Some Tips to Redeem Your Time to Study

I am sure that most of you do most of this stuff, but if any of these tips can help, more the better. If you have any to share, please do.

1. Get an iPod! You can download hundreds of free lectures and entire seminary courses online. You can literally have several seminaries in your pocket anywhere you go. Also get a car adaptor for the iPod so you can listen as you drive. I listen to these things all day and night at both my jobs. Amazing.

2. Read at every stop light. Always have a book or an article off the net on hand to read. I find articles are the best for short reading spurts. You can literally read several paragraphs at one light, and several articles a day just at stop lights! I have actually come to love stopping at red lights and traffic!

3. Of course us men know a secret that most women still have not caught onto (or don’t want to catch onto!), and that is always have reading material in the bathroom, a second office.

4. Always have a book on hand no matter where you go. My dentist knows me because while I have to wait in the chair, I always have some book going. I even had the iPod going during a cleaning and cavity fill. My friend used to make fun of me because when we worked out together at the gym, I had a book in between sets. I used to have my flashcards while waiting in line at the bank. Anywhere you have to wait around, have reading on hand. Anywhere were you have to wait—for a movie to start, in the drive thru, at the gas pump—read as much as you can. I know it is totally nerdy, but hey, my cool days are gone, it is now a battle for souls and truth.

5. Always have some problem or topic you are working on through the day in your mind. I always have a note pad or something to take down thoughts and notes. My pocket by the end of the day is usually filled with scraps of paper with jotted notes that I later log into my computer. My hand also serves as a nice place to take notes (my version of the palm pilot).

6. If you can, eat less and sleep less and do less things that waste time. Try to live on 6 hours of sleep. If medical students can do it for earthly good, we surely can do it for eternal good. However, I would caution to get whatever amount of sleep you personally need. I just heard a study that concluded that those who get less sleep actually double their odds of heart disease. This would definately short circut our goal of redeeming the time!

7. Always read up to the point where you nearly fall asleep with the book in your hands. At this point, I cannot go to sleep without first reading. If you can’t fall asleep, try reading some Kant or Hegel. You’re out in under five minutes!

8. If you work a normal 9 to 5 job you get a lunch break. Obviously this is a good time to read. But we also by law (in most places) are required to have two 15 minute breaks that most people work right through. Hey, that’s a half hour. Use both breaks to read or whatever.

9. Read worthy books several times over. Each reading gets easier and quicker, and you remember more each time. I have worn out, for example, Robert McGregor Wright’s book, No Place for Sovereignty as well as a book called The Transforming Vision by Brian Middleton and Richard Walsh.

10. Push yourself to read or listen to lectures even when you don’t want to. Practice reading for as long as you can without taking breaks or getting up. Pretend that you are a machine. Skip fluffy stuff and look for the main points in the sentence, the nuggets that the author seeks to prove or teach.


Perspectives on Suffering

When times get difficult for me as they are right now, I often try to gain perspective by reminding myself of at least two things: how many people have suffered far worse than me throughout human history and how so much of the world right now is suffering far more than me. I try to think of the past history and some of the terrible and difficult living/working conditions that people had to endure. I think of child laborers, women in textile factories, slave labor around the world, the holocaust, genocides, slaves from every time and civilization, the Great Depression, the Oakies in the Dust Bowl, the oppressed in Communist countries, the millions of orphans, the sick dying in hospitals, and much more. The list is seemingly endless. The purpose of doing this is to gain needed perspective and to regain gratitude for what I do have, where I live, the time period that I live in, the freedoms that I have, and the opportunities that lay at my feet. Take some time to look at the following pictures and allow them to give you whatever perspective you need right now.

What did you complain about today?


God-centered Thinking about Life: Perspective

Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).

Today is my 30th birthday. Oh, thank you. I must admit, I was not thrilled about it. I don’t mind being 30, I just wanted to have more accomplished by the time I hit 30. I always envisioned having my masters’ degree and working on a doctorate by this time. I also envisioned myself using it all in a pastoral setting and being much more active in public ministry. By God’s grace I have accomplished a tremendous amount, and have a wonderful wife and daughter (and soon son); I guess like I said, my plans and my vision was just a bit different or that I just wanted more or maybe even, I expected more. So at times I find myself feeling discouraged and wondering what God is doing with me, especially grinding out long days in two jobs, one of them, quite boring and monotonous. But I do find satisfaction in providing for my family, allowing my wife to not have to work so she can home school our daughter, and just earning an honest living. So today I’m 30 and my day did not start out well. However, I just read another brother’s blog article and got some needed perspective on the way I think about some of these things (I will give the blog address at the end because I think all would profit from reading this).

Self-pity is easy to give into, and for some strange reason, it feels good, at least for a while. But at the root of all such attitudes can be found any number of mistaken assumptions and expectations. Recognizing these false and sinful ideas marks the difference between a man-centered theology and a God-centered (Theocentric) theology. What are some of these assumptions? Essentially, it is that it is my due right to always be happy, content, pleasured, prosperous, successful, healthy, and in complete control. We often consciously or unconsciously assume that God owes us these things. This, my friends, is pure humanism. This is the way the world thinks, but ought not to be for those called out of this world (Rom. 12:1-2). Let us examine some of these humanistic assumptions a bit more closely.

Our thoroughly humanistic culture promotes with shouts and is based on the idea that it is your due right to be happy. If there is a God, it is his duty to see that you are happy and content. This was one of the reasons that the British empiricist, David Hume, rejected God—he was not happy as he thought he ought to be if a God existed. Young people (notice I use that phrase now!) grow up in America, esp. in places like Southern California where I live, and they automatically assume that they are going to be successful, meaning that they are naturally entitled to have a nice car, a nice family, a nice house, nice toys, and plenty of leisure time. We assume that it is a right of ours to be healthy and to have health care provided. We assume that life is for the most part, easy; and for a great many it is. We also expect to be in total control of our lives, to be the master of our own destiny. No one will infringe on me and my plans and what makes me happy. If a pregnancy gets in the way of one’s pursuit of happiness, kill it. If you want something, charge it. No one—not even God—can or will or better not violate my free will, my pursuit of happiness, my health, my wealth, and my plans for the future.

When things don’t go our way, or how we want (see previous post on Buddhism), too often we get upset or disappointed with God. Notice that all this thinking from the assumption that it is my owed right from God to be happy and that I can get upset with God when He “fails” to give me happiness, all this is the result of the fall. It flows so naturally because we are depraved, rebels in heart against God. Apart from redemption in the finished work of Christ, we are fatally guilty before the inflexible bar of God’s holiness. We are all born into this world in Adam, legally represented and associated with the guilt of Adam, and thus we all deserve death and judgment. That is all we deserve. Some might still be tempted to think that we do deserve the chance to live life here on earth, to at least try to make the most of it, and if we have been bad, then we might deserve judgment. No. What we deserve from God, what we are owed from God, what we merit from God is (and apart from mercy and grace would be instant) death and hell upon our first breath. Anyone who doesn’t understand that can scarcely understand the gospel.

The fact that we have any pleasures in life, that we have any happiness, and that we have any duration of existence is solely due to the mercy and grace of God, both to the just and the unjust. And think dear friends just how many pleasures and wonders we have in life to be grateful for. We don’t deserve any of that, but God is rich in mercy, longsuffering and patient. You might not be where you want to be in life right now. You might not be happy with your current lot, with your current job, spouse, or degree of holiness. But think, in light of what we do deserve, think of how good you have it. Think of all the little pleasures from taste buds to sunsets. But most of all, if you are saved, think about the grace of God that plucked you out of the depths of utter depraved darkness and extended saving grace to you. This is a theocentric view of reality.

Read the verse at the start of this entry, but now in its context:

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins (James 4:13-17).

I love this part: "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." Notice quickly three things.

First, “If it is the Lord’s will.” Our life is in complete control of the plan and will of God (Eph. 1:11). We are not independent, self-sufficient, autonomous beings that keep ourselves alive, create reality by our choices, and plan the future. The future is in God’s hands, not ours. This is the teaching of the sovereignty of God, and it is an essential belief to a stable and steadfast Christian life.

Second, “we will live…” This is often overlooked and read right over. It hit me like a UFC fighter one day while reading it. Every breath we make, every step we take (sounds like a song), and every day we live, it is only by the kind will of God. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." We have our being because He graciously allows us. Have you thanked God for your life this day?

Third, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." We can only do what God wills for us. God obviously did not will for me to get my masters degree by the time I was 30 years old. But he did will that I have a beautiful wife who loves me, a terrific daughter, and other highly estimable blessings. We cannot fight or thwart God’s will; He does as He pleases. We can be assured, however, that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Now read this short blog about a brother suffering with a terrible disease and then watch the video of another blessed brother suffering from an even worse disease. See their positive attitudes in trusting God, and then see how petty most of your complaining is.


The Concept of Suffering Compared and Contrasted in Buddhism and Christianity

What causes pain and suffering in the world? Buddhism (ca. 500 B.C.) and Christianity have the same answer: human desire. However, while it may seem that a nickel held up to the moon with one eye squinted shows a similarity in size, the differences between the two things is literally worlds apart. So it is between Buddhism and Christianity.

The main purpose and reason for the existence of Buddhism is to provide an explanation and a solution to the problem of pain and suffering. At the age of 29, the sheltered Siddhartha Guatama (or the “Buddha”) was for the first time exposed to physical aging, suffering, and death in the world. This traumatic experience led him through years of personal searching and striving for enlightenment. Allegedly, while sitting under “the Bodhi tree” he allegedly became enlightened and discovered the reason and solution to suffering.

In “The Four Noble Truths” of Buddha, the first noble truth says that life is suffering. That is, life is uncertain and unsatisfactory. Nothing is permanent. If you are happy today, you will not be at some other time. The second “noble truth” is that suffering is caused by desire (or tanha, “thirst”). We all want things. We want material things, we want emotional or moral things, and we all want some things to be different. We can get some things, but even these after time will change and we lose them. Buddhism says this causes suffering. Desire and suffering cause one another (the doctrine of “Dependent Co-Arising”).

Buddha’s answer to this (which led to his “enlightenment”) was to end all desire. This was Buddha’s third noble truth. If you do not desire things or do not desire reality to be a certain way, then you cannot be disappointed by it. One should learn to just accept reality as it is. The fourth “noble point” is to give up all desire, and one does this by following the “Eight Fold Path,” essentially eight principles for “right” thinking and conduct. The end goal of this is to arrive at “enlightenment,” or Nirvana. There is a very important “truth” to recognize in order to achieve Nirvana.

The key to arriving at Nirvana is to recognize the truth that there is no such thing as a ‘self’ or ‘soul’ (the doctrine of “Anatta”: no self). “You” are nothing but a collection of elements, together now, but soon will just fall apart (a huge inconsistency with the Buddhist teaching of reincarnation). This idea of “no self” is central to Buddhist teaching. The way to free one’s self is to give up all desires, hopes, and ideas (or opinions). You must realize that “you” are of no real importance; “you” have no real meaning, purpose, or future after death. Thus recognizing your ultimate unreality is the key to achieving Nirvana (unconditioned reality or nothingness).


Here I want to offer what I consider the Bible’s answer to the cause of suffering and also with that offer a contrast and critique of the Buddhist concept. Buddhism is so riddled with internal inconsistencies and contradictions that space here prohibits me from pointing them out. It is essentially an unintelligible religion, serving as irreversible evidence of its man-made, man-imagined, philosophy, which is nothing other than pure idolatry. The same is true of Hinduism, the parent religion from which Buddhism came.

The first Noble Truth of Buddhism said that life is suffering. The Bible says that God originally created life to be enjoyed and cherished. It is not a negative as it is in Buddhism. The second Noble Truth said that suffering is caused by desire, or want for things. The Bible teaches that suffering is also caused by desire, but in a radically different way. But to show this, consider the following: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain” (James 4:1-2). The Greek word for ‘desires’ here is where our English word ‘hedonism’ comes from. Paul said that before we were saved, we were “sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:3). Unbelievers are described as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4; cf. also Jude 18). Thus the Bible also teaches that suffering comes through desire. But the titanic difference between Buddhism and Christianity is one thing—God. Buddhism thus has the exact same problem unbelievers have in trying to develop a system of morality or rules for living. They can’t. Oh they develop systems all right, but the key is that they have no foundation to justify why we should or should not do anything. God alone makes all the difference. And not just any old god or Supreme Being, the distinct nature and attributes of the biblical God—the true and living God—is what we need to have ethics; or they are the necessary conditions for a sufficient morality. Apart from the true God, there is no right or wrong, good or evil…there is no “sin.”

Buddhism has no God; it atheistic. Like many pagan religions and philosophies, Buddhism says that our problem is simply that we are human: all desires are harmful. The Bible says that our problems began in the Garden of Eden. God gave Eve (as with us all) the world to enjoy. Desires in general were not evil, but good and encouraged. However, God gave one prohibition not to eat of one particular tree (Gen. 2:16-17). We all know the story; she was deceived and disobeyed God. Eve desired the wrong thing. Genesis says that the serpent cast doubt on God’s word to Eve and lead her to want what God forbid. James says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (1:14-15). The key word for our study here in this last verse is “sin.” Sin is lawlessness or transgression against the commands and words of God, the moral arbitrator of reality. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (3:6). They fell, and we too went down with them (cf. Rom. 5). We are all born now with perverted natures that desire sin.

Thus the Bible condemns, not all desire, but evil desires that want what God forbids, or forbids what God commends. For example, Colossians 3:5 says, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Notice in this passage that “evil desire” is sandwiched between sexual immoralities and covetousness, indicating that evil desire here is not just dealing with sexual immorality, but anything that runs contrary to the revealed will of God. This is what the Bible condemns and says we are to shun.

What is the solution for evil desire? Well, there are many and in some future installments we will explore them. But the basic answer the Bible gives is found back in the verse we just looked at: “Therefore put to death [mortify, KJV] your members which are on the earth.”

Buddhism is against desire in general; Christianity is against some desires. Buddhism says wanting things is wrong or more accurately, harmful to others and to our achieving Nirvana. Christianity says wanting some things is wrong and wanting some things is right. The key to living life is not to kill desire in general, but to kill the right (or wrong) desires. In its quest to kill desire, Buddhism essentially kills our humanness. Buddhism is profoundly anti-human. It is the result of man trying to self-purify himself of the guilt of his conscious and the consequences of sin. It is self-styled salvation. I saw a photograph one time of the Dalai Lama (I think posing with Richard Gere), and he had circled burn marks all over his arms. Buddhism markets itself as a harmonious and enlightening religion, but in reality it is little more than fallen man’s self attempt to expiate himself or herself from the guilt and consequences of sin. Buddhism says that the problem of man is not sin, but a lack of knowledge. This is nothing new, and might be the primary characteristic of the majority of pagan religions and philosophies even up to our own day with social liberalism and secular humanism.

Buddhism is intensely self-centered. The goal of enlightenment (their version of “salvation”) Buddhism is passive; it does not seek to change the nature of things because there is no point to anything because there is no underlying reality and no archetype design and purpose for reality. Thus Buddhism usually is of little value to actually getting out and helping overcome the social ills and evils. Much more could be said about this, but the purpose here prohibits this.

There is no purpose to suffering in Buddhism, there are many in Christianity, but the overall reason for all is the glory of God. Further, suffering has no real purpose or design in Buddhism. But in Christianity suffering is part of the overall will of God (see Eph. 1:11). Peter says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). There is a purpose even we don’t always understand or like it.

In our next installment we will examine very carefully the nature and cause of temptation, which the Bible says happens when we are led away from God by our evil desires. For personal application on mortifying the flesh you might want to read John Owens’s famous work, The Mortification of Sin, available free at monergism.com.


Do Not Lose Heart (part 2)

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart
(Galatians 6:9)

What are some of the reasons that believers grow weary in doing good or right? What causes believers to want to give up and throw in the towel at times? I have wanted to throw in the towel on the whole thing more times than I wish. One of the primary things that keep me from doing so is the apologetic truth of Christianity; I simply can’t get around it, I know it is true. I can think of several causes that lead true believers into growing weary, losing heart in the fight against sin. Remember, that is the context of that passage, fighting ourselves, our old selves, that war against God and truth. So while some things like taking on too much in ministry (ministry “burn-out”) can cause one to grow weary, such examples are not what the context of this section has in view. Here are some possible causes of losing heart in this fight.

1. Poor theology. Modern evangelicalism has a message to the world that is quite foreign to what the Bible actually teaches. The modern message says that if you come to Jesus all your problems will go away. Come to Jesus, give him a try and you will no longer be lonely, no longer have substance abuse struggles, no longer be sad or depressed, no longer struggle with moral issues, and you will always have peace, joy, love, and happiness. This sets up people for not only a false conversion, but also disillusionment for those who are genuinely converted. The Bible on the other hand, promises that once we accept Christ all hell will break out in our lives. Once we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, and once Christ becomes our Lord and no longer the Prince of Darkness, and once we join the assembly of God’s people and no longer love the world, and once we have the Holy Spirit inside of us along with still retaining a corrupt heart, this is a recipe for intense warfare and battle. Yet be encouraged, because all these signs of struggle, of battle, of failure, of guilt and sorrow are tell tale signs that you are a true Christian. Getting saved does not mean that we no longer struggle or that we will always have victory; quite often just the opposite. Struggle is a healthy sign of spiritual life. The many theologies out there about the victorious life, the higher life, the deeper life, Keswick movement, total surrender etc. that tell you if you do x, y, and z, then you will finally live sin and struggle free. This is a naive and false view of the Christian life. Jesus taught that out of the heart (yes of believers) proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, theft, blaspheme, etc. There is no secret out there that will set you completely free. We are promised daily battle, some days better than others, but always a fight. All this is part of God’s will for our lives, but that is another Meditation for another day. Thus because of poor or false theology, many people have false expectations about the Christian life. Dear friend, God’s diagnosis of our condition, of our human nature, is bleak. We are depraved and will be until our redemption is complete through glorification.

2. Lack of knowledge. Another reason for cause of despair at times is a simple lack of knowledge. This is close to the above point and obviously there is overlap. However, many people have a sound theology but lack knowledge about what God says we are to expect. For example, James under the inspiration of the Spirit writes this: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [or temptations], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Read that again and look for the word “knowing.” Is such a thing common sense? Hardly. Divine revelation says that there is a designed purpose in all our trials and temptations (cf. Rom. 8:28). But amazingly, we are called to “count it all joy” when we face these things. Huh? Well, if you lack knowledge for example that there is a purpose in all these things, that the purpose is ultimately good, that God is all good, and that He will help us in the time of need, then we will most likely not rejoice at such situations. I admit, however, that even having such knowledge does not make it very easy to rejoice in tough times. But this indicates we still have a lot of growing and learning to do, the very purpose of these trials. If you do a word study on the word ‘knowing’ or ‘know’ you find a lot of passages like the above, where possessing certain knowledge is a key in our spiritual growth. Thus those who say that knowledge is carnal or makes you prideful need themselves to gain some more knowledge to correct this distorted view and excuse to remain in spiritual infancy. We are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of God.” One of the most interesting ironies is that those in Church history who have the most biblical knowledge were/are the most humble, while those who had little knowledge (often and a lot of zeal) were/are the most proud and abusive. Knowing the truth about God and yourself has a sobering and humbling effect. Legalists and overly critical fault finders are usually those who lack knowledge.

3. Expecting perfection. The desire for perfection is healthy; an expectation of it is pagan. We are never to be satisfied or fully content in our sanctification. Because of the above two causes and others, Christians are often too hard or demanding on themselves and thus cast themselves into all sorts of unnecessary guilt trips. Expecting perfection has led many in Church history into all sorts of weird and carnal practices in an effort to escape sin and thus arrive (e.g. monasteries, monks, asceticism, castration, etc.). Such persons expect that they should never sin, often because they think they are above that or they think to highly of themselves (thus lacking knowledge), and when they do fall they either rationalize it away as a “mistake” (not sin), or they needlessly beat themselves up either mentally and even physically. Again, such people usually lack a knowledge of liberating grace. Such think that their acceptance by God is based on something that they have to do, some level of performance they must meet, or some list of do’s and don’ts that they must keep. This is not true religion as taught by the Bible. God accepts us because of who Christ is and what He did for us. Period. Such people who expect perfection of themselves often have the attitude described by Paul in 1 Cor. 10, “If any man thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” Again, in Galatians he says, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Again, in 1 Cor. 15, Paul says, I am what I am by the grace of God (paraphrase). This expectation and attitude often looks at others when they fail or fall and says, “Oh my, that is horrible, I could never do that.” Be careful! Pride comes before a fall. The answer to this problem is to understand the grace of God and the doctrine of justification through faith alone by grace alone. Well, then, what should we expect of ourselves? Isn’t it right to have high expectations? Yes, we should have the highest expectations, but, in this life—not perfection (cf. 1 John 1:1-2). Should we expect failure? No that would be defeatist, and the opposite of the optimism the Bible gives us. We should expect various degrees of progressive growth over time, mixed with temporary set backs, failures, and droughts. This leads to our next cause of a loss of heart.

4. Designed deserts.
God has designed spiritual deserts and droughts for us to teach us many things: dependence, faith, humility, insight, desperation, etc. These are trying times when the ebb of our spiritual flame is low, if not nearly out. How can you fight sin in these times? The same way you must survive while stranded in a desert: do whatever you can and hang in there! But what you must continue to do is not neglect God’s ordained means of grace and growth, our next cause.

5. Neglecting the due means of grace. The expression, “the due means of grace” comes from Puritan literature and the Westminster shorter catechism. What does it mean? These are the things that God has designed for His people to grow and persevere. They are usually considered reading/studying the Word, prayer, fellowship/church, communion, and some say, baptism. Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (cf. also John 15). It is popular today as it always has been to seek other more fancy or "deep" or mystical means to give us a quick fix to sinlessness. These are not God's designed means for His children to grow; they are carnal and man-centered, humanistic inventions (cf. Col. 2). It is crucial that during trials and deserts, we keep doing these things, even if we don’t feel like it. For as Peter said, these trials and bouts of weakness or struggle, are only for a while. The biggest key I have found is remembering the gospel of grace: I’m saved because of what He did, not anything I have done, am doing, or ever will do. All my works are like filthy rags and the wages of my sin is death. It is not about me, but Him who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Do Not Lose Heart

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart
(Galatians 6:9)

Some thoughts:

In light of all the countless multitude of things that we have to be thankful for, how easy it is for us to lose focus, lose perspective, lose priorities, and thus lose hope and heart. How easy we become weary of even the simplest things in life: a bill due, a paper to write, a dog to train, a meal to make, a yard to rake, or a test to take; dishes to wash, clothes to fold, people to please, or a house to clean. These are the things of life. However, I don’t think that such is the immediate thought of the apostle in this above passage. This verse is sandwiched between two other verses. Here is the context of thought:

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.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:8-10).

Paul here is discussing our daily walk with God and our fight to maintain that walk in light of the flesh, the world, and the devil, though primarily in this context, the flesh. A friend of mine last night said that we need to not be hypocrites and be able to look at ourselves in the mirror, to which I responded in agreement but also added that that person we look at in the mirror is our worst enemy. Our hearts are deceitful, our minds are perverted and corrupt, our secret thoughts and actions are shameful, and the reality between what we are (on the inside) and what we appear to be (before others) is enough to drive the true believer to lose heart. Let us take heed, lest we think we stand. To paraphrase James, we are so two-faced that in the same breath we can praise God and curse others. We can do a good thing and five minutes later do an evil thing.

The “good” that Paul speaks of here is the “right.” Doing the right thing, the godly things, is so often down-right difficult. The world has no Lord over them, no absolute rules to follow, no binding obligations to forgive, to love, to abstain, and to apply. They do what they want; they are their own Lord. We are by no means immune from coveting this alleged freedom. As Christians, we can’t always do what we want to do, and at times we have to do things we don’t want to do. We can’t lie, steal, lust, cheat, hurt, hate, and covet. We have to tell the truth, work for everything, abstain from immorality, make amends, forgive the undeserving, love our enemies, and be happy for others who succeed, often in light of our own failures. Sowing to the flesh (those things listed in Gal. 5) is so easy because it comes naturally to us and just feel so good. Doing wrong comes natural; doing right is of grace. Last year I wrote a paper that I was going to submit to the annual philosophy paper contest for school. The title was: “The Existential Agony of Ethics under Authority.” What does that mean? Basically, just a fancy way of saying what I just said: the Christian life is at times down right difficult and burdensome. The flesh does not let up and neither does God’s demand for obedience. In this we find a head on collision: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:16-18). An “Ethics under Authority” is simply another way of saying that we have an uncompromising Lord who has exclusive rights to our moral and spiritual life, a Lord to which we cannot escape even in the deep recesses of our minds—Behold, He is there. The Psalmist in 139 felt this inescapability of God, and at first it was an oppressive thing for him, a burden. It is mostly a burden when we are not “walking in the Spirit,” or abiding daily in Christ and His words. But even when abiding, the difficulty of always doing the right thing can cause one to grow weary while doing good.

Paul in our main verse calls us not to grow weary while doing good (who better to know about growing weary!). Notice the connector ‘for’. There is a reason we ought not to grow weary and lose heart: “in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Reap what? Well, notice the metaphor of farming. Planting, sowing, reaping are all agricultural metaphors. He tells us what we will reap. If we sow to the flesh, that is, give in to it and obey it, we will reap the consequences. Paul says in Ephesians 4 that if our deceitful lusts and desires “grow” the more we give in to them, the end of those things is death, i.e., no fruit. Our inner person will become more and more corrupt which leads to outwardly evil actions. But if we sow to the Spirit, that is, yield ourselves to obey and apply the truth, we will reap those consequences: everlasting life. Yet notice carefully that when the Bible speaks of everlasting or eternal life, it is not merely referring to quantity of life, that is, we live for a real long time, so to speak. “Life” in Scripture also has a qualitative sense. Paul told Timothy that a woman (or man) who lives in immorality (for example) is actually “dead” while she lives. Everlasting life is both durative and qualitative, life more abundantly. Thriving life, abundant life, joyous life occurs as we abide in the Life source, the Vine. This is what God has promised us. This is why we are not to lose heart or grow weary while doing good, because we have such a great hope. If we continue doing what God calls us to do and do not lose heart, we will experience more and more transformation, more strength, more joy. When we live in this kind of life we will be a greater blessing to those around us, especially to those in the household of faith. Then the world will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Do not grow weary, do not lose heart, we have too much going for us.

Now study the context around these three passages and see how this theme applies in these situations.

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, (Luke 18:1)[ The Light of Christ’s Gospel ] Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1)Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16)