“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Sometimes I’d like to sit down with the Apostle Paul and ask him some questions. Like what he really meant by the women-should-wear-head-coverings-because-of-the-angels-thing, or if he and Barnabas ever spoke again after they parted ways, or if he has any idea who wrote the book of Hebrews, because let’s face it–none of us really have a clue.
But there are more serious questions. One question I’d like to ask Paul is how to persevere doing good. How do you not become weary? How do I? How did he? Ministry is a joy and a privilege, but sometime’s it’s hard, and hard things wear you down. You sign on in August to teach the children’s class with visions of bright-eyed faces hanging on every word, but somewhere around March after months of dealing with the reality of real children with real problems from real families, there are days when you fantasize about what would happen if just this one week no one showed up. Or you pour your heart and soul into a book, only to pile up pages of rejection letters telling you to build your platform or work on your craft. Or you finally step out into that ministry position only to be met with the unwelcome shock of the ugly side of church life, and it’s enough to make you start wondering how hard it is to get hired as a greeter at WalMart.
How do you persevere in doing good? How did Paul do it when his opposition in Thessalonica wasn’t content to drive him out of town, but also followed him to Berea and harrassed him there? Or when he had to write the church Corinth telling them to stop suing each other and to stop abusing the Lord’s supper and to for heaven’s sake do something about that man sleeping with his father’s wife, and they responded by calling him fickle for his change of plans, accusing him of being strong in his letters but weak in person, and apparently calling his financial integrity into question? Why was he putting so much effort into promoting that offering for Jerusalem anyway? Does anyone really know how he supports himself? Where does his money come from? How did he persevere when he finally succeeded in delivering the offering to Jerusalem, only to be falsely accused, imprisoned, put through a sham trial, and eventually delivered to Rome in chains? Not to mention being shipwrecked, flogged, beaten, and stoned. Paul knew the hardships of ministry. How did he persevere?
I’m not likely to get to chat with Paul this side of heaven, but I do have something that can help me understand how he might answer that perseverance question: his letters. So here’s some of Paul’s advice on how to persevere in doing good:
Learn to rely on God’s deliverance: “But his happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
Practice joy, thanksgiving, and prayer: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Pray for those you minister to: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:9-10).
Remember the promise of glory: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21).
Trust in the power of the gospel: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Hope in what Christ has done: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Remember the harvest: “”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
When ministry gets hard, don’t give up. Hang in there. Press on. And look for the harvest.
What helps you persevere in doing good?