I used to run a bit in high school for fitness. Now that I have been out of high school for over twenty years walks are about all I can manage, so that is why I have been particularly impressed by a runner that I see nearly every morning on my drive to work. I end up passing him at about the same spot at the same time every day. By looking at him I am guessing that he is about ten or fifteen years older than me, but he runs rain or shine, snow or sleet, wind or calm. That kind of perseverance and faithfulness inspires me when I think about life in ministry.
The Flowers blog theme for this year is faithfulness, and we’ve chosen as our theme verse Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” It encourages us that tireless tending reaps rewards.
According to the passage of which this verse is a part, if we are going to be faithful in ministry, first we need to tend our own heart.
As shepherds we are often in the role of calling people out of their sin and into the gospel of grace, but if we don’t do it with a spirit of gentleness and with a sobering look at our own tendency to fall into temptation we will be of no good to these wayward sheep.
In fact, Paul’s warning is clear that if we begin to think we are better than those who we are serving then we are deceiving ourselves (see Galatians 6:3). Ouch! This is convicting to me. It’s so easy to feel we know more than the people in our congregation because of our level of education or experience with people, but if we forget that we are saved by grace too, then we will be deceiving ourselves and fall into trouble.
We need to take time to examine ourselves and to check our thoughts towards others to be sure they are in line with truth and grace. Each one of us will be held accountable for our own actions and attitudes (see Galatians 6:5&7). If we sow kindness, truth, and grace we will reap the rewards of grace and forgiveness and peace. If we sow bitterness and complaining and envy and selfishness, we will reap strife, unrest, anger, and pain.
If we are not connected to our Lord, faithfully seeking Him and tending our own souls to weed out these fleshly things as verse eight says (see Galatians 6:8) we will not be able to reap fruit in our ministry as we seek to tend to the souls of others.
That brings us to the next main point of this passage: not only do we need to tend our own heart, but we need to tend to the hearts of others.
The call is clear that we are to reach out and restore those who are sinning to bring them to Christ. This is applied to all Christians, regardless of whether or not you are a pastor, pastor’s wife, or ministry leader. We are to help bear one another’s burdens. We all know we need one another, and we have the privilege to take up with our own hands and carry on ourselves the burdens of others. There are times we can do that for others and times when we need to receive that ourselves.
We ought not to be weary or exhausted or weak as we do good for others. Why? Because as our theme verse says, “in due time”–in “one’s own distinct time” is one meaning of the word here–then we will reap a harvest. How? If we do not give up.
We can only do that by the grace of God, but His grace is enough, and if we do…the promise is great: in just the right time and season WE WILL REAP.
The reaping in the church where my husband Mark and I are serving will be unique to us. The timing will be different from the reaping in the church of which you are a part; the kind of harvest will be different, the kind of crops harvested will be different. I think the only thing that we will have in common is this—all of our tending and harvesting will require manure!
I see farmer’s fields out of three sides of my house. At certain times of the year the fresh country air is more ripe than fresh with the pungent and not-so-pleasant aroma of manure being spread on the fields.
I can’t complain about the times when it seems like our work in God’s field seems to bring out one big holy stink! I say holy because even in the difficult times when the devil seems to be winning, when conflict is happening and people are complaining or unity seems to be as far away as the closest mall, in our own distinct time we will still reap. The yucky parts are all necessary to bring about the harvest, and God will do it, even if it means some stinky moments and difficult plowing.
Because of the rewards, Paul urges us to use to full advantage every opportunity that we have to do good to all people, but–and I love this part—especially to those in the house of faith (see Galatians 6:10).
As pastors’ wives we have the privilege of regularly serving those who belong to the house of God, and by His grace we can do it without losing heart. Anyone who is a believer can do the same.
I love the examples of faithful saints who have gone before us. One great example is of William Carey.
William Carey was raised in a rural village in England, apprenticed in a cobbler’s shop where he was converted and taught himself New Testament Greek. He eventually married, lost a child to death at age two, and sunk into poverty.
The article shared this quote that he wrote later about this time, “I can plod. I can persevere to any definite pursuit,” which he did, studying other languages and cultures. He eventually organized a missionary society at a time when the churches didn’t believe missions were necessary.
Then he headed to India with his wife and children. It was a hard life, living in this different culture. They faced illness and discouragement, the death of another child, and a mental health breakdown by his wife.
It was seven years before he had his first convert, and there were only 700 converts in the large nation after 41 years in India without a furlough. Talk about not growing weary! But he helped translate the Scriptures into many different languages, assisted with social reform, and founded a college which still offers theological education today.
It is evident that William Carey had some times when the tending got tough, but he didn’t give up, and eternal rewards have certainly been reaped because he was faithful to what God had called Him to do and did not lose heart or give up.
William Carey served the same God we serve! We dare not lose heart because if we keep tirelessly tending the part of God’s Garden we’ve been given we will reap the rewards.
And my runner friend, well…I’m not sure what kind of rewards he’s trying to reap, but what I do know is that the other day I saw him on the other side of town in the afternoon when I was going home a different way. I don’t imagine he had been running the whole entire day, but he has sure reminded me that tireless tending reaps rewards. I don’t want to give up either!
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