Living Responsively

Pastor, stewardship, Galatians, sowing, wisedom

The wisdom of God is often recognized by the world even though they do not realize it. Many of the wise sayings people repeat come from the Bible.

  • Bear one another’s burdens
  • Love one another
  • Greater Love has no one than this: to give his life for his friends
  • Turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile
  • Love is patient, Love is kind
  • Judge not lest you be judged

This morning we are going to look at one of those principles people quote all the time. You may not have even known it came from the book of Galatians: “You reap what you sow”. It is an agricultural term that is a perfect picture of life in general.

Paul will give us some guidelines on how to sow in such a way that we reap blessing. They are simple principles that can change your life. Before we get to the sowing and reaping Paul addressed another principle.

Support Your Spiritual Leaders

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

This seems like an odd place to put this command. Scholars wonder what provoked the comment. What we do know is that Paul was not talking about himself. He wasn’t angling for a big donation in the offering plate. He always avoided anything that made it look like he was serving the Lord for the money. One commentator suggests that many Galatians may have withdrawn their support from the current church leaders because of their infatuation with the new teachings that Paul was speaking against. This would have left leaders scrambling to make ends meet.

Who Are These Spiritual Leaders?

Paul says the spiritual leaders we should honor are those who teach the Word of God to us. So this may be a Pastor, youth leader, Sunday School teacher, Bible Study leader, Seminar leader and so forth. But note . . . we are looking for leaders who are bringing us to the Word of God! This is not about motivational speakers or even people who are great at “casting a vision”. Paul is talking about those who teach the Word of God.

Why Should We Support These Leaders?

There are a number of reasons to care for spiritual leaders. First, their work is an Important and difficult calling. Jesus asked, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” The people who help you with your soul should be honored for the important work that they do. We too often take Sunday School teachers and Bible School leaders for granted. We joke about the mentality of someone who would do youth ministry. Yet, these very people have given themselves to lead our children to eternal life. It is NOT a secondary position. It is one of the most important positions of influence in life.

This is such a high calling that we are told spiritual leaders who distort the truth or who view the gospel as a means to building a Kingdom for themselves, will incur a severe and strict judgment from God.

When a teacher truly teaches the Word of God they become a target. People resist God’s truth and those who share that truth. People hold you to a higher standard (rightly) than others. They watch your lives to see if what you teach is practiced in what you do. They jump on any weakness so they can dismiss the conviction of God’s Spirit that comes with the teaching of His Word.

Second, we should care for spiritual leaders because it is easy to get discouraged. Imagine that you planned a big meal for family and friends. You work hard to clean the house and to make everything look warm and inviting. You spend lots of money buying food and then you cook for a couple of days leading up to the big event.

When the day arrives you make last minute preparations and then await the fruit of all your labor, the enjoyment of family and friends. However, several of the people call and say they will be unable to make it. Someone else reports they forgot about a previous commitment. And a few people just do not show up. You appreciate the handful of people that do attend. You enjoy the fact that these people enjoy the meal. but you can’t help but be discouraged.

This is the danger for every spiritual teacher. You prepare and no one shows up. You give your heart and soul to help people grow in grace and truth and nothing seems to change. In a time of crisis when you look for people you have discipled to shine, the response is to default back to the tactics and attitudes of the world. You work extra hard to be there for people in a time of crisis and then they walk away from the church over something minor. It can be very discouraging. It seems there is always someone who feels you are not doing enough (usually for them). Many Pastors take too much on their shoulders and they can’t measure up to what they think they should be.

How Are We to Care for Our Spiritual Leaders

A big part of caring for vocational spiritual leaders (those that do this as their job) is to make sure they are provided for so they can take care of their families. Pastors that are doing their jobs usually work long hours and are always on call. They love the work they do (because God has called them to this work) but they also have needs. The church is told to care about those needs. Part of that is a fair compensation for their work.

The other side of supporting your teachers is emotional. Pastors will run through a wall for people who show real enthusiasm for the work of the gospel. They are spurred on by seeing people make choices consistent with the faith. Youth leaders are energized when young people bring a friend to youth group or when they make youth meetings a priority in their lives even though they are busy. A Sunday School teacher will prepare diligently when they know they will have a class full of eager children and that the parents are committed to training their child in the way of the Lord.

When leaders meet indifference, or people are not involved, we get discouraged. We wonder what we are doing wrong. Your encouragement, especially by your involvement, spurs us on.

Sow Wisely

The second thing Paul points to is the importance of living wisely.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:6-10)

Paul tells us a couple of important things. First, You can’t fool God. There is no point pretending you are a follower when you are not. God knows the truth and He will call us to account someday. It is silly to pretend that you love Him if you refuse to obey Hm. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

God has a clear picture of whether or not we have been faithful. Practically, this means that something is not “OK” just because no one else knows what you are doing. GOD knows what you are doing! It also means we should not give up simply because we believe there is no one is paying attention to the faithfulness we are trying to practice. The Lord sees the good and evil we do clearly.

There is an underlying belief that if we ignore God’s rules and there are no immediate consequences then it must be OK. There is a host of moral behaviors that start with this assumption: everyone else is doing it and nothing bad has happened to them, so it must be OK. Paul reminds us that just because justice is not immediate, it does not mean that it is not coming!  Living as if God is powerless to enforce what He has commanded, is a foolish conclusion

Second, have realistic expectations. Sometimes we expect a return on our investment immediately. That is like the farmer who keeps digging up the seeds to see if they are growing! Some investments take a long time to mature. Some of the reaping will not take place until we stand before the Lord. Think of those believers who faithfully and courageously serve the Lord and are martyred. Their reward is not in this life.

We must keep this in mind so we don’t become cynical and withdrawn. We are to keep doing good to others because we represent Him. We serve Him. We are focused on our eternal reward.

Third, understand that this principle is also generally true in everyday life. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, model appropriate behavior.

Even in the general world, you may have heard, “What goes around, comes around.” That is the principle of Karma which is a Hindu principle. It is the idea of an impersonal force that seems to balance the scales of justice. As Christians, we do not put our trust in an impersonal force . . . we trust the very personal God who is Holy and Just.

The old adage is true

 “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

What we give to others will largely determine the kind of person we will become. The way we live will determine the quality of that life. There are consequences to the choices we make.

  • If we push God to the side in our lives, we should not be surprised if God seems far away when we look for Him.
  • If we spend everything we have now, we should not be surprised that we struggle during retirement.
  • If we are unkind and abusive toward others we should not be surprised when we are alone in a crisis.
  • If we let the world set the agenda for our family now we should not be surprised when our children depart from the faith later.

Likewise

  • If we treat people with respect and honor they will usually do the same in return.
  • If you continue to put God first (even when others complain), then you will enjoy His blessing in a unique way, and your testimony will be strong and powerful.
  • If you give generously, people will be generous when you have a need. God also promises He will meet the needs of those who are generous in His name.
  • If you show concern for others, they will likewise show concern for you.

Tim Keller writes,

we need to realize that there are deeper harvests that happen even when we don’t meet with much outward success. We will find our own character changing deeply through ministry. Our consciences will be clear and our hearts happier, since we’re less self-indulgent. We’ll develop a less selfish and more satisfied character, which will serve us well when we are under pressure. We may not reap quickly, and we may not see all that we reap, but we can know that there is a great harvest for those who sow to please the Spirit. (p. 179  Keller)

How do we go about sowing well?

First, you must be right with the Lord. You can’t live the life God calls you to live without being in the right relationship with Him. You don’t have to prove that you are “worthy” of salvation. The fact that we are not worthy is well established.  What is necessary is for you to confess your sin and brokenness; admit your addiction to sin. Then turn to Jesus for help. He alone can save you.

Have you done this? Obviously, you have shown interest in faith or you wouldn’t be here. There are many people who are comfortable with religious actions who have never come into a relationship with Christ. It has never been personal. They do their “religious stuff” and seem to feel that they have appeased God for another week. They don’t get it.

The question is: have you ever really examined the claims of Jesus? Do you understand what He is asking you to do? He is not asking to like Him. He asking you to give yourself to Him. He is asking you to trust Him with your life, now and forever. Before you can sow the seed that brings a rich harvest, you have to stop playing games and instead get serious.

Second, we must work with the Holy Spirit as He works to cultivate His fruit in us. God loves us as we are, but because He loves us He wants us to be the best version of us that we can be.

The Lord feels about us the same way you feel about your children and your spouse. You love them as they are, but you are also eager to help them to grow, develop and flourish in life. You want them to realize their potential.

The Lord knows that the best version of us is the person He created us to be. That person is the one who manifests the character traits of Jesus. As we cooperate with the Spirit by doing what he says and craving what He craves for us, our heart will become more and more like Jesus.

Third, we need to walk with God in gratitude rather than in drudgery. Sometimes Christians seem to act like the Lord is standing over them as a taskmaster who says, “You can’t go out to play until your room is absolutely spotless.” God is not saying, “Produce or else!” He is saying, “Let me introduce you to the best way to live”.

We have every reason to be grateful. We have been delivered from certain destruction. We were welcomed when we should have been cast away. We have an inheritance that is better than we can fathom. We are loved by the Creator of all there is. We should be the most grateful people there are.

Fourth, we must endure. We can’t give up. Yes, the world is becoming indifferent to the message of the gospel. Even some who call themselves Christians are drifting from to the truth of the gospel. They are negotiating the truth in order to “fit in” with the world. Our job is to stand on the truth, not water it down.

Weariness creeps in when we feel like all our hard work isn’t accomplishing anything. But that is where we need to talk to ourselves. We have to remind ourselves that we don’t know what God is accomplishing in and through us. The Lord told us we would face tribulation, but he also told us that if we stayed faithful we would overcome the world through Him.

I believe it is harder to keep going for Americans than for others around the world. We are spoiled. We’ve had it easy. We haven’t met much opposition as we followed Christ. We have not been persecuted . . . not really. It is easy for us . . . and that has made us lazy. Now, as our world becomes a little less enthusiastic about Christians, we are unprepared. As a result, some people panic or give up. But there is no reason to wring our hands. God is on the throne. He will see us through.

Conclusions

The temptation when living in a violent and godless world is to withdraw and hide. God tells us to do something different. He says to keep looking to do good.

  • Say a kind word to someone you don’t know
  • Lend a hand to someone in difficulty
  • Show appreciation for anything you can think of
  • Give a well-thought out gift to someone who is not expecting it
  • Pray with someone who is frightened and alone
  • Take the time to listen to someone’s story
  • Give generously
  • Share your faith lovingly

Seed is small. It is often the little things that bring the biggest return. Some of the seed you sow will take root and someday will bring harvest that will surprise you and will bring a smile to the face of God.

 

Scripture:

Galatians 6:6-10