November 12, 2018

Perseverance and Pumpkins

It was spring, and planting season was upon us. My young grandson and I were browsing the aisles at a home and garden center while waiting for my husband to purchase supplies needed for a yard project. We passed by a colorful display of seed packets and paused to study the amazing variety of herbs and vegetables that someone willing to invest the time and effort could grow.

Our grandson had shown an interest in gardening, so on a whim I told him, “You pick out a packet of seeds and Grandma will buy them for you.”  Of course, that offer precipitated a much more in-depth scrutiny of the options available. Should he choose a Rainbow Carrot mix? How about that Carnival Radish Blend...or Kentucky Wonder Beans...or Sugar Ann Snap Peas...or Tiny Tim Cherry Tomatoes...? Grandpa made his purchase and came to find us, so a final decision was required. We went home with our prospective farmer excitedly clutching a packet of giant pumpkin seeds in his hand.

Now, I will admit that I was a bit skeptical about whether we would ever see any pumpkins in the backyard, giant or otherwise. However, my grandson surprised me. He was diligent about caring for those pumpkin seeds! His grandpa helped him poke them into small peat containers filled with potting mix, and in time, the first tiny green seedlings appeared. Each time we went to their house, we were invited to see how the baby plants were doing in their spot on a windowsill. Eventually, Grandpa determined that the seedlings were big enough to be transplanted into larger pots, and finally into the soil along the side of the house. The two of them accomplished those tasks together.

I supposed that the cliché “out of sight, out of mind” might prove true when it came to baby pumpkin plants, but once again, I was wrong. Our grandson tended those plants as if they were his own children! Daily he would get a pitcher from the kitchen, carefully fill it with water, and head out to the yard to give his plants a drink. Evidently, the plants appreciated his loving care because they grew. A number of weeks later, there were blossoms . . . and at last, some tiny pumpkins. Then there were frequent trips to the side yard so we could see how big the pumpkins were getting. And they DID get big! Eventually, our grandson harvested a respectable number of good-sized pumpkins, and happily sold them (via his mom’s Facebook post about his entrepreneurial endeavors), netting a nice little sum to put in his piggybank. His patient efforts had paid off!

Paul used this general principle about harvest as a way to encourage the Galatians to keep on doing what was right, trusting God for results even when there was no immediate evidence that results would occur.

My grandson’s pumpkin growing project made me think of the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Galatian church members, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Paul used this general principle about harvest as a way to encourage the Galatians to keep on doing what was right, trusting God for results even when there was no immediate evidence that results would occur.

Experience has taught me that perseverance—which clearly is what Paul was encouraging—is not always easy. I tend to like quick results, or at least some evidence of progress! Since patience is an area I am still working on, I decided to delve a little deeper into this verse. I wondered, What does “weary” refer to in this context? What are potential causes of weariness? What are some examples of “well doing”? What will we “reap” in due season? And when is the “due season”?

A study of surrounding verses revealed that Paul’s exhortation was part of his explanation to the Galatians regarding life in the Spirit. While this instruction was directed primarily toward those who restore the fallen and share the burdens of others, the principle has a broader application: it encourages patient continuance in spiritual endeavors, no matter how difficult that may be.

The meaning of the word “weary”

One of my first thoughts about the word “weary” in the phrase “let us not be weary in well doing” was that as a mother of five, I knew all about weariness. Checking into the meaning of that word in the original language, however, was illuminating. It does not refer to fatigue or physical tiredness, but rather to faltering in spirit—to becoming discouraged in our efforts, or losing heart.

Even brief reflection will lead to the conclusion that as human beings, we have regrettable capacity for losing interest in things we once considered wonderful. Think of something you were enthusiastic about recently. Has the joy faded? Remember that first day of vacation at the coast? The waves were spectacular, the sky was a vivid blue, and the warm sand under your feet was delightful. By the end of your stay, though, perhaps you hardly noticed the waves, sky, and sand anymore. I have heard that millionaires get tired of money (though I can’t verify that from experience). I do know that grandkids get tired of toys—even that exorbitantly expensive little Fingerling monkey “that delivers all the fun interactions and motions kids love.” Could it be that Christians get tired of doing good? Evidently Paul thought that could be a danger.

Reasons we can become weary

What might be the causes for this type of weariness? Likely the reasons vary from individual to individual. The enemy of our souls knows our weaknesses and he will not hesitate to attack in those precise areas in an attempt to undermine our diligence and commitment. Perhaps we face opposition to what we are attempting to do. Maybe we feel overwhelmed because there is so much to do—so many demands on our time. We may be disheartened over what we perceive to be a lack of results. Perhaps we have experienced ingratitude or outright rejection of our efforts.

It is true that attempts to help can be misunderstood, motives misrepresented, kindness abused, and hopes for success treated as visionary and absurd. And most of us are probably impacted at least occasionally when mechanical routine gradually steals into our service. No doubt Paul and the saints of Galatia faced similar situations in their era. However, in the face of every potentially disheartening factor, the Apostle still encouraged the Galatian saints not to be weary in well doing. He knew they would need patience in striving to maintain spiritual momentum when the realities of life brought weariness.

Examples of “well doing”

I went on to ponder the meaning of the word translated “well doing”—a reference to faithful continuance in actions and behaviors that are just and approved in God’s sight. Multiple examples came to mind, because throughout my life, I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who were (and are) stellar examples of faithfulness.

There was the quiet and unassuming mother of one of my friends during my teenage years. After a long history of participating in numerous but mostly “behind-the-scenes” ministries in the church, her husband was stricken with a progressive neurological disease and became bedfast. She quietly and faithfully cared for him over a period of years until he passed away, rarely even making it out to church. During that time, though, she also made literally hundreds of knit caps for children in India!

An older retired man in our Portland congregation came to mind. In a period of life when many his age are looking forward to enjoying leisure time activities such as hobbies and travel, he has devoted months at a time to visiting branch churches to help on a variety of construction and maintenance projects. He frequently testifies about what a privilege that has been.

I thought of a single mom who faithfully and cheerfully cares for her son who has disabilities, another friend who spends hours tending the flowerbeds on our church campground, and a group of young moms who support each other by providing meals when one of the young mothers in the church has a baby.

My mind went back to a time years ago when I was personally blessed in multiple ways by the help of people of God who had not allowed themselves to become “weary in well doing.”

Then my mind went back to a time years ago when I was personally blessed in multiple ways by the help of people of God who had not allowed themselves to become “weary in well doing.” While I was hospitalized and away from home for a number of months during a serious illness, they rallied around my family. Ladies came and cleaned house for my husband while he was away at work—since we had five young children, that help was greatly appreciated! Others brought in meals, took our kids for outings, visited me and sent uplifting messages, and generally carried us through that valley. Our children—all adults now with homes of their own—still look back and recall the kindness showered upon our family during that time.

What will we reap?

Finally, I spent some time considering what it means to “reap.” Paul was saying there will be a reward for faithfulness. I recalled that he penned a similar message to the believers in Corinth, writing, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Here again, he was pointing out that God is aware of efforts made in His Name, and there will be a recompense.

Sometimes we reap the harvest in this life. When we sow acts of love, we reap a harvest of returned affection—sometimes far beyond what we feel we deserve. When we give generously and sacrificially to the needs of others, we reap a harvest of satisfaction as we see needs being met. When we sow the seed of God’s Word in hungry hearts, we experience (at least at times) the joy of response. However, we need to remember that reaping a harvest almost never happens on the same day as sowing the seed. We may not even see a harvest in this life! Nevertheless, Paul’s exhortations, along with many other Scriptures, indicate that we must never give up.

When is “in due season”?

Paul’s promise indicates that our Master will reward those who have been faithful in “due season”—at the appointed time. God’s actions are part of a deliberate plan, and amid all the apparent conflict and confusion of human events, He is working out that plan. At the time appointed by Him, rewards will be given. And it seems clear that His “Well done!” in that day will not be proportioned to the measure of visible success in the eyes of man, but to the devotedness, diligence, fidelity, and perseverance of the doer.

What a source of blessing and encouragement this promise in Galatians is! The principle of reaping applies to our attempts to support, comfort, encourage, and edify each other in the Gospel just as it does to raising giant pumpkins. Our Heavenly Father sees and knows of each effort.

Few things are more difficult than waiting. Our grandson learned that his pumpkin harvest did not come immediately after the seeds were sown; he needed patience, and he had to keep on providing what was needed for his plants to grow. In the same manner, we must learn not to lose heart as we invest ourselves in well doing. Some day we will reap a reward for our efforts!

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