“So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9 (NET)
The Bible is, in many ways, an owner’s manual to be consulted often by the body of Christ as we walk through this twisted world. The Epistles in particular directly address adverse situations that arose in the churches and their congregations. All of the authors were aware of the difficulties that Christians faced on a daily basis and it was their aim to offer practical advice to those who honestly wanted to be more like the Lord. As I’ve pointed out in this series, there are a myriad of reasons for spiritual depression and Satan is behind every one of them. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “The ills of the spiritual life are always the same, they never vary. The appearances differ, the particular guise in which the trouble may appear may vary, but the cause of it all is the devil and he never varies in his ultimate objective.” His goal is our destruction. In Galatians we find yet another cause to consider in the matter of the born again blues and it reminds us of Satan’s diabolically subtle ways. He’s a sneaky little devil. I previously highlighted how that jerk tempts believers to stray via false teachings that beckon us to put other things ahead of God, always a disastrous move. Paul said a lot about that earlier in Galatians but in this verse he focuses on one of Satan’s even more clandestine ploys. He’ll often attack Christians trying to do all the right things and go in the right direction by introducing a weariness into their countenance that’s debilitating. They grow tired of the constant uphill climb and they end up shuffling along with their chins on their chests and their hearts down in the dumps.
While none are immune to spiritual fatigue, it’s especially prevalent in what’s called our “middle ages.” It’s ironic that in the years between 30 and 60, when we should be at our physical and mental peak, we’re then most susceptible to the Christian blues brought on by feeling plumb wore out. This condition isn’t limited to the spiritual life. Most people hone their God-given skills in their late teens and 20s, then building a career or a business diligently in hopes of attaining a certain level of success in their middle ages only to find it impossible to climb any farther. They reach a plateau and it seems like it takes everything to just stay at that level, draining them of the stimulus that got them there. They find it harder to maintain that perch than it ever was to achieve it. Read a bio of almost any admired person and you’ll see it happens even to the rich and famous. It’s equally true for believers. When one first accepts Christ a whole new world of possibilities opens up in which new revelations concerning God’s grace never seem to stop rolling down the pike. But eventually life on this fallen planet crowds back in and we settle into a dull routine that saps our spirit. The thrill is gone, you might say. This can affect us as individuals, in our professions, in our churches and in our nation. I see it frequently in the Celebrate Recovery ministry. Someone with a destructive hurt, hang-up or habit finally shows up one night out of desperation and realizes that there’s a way out of their misery through the healing power of Christ. The relief they find sets them on fire for Jesus for weeks, months and even years but eventually their initial inertia runs its course and they get disgusted with their lack of progress. Happens all the time. That’s what Paul deals with in this verse. To make matters worse, our friends and family members inevitably do disruptive things that add to our exasperation, leading us to “grow weary in doing good.” We can become disheartened because nothing seems to improve what appears to be our inability to be a positive influence on those around us.
So what do we do when we’re running on fumes? Here’s some do’s and don’ts. First, don’t listen to the voice telling you to throw in the towel. There’s a strong temptation to say “This is too much for me. Trying to be a good Christian is an exercise in futility. I should just live for the pleasures this world can provide.” As hard as it may be, you gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other and push onward. Second, don’t simply resign yourself to the difficulties that come with carrying the banner of Christ. It’s a tragedy when people abandon their faith but it’s just as sad when they slog on sans any semblance of joy or enthusiasm. You know of what I speak. How many of us look back at our youthful “glory days” and begin to believe the best is behind us. We stoically tell ourselves to carry on nonetheless but we do so without hope or happiness. The devil dances the mambo when we let that happen. Speaking of that creep, the third thing is don’t let down your guard and allow Satan to get his foot in the door. It’s when you’re overwhelmed by life that he whispers in your ear, suggesting that you need stimulation. Furthermore, he’ll say you deserve a break today. Why should sinners have all the fun, anyway? Maybe reward yourself with a few stiff drinks. Or a toke on a joint. Or some vile porn. Most folks who relapse into the throes of addiction do so because they rationalize that they’ve earned the right to a little bit of pleasure and it’ll be okay to let off some steam. Our sense of entitlement is a strong demon. It can convince us that we’re sick of all this “doing good” stuff and send us off on an ugly tangent. We can’t limit this phenomenon to just men and women, either. Churches can stagnate to the point where the leaders decide they need to inject pizzazz and/or modernized methods into their ministry. The next thing you know they’re organizing things like soccer teams for the kids and Find-a-Mate singles parties to liven things up. It’s a subtle temptation because those well-intended programs look so positive but what they do in the long run is turn the burnout ratio up a notch. When someone turns to drink for stress relief it only drags their energy level down further. The spiral intensifies as they find they need more alcohol to feel the same effect. The same thing can happen in a church if they drift away from emphasizing the gospel, relying on perks and gimmicks in order to attract more people.
I’ve presented some don’ts. Now let’s look at the big do. Do stop and take a hard look at where you’re at and how you got there, then give yourself a stern talking to. There’s no use looking for a remedy if you don’t know what ails you. Ask yourself tough questions. Why do I feel so spent? How did I get in this condition? The most obvious answer may be that you’ve become a workaholic. You’re trying so hard in your career to advance or get a raise or gain in stature there’s little left for being a full-time Christian. Stop and rejuvenate! Elijah is an example. Following his wild feat on Mt. Carmel he was pooped. He fell into a funk, collapsed beneath a tree, pouted and cried out to God, “Just kill me, will ya?” What Mr. Dramatic needed more than anything was shuteye and a sandwich so God provided both right away before he gave him spiritual nourishment. Another cause could be you’re doing your Christian duty by means of your own strength instead of drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit inside you. Are you trying to do God’s work all by yourself? If you are it’ll crush you because the task is bigger than you’ll ever be. We gotta let go and allow God to use us as He sees fit. If we do, He’ll supply all the vigor we need to get the job done. However, all this speculation leads to a very important self-query. Why have I been laboring for Christ in the first place? What’s my motive? This is crucial because we may find that we’ve taken our salvation for granted or assumed our motive was pure when, in actuality, it wasn’t. As I hinted at earlier, it’s easy to toil for Jesus at the beginning because the new creation you transform into is full of gratitude and enthusiasm for the gospel. But when that excitement wanes, as it surely will, we can become disillusioned. That’s when our great foe, denial, steps into the breach and hides the fact that we’re doing our Christian work in order to puff ourselves up so we can boast of how wonderful, generous and special we are. If we subject ourselves to serious self-examination we might discover that we’re not doing what we do for the glory of Christ. We’ve become Pharisees. We’ve put our ego before God.
Let’s go deeper. Has the task of performing good deeds become the sole thing that gets you out of bed in the morning? In other words, has God’s work become your work? I’ll clarify. We can succumb to the danger of letting our regimen of Christian activities be what keeps us going instead of continually seeking God and aspiring to be more like Jesus. What happens is that when we get sick or grow old and can’t do what we used to do we slip into depression because that was our purpose in life. Becoming less spry is a fate we all share so a mature perspective on aging is essential to living the full Christian life. In fact, as John Owen wrote, “Older, more experienced Christians often have greater troubles, temptations and difficulties in the world. God has new work for them to do. He now plans that all the graces they have be used in new and harder ways.” In other words, even though we got our AARP card God is far from being done with us. A thread that runs throughout this series is that self-examination is a vital tool for combating the pesky blues bug and the Bible is of supreme help in finding a cure. Paul indicates that there are phases we go through as followers of Jesus. We’re told that we start as babies in Christ, that we grow into adults with guidance from the Holy Spirit and that we’ll one day face mortal death. Our feelings and emotions throughout these phases will vary from peace to turbulence and back again and we must learn to handle those volatile swings. Often believers experience weariness because certain feelings go AWOL and they start thinking they’ve let Jesus down when all that’s happened is that they’ve grown older. Here’s an illustration. When my daughter goes to Walmart with my young grandson he runs. She walks. He’s full of unbridled energy and doesn’t know how to keep a lid on it. While it may not appear so on the surface, she actually has more energy than he does because she’s a healthy adult. She’s just learned how to manage it efficiently. As Christians we must teach ourselves to accept the phases and stages of development that are part of our earthly experience and not overreact when we feel beaten down by what swirls around us.
We must pay attention to our attitude about “doing good.” If we start thinking of it as monotonous drudgery it’ll bleed into our outlook on life and the result will be depression and burnout. But Paul asserts that we Christians are expected to do nothing else but good and if we consider it a burden we insult God. We’ve been set apart to avoid doing things that “everybody else” does. We’re to walk the straight and narrow path and sometimes we see it as too straight and narrow, that we’re being unfairly put upon. If we regard following Jesus as stiffly obeying ordered duties with our teeth clenched then we’re missing the point. The Christian life isn’t a chore, it’s an honor. It’s a golden opportunity for us to pursue holiness, purity and righteousness for His sake. We must remind ourselves that we’re the blessed ones who’ve been allowed to escape the broad freeway of our previous lives, filled with useless selfishness, to tread the narrow trail that leads to eternity with our Father in heaven because a steep price was paid. Jesus’ sacrifice canceled the massive debt we could never put a dent in. That’s the only reason we’re not damned. If you resent your Christian life in any way, shape or form then I urge you to peer back into the dark land you once languished in. I quote Lloyd-Jones again. “Look at the world in its evil and sin, look at the hell to which it was leading you, and then look forward and realize that you are set in the midst of the most glorious campaign into which a man could ever enter, and that you are on the noblest road that the world has ever known.” Mull that for a moment and then take it a step further. This ain’t home. Paul wrote, “So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.” Put your life in the context of forever. You’ll see we’re toddling around in Pre-K. Even the great Christian writer Larry Crabb admits that sometimes he “feels like a teenager still stuck in second grade.” Your happiest moment was but a sip of the joy that awaits you in heaven. The harvest is coming. Don’t let fatigue cause you to lose sight of the glow just over the horizon. The Bible says “…Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” Colossians 3:2 reads, “Keep thinking on things above, not things on this earth.” There’s your cure right there, folks. Follow Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Above all remember who you belong to, how He endured cruel torture and an excruciating death for you. Ponder Hebrews 12:4, “You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin.” Jesus did. He left heaven to come to earth whereupon He had to deal with petty people who didn’t understand Him yet He did so with patience and love. How? Because He knew there was a fantastic day coming when all would be put right and that knowledge helped Him to persevere and triumph on the cross. And now we have the privilege of being like Him. He said in Matthew 16:24, “…If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Notice He didn’t say anything about a sweet, easy life. In fact, Paul expresses in Colossians 1:24 that he “rejoices” in making up in his own body what remains of the suffering of Christ. Knowing of the Apostle’s trials and tribulations we should be humbled by his courage. In comparison, our load is light as a feather. I suggest we all ask our Lord’s forgiveness for ever thinking we’ve “grown weary in doing good.” We must recommit ourselves to doing whatever God requires of us with a cheerful countenance and a grateful heart. If we’ll draw on the Holy Spirit that dwells in us we’ll find the rejuvenating waters still flowing that Jesus promised the day we surrendered our lives to Him. And someday soon we’ll hear Christ say to us, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” Oh, happy day.
(Inspired by the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book, “Spiritual Depression.”)