Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"Wonderful Words for Weary Warriors"
Galatians 6:9-10

by Dr. Michael Adams
Pastor, Central Baptist Church
Jonesboro, Arkansas

Dr. Kevin Shrum

A writer, in his fifties, had written a manuscript for a book and sent it to several publishers without success.  He grew so discouraged that he threw the manuscript into the wastepaper basket. As his wife tried to salvage the manuscript, he told her sternly, "We've wasted enough time on it. I forbid you to remove it from the wastebasket!" Well, you know how well that works. She decided the manuscript should be seen by at least one more publisher. When she arrived at that publisher's office, she pulled out the most unusual looking package that the publisher had ever received as a manuscript.  Underneath a wrapping of brown paper was a wastepaper basket still holding the writer's manuscript. In this way, she reasoned, she was not technically going against her husband's wishes. She did not retrieve the manuscript. Instead the publisher did it for her, and when he read it, he loved it.

The writer in this story is Norman Vincent Peale, and the manuscript is The Power of Positive Thinking. The book that Peale tossed in the trash eventually sold 30 million copies. It is hard to imagine that the grandfather of the Positive Thinking Movement was ready to give up on the book that launched his career. This story serves to remind us that no one is immune to discouragement. Everyone wants to throw in the towel on occasion. Fortunately for Norman Vincent Peale, Ruth Peale remembered the words of Paul in Galatians 6:9-10, “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.”[1] 

            Paul’s statement is made in the context of a harvest mentality. He suggests that a person always reaps what they sow, that they reap later than they sow, and that they reap more than they sow. John Stott says concerning this verse, “Active Christian service is tiring, exacting work. We are tempted to become discouraged, to slack off, even to give up.  So the apostle gives us this incentive: he tells us that doing good is like sowing seed.  If we persevere in sowing, then ‘in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.’” [2] Richard Longenecker adds an interesting insight in the Word Biblical Commentary, “The word ‘weary’ does not appear in classical Greek. It does appear six other times in the New Testament. What Paul fears, it seems, is that his converts of Galatia, having begun well, were losing their enthusiasm about life lived “in step with the Spirit,” and so were not only being enticed by a nominitic lifestyle but also were allowing libertine attitudes to take control. In particular, they were beginning to revert from an outgoing type of Christian faith that seeks the welfare of others to a selfish, self-contained religious stance that has little concern for others.”[3]

Could it be possible that even great Christians experience weariness in the battle for the kingdom of Christ? The answer is definitely, “Yes.”  R.G. Lee experienced that weariness in the early days of his ministry. He had been pastor of several country churches and felt the Lord was leading him to teach Spanish and Latin at Furman University. He had been promised a job teaching those subjects by the President of Furman, Dr. E.M. Poteat. The only condition was that Dr. Lee needed to do some specialized study in the area of those two languages. This study required Dr. Lee to borrow the money to attend Tulane University. He also would have to leave his wife and child in South Carolina and live alone in New Orleans for three months. He did this with some reluctance. However, knowing that he would have a teaching position at the end of his studies helped him. His arrangement with Dr. Poteat was that he would teach and be allowed to pastor a church at the same time. When Lee returned from his studies at Tulane, he found that Dr. Poteat had resigned as President of Furman, and the trustees of that institution were not allowing faculty to pastor churches at the same time they taught. Crushed in spirit, Dr. Lee resigned the position that was offered to him at Furman and went home to tell his wife that he was now a jobless preacher. It was at that moment that R.G. Lee was reminded of his call to be a warrior in the army of Christ.  His wife’s response to his announcement that he has resigned was simply, “That’s good. God never meant for you to be digging around among Latin roots and Spanish stumps. God meant for you to be a preacher.” [4]

            How are we to deal with the times of weariness from the battle for the kingdom?

 

First, our joy must be restored.

David wrote in Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  This verse presents a desire of  David in the middle of his personal confession of sin. Nathan, the prophet, had made the King of Israel aware that even in his lofty position of power and influence, he was not immune to sin. David came before God for the purpose of expressing his weariness with hiding personal sin and his dream of having fellowship restored.  As David asked God to create in him a clean heart and restore the joy, he recognized two facts: One, the restoration of joy is dependent on God and, two; the restoration of joy takes a miracle.

First, the restoration of joy is dependent on God. Many Christians believe that if they could just attend the right conference or if they could just hear the right sermon, their joy would be restored.  David indicates that the flow of joy comes more from God to man, than from man to God.  In Psalm 51:11 where David makes reference to “Thy Holy Spirit” he uses a phrase that is found in only one other place in the Old Testament.  Isaiah 63 uses the same phrase and the indication is that this is the same as speaking of the presence of God. David recognizes that the presence of God alone can bring joy and a restored relationship.

A lot of people need the help of God to have joy in their life.  I heard about a fellow who did not get along with his wife. In fact, they just sort of endured each other.  The only person he hated more than his wife was his mother-in-law. One day they were having a discussion, and they were being relatively civil. His wife said to him, “I know you don't like me very much, and I know the only person you dislike more than me is my mother.”  “That's right.” he said.

“Would you do me one favor?” she continued. “If I die before you, promise me that at my funeral you'll ride in the car with my mother, behind the hearse.”  “Now, let me get this straight. You want me to ride with your mother in the car behind the hearse at your funeral?” he asked. “That's right,” she said.  “Okay,” he agreed, “but it will sure take the joy out of the ride!”  Only the Lord could restore that man to his joy.

Second, David acknowledges that the restoration of joy takes a miracle. The creation of light, the earth, plants, animals and man are all miracles. David recognizes the necessity of the miraculous work of God to “create” a clean heart and a holy life in which to house the joy of salvation. God does not allow His presence or His joy to exist in a dirty house. The weary warrior must always return to the foot of the cross to have a fresh touch of the grace of God in order to have joy restored. 

            A young man was having serious difficulty in life and was considering taking his own life. As a final cry for help he visited a Christian counselor. After a few minutes of discussion the counselor suggested a very unusual treatment. The young man was instructed to go to a small cottage in the town and tell the caretaker there that he had come to see the painting of the cross. With the resolve that if this did not work the young man would commit suicide, he visited the small cottage where the caretaker ushered him into a room with no furniture. The only item in the room was a terrible picture of the cross of Christ. The picture appeared to be wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. The young man commented to the old caretaker, “That is the worst picture of the cross that I have ever seen.”

 “This picture is best viewed as you get closer and lower,” responded the old caretaker.  At the urging of the caretaker, the young man began to move closer and lower to the picture, until he found himself on his knees at the base of the picture, looking up at the cross. At that moment the young man turned to the old caretaker and said, “Now I understand.  The only joy in life is to view the world from the foot of the cross.” 

            Joy for many warriors is lost as they become intimately involved in the battle.  Their choice is to become bitter or better. John Maxwell suggests the following top ten ideas to deal with the fatigue of church life and to keep the joy flowing:

Don’t try to build a great church.  Build a great people.

Sunday’s success begins before Sunday.

People follow leadership more than listen to it.

Be a grace giver, not a score keeper.

There is gold in “them thar pews!”  Love them, believe in them, and equip them.

Give eighty percent of your time to the top twenty percent of your congregation.

Don’t be a “Lone Ranger.”  Develop a leadership team.

God moments have life changing potential.

Walk slowly through the crowds.

The church is God’s, not mine.  Treat it as a good steward, not as the owner.[5]

            Our joy is restored when we stop doing church work and start doing the work of the church.  That work centers around helping others and ourselves to experience the presence of Christ, Who is in the joy restoring business.     

 

Second, we must renew our gift.

Paul writes in I Timothy 4:13-14, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”

            Prior to this statement Paul reminds Timothy of the difficulty of age that he would face in ministry. In Jewish thought, a man is “young” if he is less than forty years of age, and this is the obstacle which Paul mentions to Timothy.  Often, in an age sensitive society, a servant of Christ becomes weary when they are told that they are either too young or too old.  Tim Stafford wrote these words in Christianity Today:

“People in America have a spiritual disease based on a mistaken view of life.  According to it, life is lived on a big bell curve.  You go up, up, up, to the age of say, fifty.  And then you go down, down, down, until you die. . .  In contrast, Scripture teaches that life is meant to be up, all the way to heaven.  There is a goal, and the goal determines the process we must go through to get there.  Whatever is valued in heaven grows more and more valuable on earth.  Whatever matters not in heaven, matters less and less on earth.  The longer you live, the more it is so.[6]

Regardless of Timothy’s age, it is clear that he has lost sight of the gift which was bestowed upon him at the beginning of his ministry. Because of Paul’s statement in II Timothy 1:6 it might be possible that Timothy has had more than one reminder of that gift. Weary warriors should remember that God’s call to labor is always accompanied with God’s provision of special gifts to perform the task. He expresses that worth by giving us a spiritual gift at the time of our spiritual birth

Did you know that you can buy most any gift today?  At Neiman-Marcus you can buy a NASCAR race car. If you feel the need for speed, this truly remarkable NASCAR Winston Cup Ford Taurus is the real deal. It is not a show car; it is a race car Roush Racing built that has been driven by Mark Martin in Winston Cup competition. What do you think this car is worth? This car is a used Ford Taurus. The car does not have power windows. In fact, it does not have windows at all. Instead there is a net where the window should be. The car does not have eight-way power seats. Instead there is one uncomfortable bucket seat, bolted down. The car gets five miles per gallon. There is no air conditioning, but it has plenty of heat. The gas tank takes up most of the trunk. The car does not have alloy wheels. In fact, the tires do not have any tread.  Somebody looked up what a used Ford Taurus, without those options, would run for in Kelly’s Blue Book of car prices and about $14,000 is the most you could expect to pay. What do you think the selling price is at Neiman-Marcus? If you are interested, you can expect to pay $125,000!

Someone might ask, “What makes that car so valuable?” The value comes from the fact that this is not an ordinary Ford Taurus. The car is designed and built for a special purpose and that is for NASCAR racing. The same can be said of every one of us.  God designed us, built us and equipped us for a special job within the body of Christ and that is what makes us valuable. We are not some ordinary Ford Taurus. We are a special, unique design by God. 

Sometimes people do not think they are very valuable or worth very much.  I read recently in the Wall Street Journal that the average savings account for Americans is only $83.42. Now you can see how you measure up. However, before you feel kind of poor, I want you to remember that if you only have $83.42, you are still $4.6 trillion richer than the U.S. Government because that is how far in debt they are. We are valuable because we have worth and meaning before God. My gift might be different from that of Timothy, but to God my gift is just as important in the work of the kingdom. The life of Christ at Calvary is the cost of every spiritual gift. Therefore, as I renew my gift, I am reminded of  the cost and that adds value to my own life.

            Since the point of departure from God is always the point of return, Timothy is given four concrete actions that are closely tied to his gift in order to restore his giftedness. The reading of scripture, the teaching of scripture, the exhortation of believers and prayer become the basis for Timothy’s renewal. Our point of return may not be the same, but the need for renewing the gift is just as great. Weary warriors find value for life and strength for battle as they renew their giftedness.

 

Third, we must return to our first love.

John writes to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4-5, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.”

William Barclay suggests that the church at Ephesus possesses two positive characteristics. They demonstrate doctrinal purity and a measure of energy. However, those two positives are removed by one negative. They have left their first love. Since they are so strong in orthodox doctrine, they may have little orthodox doing.  Love is lost somewhere in the desire to be correct. The honeymoon of faith is now over and the day to day practice of living the Christian life is drudgery.[7] Every couple will testify to the fact that there is a love that gets a person married, and there is a love that keeps a person married. Weary warriors in the battle for the kingdom often fail to develop the love that is necessary to faithfully flesh out the demands of cross bearing.

Derric Johnson in The Book of Lists seems to capture the difficulty of life’s journey as he shares the seasons of a person’s life:

At twenty a person wants to wake up romantic.

At thirty a person wants to wake up married.

At forty a person wants to wake up successful.

At fifty a person wants to wake up rich.

At sixty a person wants to wake up contented.

At seventy a person wants to wake up healthy.

At eighty a person wants to wake up.

            The steps for returning remain as simple today as they were in the time of the church at Ephesus. We are to remember and repent. The idea of remembering is not a one time affair. We are to continue to remember on a continual basis. Our minds are to become fixed on the way we were on the first day of our salvation and entry into the battle for the kingdom. We are to consider that memory constantly.

I can remember the first time I drove an automobile. With fear and trembling, my parents passed the keys to their sixteen-year-old who was a wreck waiting to happen. It was not long until their greatest fears came true. From that time until this time I remember the horror of backing out of the driveway and into our neighbor’s car which he had inconsiderately parked on the street. I also use that memory as a preventative. I always look behind before I back out of the driveway. Weary warriors gather needed strength as they remember the sweetness of the first day that they faithfully walked with the Lord.

            Repentance is more than the simple mental acknowledgement that we have done something wrong. Repentance is a change of direction. Repentance is positive in force and action. We realize that life is headed in the wrong direction, and we turn around and head in the right direction. Repentance puts the burden on us. If restoration and renewal have God as their creator, then repentance has man as its originator.

A couple of years ago a woman filed a one million dollar lawsuit against Dr. Pepper. She had been chosen to participate in their halftime punt-catching promotion during a college football game. She did not win, but according to her suit, it was Dr. Pepper's fault. She had been told she would receive three punts from a kick-simulation machine. If she caught one ball, it was worth $50,000. If she caught a second ball, it was worth $250,000. However, if she caught all three balls, the prize was one million dollars.  The woman contended that she was told that the punts would come down in the general vicinity of the 50-yard line.  She missed all three because, according to her, they came down too far away. One punt landed on the forty-four yard line. One punt landed on the forty-five yard line, and one punt landed on the forty-two yard line. Therefore, she argued, it was Dr. Pepper's fault that she did not win the one million dollars.

Sometimes it is difficult for us to admit that something is our fault. It is difficult to admit the role we play in our failures, in our setbacks, and in our sins. It is not easy to say: "I had a chance, but I blew it."  Too often, instead of fixing the problem, we settle for fixing blame on anyone other than ourselves.

            Weary warriors never need to remain that way.  The memory of the way it used to be and the willingness to take the proper steps to return will convert a burdened veteran into a renewed and invigorated servant of the cross.

The movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is a beautiful story of a musician who becomes a reluctant high school music teacher.  Not meaning to stay, he remains at the same school for over thirty years. In the end he faces forced retirement because of budget cuts in the school system. All his life Mr. Holland has sought to write a unique opus that would bring him fame and fortune. Because of the demands of teaching high school, he is never able to accomplish his dream. As he sits talking to his best friend, the high school football coach, Holland reflects on all the years of teaching music appreciation, leading the marching band and the orchestra at the high school. He considers himself a total failure because of what he has not done in life. As he is leaving the school for the last time with his son and wife, he hears a noise in the school auditorium. Entering the auditorium to discover what is happening, he finds a collection of music students from his past years of teaching. They are gathered to give honor to their musical mentor. One of the students is now the governor of the state. In a statement to Holland she puts his life in total perspective. She says, “Mr. Holland, we are your music. We are the opus that you meant to write.” When warriors in the kingdom of Christ become weary and wounded they should remember that each new believer, each growing disciple and each willing worker who has been mentored by them is a note in the beautiful melody that they are constructing for praise to our Lord. Once we see life from that perspective, we are ready to return to our first love, renew our gift, have our joy restored and return to the battle for the kingdom of Christ.

Written by Dr. Michael Adams, Pastor
Central Baptist Church
Jonesboro, Arkansas


[1] www.sermonnotes.com. Steve Miller, writer

[2] Stott, John. The Message of Galatians, InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Illinois. 1986, p. 171

[3] Longenecker, Richard N. Word Biblical Commentary. Word Books. Dallas, Texas, 1990. p. 281

[4] Lee, R. G. Payday Everyday. Broadman Press. Nashville, Tennessee. 1974. pp. 34-36.

[5] Maxwell, John. “I’m Fifty and Reflecting,” Enjoy Tape, Volume 12, Number 8, February 1997.

[6] Stafford, Tim. Christianity Today, September 16, 1991.

[7] Barclay, William, Letters to the Seven Churches, Westminster Press, 1957. pp. 20-24.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Adams has been pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas since 2001. Prior to that he was pastor of First Baptist Church, Jasper, Alabama for thirteen years. Dr. Adams holds the bachelor of arts degree from Union University and the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife Jane have two sons, Jed and Matt.