the apostle James, “until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7, 8).

If you’ve been growing weary in doing “good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers,” remember, “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

According to Philip Ryken: “The harvest will come. It will come at the proper time, a time determined not by the seasons or the weather, but by the will of God. Whether it comes during this life or when Christ comes again, the harvest will come in God’s own good time. In due season, those who do good will reap their reward. Jesus says, ‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what [he or she] has done’ (Rev. 22:12, ESV).”*

Until that harvest, keep sowing. The blessing is in the pressing.

* In wrathtoriches.wordpress.com/category/philip-ryken. Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.