Never Get Tired of Doing Good
[Galatians chapter six]
Today we will finish up the book of Galatians as we close another chapter on the writings of the apostle Paul, who was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. They are all the same person except that the latter was Paul’s old name prior to his encounter on the road to Damascus with the Lord as recounted in the book of Acts. Just as surely as Paul became an entirely new person after his encounter with the Lord, as had all those whom Jesus healed and who believed in him during His ministry on earth, so it must be with all of us. Jesus taught Nicodemus in John’s gospel, “You must be born again”, and we are to do the same if we want our share of the Kingdom of God that will be established upon His return (which is impending even as I write this). We are to become a completely new person in and through Christ when we allow Him to inhabit our hearts and minds. From this indwelling of Christ comes love, empathy and compassion, and it is from this point that Paul starts what later became chapter six.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted. Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself with somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Gal. 6, verses 1-10, NIV)
What a contrast there is between the apostle Paul and many modern churches in verse one! If any church member gets caught up in sin – whether intentionally or not – we “should restore him/her gently”. “Blessed are the merciful”, Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7). How do we treat others? How about people we don’t like – how do we treat individuals we would never normally associate with? One example would be the unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed. Others would include the handicapped, the homeless and the incarcerated. What about them? Did you know that God judges people based on how well they treat others – or not? He also judges entire nations based on how well they treat their weakest and most vulnerable individuals. From that standpoint alone, it looks to me like we Americans have our work cut our for us, and the US is certainly not alone in this regard.
“Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Notice that this is exactly the opposite of what is being “taught” in modern America. It has been the era of the rugged individualist, of “it’s all about me, so get out of my way”, of conspicuous consumption and flaunted wealth in the course of the accumulation of material goods – often of dubious quality – and financial gain for its own sake. It’s “capitalism at its very best”, every man/woman for himself/herself, whoever dies with the most toys wins, and all at the expense of as many people as possible in order to purportedly strengthen ones “position”. What a crock! This is the devil/Satan at work, capitalizing on one of mankind’s most basic instincts – greed. But if entire groups of people cooperate and share each others burdens – whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, medical or financial – it has been my observation that these cooperative groups can get a lot more done working together than they would if each person worked only for themselves, or in competition instead of cooperation. Of course, when I say stuff like that out in public I get accused of being “socialist”, when in fact I am merely practicing my Christian faith while living it as a lifestyle. In the 20th century, ‘greed is good’ according to the movie “Wall Street”, and human compassion was for the foolhardy. In the Bible, under the tutelage of Christ, it’s exactly the opposite.
“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself with somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” What’s the message here, what is Paul trying to show us? Our self-esteem (not pride, which is a sin) should be based on our personal relationship with Christ, and on how we see Him and He sees us. Never, ever base how you see yourself by comparing yourself with other people, and particularly how they see you. You don’t need their approval, you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, because His approval is the only thing that will matter in the end! Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others, because that leads to vanity, pride and snobbishness – which are the exact opposite of Christ.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”. What harvest is Paul writing about here? Actually, this is a prophetic statement invoking the second coming of Christ, when all those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth will reap a harvest of eternal life, while those who refused to believe in Him will go to eternal punishment. I don’t mean to be offensive or judgmental here, but this is the truth and the truth must be told because as a servant of the Lord I am duty-bound – at the very least – to do so. But I do this not only because it’s my job as a minister, but I am compelled to by the Holy Spirit that dwells within me. As the apostle Paul wrote elsewhere, “I try to be all things to all men so that by all means I might save some”. You too can have this inner Spirit of peace, but you must seek it earnestly while maintaining a thankful heart. No other method will work. And, as that Spirit of peace fills you, you will find yourself compelled to share it with others, and that’s where it really gets good. On that note, let’s finish up today’s lesson.
“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” (Gal. 6, verses 11-18, NIV)
Notice in verse 12 Paul sums up those in the Galatian church who were still preaching the merging of Christianity with Judaism as those who wish to “avoid being persecuted” for their Christianity. Remember that at the time this was written, the early Church was being persecuted and believers were being routinely put to death for their faith. Those who clung to the Old Law teachings were not sought out by the authorities nearly as much as true Christian believers were. Paul is clearly calling them cowards without actually coming right out and saying so. But as he moves on from that, he sums it all up beautifully, “what counts is a new creation”. So let’s ask ourselves for the moment: Am I a new creation? If the answer is yes, good for you and keep up the good work. If it’s no, or if you are unsure, now would be a good time to pause and assess ourselves and our individual situations. Honesty with ourselves is critical right here – how am I doing? If you’re not yet a believer in Jesus, right now would be a good time to start. Just pause and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, and invite Him to come and live within your heart. Don’t worry, He never says ‘no’.
As committed Christians, are we continuing to grow and develop into something new and better, and to become in the process something more than what we started out with? Remember, don’t compare yourself with others in order to get your answer. Read and study your Bible, because it is in there that your answers lie. Inquire of the Lord, and He will always give you wisdom if you only ask for it with the best of intentions. So, let us examine ourselves and make sure that this is the case in order to keep from sinning and to keep our eyes, heart and mind focused on Christ and His salvation. In the end, nothing else will matter anyway. And if you’re doing all you can to better yourself and things are still not working out, ask Jesus to help you. Don’t worry, He never says ‘no’ to that either.