“Tireless in Doing Good”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
Along with all the other clichés used to describe 2020, it has become commonplace to call it a “difficult” year. We all know this to be the case. It seems like everything we do now has become just a little bit harder. If you go to the store and forget your mask, you have to go back to the car and get your mask before going in the store.
I know that’s a trivial example, but even trivial burdens add up. Because life is harder, I think it’s fair to say that most of us feel like we’re in survival mode rather than flourishing mode. This is true in every area of our lives, but I think it’s particularly true in our spiritual lives. Instead of striving to bear fruit for Christ, many of us have fallen into the rut of existing.
This is a problem. Indeed, in Galatians 6, Paul warns us about growing weary in doing good. Other such warnings abound throughout the New Testament. Rather than focusing on the negative, though, this evening I want to look at the positive. I want to look at some reasons why, even in this difficult time, we should cowboy up and be tireless in doing good.
First, we should do so because IT ENCOURAGES OTHERS. Look at Paul’s self-description in 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8. I find this fascinating. We think of Paul as this titan of the first-century church, as indeed he was. By contrast, we don’t even know the names of most of the brethren in Thessalonica.
Nonetheless, the encouragement that those nameless Christians gave to the famous apostle was a life-and-death matter to him. Simply by staying faithful, they brought him through a dark time and gave him the strength he needed to continue his work. Indeed, throughout Paul’s epistles, the encouragement he gains from the faithfulness and labor of other Christians is a constant theme.
Today, things are no different. All Christians need encouragement from one another, and that’s true of even the most prominent leaders in the church. Every member of this congregation matters to the elders here. Every one of you matters to Clay and me, and when we see you working for the Lord or even simply remaining faithful, it brings us great joy.
Of course, the opposite is true too, and there’s something that I want all of you to think about. It’s no secret that since the COVID outbreak, our attendance has been way down, especially on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. I’ve said repeatedly, and I’ll say it again, that Christians need to do whatever is necessary to protect their safety. Nobody is going to judge anybody; nobody is going to start getting phone calls from the elders about forsaking the assembly.
Nonetheless, if you’ve been among the non-attendees, I want each of you to ask yourself a question. Why is that? Is it because you’re concerned about your safety, or is it because 2020 is a hard year, and you’re tired, and it’s easier to stay home?
Again, no judgment. I completely get that. Think for a moment, though, about the effect that you have on your brothers and sisters here simply by the choice to assemble or not. It’s hard to push through, but if we assemble, even if we’re tired, even if school just started, we will bring joy and blessing into the lives of people we love. Think about these things, and what you do with that, I leave to you.
Second, if we are tireless in doing good, WE WILL BEAR FRUIT. Consider the way Jesus ends His explanation of the parable of the sower in Luke 8:14-15. I think both of these explanations are relevant to us. First, we see the problem with being an existence-level Christian. If we allow the coronavirus to choke out the word in us, we will defeat God’s purpose in our salvation, just like crops that don’t bear fruit defeat the purpose of the farmer.
On the other hand, when we bear fruit, the harvest can be many times more significant than we are. However, Jesus here uses a key word to describe what we have to do if we want to bear fruit. We have to endure. We have to persevere. We have to press on through difficulty. If we don’t, there won’t be fruit.
I find this so encouraging because it reminds me that if I do keep going, even when it’s hard, there will be fruit that I can see. This is true in every area of our spiritual lives. If we persevere as godly parents, godly workers, godly friends, and godly neighbors, there will be fruit. It won’t be wasted effort.
I think, though, that most of all, this is relevant with respect to evangelism. There are lots of things that Christians think you have to have in order to be effective at winning souls. They think you have to be eloquent, charismatic, and a Bible expert. None of that is true.
Instead, we only need two things. We have to love people enough to share the truth with them, and we have to be persevering enough to keep doing it. Maybe this person we invite doesn’t come to church. Maybe this other person we invite comes but doesn’t come back. However, if we keep on working through discouragement, sooner or later, someone will be saved because of what we said.
Finally, if we are tireless in doing good, OUR WORK WILL NOT BE VAIN. Look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:56-58. Even though if you only look at v. 58, it sounds like this is making the same point as the parable of the sower, a look at the context reveals something different. We can be sure that our toil is not in vain in the Lord not because God will bless our efforts. Instead, Paul says our toil is not in vain because God through Christ has given us victory over sin and death. This isn’t about earthly success. It’s about eternal success.
It is certainly true that the ceaseless toil that God expects from us as Christians can get to us. I spent last week writing and preaching sermons, but I know that for as long as I remain a gospel preacher, I’ll be spending most weeks that way. I work to save souls and keep brethren from falling away, and that won’t change for as long as my life in Christ continues. There always will be people in need to be cared for, ruffled feathers to smooth, and special events to plan. Like Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. We keep doing the same thing until we die.
What’s the point, then? Why do it? Why keep trying to roll that boulder up the hill? The real reason is not the earthly effect of our labors. It’s the spiritual effect.
If you think you have a hard life, consider the life of Jeremiah. He spent his whole life prophesying, and hardly anybody ever listened to him. He told people the truth, and they hated and persecuted him for his pains.
And yet, Jeremiah’s labor was not in vain because it found favor with God. No matter what, we can be sure that He will regard our labor for Him in the same way, and nobody who inherits eternal life ever says it wasn’t worth it!