Do Good For Others
Summary: God calls us to spend our lives pursing the good of others promising that we will reap what we sow.
Through the book of Galatians, we have seen that there are two ways to live – you can walk according to the works of the flesh, or in step with the Spirit of God. You can go your own way, under your own strength and power, or you can turn to God for direction, strength and help.
Now that sounds like the difference between religious and non-religious people, spiritual and non-spiritual people, but Galatians is written to the Church because even Christians can get out of step with God and begin to wander off the path since the world is full of voices calling out, “hey, come over here and check this out,” while our own hearts still drift toward rebellion and independence and, there is a very real spiritual enemy of our souls.
So, Galatians warns Christians about the works of the flesh and calls us to get back in step with the Spirit of God who produces the fruit of the Spirit in us which is (Gal 5:22-23 – you have this marked in your Bible now, right?) love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
And then, as God produces this fruit in us individually, He pushes us back into community encouraging us to gently help others get back in step with God. We saw all that last week, when we were told to carry our personal load of responsibilities while helping others bear the burdens that come their way, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Well, that push toward community while maintaining personal responsibility continues this week and we’ll see it again as we finish up our study next week. Then, we head into 1 Peter which was written to encourage Christians living in difficult times to respond well to suffering and includes very specific instruction for our relationships – between a citizen and the government, how Christians should get along with their neighbors, how an employee should get along with their boss – even if they’re a jerk, how spouses should interact, and what kind of relationships we should expect to develop in church.
It seems like, between the study in Joseph, Galatians, and now 1 Peter, God is trying to get our attention – trying to show us how to patiently endure life in a crazy world by pressing into your relationship with God and your relationships in the church when it feels like people and policies and a pandemic are out to get you.
I’m excited to see what He does as He works out a lot of the junk in our lives and makes us stronger and more vibrant in our faith, because as I’ve told you before church, we were made for this – this is our moment, we’re supposed to shine like a blazing light in the darkness, because the Spirit of God is in you, He wants good for you, and He’s pushing you into relationship with other Christians who will help you along the path. Let’s see what that means as we get into the Word:
Galatians 6:6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
Well that’s an awkward way to start huh? I’ll tell you, it feels a little self-serving for me to stand here and teach this, but we go verse by verse for better or worse, so let’s dive in and see what it says and then maybe we can take up a little love offering after the service – just kidding!
The idea here is that a congregation should support their pastor financially because God has chosen the preaching of the Word as the primary method of drawing people to faith and building you up spiritually.
Jesus received material support from people as He travelled around preaching repentance and the promises of the Kingdom of God and then He commissioned His disciples to go out and do the same. So in the book of Romans we find this beautiful, unlimited, unbiased, unprejudiced statement regarding salvation, that:
Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
But, you can’t call on what you don’t know, so the passage goes on:
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Preaching is God’s chosen method for reaching people and drawing them to faith. But, preaching is also God’s chosen method for bringing you the guidance, direction, correction or encouragement you need.
How many times have you had one of those experiences where you came to church and you listened to the sermon and you walked out feeling like, man, pastor you must be reading my mail, or listening in at my house, I felt like you were speaking directly to me.
Well, that’s not true – I’ve been seeking God all week, praying for you all week, asking God what does He want me to share with you all week – and then you show up and God speaks to you, puts His finger right on the sore spots in your life and brings conviction or encouragement or both – whatever you need in this moment. Because, God has chosen to work in a primary form, through preaching.
There are other things a church can do, others things a church should do, but at the very center of it all, according to God’s plan, is the preaching of the Word of God which drives everything else, informs everything else, shapes everything else we do – it is because God’s Word says this, that we do that.
And so, God looks to His Church to support that effort. But, notice something very important here. God doesn’t say pay your pastor. He says share, share the good thing you have received. One man receives the gift of being called to pastor, to shepherd, to love and to teach, to boldly proclaim the truth of God each week; and hopefully he works hard to do that and share his gift with you. Then, you take some of what God has given you, blessed you with, and you share it with him.
This is God’s plan for a mutually supporting community of faith with each person receiving gifts from God and reflecting them back to others. So, Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
Now I want to say thank you for obeying this command. You take good care of me and my family and the rest of the staff. We try hard to take care of you and work to develop, deepen, and strengthen the gifts we’ve been given, and then to share them with you. And you have responded by sharing just as generously with the staff. So, I want to say thank you and use the opportunity to encourage you to ask where else could you apply this principle?
Because we’ve got people sharing their gifts all over this church. We’ve got people serving in children’s ministry teaching the gospel and the Word of God to your children. We’ve got youth volunteers that drive in after work on Wednesday night to teach the gospel and the Word of God to our teens. Some of them take time away from their wife and kids at home to spend time with our kids here. Some of them bring their wives and kids. And the same thing with the worship team.
You’ve also got small group leaders and home group leaders who prepare lessons each week so they can love you and lead you and they do it on their lunch break, or in the evening, or on the weekends. They find time when they can, where they can, to prepare so that they can share their gifts with you.
So, I want to encourage you to thank them. Maybe write them a note of thanks or encouragement, make them a special batch of cookies, or slip a little gift card their way – whatever your gift is to share.
But listen: you’re not tipping them for their service; you’re finding a small way to say thank you for sharing your gift with me, now let me share something with you because we’re all investing into each other for the glory of God and our mutual good – so be generous! No matter who you are or what you’re giving, we’re only temporary stewards anyway, right? Our gifts come from God and the way we use them, the way we share them, is an act of worship to Him, even when they’re pointed at one another.
But now, look at the danger on the other side – look at the danger of being self-interested, the danger of pulling back from God and from community instead of sharing.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
In other words: your life looks the way it does today because of all things you choose to do and value last week, last month, last year, and all the way back to your childhood. And so, if you want your future to look different, you need to start thinking about that right now.
And here’s how all of this is connected – you’re either walking in the Spirit or according to the flesh. You either produce the fruit of the Spirit, or the works of the flesh. You either sow to Spirit, or to flesh, and as a result you either reap everlasting life or corruption. Which is true of you?
Because here’s what Scripture says: God is not mocked. No one makes a fool of God. No one finds a way out of or around the basic principles of life and how it works. You will reap a reflection of what you have sown. If you sow to your own self-interest, you will reap a crop of weeds. If you sow to the Spirit, set your mind on the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, you will reap the fruit of the Spirit.
Now, sometimes that doesn’t appear to be so immediately.
Think of the person who smokes for their entire life and seems just fine and then a person who never smoked a cigarette in their entire life comes down with lung cancer. Or the person who eats whatever they want and doesn’t even own a pair of running shoes but still stays trim while the person who is diligent and conscientious about their diet and exercise suddenly falls mysteriously ill. What about them? I would say exceptions simply reinforce the rule. Strange cases do happen, but they’re outliers and you may not fully know the end of the story yet.
But in general, you reap what you sow in this life, and that means something very important – it means we are not just helpless victims of our circumstances, our temperament, or our environment – what we become actually depends in large part on how we choose to behave and respond to the things that come our way.
So, I say again, your life today is, in great part, a reflection of the seeds you sowed yesterday – your patterns, your habits, your decisions to value one thing over another.
Let me bring us back to something else we’ve been talking about lately – the balance between diligence and dependence in response to God’s guidance. Do you remember this?
Here’s the problem with the Christian life – most of us want to put all the weight over on God and just be dependent on Him. We want to lay there like the dirt and say, “here I am God! You come plow me. You come plant me. You come put the seeds in me. You make things grow. You bring forth the harvest. You do the work. I’m depending on You.”
And so, many of us are hoping that one day the great miracle will happen. Like one day, we’ll pray the right prayer, we’ll hear the right sermon or the right worship song, we’ll read the right book and everything will suddenly fall into place and we’ll be spiritual giants. Life won’t be a struggle. We won’t fight the desires and temptations that come out of our own heart, we’ll rise up out of the difficult relationships we’re in and just float above it all and we’ll feel like spiritual superheroes.
Well look, that’s a good desire. And I’m with you. I wish it was as simple as a spiritual election – all I had to do was show up at the polling place, show my ID, and look down the sheet of options and fill in the little bubble next to Jesus and then everything would change. I just vote yes, Jesus and everything falls into place. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
But that’s not how it happens. Oh sure, there are little moments and seasons of miracles when God does something dramatic and utterly transformative in your life, and we should value and seek those. But most of the time, it’s going to be like biological growth: slow, steady, full of challenges, but ultimately productive.
Most of the time you’re going to reap what you sow. And most of us do a terrible job of sowing to the Spirit. So, until, by God’s grace and with His strength, you begin to put some seeds in the right places, you’re going to keep seeing the same results from your life. You’re going to keep wishing things were different and reaping the same results.
You need new habits, new patterns, consistently sown.
But there’s good news: small seeds produce tremendous trees. Small seeds produce tremendous trees.
So what if you were to start, or keep on, planting some small seeds in the right soil, and trust God to bring the harvest? What might that look like?
Well, what if you think of each hour of the day as a seed – where are you planting it? And how? Are you actually planting your seeds or do you just walk around haphazardly and let them fall out of your seed pouch?
You get 24 seed-hours each day. And I want to encourage you to take just a little over half of one of them and spend it with the Lord.
If you were to commit to spending 15 minutes in prayer each day, then that’s 15×365 = 5475 minutes of prayer in the course of a year.
I’m not asking you for an hour of prayer – you may get there, but in the beginning 15 minutes is going to feel like a big ask. But if you do that all year, it’s just over 91 hours, that’s almost four days spent in prayer and that says nothing of saying grace at meals, praying at church or in your small group, or anywhere else. Four days! Because small seeds produce tremendous trees.
And here’s what you’re going to do – just talk to God about what’s going on in your life. Just tell Him, here’s what I’m worried about, here’s what I’m sick of, here’s where I messed up, here’s where I messed up again, here’s where I need help, here’s where some other people I know need to help. And ask Him: is there anything You want me to know? Is there anything You want me to do?
One of the most important things you need to know about prayer is: there’s no formula. There are no magic phrases or words. Just go with what you’ve got. Speak to your Father like a child should speak to their parents – be honest, be real, but be respectful. The best way to mess up prayer is by making too much of it or trying to hard. Just go with what you’ve got.
And if you want to know more come see me or write to the church office – I’ve got some books and sermons I can recommend, but you don’t have to wait for them, just go with what you’ve got.
And then, spend maybe five minutes in Scripture – if you want to go longer, that’s great, that’s fine, but small seeds produce tremendous trees. Can you spend five minutes in the Psalms or in the gospels or the epistles and find a nugget you can chew on all day?
Each Tuesday the pastoral staff gathers for a time of study. The last book we went through was On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. And in that book, we all, separately, took note when one of them recommended the habit of taking one verse from your daily Scripture reading – one thing that really stood out to you, and writing it down and coming back to it throughout the day by writing it on a sticky on your desk or in your planner. This helps you keep it in mind and chew on it.
At this point, you’re 20 minutes in. That’s 1/3rd of only one of the 24 seeds you’ve been given to sow each day. Can you handle this? This could be your daily devotional time, or your time for spiritual fitness as we call it in our house, and if you make the commitment, make the investment, sow the seeds, over the course of a year, you will see spiritual fruit growing in your life.
But then, what if you could carve out another 15 minutes – in the morning, at lunch, on your commute, while you brush your teeth each night – what if you could take 15 minutes to read a book that will deepen and stretch and strengthen your theology?
And some of you are going to say, I don’t read. Yes you can and yes you do. You just read things you care about or things you have to. You’ll read emails at work. You’ll read books you’re assigned in class. You’ll read about sports or whatever your hobbies are. The problem isn’t with reading, it’s with what you’re reading and whether or not you care enough to put forth the effort. Plus – audiobooks. OK?
Think about this. If you read 250 words per minute, that’s the average American adult, and you read for 15 minutes a day, 365 days a year, that’s 5475 minutes. 5475 minutes x 250 words gives you over 1.3M words you could read this year and with the average book being around 80,000 words, that’s over 17 books you could read.
What if we’re really, really, generous to give you some days you don’t make it and back that down to 12? Can you imagine how much you might grow in your walk with the Lord by reading 12 good books this year, sowing small seeds into your soul that could produce tremendous trees? And what if that became a habit, and you started stacking years on top of each other? What kind of harvest would you reap from that kind of sowing? And how would it benefit not just you, but the people around you? What would you have to share?
And listen, I’m talking to you about 35 minutes – 15 in prayer, 5 in Scripture, and 15 reading – that’s half of one of the 24 seeds you’re given each day.
So why don’t we do it? Because we’re busy sowing seeds in other places and blindly hoping that God will work in a miracle in us, that He’ll magically produce fruit from seeds we didn’t plant. We just might be deceived. We just might be mocking God, saying He’s important to us, but spending our seeds in ways that show what really matters to us.
Remember, God asks us for both diligence and dependence, the end result is delight, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of work – according to God’s direction, and with His help and strength, in the middle.
Which is why we end this morning with the following encouragement:
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
This is another one of those passages that needs a spot on your desk or on your wall, and definitely needs to be underlined, starred, highlighted, or whatever you to do to mark passages in your Bible, because you need to come back to this over and over. In fact, maybe this needs to be your five-minute a day meditation verse for a while.
I said last week that we are good at meeting needs when they are short term and external. We can usually flex and stretch to respond to a crisis. But what about needs that go on and on, or needs that keep coming? Remember, God calls us into community, surrounding us with people which means, there will almost always be someone struggling around us, and some people are going to have heavy burdens they need help carrying for a long time.
So if you’re living off of your own diligence, walking in your own strength, your own kindness or patience, your own generosity, you may last a while, but you won’t last long enough. You will grow weary. You’ll only sow half the field and only reap half the crop.
It’s supposed to be diligence held in tension with dependence on God. He is the source of our strength and effort. But don’t miss this: doing good can feel like work and if does, if it feels like sacrifice, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it means you need to lean into God for help with work. Remember what we say so often around here – you receive, then reflect – receive from God then reflect to others, it always starts with Him. Because, ultimately, it’s all for Him – we help others, do good to others, as an act of worship to God.
That begins here, in the church, among the household of faith, but it stretches out to all, to anyone in need, wherever you have the opportunity. And that means you can look at your work, your profession, as ministry.
Pastor Matt who leads our worship ministry is married to Peggy and her dad Bob is the smiling face many of you see at the front door when you come on Sunday. Two weeks ago he went in to the hospital expecting a minor outpatient procedure that turned into a triple bypass. It’s been a rough stretch for the family. But some of you have rushed in, you have done good for Bob’s wife Ann and for Matt and Peg – you have carried their burdens and shared your gifts. And they are grateful for it – you made a difference in their lives.
But you know who else made a difference? The medical staff. Trained professionals. Including someone who prayed for Bob every time she came by his room. You could be that person! You could be the accountant, or the program manager, or the realtor, or banker, or sales rep, you could be the supervisor, or commander, or professor who does people good. Even when it’s hard, even when it comes with a cost, but you choose to do people good as an act of worship to God that they experience second-hand.
My friends, the Christian faith requires us to make a difference for God and to do that wherever we find the opportunity, wherever we find the need, starting with those closest to us, in the household of faith, but then extending outward as far as God leads.
And you should ask Him to lead! Ask Him to show you where and how you can do good. Ask Him to show you where to plant the seeds of faith in your life. And ask Him to help you walk in the Spirit so you don’t grow weary and lose heart in the process.
We’re going to prepare to receive communion now, and as we do, I want to encourage you: take a moment and meet with God. He’s been talking to us; have we been listening? He is, no doubt, offering specific application for some of what we’ve heard.
Some of us need to repent for sowing seeds in the wrong places, investing our lives into the wrong things or just be lazy more often than we’re intentional or diligent.
Some of us need to be encouraged, you’re doing good, but make sure you’re getting the right mix of diligence and dependence, so you don’t grow weary, lose heart, and give up.
Some of us have been stingy with our time, our talents, or treasures, and we need to respond to some opportunities to share.
Others need to praise God for what they have received from Him, through the giving of others.
Most of us are probably a mixed-up mess that can identify with a little bit of it all.
But hey, God knows. That’s why He’s given us this instruction. That’s why He’s summoned us here – to speak to us, strengthen us, correct us, fill us, and bind us together, to Himself and to each other, here in the household of faith.