Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are You Weary In Doing Good?

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? ~ Galatians 3:3

I am a very organized person. I love processing, projecting, planning and performing what I’ve planned. Give me a messy house and in five minutes I’ll have a plan for cleaning it – and I’ll do it too. Give me a complicated project and I’ll enjoy simplifying it and accomplishing the goal. The idea of homeschooling my own children someday inspires me with all sorts of ideas for organizing schedules, laying out curriculum, planning field trips, and so on. I like to help, organize, be of service and generally make things easier for people.

But every time I try to do this, I hit a snag. I run smack-dab into the realization that I am human, not superwoman. I can’t organize all my problems away. I can’t plan everything perfectly, and even if I do, the unexpected always seems to crop up. I can’t always complete projects promptly due to my own physical weakness. I find this very frustrating at times.

I have often prayed things like, “Lord, you told us in your Word not to grow weary in doing good. But how can I do good if I’m too exhausted to go on? How can I serve others if my own weakness requires that they have to serve me? What good am I to Your kingdom when I can’t even complete a normal day’s work?”

Recently God has been answering these prayers for me, and I thought I’d share with you the encouragement I’ve received.

We Need More Than Human Effort
The first answer God gave me was through a friend talking with me about Galatians. The book of Galatians is basically the Apostle Paul’s thesis for why we should pursue Christian living through the strength of the Holy Spirit, rather than through our own strength. The crux of the argument is in Galatians 3:3 where Paul asks the question, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Good question.

I think we all agree that our salvation and subsequent spiritual growth are due to God’s grace, not our own efforts. And yet, so often we humans seem to forget that when it comes down to daily living. We stress over things not going according to our plans, we fume when the kids don’t seem to be responding to our teaching, we huff when others don’t do what we want them to do – and we feel discouraged when we can’t make things happen the way we planned. Basically, we forget that God is in control and we can only accomplish good things through His strength.

As Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has planned our good works for us and He will provide the strength to accomplish them.

We Need Help From Friends
The second answer to prayer that God gave me was through another conversation with a friend. This friend has spent his life in mighty service to God, and is now experiencing physical problems. He mentioned the difficulty of swallowing his pride and asking others to help him. As we talked, God showed me the important truth that, in reality, everyone needs help. Some people need help in obvious ways, like a person in a wheel chair. Some need help in a less obvious manner, like the mother who needs someone to help her catch up on laundry. But no one in the world is exempt from needing help.

For some reason, we often tend to think that because we have God’s grace to rely on, we are self-sufficient. We can manage to live a cheerful, serving, abundant life without the help of anyone else. But often the way God gives us His grace and strength is through the help of others. The man who is a pillar in his church has a supportive wife encouraging him behind the scenes. The couple who raises eight godly children has some prayer warriors uplifting them each day. The college student who not only keeps a 4.0 grade point average but also continues to be active in ministry has a helpful parent or sibling in the background. Behind every godly Christian is usually a group of other Christians who care enough to pray for, and help the person. This is one of the ways God sends His strength to us.

Suffering, weakness, and plain old inability are facts of life – even the Christian’s life. Look at the great men and women of faith in the Bible. David’s own son turned against him, Job lost his wealth and his children, nearly all of the prophets struggled against a perverse and unbelieving nation, Esther lived in exile at the mercy of a pagan king, and on it goes. Even Christ suffered as His own disciples misunderstood and even abandoned Him.  Sometimes I get a little amused at myself for thinking that I can somehow be exempt from the ranks of suffering Christians who have gone before me.

In summary, God has been teaching me lately that it’s only in His strength that I can accomplish good things. And often His strength is brought to me through the help of others. As you go forward in your school year, I pray that you also can remember these same lessons.

When times are good, the children are learning and life is going smoothly, thank God for His mercy! But when the tough times come (as they will) and the washing machine breaks, the dog throws up, the kids get the flu or the car runs out of gas, remember that you are part of a great cloud of witnesses who have also suffered in doing good. Ask God to give you His strength for the job, and remember that sometimes His strength can come through others’ help. It’s okay to admit you’re not perfect! Call a veteran homeschooling mom for advice. Ask a godly friend to pray for you. Tell your kids that you’re having a rough day and ask them for their help.

And most of all remember – we cannot attain our goal by human effort. We must rely on God’s grace and mercy. Remember the word of the Lord in Zechariah 4:6: “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Written by Heather Sheen

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