And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
(Galatians 6:9 NASB)
Florence Chadwick had already swum the English Channel both directions, setting records each time. So she clearly had the capability to swim the 26 miles from Catalina Island to the coast of California when she entered the water in 1952 to make the attempt. She swam steadily for 15 hours, but then a thick fog set in. She couldn’t see the shore and she became discouraged. She told her mother, who was alongside in a boat, that she didn’t think she could make it. After another hour of effort, she asked to be pulled out of the water. As she sat in the boat, she discovered that she had quit just one mile short of the finish line.
We all know the feeling: “I can’t keep going any longer!”
For us, it might be the daily grind of tending toddlers, the tedium of a dead-end job, or the endless load of living with a chronic disability.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia, it was simply the challenge of being faithfulness when no rewards were visible on the horizon.
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time, we shall reap, if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)
He used the image from agriculture to make his point. The farmer sows the seed at the beginning of the growing season in the hope of reaping a bumper crop at harvest time. Every day he’s out there irrigating the fields and chopping out weeds, chasing off the pests and checking the sprouts. Week after week he labors in the hot sun. Toward the end of the season, he has worn himself out tending the crops – and he doesn’t have a single grain of wheat or barley to show for his work!
How easy to be discouraged. How hard to keep on doing the work!
Like the farmer, we sow spiritual seeds. We can invest our time and energy “in the flesh,” working toward selfish, short-sighted objectives. Or we can “sow to the Spirit,” spending our efforts on the things of eternal value. We can strive for a harvest of cash or prestige, or we can devote our time to things that bring rewards from the hand of God.
How easy to be discouraged after years of plodding obedience, with no end to the work in sight!
Paul uses two different Greek words to describe the danger.
“Let us not lose heart.” The Greek word is enkakeō – “to lose heart, to lack courage, to be fainthearted.”
“We shall reap, if we do not grow weary.” The Greek word is ekluō – “to be exhausted, to faint.”
Two factors cause a person to give up halfway through a race. First, physical exhaustion makes it harder and harder to keep going. Second, mental exhaustion makes you ready to quit.
Florence Chadwick was physically drained, but it was the mental discouragement that motivated her to climb into the boat.
Today let’s consider the second word, ekluō to find out what kinds of pressures will drive a person to the point of quitting.
1. Physical hunger can sap your strength.
Jesus had just spent three solid days teaching a huge gathering of over 4000 people, and it was time to break up the meeting. But it wasn’t that simple. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat, and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3).
Remember how you feel when you skip a meal? These people had been around Jesus for three days, and had long ago consumed the sack lunch they had originally brought. Now they were looking at walking several miles, still with no food. Jesus saw the problem and compassionately provided a miraculous meal for them. Now they could make it to the end of their journey!
2. Facing opposition can wear you down.
The book of Hebrews was written to people who were thinking of dropping Christianity and going back to Judaism. They were swimming against a tide of Jewish opposition, and life just seemed too hard.
The writer of Hebrews tells them to look at the example of Jesus, “who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).
3. Divine discipline can seem too hard to bear.
Hebrews 12:5 cites a pertinent passage in Proverbs: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him” (Proverbs 3:12).
When you go through a long dark tunnel that has been arranged by God for your good, don’t give up, even if you cannot yet see the light at the end.
When you are exhausted, here are two truths from these verses that will give you fresh strength.
First, notice that Jesus knew exactly when his hearers needed help. He provided the meal that they could not arrange for themselves. He knows exactly what you need, and he will provide it at just the right time.
Second, rest on God’s promise that you really will reap a harvest in the end. You may not be able to see the results of your unseen faithfulness right now, but God has promised that your reward is waiting for you up ahead.
Florence Chadwick came back a year later and successfully completed the crossing from Catalina to California. She said she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her head while she swam, and she made it!
So can you.
© Ezra Project 2019